?

Reading the thread, what's the best means for them to pick up objects?

  1. Devices implanted in their heads (visible on the ear) that allow them to levitate objects

    33.3%
  2. A device worn in the "frog" of the hoof. They can pick up objects with it through magnets

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  3. A hoof-boot with two "fingers" and a "thumb", the user tenses its arm muscles to use the digits

    66.7%
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. Gadget Steamhoof
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    Gadget Steamhoof New Member

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    Urgent: How important is it to explain an everyday-use device in a steampunk fantasy novel

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Gadget Steamhoof, Jun 30, 2014.

    Hello everyone this is my first time posting on these forums. I'm a little nervous because my story isn't nearly finished and because it's unusual, but here it goes. It is long, because I've been through several ideas myself and I'm in desperate need of help because it's driving me crazy :( I'll start by linking a few pics of what the main species in the story look like:

    The Caprans (protagonist species):

    http://i.imgur.com/GeY7t7c.png
    http://i.imgur.com/XWubGGr.png https://www.dropbox.com/sh/2hnps8dbqo6komi/AADQpRljOHjou3Q-10hU2Hs_a/Gadget%20visit.psd

    And the Hethrell (villain species):
    http://i.imgur.com/BWCcyed.jpg
    http://i.imgur.com/gq3GQYD.jpg

    As you can imagine since they are quadrupeds and don't have fingers or toes, it would be difficult for them to manipulate objects, which is especially important since the story is intended to be an emotional steampunk fantasy war story between these two races. Most things in the story such as their weaponry, fuel sources, food production, government, etc. have been explained without getting in the way of the story, but the biggest issue so far is the explanation of how they can use tools without fingers.

    My first idea was that the Hethrell and Caprans both have devices that are implanted in their heads once they reach a certain age, and these allow them to use psychokinesis to levitate objects. It takes a few years to learn and the brainpower of an individual determines how much they can levitate at once, lifting too much weight and overexerting themselves will give the user a bad headache that can leave them disoriented. A few friends criticised this idea and said that in order for the story to be taken seriously I require a scientifically sound explanation of how these devices work. There were a few concepts I thought of next - one was instead of kinesis the devices worked by manipulating the magnetic fields around objects, the issue with this though is that too much use could give the user brain damage because the magnetic waves would interfere with their own brain waves. Another idea was that the device could manipulate gravitational fields around objects, but I can't think of a way to explain it and I imagine with that technology they could have easily gotten into space already.

    I tried to branch out into other ideas - one was the concept that on the bottom of the characters' front hooves there's a magnetic device that allows them to pick up objects. Only issue is that everything would then have to be made of metal to be picked up and how would it be possible to let go of an object without the character having to pull it off with their teeth? Perhaps the user could somehow pick up an object with this hoof-implanted device (even non magnetic ones) with their hoof by tensing up his or her arm muscles and release the tension to drop it? It would essentially be like the Sticky Hooves trope that is sometimes seen in cartoons.

    A friend suggested velcro-like strips, but that had even more issues and I got the most ridiculous image in my head, and somebody could be the world's best troll by removing the velcro strips off everything at the supermarket. An idea I had today was a three-fingered device that is worn like a boot and plugged into the user's musculature through a plug, as can be seen here: http://i.imgur.com/cLdcfeN.png but this also raises questions about if this is possible since they likely wouldn't have much control over their muscles to be able to use the device, and I'm unsure if it could work if I removed the cord (since it can make the design look messy).

    Finally I ask the question, am I overthinking this? Is anyone going to even care if the characters and writing is strong enough? I would immensely appreciate your input on what I should do (other than go to anthro characters or humans, I like anthros but I've never been able to get their designs right). Would people dislike the idea of psychokinesis devices or devices that allow every character to somehow levitate objects? Would it be better to instead give the characters horse-shoe like devices that allow them to pick up objects with their hooves through magnets or some other means? Any suggestions would be very much appreciated.
     
  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    To answer it all in a nutshell, you're overthinking it. ;) Nice drawings, BTW. :) If you're going to take the paradigm apart as much as you are in this question, then there is an even more primordial question to be asked: Why is a hoofed creature with no manipulatory appendages even sentient enough to write a story about as if they are people? Also, never mind how they hold and use the tools, who's making them? If you can't hold a sword with your hoof without some contraption, then you certainly can't make one. But these are the kinds of questions that might make or break a science fiction story. Your story is fantasy dressed in steampunk, yes? You have more leeway.
     
  3. Gadget Steamhoof
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    Gadget Steamhoof New Member

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    Thanks for your input, it really helps. Did you have a preference out of the ideas I listed above?
     
  4. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    The third choice is the most in keeping with a steampunk palette. Straps that can be mouth-tightened and released. Wouldn't even have to be a glove, so much as the implement having a goodly sized cuff to strap to the end of the hoof/leg. Magnets just wouldn't pull off as real enough for me, even if they were rare earth magnets. Just not enough holding power in a fight for me to buy into the premise. The implant idea is clean off steampunk arena. I'm putting the story down after I've gotten comfortably steamy and bronze pipe-workie and then suddenly brain implants. No.
     
  5. Gadget Steamhoof
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    Gadget Steamhoof New Member

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    So does that mean that the brain implant and kinesis devices are a bad idea?
     
  6. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    For me, it just doesn't fit into a steampunk story. If it were David Brin's Uplift Universe where there are, in fact, little aliens that answer very much to the description in your drawings (just more from a sci-fi venue than a fantasy one) there I could see it working. But that's a very hard sci-fi universe. It fits there. It's not a bad idea, it's just from a different kind of story. For me.

    [​IMG]
     
  7. Gadget Steamhoof
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    Gadget Steamhoof New Member

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    If all hooved creatures in the story's world were naturally able to use psychokinesis to levitate objects, would that be better? I could say they evolved to have this trait or developed it as a mutation by overexposure to the meteor based mineral they mine for resources called starmetal
     
  8. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, that's much better. And in a genuine Fantasy story, don't reach to far into Sci-Fi Land for explanations for how/why they have these abilities. It's Fantasy. They just do. A reader who picks up a fantasy story is ready to accept that kind of thing, is looking for it and expecting it. Reach too far into explanations and things start to go flaccid. Smaug, in real life, is a completely impossible creature for a million and one reasons, and it doesn't matter a lick to the story. ;)
     
  9. Gadget Steamhoof
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    Gadget Steamhoof New Member

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    So does that explanation seem a lot better than the velcro like straps? Or do you prefer the straps? I know its my story but I value the opinion of others
     
  10. Wreybies
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    My pref is for heavy, stiff leather cuffs with straps and nice bronze buckles darkened with patina, the leather worked with elegant patterns and designs indicative of clan/family/personal fashion. Velcro, even velcro-esque, is again a hard yank out from Steampunk land. You mention that the equine race is the 'main species' in the story. Some other species could be making these items for the equines, which takes care of how they get made, but if the story is to be steampunk, as you mention, you have to get the props right. ;)
     
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  11. Gadget Steamhoof
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    Gadget Steamhoof New Member

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    Maybe its not truly steampunk since it does have tanks and a few other things not often found there. As for the original devices, they were commissioned from the gryphons who were once a tech savvy race that traded their tech in exchange for resources
     
  12. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    Maybe give them an alternate form, one that is humanoid-looking, that has clear advantages for science and research, but has clear disadvantages for combat?

    Also, just some food for thought: I feel like with your artistic style and talent this story would be a stellar graphic novel. And it would get rid of a lot of your woes, since you can just show most of everything, instead of having to explain it. Plus your cool artwork won't go to waste!
     
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