Tuesday, September 1, 2015

One Way

"Come, as you are, as you were
As I want you to be
As a friend, as a friend
As an old enemy"

Nirvana - Come As You Are

You have been chosen to complete the most momentous event in human history since "fire - good!" by making first contact with an alien civilization. Such a rush. Of course you might stop to wonder why out of all the more qualified and more presentable members of whatever your profession you've been selected for such an honor, what with you being just slightly indecisive, abrasive, passive, callous, abusive, disruptive, depressing, whiny, awkward or just plain unpleasant. Luckily the rest of the spaceship's crew is just as annoying so putting up with them takes up most of your mental energy. It's all you can do to stop from kicking them out an airlock some days. Hilarity ensues.

So that's the webcomic One Way. Well, that's the setup anyhows. The speculative angle serves mainly as a vehicle for portraying characters in an enclosed setting to make the reader consider their reactions to sources of fear, hope, pride and other nuisances, though their personalities were drawn up as such merciless caricatures that the audience is prevented from truly identifying with any of them and taking sides. Nonetheless the science side of things is maintained well enough to make me wonder at the true ratio of techno to babble in the spaceship's journey. The story works. The characters work. The humor and tension work.

Unfortunately they should have worked a bit longer. The strip's worst quality is that it was apparently forced into a one year schedule and both humor and tension were unfortunately somewhat truncated here and there. Though designed as a finite project and well enough planned that it approximates its necessary length, I can't help thinking Baldwin would've benefited from allowing himself to go slightly overboard on this one, stretch it by another page or two building up the more relevant scenes. An added month or two to its run would likely have rounded it out much more satisfyingly. How much energy was instead shifted into cranking out the next paying project, drawing donation incentives and managing Patreon campaigns and customer demands?

As it is, it's good. First contact stories are under-represented in modern Science Fiction and One Way carries just enough of a Glos Pana undertone to make it captivating, while successfully centering on its own core precepts and characters. Good, but also a bit light... undeveloped... unbalanced... even telegraphed, something an amateur like myself might churn out on the best year of his life, and that should count as an insult to the mind behind Bruno and Spacetrawler.

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