Tag Archives: solar system

Some Plot Thoughts (With Specifics!)

Just finished a great weekend with the family. Relaxation, food, good conversation – I am truly fortunate to be related to such excellent folks. But of course you only care about the posts, so here we go.

I’m at the point in my discovery writing where things start to get a little more difficult. I’m looking back at what I’ve already written, and although I think it’s entirely serviceable it’s naturally getting to be more and more difficult to fit the pieces together. As I mentioned in my previous post, some characters and minor plot arcs that I expected to have at most a minor impact in the story have started to surge forward and demand a spot in the limelight, and I feel the need to accommodate these urges.

This really is my favorite part of discovery writing, even though it’s hard: watching the characters take charge. Continue reading

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Space, Our Destiny

Today at work I listened to an older episode of the excellent podcast Dr. Kiki’s Science Hour: “Marsifest Destiny.” I stole that title for this post, obviously, because it’s awesome. And the podcast was pretty awesome as well, featuring guest Dr. Robert Zubrin, author of The Case for Mars and founder of The Mars Society. In fact I had read parts of his book while doing research for Fugitives from Earth*, but I didn’t really know anything about him until I heard him speak.

Now he is my hero.

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Mars Gets All the Love

Mars gets all the love. When you hear somebody, whether a scientist or a civilian, talking about another planet in the Solar System, invariably they’re talking about Mars. Mars used to have water. Mars might have life. Mars Mars Mars. Enough, I say!

That probably needs some qualification. Obviously Mars is nearby, it has a 24-hour day, and it’s thoroughly habitable by the standards of, say, Mercury. It should hardly come as a surprise, then, that there have been a lot of scientific missions to Mars, and additional ones are being planned. It’ll be the first planet in the Solar System other than Earth to have a human presence.

However, that doesn’t excuse the favoritism that it gets in fiction. In fact, Mars has a lot of disadvantages for certain activities: it’s farther from the Earth than Venus (on average), it gets about a fifth of the solar energy that Venus does, and it would very likely require more energy to terraform, since it has no atmosphere or active geology. So really, where’ the love for Venus?

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Planning Update

My last few posts have been devoted to more esoteric topics, but today I just want to give a brief update on where I stand with the novel’s planning and how it relates to my original schedule.

First, though, a minor note. I’ve decided on a tentative name for my novel, and even though I’m not entirely happy with it, I’m going to use it until something better spontaneously occurs to me. That title is The Atlas Question. The question, for those of you who are curious, is “what happened to the Atlas?” The most advanced spaceship every constructed, a mining platform, refinery, and expansive habitat all in one, just disappeared one day our around the asteroid belt. That’s the event that starts the story off, and thus I think it’s appropriate that it’s mentioned in the title.

If anyone else has an idea for a title based on what I’ve posted before, by all means sound off.

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Getting Around in Space

Obviously, it’s not easy to get around in space. There’s no air and everything’s a long ways away. This is why, for instance, we’re not living on Mars right now.*

One hopes that in the future we’ll find ways around these problems. And really, that future is closer than you might think. It’ll be awhile before we can travel to alien homeworlds at warp speed, but that’s most certainly not required to have relatively quick and most certainly interesting trips through space.

My novel will take place about 150 years in the future. I think this is the perfect time for near-future spaceflight, because it means that the technologies that you read about us having “someday” are thoroughly plausible. Gene therapy, mind-machine interface, and space colonies are all realities in the world of the early 2160s, but the most interesting to me right now is the propulsion technology they’ll have.

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A Few Words on Structure

At the heart of my novel (still untitled, by the way) is a solar-system-wide conspiracy involving local crime bosses, interplanetary hypercorps, and even the government. Obviously, if you have a conspiracy, you’re going to want to get to the bottom of it, and you’re going to want regular updates to the effect of “this goes deeper than we thought!”

So, keeping the ABCs in mind (“always be conspiring”), here’s my thoughts: the novel will be divided into approximately four sections, with each section taking place on one body in the Solar System. Each section will end with a revelation about the conspiracy, and with the characters running farther away from Earth.

I’m worried that this will end up being too mechanical, but I kind of like its metaphorical qualities. Throughout the story, the characters get further from Earth both in terms of physical distance and emotional distance. Not to mention legal distance; you don’t unearth chunks of conspiracy and stay buddy-buddy with everyone.

If anyone has thoughts about this, please don’t hesitate to sound off in the comments. In fact, don’t be afraid to leave comments at all: somebody has to be the first one and I know that at least a couple of people have seen my posts. I hereby promise a cookie to the first person (other than my wife!) to post a comment.