Welcome to part two, after last week’s world building and populating, we come on to the next part of the story, the technology. Science fiction allows you freedom to give your characters all sorts of toys, gadgets, spaceships and weapons or amazing planets filled with strange animals. The trouble is, it all has to sound as if it’s real, and has to have a basis in something recognisable.
I have an obsession; a character fault that I once thought was a curse. Now it helps me to create and I’ve changed my mind, although it still drives me mad sometimes.
You’re probably wondering what I’m talking about; what is my guilty secret?
I have to know how things work. It’s as simple as that, except that it’s not as simple as that, I can’t write about things that I can’t justify in my head. So if I say something as simple as “the view from the port flickered and disappeared as the trans-light engine fired,” the reader may feel satisfied that all is comfortable in the universe I have created. To me its a bit glib; I have to have an explanation in my mind to justify HOW and WHY it works. I think if it’s going to read well it has to sound plausible. And that means I have to have some idea, however weird, of how and why.
I spend a lot of time behind the scenes of my writing, sorting out in my head how to explain in a convincing way to anyone who might ask just how (in the example above) the trans-light engine works.
The fundamental flaw in this state of affairs is of course twofold. First, there is no such thing as a trans-light engine. Second, there is no such thing as a trans-light engine. (The eagle-eyed will have spotted that its only one flaw but its such a big one that I thought it worth mentioning twice!)
The dictionary defines prescience as “the fact of knowing something in advance; foreknowledge,” so I have christened my obsession as Pre-Science, which I hope describes the condition. And doesn’t make me sound too weird.
Anyway, back to our trans-light engine. Here is my attempt to justify the Science. Don’t worry it’s only a couple of paragraphs and not too taxing. It will give you an insight into my thought process though.
If you consider the Bernoulli principle (basically; as the speed of flow increases, so the pressure drops) it works for aircraft wings in the atmosphere, so why not for objects in a flow of light waves. Surely the only problem is to increase the speed of the waves. BUT of course, Einstein defines the Speed of Light as an absolute.
Air, as we know, is made up of particles and according to the latest theory so is light.(in some circumstances it can also be a wave)
Well OK, how about if we could somehow bend the light around our spaceship. Its speed would have to increase to catch up with the light that went straight on, or there would be a hole with no light in it behind us. If that’s true then ahead of us would be the pressure drop.
Light can be bent by a lens (refraction), this does not cause a pressure drop, but if a magnetic field could bend the light around our spaceship then there might be a pressure drop in front of the craft. A powerful engine could accelerate into this low-pressure zone, constantly moving the field slightly ahead of the ship.
The whole idea is (to our current science) preposterous, in 50 years though? This is where the pre-science comes in, essentially I’m inventing the history of my future.
So that is the pre-science behind my trans-light drive, in my mind the effect was discovered by Christopher Padgett, a teenage science geek, working in his fathers loft with cheap equipment. He discovered how to create a magnetic field that bent the light, sucking the field forward. And anything in it of course.
The more you invent, the more you can come up with the little touches that make it seem real.
Hence the field generator has come to be known in my future universe as the ‘Padgett Inverter,’ a handy bit of kit and very useful to have on standby when your story needs a boost.
Of course that’s just one example but I apply the same method to everything that I create in my universes. And so the Domes on Reevis were made to withstand possible meteor strikes by having a double skin, with liquid filling to slow things down. That’s assuming the object got through the net, the addition of which seemed like a good idea, it could be alarmed as well so strikes could be located. Then I realised that this made the structure of the dome very heavy, probably too heavy for conventional support.
And you couldn’t have posts everywhere, they would get in the way, have to be enormous and have deep foundations and be vulnerable to knocking over by drunk drivers or kids fooling around after too many beers. And you will get them in space, eventually.
The air pressure in the dome could be used to help to hold it up (in the same way as the water in a canal holds the banks up) Then if there are any leaks, (and being man made there are bound to be) the pressure would need to be topped up all the time. This flow of air will, of course, create a wind. Can you see why I write so little? I’m constantly justifying the science in my head. And if the pressure gets too great then the dome will explode, too little and it will collapse.
There, I’ve just introduced an element of tension into the story. In effect, the wind becomes a character, it’s important.
There are some things that I can’t get my head around scientifically speaking so they are beyond the realms of pre-science. Transportation a la ”beam me up’ is one of them. I can’t work it out, why not just launch a shuttle? Now I can explain that.
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