Somewhat to my surprise, discovered that three stories I’ve been working on (in the sense that they’ve been rattling around in my head) for years all exist in the same fictional universe, which now has the working title ‘The Systems’. This realization motivated me to make sure that these stories where both plausible and consistent. This meant doing some research. Soooo, even though one story is about 90% first draft complete, and another is well begun (the third is just an idea), I’m sort of stuck until I answer some basic questions to my satisfaction. Might as well answer them here on this blog, right?
The big three questions one must address if writing space adventures seem to me to be:
- Faster than light travel?
- Suspended animation?
- If ‘no’ to 1 and 2, how do you get around and where do you go in a reasonable amount of time?
I’ve never liked warp drive equivalents. While lots of good stories use them, it just is too easy. This is not to say I won’t use one in the future, but not in the Systems. So that’s ‘no’ to #1.
Suspended animation is another thing I don’t like – not as much as I don’t like warp drive, but my mind always goes to how you’d need to fill a body with effectively magical nanites of some sort to prevent/repair the damage freezing/cooling causes. Not outrageously unlikely, but I don’t tossing stuff in just to solve one problem. Plus, little if any real progress has been made here. #2 also get a ‘no’.
That puts us in a bit of a predicament. I want my people to be explorers and settlers, which doesn’t work too well if generations live and die in space. Well, it could, just not for the stories I have in mind. So, I imagine a set of star systems – The Systems, natch – comprising a tertiary star system. What this gets for me is the possibility of having multiple habitable planets and moons within, say, a 30 or 40 AU radius.
Imagine a star system with two central stars, one about .9 solar masses and the other maybe .85, orbiting each other about say maybe 12 AUs apart. Each has its own system of rocky planets with stable orbits within a couple AUs, and maybe a gas giant or two farther out, but still close enough to be firmly in the grasp of its star. Then, in a circumbinary orbit with a mean radius of 20 AUs is a mostly burned out star which is too unstable to live near. It could have a gas giant with interesting moons, perhaps.
Anyway, orbital mechanics, habitable zones and stellar evolution not being something I know off the top of my head (heck, I think I read a book on this once when I was a kid, maybe, but other than that, it’s Sci Fi stories and TV shows that I’ve got whatever info I had), I found myself surfing, reading and cutting and pasting into a document all sorts of fascinating stuff.
The idea is to have at least 4 comfortably habitable planets, like where you can breath the atmosphere and not die if you go outside for an hour without a spacesuit. A bit of terraforming, but of the throw algae in the ocean type, not the Star Trek Project Genesis mumbo jumbo. Plus a bunch of planets, moons, asteroids which, while not Eden, can be lived on within suitable habitats – the usual.
Now, getting around would involve the ever popular solar sails (1). To keep transit times down, there will be inter-system acceleration/deceleration lasers powered by solar collectors arranged in Dyson ring fragments. Or maybe throw them in some of the many Lagrange points such systems may provide – more research, there. I would think L4 and L5 would be stable so long as the stars are far enough apart…. (2)
And then, the kicker: for interstellar travel to and from the Systems, they’ll be a truly massive laser or two orbiting the unstable star. It does take many years, probably generations, to get to or from the Systems, but it must be done at least once in a while.
Anyway, the idea is that many trips between a number of inhabited worlds can be made within a few months, and the whole Systems can be crossed in maybe a year. Most of the traffic is between the inner binary systems.
It occurred to me (much later) that something like this is the implied arrangement in Firefly. (Pause while I Google). Nope – they seem to have assumed one large system with “dozens of planets and hundreds of moons”. Pretty sure that wouldn’t work – maybe three planets could fall within the Goldilocks zone of a single star (some people think Sol’s habitable zone encompasses Earth, Mars and almost Venus). Maybe a giant planet with lots of planet-sized moons. What the heck, who am I to question Whedon?
I think I have enough now to complete the first story, which involves the least travel. Used to know an actual rocket scientist, who would be a good reality-check reader, but haven’t spoken to her in years.
Here are some fun links to some of this stuff:
1. Note that I’ve been working on these stories from well before I read any Mike Flynn or John C. Wright, so the use of sailing ships is not theft/borrowing but rather great minds thinking alike. Or of one not so great mind thinking kind of along the lines of a couple great minds.
2. With three stellar masses locked together like this, would there not be some pretty groovy L4 and L5 points arrayed between them? More research.