Wednesday 9 October 2013

Author Explains: Pop Culture

Pic by Errol of Debs and Errol

IN BRIEF: "Taylor's Polynomials" is a web serial which includes math, urban fantasy, pop culture, and wordplay. If you like some of those things, hopefully you're already on board. But if you need more convincing, let me break it down for you... post by post.

I previously explained about the math references I use in "Taylor's Polynomials". Yet perhaps you're not a maths geek, just a geek generally? Then this is the post for you.


The Ellipse is watching you
To start, I'll clarify my setting. Picture someone struggling with a math problem. They're not understanding it, but they're persevering, trying their best, until suddenly - they have a flash of insight! My claim? The insight was (possibly) one of my characters seeing the struggle, and giving a gentle nudge in the right direction.

My serial exists on a meta-level. The characters are aware of our world, but exist on a separate "plane". (Their own deities are TPTB - which is not The Powers That Be, but rather Transcendental Pi-Type Beings.) Is that fantasy? A type of science fiction? I'm not entirely sure. I can tell you that the references I make within the story DO trend to those genres!

To date, I have referenced or parodied events from at minimum the following elements of pop culture:
Doctor Who, Stargate, Star Trek, Knight Rider, Wizard of Oz, The Spoony Experiment, Back to the Future, Katy Perry, Being Erica, Sailor Moon, Sliders, Quantum Leap, and most recently, Cheers.

Don't get the parabola angry. You won't like her when she's angry.

By the way, the first entry of Series 6 will be the "Babble On Project". Because the serial needs more Straczynski.

Maybe I'm like "Demo Reel" in text form -- if you get the "Channel Awesome" reference, great! If you don't, who cares? It's not central to the plot, plus I have other things you might understand!

What follows is a break down of the major ongoing serial elements, as related to their source material. My hope is that, whether you see the connections or not, the items can be enjoyed independently! As elements of an ongoing science fiction fantasy cultural mashup style story. Um, with math.


Logan's ship.  Abridged.
It began as a combination of 'Doctor Who', 'Star Trek' and 'D&D'. A blue "dread" gazebo (don't attack it) that flies around through the various math dimensions and is larger on the inside. Well, larger in the subscript beneath the gazebo trapdoor - after all, it is logarithm's base of operations. The bridge layout borrows from Star Trek, and they use hypersprays, so named because they were invented by the Hyperbola.

The ship has since become a well from which I can draw other references. QT and ParaB invented a "quadcorder" that's about as reliable as Al's handlink in 'Quantum Leap', and Radik III recently tried to install a Super Pursuit Mode, adding 'Knight Rider' to the pop culture list. Will there be more? Maybe.


If there is a Wizard, I suspect it's Versine
It's a mashup of 'Wizard of Oz' with 'Star Trek'. The AZ (Angle Zone) is where Trigonometry lives. SLIGHT SPOILER for Series 3: To the north is primary trig (the command and navigation functions), who wear red. In the west, reciprocals (security and engineering), who wear yellow and have a winking habit. In the east, inverses (science and medical), who wear blue and are munch kins - they like eating together. In the south, reciprocal inverses who wear purple and are of no specified department, though ArcCot has been known to shout "Objection!" (from Ace Attorney). In the middle of it all, Origin Central, and the green building that was part of Versine's evil plot back in Series 3.

Hey, while we're on the subject of Series 3, the climax involved a "mind meld", done in the style of the Replicators from 'Stargate SG-1'.


This is from the 'Stargate' series, though the name is a play on words from the "Cone of Silence" in 'Get Smart'. As envisioned by Hyper, it's a double napped cone that will transmit material from one cone location to another. (The lower cone to the upper one, and vice versa, though they're not physically connected.)

Cone of Science: Re-materialization sequence

It's kind of like what goes on in 'The Fly', except when it works, it behaves more like the Ring Transporters from 'Stargate'. Regrettably, it's never quite worked properly.


Inverse Sine, aka Dr. Nisano
'The Spoony Experiment' is a show (formerly on That Guy With the Glasses) which includes a mad scientist character named "Dr. Insano", as portrayed by Noah Antwiler. The character was so popular he spawned parody versions, including Linksano from "Atop the Fourth Wall" (also on TGWTG)... and the current persona of ArcSin here, 'Dr. Nisano'.

It's the swirly glasses that make the gag. It sort of surprises me how long it took before this association came together for me - after all, I was calling the scientist 'Nis' ('Sin' backwards), and had put him in the science department. Insano, Nisano, they're anagrams for goodness sakes.


Those are the key ongoing plot points - but wait! There's more! For instance, I made a reference to Katy Perry tying Michael Jackson in number one hits from a single album in this entry. I also do song parodies ("filk")... many of them on the side rather than directly in the narrative, but sometimes they're included.

Hyperbola, inventing A Certain Scientific Railgun
The 'Z-Axis Points Module' from Series 2 was a play on the ZPM from 'Stargate'. ParaB throwing her tiara in a parabolic arc in Series 4 was riffing on 'Sailor Moon'. The images for Mink and Con drew blatantly from 'Doctor Who', their unpronounceability a nod to 'Victor Borge' phonetic punctuation.

I snuck a picture from 'Twitter Math Camp' into Series 5, and the 'Cheers' reference was in the last episode for that Series. And yet, there's more! Look, anyone remember the TV Show "Beat the Geeks"? First, it needed more female geeks. Second, I don't know why I remember all this stuff, but it often gets into my serial.

In conclusion, I'm saying that if you like Fantasy/SciFi stories, you may be amused when you read. If you are somewhat in tune with pop culture (current, or from my childhood), the amusement will even have context. But even if you're not into any of that, hey, flying gazebo ship! Don't you want to see more?

No? You're not sold yet? Math is not your thing, and you figure that if you don't understand EVERY reference I'm making, the story won't make sense to you. FINE. Do you at least like wordplay? Speaking as a writer, I think that's a good thing to have in your back pocket.

We're coming up to my final post in this set, geared towards the writers.  Then Series 6: STAT US launches this time next week!

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