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?
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.
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