Monday, May 18, 2015

Flow by Arlan Andrews- More Attempted Hugo's Reading

So, I am trying to read Flow by Arlan Andrew (Analog, 11-2014) - one of the Best Novella nominees.

And I am getting distracted by shiny objects ... Like, I am wondering if ice works differently in this world somehow ... unexplained ?

See, icebergs are roughly 1/3 exposed and 2/3 under the surface - I am having trouble with a little crew of guys with poles and air bladders actually controlling where an iceberg would go. We aren't good at this now using big tugboats. I just can't see how they would have proper leverage at all with just some poles. Isn't there at least a sail?

I mean, this has been an idea for ages - freshwater poor, but economically wealthy places (like southern California, the Middle East, etc.) have been trying to figure this one out for years.

So - rather than reading the story I start looking up stories about towing icebergs. Cool!  Look at this The Atlantic: The Many Failures and Few Successes of Zany Iceberg Towing Schemes and this ...

Towing an iceberg from a collision course with Hibernia oil platform. Photo by Randy Olson

From amusing planet ...
To round up an iceberg, the vessels uses polypropylene towropes eight inches in diameter, and up to 400 meters long a piece. The rope is attached to a buoy and the vessel goes around the iceberg staying within approximately 200 meters as the rope is played out. When the circling is complete the rope is attached to a tow cable three inch in diameter. Between 800 to 2,000 meters of open water is maintained between the vessel and the iceberg while it’s being towed. Icebergs can turn over when towed and some have hidden undersea projections that cause chaos when the bergs flip. And a flipping berg can generate large waves, which is why the vessels stay clear out of the iceberg during operation. 
Because of the immense weight of the ice, towing can take up to three days and the vessel may need ten hours to reach a speed of just one knot. The icebergs aren’t towed all the way to safety; just pushed a sufficient distance so the current will carry it safely past the rig.

Definitely a non-trivial undertaking!

Oh, right - the story!

To quote Hamlet "Words, words, words."

Another shiny object (and I am only on the third page!)  They strip off their fur coverings because they are getting too hot, but don't seem to have a shelter or anything. None of these people get sunburned ???  See I am of Scandinavian heritage with the classic fish belly white skin - I just have to look at the summer sun from inside a building and I get sunburned.  So - they are standing on ice - which has a very high albedo - thus reflects 50-70% of the incident sunlight back up into their faces - and they don't get sunburns?  Um, no, this is hard to swallow.

This story is positively drowning in the same sort of pseudo-science/history stuff that forms the basis of books like Chariots of the Gods - the whole our ancestors were dumb stick.  Seriously they can navigate an iceberg to a port but can't make a chart of lunar cycles ?  WTH?

Ah - page 7 in the Warm Lands Rist is looking at the people who came out to meet the iceberg and thinks "A lot taller and much paler skin than People have."  Really? So now I am wondering about skin pigmentation. Why would skin pigmentation get lighter as you work your way into sunnier climes? Rist is the equivalent of an Inuit?  Humm, this is interesting  Naked Scientist Why are Inuit people dark skinned?
The Inuit people of the American Subarctic are an exception. They have moderately heavy skin pigmentation despite the far northern latitude at which they live. While this is a disadvantage for vitamin D production, they apparently made up for it by eating fish and sea mammal blubber that are high in vitamin D. In addition, the Inuit have been in the far north for only about 5,000 years. This may not have been enough time for significantly lower melanin production to have been selected for by nature.
Interesting - and I have stopped reading the story again.  Back to reading ....

Wait - wen is supposed to be women? Warm wen ? Well that is nice and offensive.  Swell.

"Rist was still astonished that wen could be so tall, and be out on their own without escorts." Okayyy I seem to have hit a downhill slope here.

"Unlike wen back home, these seemed to have a heaviness around the chest, covered by their smoother clothing. The sight was unsettling, but strangely attractive to him.When he asked Cruthar about the extra muscles the wen had, his companion just laughed, “Bird-boy, they ain’t muscles. You sees why we likes to bring in the ice down here, even though it be a long, long walk home. They’s a lot more to these Warm Lands wen than you be used to in The Tharn’s Lands. You’ll find out, this dark."
Seriously !  OMG - when was this written??  1955 ?

Where the heck is this totem that he keeps carving stuff into ? He has like pages of diary here that he is carving what sounds like runes into and he can hide it in his loincloth ?

I am sooooo bored. I did the whole Joseph Campbell Hero with a Thousand Faces/The Masks of God thing. I don't need this.  I am going to stop here.  I might try again later.  Or maybe not. Sheesh.

Wait!  I just realized - why do the people in the Warm Lands want the ice so bad?  I totally missed this. Did the story say somewhere?  Apparently the ice is worth a significant amount of money, and people are willing to fight and even kill over it, why?  What's the deal here ? Where would the ice go if they didn't navigate it ?

I know that the people in Newfoundland/Labrador use the ice to make beer but that isn't exactly a life or death thing. What's the deal here ?

Okay - I admit, I skimmed from there to see if I could catch anything to explain the ice and I didn't see anything.

The other thing I didn't see what an ending to the story!  

I am getting really, really tired of nominees in the short forms not actually being complete stories!

Someone on File 770 said this is actually a second chapter and not a novella at all!  Good Grief!


  1. Ha! I bounced at the same point at this story. "What? How can you find breasts attractive if your people don't have them at all?" It's never explained whether Rist's people are so completely split off that they have no mammary tissue or nipples at all, or whether babies still are fed in the usual way, but with breast tissue shrinking after weaning the way they do in most mammals. Either way, there was no reason for Rist to be attracted to large breasts.

    It seems boobs are the universal Peoplespeak.

    1. Yes! Cultural responses to large breasts varies hugely and if Rist came from a culture where breasts just aren't - there would be absolutely no reason for him to respond as he did. It made no sense at all.

      Of course, given the wide range of women in the story (his mother was a name mentioned once I think? and then the "warm wen" for Pete's sake) goodness knows what any of the females look like or how they fit into the culture of the ice lands.


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