Monday, November 22, 2010

Hiro Protagonist Jacks Into the Metaverse (Defenders of Dynatron City)

Dynatron City consists entirely of one-way streets that are approximately fifteen feet wide. This is about wide enough that five people can stand shoulder to shoulder across them. This might seem narrow for a street, as standard lane width ranges from 9-12 feet in the United States, making the streets all one-lane roads, albeit comfortable one-lane roads. However, vehicles in Dynatron City are, by all appearances, only about three feet wide, making fifteen foot roads more than adequate for any traffic purposes. Of course, no traffic actually exists. Indeed, the roads of Dynatron City are occupied entirely by pedestrian traffic, the vast majority of which is comprised of killer robots.

It is here perhaps worth making a brief digression to explain the notion of measurement in Dynatron City. Among the many consumer goods that do not exist within Dynatron City limits is the measuring tape. Accordingly, measurement in normal human terms is a subjective practice at best, and at worst is just messy and arbitrary guesswork. The best available measurement is the width of a human body. This is not because it's particularly exact, but because it is possible in the first place. Measurements are thus conducted by walking up and down a stretch and attempting to calculate how many human widths are there. This involves taking a step in a direction, then turning 90 degrees, then taking another step, turning 90 degrees, and counting the number of times this is possible.

All measurements are thus based on the assumption that a human being in Dynatron City is three feet wide. This is very possibly untrue. However we can still discern that a car, in Dynatron city, has roughly the exact same width as a person.

The reason that measuring devices are not sold in Dynatron City is that there is no discernible economic activity in Dynatron City. The only two categories of people are superheroes and killer robots, and their interactions are characterized more by attempts to kill each other than by commerce. Stores exist, but are simply full of killer robots. It is possible that, when there are no superheroes available to kill, the killer robots do engage in complex economic activity, but this is pure speculation, as the presence of any observer would necessarily remove them from this state and reduce them to homicidal rage again.

Although this is probably the best hypothesis, it remains an intensely unsatisfying one. For instance, one store is a florist. Although not a lot is known about the lifestyles of killer robots, it is genuinely difficult to picture them buying flowers for one another. It is theoretically possible that these shops instead exist for the other primary caste, superheroes, but in that case one would expect them not to be occupied primarily by killer robots. There is some evidence that superheroes are capable of conducting economic transactions within these stores once they are cleared out of killer robots, but the mechanism thereof is, to say the least, obscure.

Returning to the issue of the streets, although the cars in Dynatron City are generally compact enough to navigate the freakishly narrow streets, there is little to no evidence that they do, instead mostly sitting on the curb and being exploded from time to time, or, in a few rare cases, hurled by a radioactive dog. Even if they were to drive, they would find the experience harrowing. Most of this is due to the fact that the streets lack lane markers. This is generally unsuitable for urban traffic. A smaller portion is due to the aforementioned mobs of killer robots and superheroes fighting it out in the middle of the road.

This portion is smaller than one might expect due to what can only be described as the unique physics of Dynatron City. Objects are, for the purposes of their physical attributes, described not, as one might imagine, as three-dimensional objects moving along a two-dimensional plane, but rather as zero-dimensional objects that can switch among multiple one-dimensional lines. Objects that are on different lines will not collide under any circumstances. Due to a quirk whereby object width appears to exist despite the fact that it does not, it is thus often possible to believe wholeheartedly that one is going to collide with something when, in fact, one is completely safe. This quirk, while fortuitous for vehicle operators hoping to survive the chaos, is a considerable incumbrance for the superhero/killer robot residents, who mostly just have a very awkward time trying to shoot each other.

As previously indicated, the one-lane streets have cars and buildings only on one side of them. This strongly implies that the streets are one-way. This provides another possible explanation for the lack of cars, which is that, due to the nature of the streets, they are all clustered in the southwest corner of the city with no legal means of escape save, perhaps, becoming killer robots. (Note that this account of killer robot origins is pure speculation on the part of the author) The streets are further strange because they are shaped trapezoidally, with all sidewalks built at an angle such that the north and west sides of streets (where the shops are) are measurably narrower than the south/east sides. This effect might appear to be an issue of vanishing point perspective, but given that the city is, as previously mentioned, not actually a plane but a sequence of one-dimensional lines, the concept of "depth" is actually misleading. In truth, objects do not grow or shrink as they are moved among these lines, and the trapezoidal shape is not a marker of perspective, but merely a bewildering illusion.

There exists a television station in Dynatron City that is, of course, populated by killer robots. However, the bulk of the media is a single newspaper, the Dynatron Daily News, that describes local news, primarily of the form of what new superheroes are fighting with killer robots. The superheroes appear to use the paper as a way of telling how high killer robot activity is, and whether they should intervene, although the answer, quite frankly, is generally yes.

The politics of Dynatron City are the sort that give one pause. The city exists, by and large, to stage superhero/killer robot fights. Not only is this a poor approach to economic development, it is also relatively unhelpful when it comes to socio-political organization. The robots appear to have a select group of robots who serve as local bosses, but the position seems a ceremonial one ascribed to those with particular power - no obvious control or authority is afforded to bosses save, perhaps, that the killer robots will generally attempt to have their boss be the last one to die. The superheroes have less organization, although they are capable of cooperation.

Nevertheless, there must be some political order, simply because complex physical structures such as cities are not known to spring up independent of a social context. Still, absent any law (perhaps because the police station is also occupied by killer robots) the city serves as a sort of Objectivist/Libertarian paradise, albeit one with inscrutable physics and a looming threat of death by robotics. Or, at least, it would be if there were any meaningful identities to be had - the robots, however, are almost completely interchangable, and the superheroes, lacking much in the way of origins, motivations, or interests beyond robot-destroying, are at best a step above this.

I don't know about you, but I think this game would have made more sense if I'd described it as a postmodern Kabbalistic digital god or something...

1 comment:

  1. That is so funny. The first post I read, it seems as though I am going to like you.