On Noah’s magical Polynesian island a team of mavericks meet to hammer out a plan to save the world from catastrophic climate change. What is going on between Gopal, the young mathematical genius, and Anneliese, the grieving widow? And what is this strange portent in the sky?
Meanwhile (that useful word) the great debate
Spurred by the death of Amsterdam, goes on.
It is a judgment, so say some, upon the hubris
Of those who think they can resist the flood,
The first-fruits of demanded expiation
For the abuse we’ve heaped upon the world.
We must choke shut the flow of soot and money,
Live lives of purity and moral innocence,
And let the spenders and consumers die;
And lower the sights of proud humanity
And cut the flow of lethal information,
And break the spell of profit on the world.
Retreat before the ocean, tax each child;
Let wise and incorruptible world leaders
Combine to set a bridle on the race
That it no longer trample on the planet.
But others say the Dutch were negligent,
And did not do enough; that building dikes
Is just a matter of good engineering,
A stimulus for ailing labor markets;
That fail-safe weather models and predictions
Will tell us when and where and what to build;
That business as usual will suffice,
And thrive indeed upon the new demand.
And there’ll be opportunities to spare
For those who sell security and arms:
Fishing in troubled waters nets a haul.
Phillip Theophrastus Gribbleflotz was born on a Saturday afternoon in the upstairs board room of Mannington Main Street, the Mannington West Virginia chamber of commerce during the first 1632 minicon. Ultimately, he’s Virginia DeMarce’s fault.
We were sitting around after lunch, waiting for our afternoon guest, the mayor of Mannington, and discussing the social effects of being transported to the seventeenth century on the residents of Grantville. Virginia looked around and spoke in her mild, inoffensive voice. She had a lilt that I came to recognize over the years as provocative, but at the time sounded as though she was just speaking off the cuff, spontaneously.
“You know, these southern women are going to be most upset when their supply of baking powder runs out. How are they to make biscuits?”
Then, she looked me squarely in the eye and said, “Surely there’s a way to make baking powder in Grantville.” and paused. . . .
I floundered, and began coming up with excuses . . . Other chemistry is more urgent. There is a restricted number of chemists. We can’t do everything at once. We’ve already agreed we can’t make primers, how could we divert resources to baking powder?
Virginia replied in that same lilt, “Surely there’s a down-timer you could give the recipe to?”
A few minutes later, Herr Doctor Phillip Theophrastus Gribbleflotz took up residence in the back of my mind. Kerryn Offord summarizes our working relationship as “Dr. Gribbleflotz is yours, Dr. Phil is mine.” Since that Saturday afternoon, Dr. Gribbleflotz has been a co-resident of my mind, occasionally invoked and wakened from slumber by a poke, an idea, a question, usually from Virginia but with occasional participation by Paula Goodlett and David Carrico and Laura Runkle. The first character description of Herr Doctor Gribbleflotz (HDG) had something of his background and character and an outline of the “Cheat Sheet” that he was supplied with to make the first supply of baking soda for the ladies of Grantville. Not long after, Kerryn Offord took that outline and produced the first story: “Calling Dr. Phil” that detailed the problem, the search and the finding of the technician. That set the pattern. Someone would call HDG out of the dungeon I had locked him in. I would channel him long enough to create the technical background for the story, the problems, the solution and the issues and Kerryn would take that and wrap dialog, plot and humanity around my cardboard. The new book 1636: The Chronicles of Dr. Gribbleflotz continues that tradition with about 65 percent new material.
Each of the stories turns on a scientific detail and frequently on a pseudo-scientific detail. Because the rule of storytelling is that the story comes first, the science behind the story is generally glossed over. For those of you who are interested, this article will fill you in on the science behind some of the stories and some of our decisions about what could, and could not be used.