*This being late is not Pam’s fault. She sent me the post on Monday. This being late is because I need a minder. I forgot when Friday happened. No, I’m absolutely serious. I thought yesterday was Thursday so Today was Saturday. Until I woke up. Anyway, we need to get Pam’s computer to talk to MGC so she’s not at the mercy of the ditz of SFF. (which is kind of the Wh*re of Mensa, but much more ditsy.*
Stop the world and let me off.
I look around, read the news, or worse, entertainment, and I see too many of the wrong kind of strange people. And the ones in control are so far out of touch they’re getting scary.
Well, OK, the world can keep going, but by gum, I’m going to start the framework for an off world colony. All I need as few minor breakthroughs and some engineering, a pot load of money . . .
So. Here I am, a big fancy ass Science Fiction writer, not to mention the degree in Geology. Writing multi-dimensional pseudo-fantasies. I think I need to get my mind back into space. I need to explore the solar system, maybe invent a slow ship to alpha Centauri.
And while I’d love to do this for real, umm, real world constraints are, right now, an insurmountable barrier.
But I ought to at least be able to work this out on paper.
Join me for some fictional “World Building.”
So. The two big questions are Where and Who. Oh, and How. The three big questions are . . . Oh, shut up, I’m trying to be a little serious, here.
Where? Well, with even Mars looking like an, umm, _interesting_ chemical challenge, I think I’ll go with a completely artificial environment. Might start with a nice big asteroid, but it’ll need a whole bunch of work. And I might just move it somewhere else. The only question is, inside the solar system or outside?
No one has a working FTL, yet, and I’m too impatient to wait for a breakthrough that may never happen. So I’m going to plan to go slow, whatever direction I head off in. So I’m not going to want George Jetson’s snazzy little commuter vehicle. Well, maybe a dozen in the hanger, for short jaunts . . . No, I need something a whole lot bigger. Until the FTL breakthrough, I want a habitat, not a space going Winnebago.
So I’m going to start with a big hollow sphere. Or cylinder. Something with a big enough diameter that one doesn’t notice the stuff overhead. Rotating so the centripetal acceleration bears some resemblance to Earth’s gravity. We evolved in 1g, and I’m not going to fight a billion years of adaptations. I could build a sphere, and then weld anything from moon dust to small asteroids all over the exterior for radiation protection and to have a very large source of raw materials on hand at need. Or I could grab a nice big asteroid and hollow it out.
And all this mechanical equipment is all well and good, but when push comes to shove, I want plants. For oxygen, for food, for recycling organic wastes and water, and to feed the soul. So I need lights.
And that means I need a power source. A very reliable power source. In fact, I need redundant power sources. I need a nuclear power plant. I need solar. I need a Casimir generator. I need a long wire to drag through the magnetic fields in space. And anything else I can think of.
Now, much though I hate to admit it, I’d probably best start fairly close to home. While I’d like to think I could get it right the first time, well . . . maybe I ought to keep the option of slinking back home open. But the up side of deciding I can’t (immediately) get to the stars also means that I don’t need as much power as I had originally thought. I won’t have engines and I can use sunlight for the plants.
Oh, my, my! I just found a beauty of a destination! Or given the way it’s traveling, maybe I should say I’ve found my space ship habitat. Some assembly required.
1036 Ganymed. 32 km diameter, roughly spherical with a roughly smooth, homogenous surface. Drops in close to Earth’s orbit at perihelion, and crosses Mars’ orbit and into the asteroids at perihelion. Its period is 4.34 years, so it’ll be back close to Earth’s orbit every 52 months, and every third orbit, every 13 years, it’ll be there when the Earth is in the vicinity as well. The next close (sort of) approach will be in October of 2024.
I love it when reality cooperates. It’s indispensable in the real world, and quite helpful in fiction. Makes it sounds like you know what you are doing.
So in ten years I’ll need to send robotic miners out to rendezvous with Ganymed (Germanic spelling of Ganymede, to differentiate it from the moon of Jupiter.) I’ll have my mechanical minions dig out a series of large caverns and connecting tunnels. Maybe a docking port on one of the poles.
Let’s see. I’m going to have to break out the physics books for the formulae and calculate the centripetal force inside one of my caverns. It rotates every 10.314 hours, so depending on how close to the surface . . . Oh dear. Not much “gravity.” Once I get my mining done, I’ll have to spin up the whole thing. Let’s see . . . Oh my. (Rounding drastically!) If I want something in the vicinity of Earth normal apparent gravity in my near-surface caverns, that asteroid needs to rotate every four minutes.
That can’t be right . . . scribble, scribble . . . Ahem. Forty minutes. Been too long since I had to actually sit down and do Real Math more complicated than my checkbook. This is rather important in world building. Drastic rounding is one thing. Order of magnitude off . . . can really change things. Irritates the readers and makes one look like it’s time to turn the checkbook over to one’s spousal unit.
So, four and a third years of mining out the major living spaces, and now on the next pass, I’m ready to rendezvous with some important stuff. Starting with a large fabrication unit that can use the asteroid for its raw material. Note that I have not yet spun the asteroid up, so all the mined materials are sitting around on the surface to be used.
If I haven’t got a big enough fabricator, and in fact, even if I do, I will have brought a certain amount of stuff with me. Optical cables to take light from the surface of the asteroid to the “top” ( ie coreward side) of the caverns, for natural light. A big metal docking ring to stick on the tunnel entrance at the pole. This way, ships coming to dock will just have to spin at 1.5 revolutions per hour as they come in to dock.
I’ll need some internal safety doors, in case of emergencies and so forth.
Now, since I have been experimenting extensively in LEO with growing plants and balancing ecosystems, I’m sure I won’t have any trouble getting my gardens and orchards growing. Mainly because I really did experiment and toss what didn’t work, and improved what did. Tossed a few theories, too, which other scientists might want to think about before they totally destroy their credibility.
So, Ms. Hotshot SF Writer. You’ve done the easy part.
_Now_ you have to add _people_ to your world.
This is where the Real World and the Fictional World part ways. For me, “building” my world has taken a few hours. Peopling will take some serious work. In the Real World, the building is a near-insurmountable task. The people already exist. You just pick the ones you want, need, or are forced to take along.
Hmm. Forced . . . why? Fictionally? Your financial backer has inside information about . . . oh, an alien invasion? Solar Flare? Nuclear war? And he wants his totally ditzy twin daughters safe. Real World? PC. Must have racial/gender (all 16)/age balance or some such.
The fiction writer has to be (1) realistic and (2) extraordinary. Because for interesting fiction, the reader has to believe it, but you need to have a problem, and that will probably involve something going wrong. This could be some big snag during the construction. Or you could start your story with the completion of construction and the beginning of whatever use you are going to put your big asteroid base to.
My Ganymed base might work for a transfer mechanism from Earth to Mars or asteroid belt. It might work really well as a traveling hotel for asteroid miners and Martian scientists for years, or even decades. All it really needs is a dozen of so semi-permanent crew.
But maybe you’re not into hospitality, and just want a small mostly independent community. Keep up a bit of trade with Earth, rare metals from the asteroid belt in exchange for chocolate and coffee, perhaps.
Maybe it’s all a cover for a slow gradual departure from the solar system, never to return.
You need to pick your crews differently, for different circumstances. :: cough, cough :: that is to say, for plot purposes.
This is true of every story. Your characters need to make sense to the reader.
I have to explain the twin ditzes, if they’re aboard. And either resign myself to the possession of comedic relief, or they can grow out of it. And then I need to avert the disaster they’re here to avoid, using my cool asteroid ship. Remember? This is a story, it has to make sense.
The possibilities are nearly endless, though. Is this a slightly mobile platform for scientists who need to study the outer solar system close up? Or is there _something_ out there that they want to sneak up on with a slightly modified asteroid? Hmm, alien spy satellite? Natural wormhole? (Ooo! Lost In Space!)
Beats the heck out of the Real World.
In real life, the ditzy women become rock stars and get _worse_.
You can’t leave the destructive leaders behind. Hell, you’re lucky if you can get them voted out of office.
In real life, we have to keep our eyes open. Change what we can, adapt to what we can’t. Embrace the new technology that is changing the world under our feet. Use it to help ourselves, help our friends, our industry, our nations. Use it to make the forces of destruction unimportant. Unable to damage us and our culture.
In real life, we can educate our children with online resources and local expertise. We can publish books ourselves, and sell them though outlets of our choosing, or sell them ourselves. We are getting very close to practical, affordable, 3D print manufacturing in our homes. I think we’ll see more people becoming self employed. Contractors to companies that are mostly managers, picking up and dropping contract workers as needed for each specific project. We’re making and distributing our own music, our own movies. Don’t forget that people have to design the patterns for the 3D printers.
So we’re both becoming more independent (from government and the industrial style organization of work) and becoming more dependent (on our tech.)
Rather like my asteroid world. We’re free of the earth, and at the mercy of the working of our artificial ecology.
A rather irritating tradeoff, and one we need to keep an eye on. We need to be able to sustain the tech, no matter how squirrelly (or vicious) the governments of the world become. Guarding our tech base is suddenly getting even more important.
But I think the main thing this tech revolutions has done is break us out of the Big Industry mind set. We’re more open to the idea of opening a small business of our own, of contract work, of working from home. Oh, the old ways aren’t gone yet. And there will always be large things that need large companies to make them. But I think they’re going to be rarer, the economy much more mixed.
I think we’re standing on the shore of an incredible sea of potential. On Earth, in space, in our heads. Don’t turn your back on it.
We have a new world to build.