A GRIPE with Mind Out of Time

The Starship Troupers, St. Vidicon, and G.R.I.P.E.
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A GRIPE with Mind Out of Time

Postby aeneas » Tue Aug 17, 2010 7:14 pm

I always found ol’ Doc Angus an interesting character because he was this mysterious guy who hangs out in the background of the DDT universe (and beyond), giving a helping hand to Rod and co. whenever needed. So it was with some trepidation that I began reading “Mind Out of Time.” What if I was disappointed with Angus McAran when I read his story? Would I ever look at him the same way again? Happily, I can say that I like the character even more now that I’ve read his story. He’s a gruff but sympathetic character, not unlike the original Doctor Who, played by William Hartnell. And we can definitely understand his anger towards SPITE after we learn all they’ve done to him and his family. There’s definitely some depth added to the character through this short story, and I’d gladly read more adventures about him.
However, having said all that, I do have problems with some small, but in my mind significant, details in the story. First of all, how it is that Angus so easily projects himself into the past? As far as I remember, there’s been nobody else in the DDT universe, or even pre-DDT universe, that could just travel in the past by concentrating on a bottle. I’m sure of course that a telepath from Gramarye could do it, but there’s never any indication that Angus is a telepath, and even if he has some latent abilities, surely they are not enough for doing what he accomplishes. I realize his “astral-projection” might be a mere plot device to get the character from point A to point B, but there needs to be some in-universe consistency here, especially with something like this. If regular folks can transport themselves through space and time, then what’s the big deal about Gramayre in the future? The communications crises of the DDT could be solved simply, without needing telepaths. Everybody could just get into a yogi position, concentrate, and there you go. Of course it would also mean that SPITE and VETO could easily defeat the DDT. They’d just need to go around and smash all the Klein bottles in the universe! This inconsistency in the story could have been avoided of course if Angus would have simply invented the time machine in the first place. I don’t understand why his initial “mind out of time” moment was even crucial to the story, especially since Yorick was already on the scene at the start of the story.
Another irritating detail is how Yorick handles the bomb placed under the table at the café. He picks it up and drops it into the park next door where it explodes and apparently leaves a large impression. Now, even in a pre-9/11 world, bombs going off in parks are likely to draw some attention from police and rescue teams. But not so in the story. Angus and Yorick sit down for a cup of coffee without even one police officer—or even a nearby witness—questioning them about what happened. As a reader, I was immediately wondering if anybody got hurt in the explosion. Surely our heroes ought to have checked on that?
Lastly, around the climax of the story, when Yorick is fighting off the baddies, he mentions to Angus something about a laser. I believe this story takes place in the early to mid-80’s, and yet inexplicably, Angus wonders what a laser is. Surely any genius scientist/inventor will know about lasers. I can’t help but wonder if this story was written by Mr. Stasheff very early on in his career, and it only got slightly revised for later publication. If that’s the case, then these inconsistencies and problems are more understandable; however, I would have preferred an up-dated version that not only fit more smoothly in the G.R.I.P.E/DDT universe, but also demonstrated the superior skills that we all know Mr. Stasheff possesses as a writer.
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Re: A GRIPE with Mind Out of Time

Postby cstasheff » Tue Aug 17, 2010 9:27 pm

Thank you for taking the story so seriously, aeneas. It’s good to know that Docn
Angus has struck a chord in even one reader, flawed though he may be. As you guessed, I wrote the original story in 1967 and later expanded it to the “Mind out of Time” novelette. Actually, I should say I expanded it over the next thirty years, because its present form in the late 90s. Off and on over that time, I had mulled over elements of the story, so it was a continuing growth process – and still is; I wrote a few more short stories for it in 2005, and I’ll be contributing them to this website, if I can just find the diskette I saved them to. Your points are all well-taken, and I could be honest and admit I was wrong, but being too dishonest for that, I’ll probably write stories explaining them – for example, how Doc Angus knew about lasers in the late Fifties (he was doing some research that overlapped). I can, however, claim that he had to do out-of-body time travel in order to gain the insight into how time worked, well enough to invent the hardware – I had a few sentences to that effect in the original version. From what I’ve read on the subject of trance states and out-of-body experiences, it’s not at all simple, unless a person is born with so strong a gift that he has difficulty learning how to keep it from happening. For the rest of us mere mortals, learning how to meditate that strongly takes years. However. as you indicate, Angus obviously learns too quickly, especially considering that he’s self-taught. As to the other issues, though, definitely I should have created much more of a public reaction to the bomb, or at least had Yorick hustle the two of them out of there. I could argue that it was only a cherry bomb, of course, but that would be too dishonest even for me. The possibity of enemy time agents going around and smashing Klein bottles, though, I can deal with by saying they probably tried that but found that mathematicians simply made new ones – once a discovery is in the literature, it’s awfully hard to eradicate it; my favorite example comes from World War II; apparently, Federal agents showed up at the offices of Astoudning magazine demanding to know where the author of a short story telling how to make your own atom bomb, got his information. He answered, “New York Public Library.” However, you’ve given me a great idea for a new story – GRIPE sending out a squad to protect Klein bottles from futurian agents. After all, I’ve established that SPITE and VETO are trying to sabotage Angus since before his birth; it makes sense that they would be engaged in a time war with plenty of interesting skirmishes. That brings us to the whole problem of updating – should Poul Anderson of Andre Norton have rewritten their 1950s time war novels? Should Jack Williamson have rewritten his Legion of Space novels? Some people would be delighted to compare the old versions and the new versions – but some (and I am one) find that part of their charm comes from the anachronisms, such as the pre-Seventies short stories in which the engineers whip out their slide rules to solve crucial problems. Since you’ve made so many good ponts, I may someday rewrite “Mind Out of Time” to update it - but I’ll be careful to preserve the balance. After all, Doc Angus’s headquarters is in the 1950s – the decade in which I did most of my growing up, but also a decade in which most of the elements of the modern world existed, though in very primitive forms – solid state in the form of transistors, television with a nine-inch screen making black-and-white distinctions (actually, we used a gray scale), and computers that filled rooms. Someone born and raised in that decade wouldn’t have too much trouble adjusting to the present day, but someone from the 1890s would go into culture shock (Doc Angus’s future lawyer handles it much more elegantly, but she was ahead of her time in many ways). So thank you for your perceptive comments, and please be sure I’ll use them. When I do, I’ll try to remember (my memory isn’t what it was, and is deteriorating rapidly). to give you credit for asking the questions that gave me the ideas. Just in case I don’t, for now I’d better say:
Christopher Stasheff
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Re: A GRIPE with Mind Out of Time

Postby Ortho the Frank » Tue Aug 17, 2010 11:42 pm

Okay, I just gotta add this, 'cuz I thought it was really cool at the time. After reading Mind Out of Time and some other (unpublished) GRIPE stories, I asked Chris (one of the advantages to being related to the author) what was up with all the antiquated technology at GRIPE headquarters. I mean, if they have access to the most advanced technology in all of human civilization, why aren't they using it? Why don't they have at least, y'know, microprocessors?

Chris surprised me with an instant and well thought out answer. Doc Angus insists on using 1950s technology in the GRIPE headquarters as a sort of failsafe. If the GRIPE headquarters ever gets overrun by SPITE or VETO (which, of course, happens in one of the unpublished short stories), GRIPE can start again in a new location using technology that is readily available in that 1950s time zone.

Of course, GRIPE can still use knowledge from the future, and try to replicate futuristic tools with more primitive technology. We then had a fascinating discussion about bulky vacuum-tube-powered teleportation backpacks.

Interestingly, this fits well with the current trend of "steampunk" in the sci-fi world. Although, since it's in the 1950s, I guess it would technically be "dieselpunk."
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Re: A GRIPE with Mind Out of Time

Postby aeneas » Wed Aug 18, 2010 2:33 am

It was so kind of you to take time to respond to me but please don't take my comments too seriously. I enjoyed the characters in the story very much and in spite of a few inconsistencies was simply happy to have another one of your tales. You are an excellent writer, and I can also enjoy something about all of your stories.
I was being a bit facetious about the Klein bottles. The notion of bad guys going around through time with hammers.... But come to think of it, maybe you're right, the idea does have some charm to it, if I do say so myself.
I totally agree with you about anachronisms in older science fiction stories; they don't bother me. Indeed, I'm the kind of person that enjoys old movies more than new ones, and the more snaps and pops in the film, the better. So, old technology in future settings is no big deal. The thing I want most out of my science fiction, or fantasy, is good characterization and internal consistency. You're usually spot on with both and that's why I was a little bothered by Angus' lack of knowledge about lasers. But that's only a minor thing.
Thanks again for all the delight you've brought to so many through your wonderful stories.

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