General Discussion

Discuss the 24-page comic by Ben Bova and Rob Balder, Illustrated by Bill Holbrook.

Re: General Discussion

Postby effataigus » Fri Sep 10, 2010 6:42 pm

Thanks for something extra to read for the last so many days!

I think it might have been too short to fully flesh out the characters. Kelso and Lorraine were both unlikable, and I had a hard time believing that Tom could be so socially inept in one panel and so competent in the next.

The art was consistent throughout, and matched the tone of the story.
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Re: General Discussion

Postby BLANDCorporatio » Sat Sep 11, 2010 5:30 am

Ah. It all has only been "Zorro"'s imagination. The last page provides irrefutable proof.

Team Kelso!
The whole point of this is lost if you keep it a secret.
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Re: General Discussion

Postby Ansan Gotti » Mon Sep 13, 2010 8:56 pm

Hoax wrote:And another thing. I mean, I know these characters are all unlikable - but Lorraine is engaging in nothing less than corporate sabotage when she asks 'Zorro' to back up the data, replace it with a dummy flight sim and pack up shop. If you sabotage your employer I'll go to Aspen, and sleep with you. How odious. How depraved. Is this how she gets work for her company? She is, without a doubt, the quintessential whore.

You know what - I'm gonna run with that idea. Lorraine is the pure portrait of a whore. She has no skills - she's the company's 'liaison' (get it?). She bribes both Zorro and Kelso with the possibility of sex. She gets free dinner from Kelso. She gets a free trip to Aspen from Zorro - plus the software he wrote.

Of course, both Zorro and Kelso fall into it - but at least they have skills! Zorro is some hot shot programmer; Kelso is some hot shot pilot. Lorraine comes along and they're both like - "omg you have a vagina - how rare". But she does NOTHING. She just stands there. Kelso might have a secondary motive in wining and dining her - to get in good with her company - but Zorro has none. And she plays him, hard. Sure, she'll take a couple shots in the face at Aspen - but she managed to steal the code. And the lapdog programmer.


I tend to agree with most of the above. I didn't like -- no, that's not strong enough, I actively disliked -- Duel in the Somme. I thought the characters were unlikeable and as you outline above, the "message" it sent was deplorable. And more than that, to the extent any resources whatsoever were diverted from Erfworld, I don't care for that decision, even as I simultaneously acknowledge that it obviously wasn't my decision to make. But IMO, the larger problem that has emerged from the decision is that it has highlighted and exacerbated the slow update issue for Erfworld. And I think we're seeing some of that come out in the relevant thread in the "Everything Else Erfworld" subforum.

When it first started, I was originally planning to support the author by tipping Duel in the Somme, simply because I believe in his talent. Given my lack of enthusiasm for the project and in particular for its message, I think instead I'm going to either buy the Sluggy card game he designed or buy a gift tool membership for someone. Or something.
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Re: General Discussion

Postby Oatworm » Mon Sep 13, 2010 9:08 pm

BLANDCorporatio wrote:Ah. It all has only been "Zorro"'s imagination. The last page provides irrefutable proof.

Team Kelso!

Heh.

At first, I was about as confused and confounded as most of the people here. Then I read the series straight through, after which it made a bit more sense, but only a bit. Some quick notes...

Radagast wrote:Plus the fight itself seemed a little unrealistic. A Fokker triplane has no hope of chasing down the SPAD, it's like 20mph slower. Yes it has the huge advantage in climb rate, but the SPAD also has a higher max altitude.

He didn't have to chase down the SPAD. The Fokker had a vastly superior climb rate - all Kelso had to do was wait for Tom to engage at full throttle in a straight line, loop up, watch Tom fail to follow, then swoop down. Basically, Kelso took the SPAD's speed advantage out the window by leveraging Tom's inexperience and the Fokker's innate abilities. It was pretty good flying, honestly.

Past that... it's an amusing story, at least to a point, but I'm not entirely buying all the ramifications of it. I just don't sense any chemistry between Tom and Lorraine; to be fair, I don't sense any romantic chemistry between Lorraine and Kelso, either. I don't think Kelso or KEI really lost anything out of this - they still get paid for ToBIAS, the rest of the development team is still intact, and though Tom's definitely going to be the brains behind CogNoTek's $14 million project, there's no sign that Tom's absence will prevent KEI from supporting their product. Considering how Kelso wasn't entirely fond of Tom, I'd wager he views this as a win-win, regardless of whether or not Lorraine actually went to the Bahamas with him or not.

Basically, over 24 pages, we see an oaf of a "nerd herder" get paid, we see a good engineer get a better job, and, to make sure he actually accepts the job, we also see him go on a "date" with the company liaison. I think this story definitely could have used a few more pages to flesh out the relationship between Tom and Lorraine, if only so it didn't make Lorraine look like she was just heading to Aspen to seal the deal. Even so, it was still fun, if not exactly inspiring.
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Re: General Discussion

Postby sylerner » Tue Sep 14, 2010 10:57 pm

Hoax wrote:And another thing. I mean, I know these characters are all unlikable - but Lorraine is engaging in nothing less than corporate sabotage when she asks 'Zorro' to back up the data, replace it with a dummy flight sim and pack up shop.


I think you are missing a critical point. All Kelso wanted was a flight sim. In fact, the contract specified that a commercial flight sim be integrated into the system. Kelso had no interest at all in getting the physics engine patched up enough to deal with flying (as shown in the bottom half of page 6 and running onto page 7). All he wanted was to meet the contract by having a flight sim installed.

So what happens? Tom puts in a lot of unpaid overtime to do it as it should have been done.

Is what he doing right? Of course not. Then again, technically Kelso could have been held in violation of the terms of the contract for not meeting its specs. In that light, one could argue that Tom was just taking out a personal experiment that he had put in without permission and instead inserted what was supposed to be there all along. Of course this rationalization doesn't make his actions right, but it may show what was going through his head to rationalize it.

As for the story - you don't expect deep character development in 24 pages. But it was a nice story that left me waiting for each update to see what would happen, and I got a chance to see Bill Holbrook's latest variation on his art, which I always enjoy.

If you take it for what it was - a brief story of brains overcoming bullying, with the end not really being the start of a romance but the breaking of the ice that may allow romance to flower sometime in the future - it's very enjoyable.

As for how some of the characters behaved at times or other nit picking - remember, IOACS.

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Re: General Discussion

Postby Ansan Gotti » Tue Sep 14, 2010 11:05 pm

Every tech company in the US is going to have a standard IP agreement with its employees and contractors, or else it will soon be an ex-tech-company. That IP belongs to the employer, and what Tom and Lorraine are doing is theft, with Lorraine arguably (and I am acknowledging this will not be a universally shared viewpoint) prostituting herself to facilitate it.

I also don't really buy attempts to dismiss this as "just a comic." It's a literary work and the authors are obviously taking it seriously, so I would argue that I'm treating their effort with more respect than people who try to dismiss criticism along those lines. Literary efforts have characters, and themes, and send messages. I personally happen to believe this particular effort missed the mark in each area, but obviously YMMV.

No offense intended to either you or to the authors. I actually think Rob is a brilliant writer, so I am going to just chalk this up to him being somewhat hamstrung by the original material.
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Re: General Discussion

Postby BLANDCorporatio » Wed Sep 15, 2010 6:12 am

Having (a little) experience in a software-for-automobiles development company (a major one, as that character in that movie said), the IP thing that Ansan Gotti says is accurate.

And irrelevant. I'm sticking to my interpretation that this is a story about Zorro's fantasy life- a simple uncomplicated fairy-tale where human beings are safely understandable and one dimensional.
The whole point of this is lost if you keep it a secret.
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Re: General Discussion

Postby Hoax » Wed Sep 15, 2010 1:55 pm

I'll change my stance a little bit.

It is only a comic strip. Well, a portion of it acts as if its only a comic strip. The real problem with this thing is that it has an identity crisis. Side 1, the imaginative side, I'll call TOBIAS. Side 2, the unimaginative, hack, pulp, trash side I'll call KELSO.

TOBIAS: Is pretty much all the action that occurs when Zorro is inside TOBIAS or discussing the math/physics of it. Pages 8-13 + 15 (Not 14, no way) and 19-22, well the first half of 22.

KELSO: Is pretty much everything else, especially the product placement. Hello Travelocity, Starbucks, and (not really) Hooters.

The TOBIAS section is deep because it concentrates on ideas. The KELSO is flat because it concentrates on, as BLANDCorp. said, 1 dimensional characters. The comic should have chosen whether or not it was going to be some trashy chic flic, or a more cerebral experience: because as it stands, half the intended audience will be lost/bored in the TOBIAS side, and the other half will be disgusted/bored with everything else.

So, I was wrong to critique Zorro and Lorraine for stealing the code (btw, unpaid overtime is a reality in every field with a salary - also, Zorro wanted to do the work - don't throw me in that briar patch, said Brer Rabbit). I was wrong because it occurred during the 1-dimensional, unimaginative, hack, pulp, trash KELSO side.

The only thing that the authors need to do is clean up some of the diction during the KELSO side. Every word over two syllables, or unknown by the average 8th grader, needs to be cut.
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Re: General Discussion

Postby sylerner » Wed Sep 15, 2010 3:42 pm

I used to work in the software industry, so I am quite familiar with unpaid overtime. Sometimes, my unpaid overtime hours per week exceeded my paid ones :-( .

As for reality, some of the contracts that employers have required me to sign not only clearly gave them full rights to anything I did at work, some of them also gave them full rights to anything I did on my own time and with my own resources, even if not at all related to the industry that the company was in.

Having been badly burned by that when I (along with a few others) invented the stay-on soda can lid while at Ga. Tech (the application for admission included a forfeiture of all IP rights while you were a student, it was part of a class assignment, and all the money went to the school - not even giving me a waiver of the out-of-state tuition surcharge), I was insistent that these "we own your brain" clauses were removed before signing.

So the theft of IP would almost have been criminal in real life, despite it not being what was requested or speced in the the contract.

But we get to do things in comics and fiction that we could never do in real life.

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Re: General Discussion

Postby Ansan Gotti » Wed Sep 15, 2010 4:53 pm

sylerner wrote:But we get to do things in comics and fiction that we could never do in real life.


Sure. But to the extent it harms realism or implicates issues relating to morals or message, there's a storytelling price you pay for that.
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Re: General Discussion

Postby BCCroaker » Thu Sep 16, 2010 5:49 pm

I've just read the Ben Bova short story and it gives quite a different slant on the software and Lorraine; she doesn't agree to do anything as a result of the duel, she's a Kelso employee who wants to get out and she had already decided Tom was the man for her. There just wander off into the sunset to start up their own company - a lot of people have had an idea while working for somebody else and followed up on their own. Also it was written in the '60s, when a lot of things were different.
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Re: General Discussion

Postby Parsnip » Thu Sep 23, 2010 1:33 am

sylerner wrote:<snip>... (along with a few others) invented the stay-on soda can lid while at Ga. Tech... <snip>

Simcha-Yitzchak Lerner
"TGIF"


I just want to say bless you for whatever part you played in the invention of the stay-on soda can lid.
It's a comfort to know my daughter will never badly cut her foot on a discarded pop-top lid as I did once as a kid.

I'm sorry you weren't compensated in wealth, but if gratitude has any value to you, there are millions of parents out there
who, whether they think about it or not, owe you a debt of it.
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Re: General Discussion

Postby sylerner » Sun Sep 26, 2010 5:18 am

BCCroaker wrote:I've just read the Ben Bova short story

Where can I find the short story?

Thanks!
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Re: General Discussion

Postby BCCroaker » Sun Sep 26, 2010 1:44 pm

It came in the PDF of the comic that I got for contributing to the project.
I don't think you'll find it elsewhere in that form because at the end Ben Bova wrote:-
This story was inspired by “The Perfect Warrior,” published
in Analog in May 1963 and later incorporated into my
1969 novel, THE DUELING MACHINE.

sylerner wrote:
BCCroaker wrote:I've just read the Ben Bova short story

Where can I find the short story?

Thanks!
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Re: General Discussion

Postby Jay » Thu Nov 04, 2010 9:23 am

Got my (signed) printed copy in the mail yesterday. Thanks, Rob! (and Ben, and that other guy ;) )
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Re: General Discussion

Postby vintermann » Wed Nov 09, 2011 4:36 am

I liked this project a lot, I even supported it, since it involved two people whose webcomics I read. Reading the original short story, I thought Rob had improved it considerably, but learning now it was written 40+ years ago I have some more respect for Ben Bova as well :)

I think the characterizations are nice, and not really too unplausible. Sure, you can get worked up about plenty of stuff if you want to (OMG the protagonist made a super-awkward advance - CREEPY! OMG Lorraine didn't immediately and harshly denounce the various advances, OMG Lorraine played on sex to get her way, OMG they both did something illegal to the subcontractor's company etc. etc.) but I don't think less than perfect characters need to come in the way for a good story.
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