Scenes from the Future Flies Again

I’ve been neck-deep in the last quarter of my novel for a couple of weeks now. There’s not a lot to report as far as progress goes – I’m just chugging along as usual. This is definitely the least glamorous part of writing: going over ones outline over and over again, making sure that the characters are staying active, that the plot progresses naturally, that the viewpoints are spread out. It’s not thrilling, and it doesn’t make for thrilling blogging.

So, instead, I hereby present another instance of Scenes from the Future! Herein, I talk at some length about a specific element of Fugitives from Earth that I find interesting or curious or otherwise noteworthy. Featured in this episode: orbital bombardment! Oh, and, “spoiler alert.”

For the uninitiated, an orbital bombardment is a type of warfare wherein a weapon platform of some type in space attacks a target of some kind on the planet’s surface. It’s usually treated with a fair amount of deference in science fiction, much the way that an atomic bomb might be in a more mainstream story, and with good reason: it can do a lot of damage. Stuff in orbit moves very, very fast – 15,000 mph or more in low orbit – and when it hits the ground moving fast…kaboom.

In Fugitives from Earth, there’s an additional wrinkle that makes things a little more complex. In the space-faring future featured in the novel, any sizable spacecraft is going to be powered by a fusion engine that spews highly energetic plasma out the back for thrust. It’s a tremendously efficient way to travel between planets, as long as you’re nice with it. If you’re not, you just point that plasma beam at something you want gone within a thousand miles, and it’ll get the job done – it’s a little like powering your car with a Davy Crockett. These engines are ubiquitous in space, and there is a whole series of legal mechanisms in place to prevent them from being misused.

But the government, in making the laws, gets a free hand in breaking them if they feel that the situation warrants it, and that very thing happens late in Fugitives from Earth. The faltering administration that essentially rules the entire Solar System finds itself unable to deal with a revolutionary movement developing on Europa, one of Jupiter’s largest moons. So, the issue an ultimatum – either key individuals surrender themselves to the authorities, or one of the government’s ships in orbit will point its rear toward the revolutionary base and blow its atmospheric processing plants to kingdom come.

This desperation move turns out to contribute to the government’s downfall, and it’s not hard to imagine why. Could you imagine the Egyptian government using nukes in any possible way against the anti-Mubarak protestors? It might seem to Mubarak that it was his only choice, but Mubarak would be alone in thinking so – certainly the main characters of Fugitives from Earth would not.

There you go: scenes from the future! Cue the fanfare.

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