A macabre relief

posted in: Life and things | 2

The news that the submersible Titan imploded as it descended towards the remains of the Titanic came as a macabre relief. Instant death as opposed to ninety-six hours of sitting in a cramped can waiting to die. While the search was on, my writer’s brain was already edging toward a story – the curse of the Titanic, drawing yet more bodies to the abyss. Only the story would have had the vessel caught up in the wreck’s superstructure, unable to escape.

I’m glad it didn’t turn out that way.

James Cameron, who directed the 1997 Oscar-winning film Titanic, has designed and built similar submersibles and had himself visited the wreckage of the famous ocean liner 33 times, said: “This is a mature art and many people in the community were very concerned about the sub.

“A number of the top players in the deep submergence engineering community even wrote letters to the company, saying that what they were doing was too experimental to carry passengers and they needed to be certified.

“So I’m struck by the similarity of the Titanic disaster itself, where the captain was repeatedly warned about ice ahead of his ship, and yet he steamed at full speed into an ice field on a moonless night and many people died as a result.

“For a very similar tragedy where warnings went unheeded to take place at the same exact site, with all the diving that’s going on all around the world – I think it’s just astonishing.” [source] Cue scary music.

On a happier note, Australia won the first test of the 2023 Ashes series. Woohoo. It was entertaining, enthralling stuff, with England playing aggressive cricket more commonly seen in the fifty or twenty over game. And why not? Ben Stokes and his team have won eleven of their last fourteen tests using that style. Losing to Australia, though, is just not cricket. Geoffrey Boycott, that dour Yorkshireman who opened for England in the seventies, is still giving his advice (he’s 82). He bored his opponents into submission back then and he doesn’t approve of all that ‘entertainment’ stuff. All that matters is WINNING. Got that, young Stokes? Do better next time!!

By the way, they call the current attacking English style Bazball after their coach, New Zealander Brendan McCullum, whose nickname is ‘Baz’. I had to look it up.

On another winning note, at least for Pete, Queensland’s rugby league team beat the New South Wales team in the latest ‘State of Origin’ match. I confess, it’s something of a TSWC moment for me but State of Origin is huge in Qld and NSW, right up there with grand finals. So, the locals are happy.

The on-going discussions about artificial intelligence is very relevant in my world. AI is being used in more and more applications and it has caused a furore in the writing and art communities. There’s a chasm between those who see AI as taking over the jobs of artists and authors and those who see it as a tool they can use to improve their craft. The level of acrimony is quite astounding, with one side accusing the other of cheating, plagiarism, and theft.

In one of those instances of serendipity, I’m re-reading a book which has as one of its arcs a story about what happens when AIs are left to their own devices. It’s set in the far distant future, when Humanity has colonised the stars. One planet, a veritable second Earth, is unfortunately not the best fit because its system will be swallowed up by a dust cloud in about three hundred years. When that happens, temperatures will drop, plants will die, animals will be choked. But Humans, being what they are, colonise anyway. Something that will happen in three hundred years is so far away it doesn’t matter. The colony is supported by many AI devices and when the Humans leave or die off, they remain, doing their jobs. After seven thousand years, the planet has passed out of the cloud but the AIs have become autonomous and most of them (but not all) do not want Humans to return. Any that try are killed. One of the ‘good’ AIs is rescued and becomes part of a discussion about whether AIs really are sentient, not simply databases with algorithms to control their conversations with Humans (which is what they are now).

There’s much more to the book than that, though. Jack McDevitt’s Alex Benedict series is among my favourites. The books are a mix of mystery, history, and some fascinating science (no romance). This one is called Firebird. The first of the series is A Talent for War. They’re all stand-alone in the same way that a detective series is made up of stand-alone stories. I love ’em all, some more than others. If you loved Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, you’ll love these. The Kindle editions are ridiculously expensive – get them from your library.

Oh – and that Titanic story I mentioned in the first paragraph? I’ll never write it. I don’t do horror.

Wreck photo by courtesy of NOAA/Institute for Exploration/University of Rhode Island (NOAA/IFE/URI). – http://www.gc.noaa.gov/gcil_titanic.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18643198

2 Responses

  1. awordfromsolo

    I’ll admit, as well as terrible sadness for that underwater tragedy and relief that death would have been so quick for those people, an inkling of a story also filtered through my writer’s mind – and horror is my preferred writing genre. Immediately after, though, I felt guilty for even thinking about it . . . The moral dilemma of writing a horror story sparked by such a recent tragedy.

    • Greta

      I suppose imagination comes with the territory. I know what you mean.

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