Gravity & Near Future SF

Hi, everyone. I recently went to see the movie Gravity. I can see how some people might think the movie was a little slow (like my boys who like action), but I loved it. What I loved the most was the depictions of the current technology. I’m not saying I did not have any quibbles – but I was willing to forgive a lot to see current space technology on the big screen. That, I LOVED.

So much of SF is set so far in the future, or with such a overdone array of technology (hypergates etc – or worse still just arriving at planets lightyears away in a few months with no explanation) that it works to reinforce the expectation that space is only exciting when we manage to reach that far-flung level of (unlikely) advancement.

What I loved about Gravity was that they successfully created story tension with a credible current day scenario. In this way it is unique and an important landmark for SF.

A huge portion of Earth’s population watched the first Apollo Moon landing – while the last hardly rated a footnote in papers. It is vitally important that as storytellers we capture the imagination of the world at large & show them how exciting the next few steps into space can be. The more involvement we can get, the more participation from the world at large in new space ventures the better.

What did people think about Gravity? Anyone got any plans for near-future SF stories?

14 comments

  1. I loved Gravity. Despite the one “throw the book against the wall” “physics doesn’t work like that” moment.

    What I really liked about it was that it had all the nuts and bolts correct. And that’s one reason I haven’t written any near space stuff. Insufficient knowledge of the details or the current tech to be able to convincingly project into the future.

    1. It’s difficult. From a non-technical point of view I know a lot about the current launch environment, enough about reentry to know what to look up, and not very much about orbital mechanics. I found some good books for the orbital scenes, but I’ve still got the ms with a friend who is a real rocket scientist. I just need him to hurry up.

      1. I liked the scenes in the two re-entry capsules Not that I would have any idea if they were pushing the right buttons, but I loved the feeling that I was there, kind of close up and personal with current technology.

        1. I’m with you. There’s something about the sight of those things heading in, all tiny and fragile and in danger of burning up, that kind of chokes me up.
          I saw the scorch marks on the Dragon capsule once. Wow.

  2. I saw Gravity last month. I really liked it. There were wrong moments, but, oh, well. What drove me crazy, however, was that my next book isn’t out. It’s about orbital debris, and is set in the second half of this century, which, relative to a lot of space opera might count as near-future. Maybe?

    Manx Prize is with beta readers and I’m working with a cover artist, so I’m hoping its out by spring, but everything takes longer than one thinks it will. In the book, a consortium of satellite and orbital habitat operators, responding to a tragedy on orbit, offer a prize of $50 million to anyone who can demonstrate technology to bring back large pieces of space junk. The MC’s father worked ground control on the tragedy, and she is haunted by what happened and determined to win the prize.

    Over at HobbySpace Clark Lindsey has a lot of references for what he calls Solar Sci-Fi: http://www.hobbyspace.com/SolarSciFi/index.html It’s literature about space in our own back yard. Kind of cool.

    1. That’s great Laura. Let me know when it’s out there. It’s very annoying when someone gets a similar idea out there first, isn’t it? I happens all the time in creative fields – it’s amazing how often people work on parallel ideas, even though they work in isolation.

      1. Actually, what was annoying was that my book wasn’t out there to capitalize on the movie’s popularity. 🙂 It made me sad.

        There is a whole lot of activity on the debris front right now, with people coming up with all sorts of neat ideas for bringing it down. The Japanese are about to launch and test a net, made by a maker of fishing nets. http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22129534.800-japans-huge-magnetic-net-will-trawl-for-space-junk.html#.UuMN3vYo4b0
        It’s pretty awesome. The Swiss have a different approach, grappling with the piece of debris and forcing it in. DARPA’s Phoenix would refurbish dead satellites.

      2. For parallel ideas, it must happen because we are all swimming in the same culture, reading similar things, and we just have to hope that we’re different enough that people who are looking for more of a thing they liked will find our reasonable facsimile. And buy it, too.

        1. One story seed in my Idea Pile (I can’t really even call it an idea, since it has no story around it at all yet) is that one day we go to Mars just because It’s Time. All the plans, all the dreams have all been out there for years; but one day the gestalt just shifts, and enough people finally decide that it’s time to go to Mars.

          I think there is a tendency for ideas to propagate and percolate for a long time under the radar until they slowly slide from obscure to commonly accepted.

          1. Martin, I think your Mars seed is a good one. Mars is compelling. I read Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars a few years ago and couldn’t put it down. That wasn’t because I liked any of the characters (pretty sure I didn’t), but because he made Mars so real and provided some amazing spectacle.

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