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Best Shot at FTL?

by MattRob
Tags: fiction, ftl, space
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Jul4-12, 05:06 AM
Ryan_m_b's Avatar
P: 5,459
A few comments that I hope help; firstly if you haven't seen it already atomic rockets is a great resource for budding SF authors IMO (EDIT: Just saw that you have earlier up thread). It contains many pages on the various troupes of SF with advice and comments that can help you weave ideas into a story as well as containing a lot of side information to point out the effects of the causes (plot devices) e.g. if you're going to allow faster than light travel you either have to throw out causality or relativity or include some form of CPC (Larry Niven invoked the plot device that any attempt at time travel removed the reason for the journey and thus it never happens). This is also a good resource for addressing causality and other effects of FTL communication or travel. You don't have to address it of course but some readers may question it and the best SF is generally regarded as that which fully examines the effects of the plot devices and story premises. Finally on that specific topic you don't have to have FTL to make space opera as Al Reynold's Revelation Space demonstrated with its gigantic, near-light-speed travelling ships.

My second general piece of advice would be to pay considerable thought to the ecological considerations of your book. If you're going to have space habitats or ships you are going to need the technology to make closed ecosystems: environments that contain sustainable food webs capable of maintning a healthy human population. If you can't do this then either all ships and habitats will need resupply from Earth or you'll have to include further technologies that allow for resources to be scavanged in space or on other moons/planets that can be processed into nutrients for the environment. I know this sounds like a small thing but it has huge effects because if you can do it then there is no need to leave the solar system (simply build a station in space or a tented/domed settlement on a moon/planet) and if you can't do it then leaving the solar system wont solve anything. Reason being if there is an alien world out there with a biosphere it is either going to be so different as to be inhospitable; can't eat the food, can't grow crops on land with alien soil biota etc or if it is similar enough it's going to kill everyone via some immune response be it superantigenic or just simple infection from a pathogen we have no immunity for. Even if that weren't the case introducing terrestrial life to alien environments is going to have a huge effect as all cases of invasive species do. Funnily enough we had another SF author here recently who touched on this topic so rather than typing out further suggestions I'll quote my response to them;
Quote Quote by Ryan_m_b View Post
Of course as this is science fiction you could tap dance past this by either not addressing the peculiar similarity with Earth or having it that the ecosystems can't mesh so humans simply clear out areas and plant terrestrial ecosystems or have it that humans use advanced immunology to give themselves immunity to an entire alien ecosystem. I've seen examples of the latter in SF before (one example that springs to mind is a story by Ken McLeod wherein the characters wear suits that take in samples from the air and soil in the environment, run the samples through sophisticated lab on chips and then inject the occupants with rapid vaccines, after a few hours they can take off their suits safely. Given that there is some progress towards genetically engineered immune systems IRL (in HIV research no less!) this isn't so much of a stretch. You could perhaps add in some gene therapy or cell therapy for digestion too such as GM or synthetic gut flora capable of breaking down alien biomolecules.
Jul5-12, 10:52 AM
P: 39
What's the basic premise of the story? That'll influence what you want to use for FTL.
Nov9-12, 02:27 PM
P: 24
I suggest you take Mark Twain's advice,
"Never let the fact get in the way of a good story."

Most of our best science fiction writers take that, marry it to the KISS principle, and produce outstanding science fiction. Take a concept or a technology as a given. Establish your own rules on how it works, and stay consistent with those rules in your story. It makes it much easier for your characters to react consistently and beleiveably.

Remember, science fiction isn't about the science, it's about the people.

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