Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Can gears be sexy (but brief)?

In inviting comment on a problem in the novel, I reduced the question to that of a principle or a technique. What I hadn’t made clear (to avoid complications) was that the passage was short, it fitted into a chapter several thousands words long and couldn’t be hugely expanded just to animate the problem. I took in suggestions where I could and, for what it’s worth, here’s the result. Hatch is speaking to other employees in a TV production company.

At three he faced half a dozen Gamester employees, all younger than him, all shabbily dressed, all incapable of sitting upright. “This is a techno-test based on understanding gears. The contestant arranges a sequence of gears - a gear-train - on this frame. If she’s done the arithmetic and got it right she turns this wheel here at the bottom a full 360 degrees and gets the necessary result on the sixth gear at the top.”

He paused, “I know ‘result’ sounds vague but I’ve been learning how to dumb down. My first idea was that the bottom and top wheels could be clock faces. That way two o’clock became, say, four o’clock. But it wasn’t dumb enough. Now I prefer the correct result being flagged as ‘Bingo’ in a panel. Or whatever.

“So, that’s what the viewer sees. The contestant does her sums, puts the gear-wheels in the right order, twiddles the bottom gear and ‘Bingo’. The arithmetic is simple and it’s based on the number of teeth per wheel. Plus one other factor. Can anyone guess?”

No one spoke. Hatch said, “I take it you all did eng-lit at uni. I can demo it, though cardboard wheels aren’t perfect.” Hatch slotted two wheels on to the frame so their rims touched. “I now turn the bottom wheel clockwise and you notice this drives the second wheel. But the second wheel turns – wait for it - anti-clockwise! That complicates the arithmetic a little and the contestant must take it into account.”

A long-haired woman in a kaftan said, “That point should be made clear for viewers. It’s got a low-grade woo-factor.”

“I’m glad you told me,” said Hatch, grinning. “Something terribly complicated that can only be understood by scientists?”
Novel progress 18/3/10.Ch. 17: 2653 words. Chs. 1 - 16: 73,302. Comments: Clare unhappy at home.