There are two sorts of extreme in Science Fiction. Some focus on the science, concentrating on what might feasibly happen within proven possibilities. Others concentrate on the fiction, taking it all closer to sheer fantasy and regarding the laws of physics as a minor irritation to be brushed over.
I am somewhere in between. I set my Science Fiction in Space, because it offers a setting that is sufficiently Other to cast a different light on my characters. It’s the latest final frontier replacing the dark forest of Medieval literature, where giants, dragons and maidens with evil designs lurk, or the Wild West of bandits where the gun is the only law. Such frontiers take characters out of the safety of normal civilised support and drop them into a perilous arena where they have to look after themselves. I try to include as little science as possible, since I am not a scientist and would almost certainly get most of it wrong. When I use jargon, I use it as jargon that even my characters don’t understand, so that’s all right. It could mean anything at all.
I do, however, feel bound by certain scientific restraints that I can’t quite bring myself to ignore.
- Light travels at 671,000,000 miles per hour. Which is really quite fast. Faster than us. Faster than we or any other matter will ever travel. So I draw the line at hopping between stars, let alone galaxies. But hopping, or rather running several marathons without a break, between planets in our Solar System is acceptable. After all, vessels from our planet have already crawled out to the furthest limits.
- In a vacuum, like Space, radio waves travel as fast as light. Which, as I have said, is quite fast. But not fast enough for the average phone call. Radio waves from Jupiter to Earth would take anything from just over half an hour to just under an hour, depending on how we are aligned. Communications will not be very chatty.
- Space is big, as a Hitcher’s Guide points out, and it just gets bigger. The distance between planets increases hugely, the further out you get. There are other things, of course, like moons that circle round planets, and diddy little trojans that trip along round the sun on the same orbit as the planets, but mostly there’s an awful lot of nothing. The outer planets, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus (pronounce how you will) and Neptune, are largely gas. We are really not likely to land on them. But their moons and trojans are nice and solid, even if mostly ice. Might be suitable for a holiday home, and almost certainly useful material for a corporation to exploit.
- I don’t care what other people think. I refuse to believe that in the future we will all be wearing tight-fitting lycra or mustard-yellow sleep-ware, although I’ll accept the demise of the tie.
In other areas I am willing to stretch the truth. We are bound to learn how to create an artificial gravity field, aren’t we? I don’t know if this is feasible or not, but I’m going for it. It’s hard enough juggling characters with their feet on the ground, let alone floating around.
released May 12th on Kindle