“The Weight of Silence” Annotations

Warning: contains spoilers

Page numbers are for the version appearing in Among the Wild Cybers: Tales Beyond the Superhuman. The original page numbers from the print/PDF edition of Alternative Coordinates Issue 5 (Spring 2010) are given in parentheses/italics.


Scene 1

 p. 123 (p. 32)

This is my second published work featuring a female character named Chen (the other being T’Ryssa Chen in Star Trek: The Next Generation – Greater Than the Sum), which may or may not be coincidence. I developed this story well before GTTS, but I based the T’Ryssa character on an RPG character I’d created even earlier. I may have named Monali Chen in tribute to that character. Her first name comes from a college acquaintance, though her personality owes more to a different college friend, who will probably recognize herself if she reads the story. I offer her my thanks and, if necessary, apologies.

p. 124 (p. 32)

Mrs. Pfriem was my actual 12th-grade AP English teacher.

For more on programmable matter, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Programmable_matter. I’ve extrapolated the concept to the femtotech level here.


Scene 3

 p. 126 (p. 34)

I’ve seen too much science fiction where the FTL breakthrough is depicted as a single sudden achievement; I preferred to approach it as a gradual process, with this story being pretty early in the process. How humanity gets PQM in the first place is a subject for a spec novel I’ve been working on since this story originally came out.


Scene 4

p. 130 (p. 38)

“Just about all the planets are on the same side of the Sun this year”: I originally chose 2216 as the date for this story because all the giant planets — and all the currently named dwarf planets — would all be on the same side of the Sun in 2216 (though Ceres moves to the other side late in the year). Naturally, the four inner planets all spend part of the year on the other side, but usually just one or two of them at a time. I moved it to 2202 upon developing the historical appendix for Among the Wild Cybers, since it’s a better fit for the flow of events I wanted, while still fitting the dialogue about the planet positions.

“Not While I’m Around” is one of my favorite songs from Steven Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd.


Scene 5

p. 131 (p. 38)

“Every Good Boy Deserves Favour” is the British mnemonic for the lines of a treble clef in musical notation, the notes EGBDF. The American mnemonic I was raised with is “Every Good Boy Does Fine.”

“When Did This Happen?” and “Give Me Time” are songs from a fairly obscure musical called Dracula: The Game of Love, music by Richard Oberacker, lyrics by Michael Lazar & Richard Oberacker. It debuted at the University of Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music, perhaps the nation’s finest musical theater school, in 2002, and the lead role of Mina was played by a friend of mine, Angela Gaylor, who did brilliantly. I found it quite a good musical and expected it to become better-known in the future, though that doesn’t seem to have happened yet. In any case, the inclusion of these song titles is a tribute to a show I quite enjoyed and to my friend Angela, who went on to a brief Broadway career, with her most prominent role being Anne in the 2004-5 revival of La Cage Aux Folles.

p. 131-132 (pp. 38-39)

“Where Do We Go From Here?” is the closing song from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical episode “Once More With Feeling,” music and lyrics by Joss Whedon. “Rescue Me” is the famous R&B song by Fontella Bass, Raynard Miner and Carl Smith. “Greased Lightning” is from Grease by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey. “As Time Goes By” is the famous song from Casablanca, originally written by Herman Hupfeld for the musical Everybody’s Welcome in 1931. “There Is No Other Way” is from Sondheim’s Pacific Overtures.

The rest of the song titles are ones I made up, with the assumption that they’re from musicals written between the present and 2202. However, I found on subsequent Googling that there are, by coincidence, popular songs called “Out of Control,” ”Maybe There’s Hope,” “Flying Blind,” and “How Long Can This Go On.” I came close in a couple of instances; there’s a song called “Breath of Life” and another called “I’m Drawn to You, Sweetheart.” However, none of these seem to be show tunes, so they probably aren’t the songs Monali and Miguel are referencing (though they do use at least one popular song, “Rescue Me”).


Scene 6

p. 134-136 (p. 40-42)

The debates between Monali and Miguel in this scene reflect my own struggles to figure out a solution to the situation I’d put them in. I’d been hoping I could work out something involving the PQM as the solution, and for a while I went down the same blind alley Miguel did. I put my own wrestling with the story into the story, as a way of turning a negative into a positive.

Scene 7

 p. 137 (p. 43)

I still feel the solution I ultimately arrived at is a bit of a cheat—physically plausible, but somewhat contrived in the need to provide the ship with the necessary equipment to pull it off, and not really tying into the PQM experiment at all, so it’s a bit of a non sequitur. It works, but it’s more inelegant than I hoped.

 p. 138 (p. 44)

Why does Monali have to touch-type the log into her wristcom rather than recording her voice? Because the latter possibility never occurred to me. In-story, perhaps she couldn’t be sure of finding the right control to activate the recorder, or perhaps her throat was burned and she wasn’t sure she could talk comprehensibly anyway. Or maybe once she got used to the idea of being deaf, she overlooked the possibility of communicating by voice.

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