The Space Cantina – Forming Science for Science Fiction


Let me preface this with the following horror: I did poorly in my Physics classes.

Yep. I love SciFi but physics, biology and chemistry all gave me the middle finger and went off to sleep with the cooler guys. I tried to woo them, I truly did. I studied all the right lines, treated them like treasures and supported them when things got hairy but in the end, they rejected me. It’s not fair.

Well, mostly it’s not fair. Not having a head for science as a teenager did not keep me from writing science fiction, or what I thought was science fiction. Mostly what I wrote in those days was fantasy with rocket ships. There’s nothing wrong with fantasy with rocket ships, but it was lacking the real science in Science Fiction.

So here I go again, rambling on without getting to the point. Okay here it is: it takes a lot of work to make science fiction… err… work.

I’m working on a Science Fiction novel right now, though its best to say I’m re-working a concept for a novel. It began as one big mess of things and now its stripping down an actual cohesive thing. Where the trouble lies is in making a compromise between real science and the kind of story I want to tell.

Science With a Squishy Center

Joe Haldeman once said that “Science Fantasy” was a kind of science fiction where the science has something that appears to be hard science but actually has a squishy center. The science doesn’t really exist, though the author makes it seem that way or at least everything behaves the way it should if that science was real. This is the kind of fiction I prefer to write. I don’t have the chops to write something like The Forever War and I don’t want to try. I love the concepts of General Relativity as much as the next space geek but it doesn’t have any place in my story.

What kind of gooey, delicious center does this story have? Faster-Than-Light travel, that’s what. I’ve marked out my playground among the stars, going from Earth to about 100 light years away. For the sake of my story, there are probably colonies out beyond what I’m calling “The Veil” but no one’s really talking to them. Deneb is 1,500 light years away from Earth, which is just too far for the Jump drives in my universe to reach safely. As it stands, the Jump Drives will propel a ship through space and time up to 2 Light Years at a  time. This was done for practical purposes and for the way the Jump Drive science works.

I won’t go into any great detail on the science because its kind of murky and crazy and relies on theoretical physics. Let’s just say it works “sort of.” Scientists across the globe may read my novel and scoff and throw up their hands that’ s okay! I won’t really apologize though because I have made small concessions to Eisenstein’s Relativity for the sake of a stronger story. At the very base of this novel is a story about humanity and about friendships during a time of crisis. I don’t want to lose sight of that.

That said, I’ve taken a very Battlestar Galactica approach to this story, tacking my reality on to a fundamentally rigid scientific backbone. It gives me a spring board for my story while allowing for realism within its bounds. There will be some stretches, but they will be minor and no one is going to notice.  Without stretches like that, the Galactica wouldn’t have been able to jump either, and most definitely would not have jumped inside of a planet. It happened because it was cool and because the science held it up within the confines of the show. Never did Battlestar Galactica conflict its own science and that made it believable for those watching it. If I can achieve that level of realism then I will feel I’ve done my job effectively.

So Where Does That Leave Us?

My novel is gaining its backbone with an outline for both its plot and its science. Both need to be there for the whole thing to come together. It will get there and I’ll provide some updates when I have them. Right now I have the Jump system. From that I need to extrapolate the effect it should be having on the formation of colonies and state of the world.

I’m considering doing a small prequel novella that would be the book’s Prologue. It’ll probably be more of a novelette really, as a novella would just be too damn long for a prologue. Take this with a grain of salt as the idea came to me just the other day.

Well, I think that’s enough for today. I’ll leave you with this note: The Blood will continue. I’m working on Part 12 now and I should have it done soon. Sorry for the delay.

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