October 13, 2002

It would seem that I've attracted the attention of the denizens of the Spacebattles forum. For those of you not in the know, their charter appears to be the discussion of "X vs Y," where X and Y are forces from your favorite Sci-Fi Universes and 'vs' is an abbreviation of 'versus,' which is derived from the latin word 'vertere,' which has something to do with 'turning.'

Let me give you a hypothetical example: The USS Enterprise vs an Imperial Star Destroyer... The result here -- Darth Vader gains the immediate upper hand by using the force to predict the tactics of the crew of the Enterprise, but Ensign Wesley Crusher finds that The Force can be negated by recalibrating the shields to the resonant frequency of the plotdeviceium used in light sabers. Equipped with Crusher's prototype 'Force'-shield, Lt. Cmdr. Data beams aboard, captures Darth Vader, and beams him back to the Enterprise where Crusher's mother extracts Lord Vader from his cyborg gear and in a clear violation of the Prime Directive, treats his megalomania. Led only by angry, repressed mortals now, the crew of the Star Destroyer go on a randomly violent spree and destroy all of Earth's whales a SECOND time.

But seriously (well, no, not seriously, but it seemed like a good introduction to this paragraph, which is going to make Sweeping Generalizations That Will Likely Get Me In Trouble), what makes for a winner in the Spacebattles forums? I'd have to say it comes down to two things:

  1. Availability of energy in the universe where your battle-entry originated
  2. The ability of your battle-entry to exploit it.

Take, for instance, the Xeelee vs. the Culture (universes used without the permission of Stephen Baxter and Iain M. Banks): You might think that a race that can hurl entire GALAXIES at the constructs of its enemies (the Xeelee) would quickly crush a culture of wise-cracking pacifist A.I.s whose society spreads virally, but has yet to completely dominate even a SINGLE galaxy (that would be the Culture). But no... the Culture universe has effectively unlimited energy, because the 'grid' between 'layers' of the Culture multiverse has been tapped. Their ships need no fuel, powered by this 'grid,' and ultimately it would seem that the Culture has Entropy whipped. Not so the Xeelee, whose vast technological accomplishments have been employed in an effort to escape their universe, since they CANNOT solve the Entropy problem. Thus, the Culture has infinitely more energy available to it, and simply needs some time to start exploiting that on scales comparable to the Xeelee.

My interest in matters arose when fans started asking me for specs on Schlockiverse technology, their motivation being a determination of how the Tausennigan Ob'enn would fare against the Culture. I have bad news: the Schlockiverse has no technological solution for the Entropy problem, so the Tausennigans (and the F'Sherl-Ganni, the UNS, and Tagon's Toughs) are in the same basic bind the Xeelee are -- they can't match the power output of the Culture universe. The only positive note is that COMEDY reigns supreme in the Schlockiverse, with science often being sacrificed before the altar of A Good Joke, so it's likely that any match-up would depend entirely upon how FUNNY it would be if the Culture got their collective smarty-pantses yanked down around their ankles by a band of space mercenaries.

Pretty funny, I think. I tell you what, though... get Iain M. Banks on the line, and if he deems it worth his time (HAH!) to script a conflict with me, I'll cheerfully accept AND DRAW whatever results.