Free Falling

Free Fall

I just realized it’s been well over a month since my last blog post. Since the past few posts have either been about my RPG or politics, I thought I’d surprise everyone with a blog talking about someone else’s work for a change. So let me introduce you to Free Fall.

Free Fall is a long-running internet strip. Long running; Mark Stanley started drawing it back in 2006, and its up to around 3,000 strips now. It starts off in black and white, but eventually goes to color.

So what’s the strip about? Well the main characters are Sam Starfall, Florence Ambrose, and Helix. Sam Starfall is a larcenous squid in an human-shaped environmental suite and captain of the Savage Chicken. Florence is a genetically enhanced Bowman’s Wolf and the ship’s engineer. Helix is a very simple robot.

The ship’s computer keeps trying to kill Sam. It’s programmed to protect humans and itself, and considers Sam a grave threat. It’s more or less right.

So what, exactly, is the story? Well it starts of pretty simply, running as an episodic sit-com series of insane adventures, most of them kicked off by Sam doing something stupid, criminal, and often both. But as it goes along it develops into a deeper exploration of several science-fiction questions. The main one is “What will happen once robots are sufficiently advanced to completely replace humans in the economy?” It also asks what would be our moral responsibility to robots we’ve advanced to true sapience and self-awareness. We’re not talking SkyNet, here, or even I Robot’s robot revolution; we’re talking about fully self-aware robots who have only the best wishes for humanity (who are their gods, after all), and no intention of taking over to run things for humanity’s sake. One conclusion being played with is that the robots are still a terrible threat to humanity’s future as a species. Why? Read it and see.

I’ve made it sound serious. Yes, some themes are serious, but it’s a Terry Pratchett kind of seriousness; the situation might be serious, but the people involved in it are hilarious. Mark Stanley has a true gift for whimsy that will make you giggle insanely at inappropriate moments; at least if you’re at work. In fact the whole strip is Not Safe For Work, and not for the normal NSFW reasons. So read it at home. Pick some time when you have a few hours you can use to catch up. Maybe a weekend (nearly 3,000 strips, remember).

To entice you to check Free Fall out, here is some representative dialogue:

Sam: Bottom line. How safe is a .2 millirem dose [of radiation]?
Florence: It’s safer than driving with you across town.
Helix: Florence, standing in a burning building while blind circus midgets throw knives at you is safer than driving across town with Sam.
Florence: You’re right. Bad example.

Florence: Your helmet, that’s not what you really look like, is it?
Sam: Immigration insisted I don’t show my real face. Apparently my race triggers a nurturing response in humans. They would take one look at me and immediately begin to regurgitate their last meal for me.
Florence: I can see where that would be a problem.
Sam: I mean, how do you politely say “No” to something like that?

So far, neither the government nor the media is involved, so we still have a chance of coming up with a workable solution. Florence

Oh, hush, or I’m not going to let you alter social structures on a planetary scale with me any more. Florence

Sam: Helix, we’re just going to talk. There’s no need to bring the stick.

Helix: But you’re better at talking than I am. When you talk, sometimes I get confused. My ideas of what’s right and wrong get mixed up. That’s why I’m bringing this. As soon as I start thinking it’s all right to steal from our employees, I’m going to start hitting you with the stick.

Sam: It’s reasoning like that why you’re not allowed on corporate boardrooms anymore.

Florence is good at keeping things civilized, because she makes it so clear what will happen if things get uncivilized. Helix

Good afternoon, sir. The spaceport computer informs me that you are my inspector. I am 1071-CCN, standing by for inspection. Standing by. I would like to say I’ve still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in this inspection. ….. Still standing by. Sir, might I suggest your time could be better utilized by inspecting my rear end instead of the engineer’s. Ship’s Computer

Seriously, NSFW and you’ve got to read this Free Fall. You’ll thank me.
Marion G. Harmon

5 thoughts on “Free Falling

  1. I know the role playing thing is your big project right now, but can you give a teaser for the next book? And maybe put something in the side-bar just to keep reminding people what it is and when it’s coming out? Sell Sell Sell and all that. I like you’re stuff a lot but I have no idea and I’m not reading the entire blog just to find the next release date. Ta.

  2. One correction, Freefalls been running since the mid 90s. I heartily second everything you said about my Third favorite webcomic.

  3. I’ve followed Freefall since it was in three digits, and it’s a hilarious and often thought provoking comic. Great stuff!

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