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Breaking an unwritten rule, for your snarkreading pleasure

(From Freefall. Click on the thumbnail for full sized shiny, shiny button.)

You know, I don't have many rules for Websnark. Try to get something written. Credit the sources for the stuff I'm talking about. Try not to suck.

And don't snark about the same site two days in a row. Heck, I prefer to have many days between snarks on a given webcomic. Sometimes, I fail at that, but I still try. You're going to get sick of me talking about stuff if I don't shake it up, and I don't want to pull from peoples' archives too often. You're supposed to go to their sites.

And I sure as Hell don't snark the same site twice in a row. That's just silly.

Well, I started reading Freefall today, on a recommendation. I posted a snark when I laughed hard enough to piss my cat off. She was sleeping sprawled across my chest at the time, you see. Yeah, it was pretty damn cute. That's not important there. And I kept going.

This shouldn't be as good as it is, damn it. It's got a pile of cliches in it. Plus a furry. And a cheerful robot. Except it transcends cliche. It has a purity to it. The characters are what they say they are. The art is clean and pleasant. And there is daily Funny. Good daily Funny.

That's not enough to get a second Snark in a row. I mean, Jesus. This is the unwritten law we're talking about! I have some standards! I HAVE SOME STANDARDS!

And then it hit me. Like a gunshot. Only without the bleeding or gangrene.

This strip is hard science fiction.

Let me say that again.

This strip, despite having a wolf-girl, robots conditioned to shout DOGGIE, squid-con men in encounter suits and homicidal computers, is hard science fiction.

The last sequence of strips, which spanned from October 13 of last year until the current strip, has covered the group getting their first mission -- launching into orbit to deploy 20 satellites. They went through launch window. They underwent magnetic acceleration and multiple stages, using air as propellent until they were too high, then water as reaction mass, then magnetic scoops to pull in iron particles. They then had to deal with Sam learning how to maneuver in microgravity (so-called). And filter changes on the air recycling system. And dealing with problems in the cargo bay, requiring cycling into EVA suits. And rechecking everything because of the danger of incipient death!

I'm an SF fan. I've been an SF fan for... well, ever. I'd be a card carrying member of the Heinlein Society if those cheap bastards sent out cards, but they don't so I have to be a dues paying member instead. I love hard SF. I love reading extended ballistics lessons in the middle of novels featuring attractive red haired supergenius women who love octogenarian men. I love the philosophical dimension to Asimov's robot stories. I. Am. A. Geek.

Freefall nails that love. And yet, there is Funny brought every day. Every damn day! The strip proves you don't need to have bikini babes, lightsabre jokes or artificial gravity to have a funny strip that pulls you in. Mark Stanley (if that is the cartoonist -- not only doesn't he have a Cast Page, he doesn't even have his fucking name on the site anywhere I could find. The copyright notice on the cartoons reads Stanley and a "Mark Stanley" moderates the Freefall forum. So no, this strip isn't perfect, damn it) has easy to follow characters, good humor, and hard SF, all on the same.

So damn the unwritten law. You get two. So there.


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Don't forget the rock solid M-W-F schedule. No, wait, you're a newcomer and can't know that yet.

Ah, Freefall. Seeing this reminded me of 1/0 (http://oneoverzero.keenspace.com/), which introduced me to Freefall. They did an April Fool's comic switch.

I'd recommend checking out 1/0. It's a wonderfully self-aware, internally-consistant webcomic with quirky characters and humor. Alas, it is only archives these days, as its creator Tailsteak (http://www.tailsteak.tk/) brought it to a close that actually had closure after exactly 1000 daily strips. While it was running, it was actually my favorite strip. It still holds nostalgia for me, going through the archives.

I would greatly suggest that anyone go check it out, and try to get through the early, grittier-looking days in the archive. Chronological viewing is fairly important.

This has been a message from the Friends of Impossible Numbers.

Amen to both. 1/0 was utterly brilliant during its run as an example of how to break the fourth wall (hell, never have one installed in the first place) and do it RIGHT. And Freefall, Freefall's just a hoot.

And oddly, I found it the same way Cirrus did.

My first exposure to these guys was "Roller Skates On A Space Station". The science was a little iffy, but amusing (essentially, the protagonist guy puts on roller skates on a rotating space station and slows to a stop, the station floor whizzing by as he starts to float).


Are you sure you're thinking of Freefall, and not 1/0 (or even Rockwood?) I just logtrekked through all of Freefall and didn't see any Space Station strips....

The rollerskate trick is ooc. Follow the Comic Book Pages link on the Freefall home page for some supplementary reading.

Freefall's the only comedy Sci-Fi I can think of offhand that's genuinely hard science: everything else seems to be in the Hitchhikers psychic-fish-in-your-ear mode. I love it for that. (I love Hitchhikers too, mind.)

The site design's beautiful: nice simple colour-scheme and layout, and the graphics limited to the strip and three small links so it's one of the fastest-loading comics pages I know. And the keywords database is a blessing when you're hunting down a particular quotable strip.

Thanks for the link, Bo. My original link rotted. "Back When," I got the creator's permission to use that strip in teaching physics. :)

BTW, the "iffy science" in it is that inertia resists changes in motion, not motion itself. The only force on someone in that situation (leaving aside friction) is center-directed, and the skates only work on a tangent. Now, if he could work up enough speed anti-spinward on the skates, he might be able to coast "weightless" for a little while, but eventually the wind would put him back down and make him partially catch up to the station.

Postscript: turns out that if you spend too long composing a post, TypeKey hits you with an inactivity logout.

Tim: I'd note Schlock Mercenary as a another strip that tries to be, if not always completely realistic, at least consistent in its science. Howard Taylor, for the most part, seems to have a good understanding of what he's talking about, and a lot of the tech in his strip is theoretically sound even today... well, provided you have all the working parts (which we don't) and near-unlimited power provided by clean matter-to-energy conversion (which we don't). Just recently, he described a scenario in which an object could be accelerated to 99% the speed of light... and took note of the fact that it would require an equally strong push in the opposite direction to slow the thing down again. (See link.)

The comics at Freefall were so scientifically accurate that I used a couple of them as illustrations to explain technical points (with permission of course):

Holy crap. I've used your notes on 3D starmapping for years, Nyrath. So I hope just getting your comment here was enough to get me bouncing in my chair.

For those who don't know of what I speak, and who have any interest in Hard SF and in Science Fact -- especially on this day, with SpaceShip One claiming the X-Prize and entering history... go to Project Ho! It's worth the trip.

I'm glad you liked my website (though for the record it is "Project Rho", not "Project Ho".

I'm afraid that the 3-D starmapping section has gathered dust since I'm having far too much fun with the Atomic Rockets section.

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