Posts Tagged ‘science fiction’

Science Fiction Round 75: Spiders in Space

2017/09/17 1 comment

I would like to note at the beginning that Children of Time is not suitable for anyone with a dislike or fear of arachnids (or creepy crawlers in general), so, if that’s not to your taste, feel free to move on.

Otherwise, if you’re interested in epic science fiction over long time scales, this is a pretty good book.  I’ll be spoiling the ending, so if you don’t like spoilers, I’d recommend reading the book first.

We’ve got a pretty green planet and a spaceship (both appearing in the book), but there really should be more spiders in this picture.

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Science Fiction Round 72: Cosmic Powers

2017/05/14 Leave a comment

I recently read the Cosmic Powers anthology, which is a wild ride.  It’s a collection of stories from a delightful variety of authors, including a prequel story to The Stars Are Legion.  I have a couple of thoughts to share.

I’m not sure what these spaceships are on the cover, but they are colorful.

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Science Fiction Round 71: Lock In

2017/04/29 Leave a comment

John Scalzi’s Lock In is a pleasant afternoon read about a near-future FBI investigation.

I found myself anticipating many of the twists, but it was a fun read nonetheless.

Also, spoilers follow.

I’m not sure what the point of the cover was. Maybe the red people are supposed to be threeps (remote-controlled bots used by Haden’s sufferers).

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Science Fiction Round 59: Post-Apocalyptic Radio

I recently read the novel Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, which won several awards in 2014.  It describes, among other things, a post-apocalyptic future in which well upwards of 99% of humanity is killed by an abrupt pandemic of influenza-of-doom and the subsequent collapse of current social structures.  The “viruses don’t work that way” aside, there was something about the story that bothered me which also applies to a bunch of other post-apocalyptic stories: no one remembers to salvage a radio.

That I jump to this as a world-building problem immediately is perhaps due to my being a radio and radar astronomer.  But I think it’s an important difference from one of the common conventions of post-apocalyptic science fiction.

Apocalypse, No Matter How

Imagine a post-apocalyptic Earth.  Maybe global thermonuclear war turned most cities into radioactive glass and shut down agriculture almost everywhere.  Maybe a disease of doom spread everywhere.  Maybe somebody created a zombie-vectored bioweapon.  Maybe someone broke all of the rules for spaceflight and made a large rockpile impact Earth.  Maybe a star went kaboom.  Maybe more than one of those at once.  Whatever the method, almost everyone is dead.  What do you do next?

Many post-apocalyptic stories rely on the characters having little or no knowledge about what is going on elsewhere in the world, either to drive plot (“find the green place“) or to limit the scope of the story (“caste-driven dystopia in a post-apocalyptic Chicago“).  But even fairly simple radio technology allows communication across large distances.  This makes many plots not work.

Cover of "Station Eleven". There are many people in the story living in tents, but not in the particular layout depicted here. Note also that the details of world-building were not Emily St. John Mandel's focus in the story. And she had a good choice of motto for one of her main characters: "Because survival is insufficient".

Cover of “Station Eleven”. There are many people in the story living in tents, but not in the particular layout depicted here.  Note also that the details of world-building were not Emily St. John Mandel’s focus in her story. And she had a good choice of motto for one of her main characters: “Because survival is insufficient“.

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Your Turn Round 3: Do-It-Yourself Solar System

2014/03/27 Leave a comment

I wrote a program!

Specifically, I wrote a cute little command line utility I creatively named SolarSystem.  It’s an N-body gravitational solver, which means that if you plug in the positions and velocities of whatever stars, planets, moons, or spacecraft you want, it’ll tell you what happens to them in the future, how they orbit each other, and so on.  It’s also entirely general — I included an example which runs a demonstration based on our own solar system, but you can write up your own based on any system you want, real or imaginary.

Why did I do this, do you ask?

Well, first, I’ve always wanted to write a relatively nice gravity solver, convenient for solar systems.  Now I have one.  Yay!

Second, I’m plotting a novel based on the second example system I included with the software.  It’s a system which has gone very, very chaotic.  Interesting things happen to those poor planets.  As to why this is important to the story… well, I’m going to keep that under my hat for now.

And, finally, I’m also looking for jobs.  Like, in the real world.  Preferably the kind that pay you for doing stuff like writing software.  So, I’m also planning on using this project as a launching point for beefing up my programming skills.  At the moment, this program is a command line utility — you’ll need to know a little bit about working with a terminal and the Linux environment in order to use it, you’ll need to know a little about solar systems in order to make your own, and you’ll also need a separate plotting tool in order to look at all the shiny results.  I plan on writing a GUI (graphical user interface) that handles all that in a clean manner.  Preferably, something intuitive to use.  If you’ve got suggestions for features you’d like to see, please feel free to leave them here.

If you want all the gory details about how it works, you can read the help document I included with the program.  Ideally, it should help.  If you do end up using it, keep in mind that it’s not up to snuff as full-bore scientific software.  There’s a whole host of effects it doesn’t include, ranging from the time-delay for how long gravity takes to affect something (Earth feels the Sun’s gravity from where it was eight minutes ago, and vice-versa) to tidal interactions.  So, keep that in mind.