Chrono Virus, by Aaron Crocco (31:08)

ImmerseOrDieReportCard-ChronoVirusIn today’s installment, we learn that even little details matter, and that story facts have to be both plausible and internally consistent. Because when they aren’t, they produce WTF moments. Like the ones below…

What I gleaned about the story: Something about a deep-space virus that messes with your timeline.

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WTF Excerpt #1: …no indication of a response from any ships, not that there were any flying close enough to receive the transmission. Ken slumped in his chair and let out a long sigh. It was no use. Their non-standard flightpath meant they were alone until they got within a few hundred kilometers of Cogan.

Problem: A cargo vessel in the 25th century, with full FTL drive, can’t punch a comms message more than a few hundred kilometers when in distress? Immediately after a refit? My grandfather’s Voyager probe punches continuous comms telemetry over 150 MILLION kilometers with a powerplant not even beefy enough to run my kitchen toaster. And it’s been doing so for almost 40 years since leaving dry dock, with no refits, ever.

Analysis: It feels like this was done to increase the drama of the situation, by closing the door on any chance of rescue. But no in-story reason was given for the comms to be down or working at limited power, which means that this several-hundred-mile limit is standard. That just feels unrealistic. And I note that later, when Ken does send a distress call, there is no mention of limited range.

 WTF Excerpt #2: Each minuscule robot was designed to engulf the flames in millions of tiny vacuum pockets, suffocating the fire. The technology was safe for humans to breathe, didn’t damage any systems that got hit with the stream, and it was a dry solution.

and then a bit later on…

Nannites rained down in all directions…

Kudos: Fire-suppression nannites are a cool idea.

Problem: Nannites are microscopic, by definition. The word comes from that fact that they are sized on the nano-scale. And the reference to them being breathable confirms that these nannites follow that size tradition. So how can the POV character later describe the scene by saying they “rained down”? If they’re large enough to see, then they’re A) not nannites, and B) large enough to choke anybody who breathed them in, just like dust or smoke.

Analysis: This one was really unfortunate, because it was an entirely throw-away line. You could delete that sentence and not a single iota of the story would be harmed. Or it could be easily fixed, by saying that the “nannites no doubt rained down…” or that he could imagine their tiny, invisible death spirals.

WTF Excerpt #3: Contaminant Detected. […] A virus out in deep space was impossible.

and then later…

To whoever gets this signal, this is Ken Mallory on board the Raven. This ship has been infected by a deadly virus that has temporal capabilities.

Problem: These are the only two mentions of the word “virus” in the story up to this point. In the first, Ken’s scanner clearly tells him that a contaminant has been detected. A “contaminant.” He then leaps to the conclusion that it’s a virus. No indication that the scanner said anything about viruses. Was this a scanner that only scanned for viruses? So all the bacteria, fungi, and alien spores are going unscanned? And if the scanner knew it was a virus, why did it only say “contaminant”? Or did it somehow convey that information to Ken on some other part of the display, but we were just never told that? No matter how I try to juggle it, I can’t make it fit within the story logic.

Furthermore, he then issues a region-wide distress beacon, warning all other ships that there’s a “virus” and that it has “temporal capabilities.” But Ken has not experienced these temporal shifts for himself. He only has two things to support that: the Captain’s hallucination to support that, although the Captain was acting all vague and disoriented at the time; and the altered dates of death for various spacers in the record logs. Frankly, the much more likely scenario for Ken to leap to is that the ship has been infected by a purple gaseous entity with data manipulation capabilities.

Analysis: The only reason I can think of for Ken to lock onto the virus label is so that the story events will conform to the title. Ken is written as an experienced and relatively calm character. These leaps to implausible conclusions, and his willingness to then broadcast those wild conjectures as fact to every other ship in range are in deep conflict with that established character.

Final Treadmill Time: 31:08

The Secret of Stonehenge, by Yury Nikitin (6:24)

About the author

Jefferson Smith is a Canadian fantasy author, as well as the founder, chief editor and resident proctologist of ImmerseOrDie. With a PhD in Computer Science and Creativity Systems compounded by a life spent exploring most art forms for fun and profit, he is uniquely unqualified in just about everything. That's why he writes.