Stories and worlds

So one of the things I’ve been doing is writing. Not well, I admit. I get frustrated with the stories. One of the frustrations is that while I have no intention of boring the reader with How The World Works, my mental quirks require them. Oh – the stories are SF and fantasy, so I can’t just run with the real world. Sorry.

So what I’ve got is three SF and three Fantasy novels in anything from solid outline to expanded concept (biggest to smallest), all stuck as I figured out how the world worked so the twists would hang right.

The reason I’m sharing is that I’ve resolved enough of the SF universe to go on with the stories. In the process of resolving it I came up with a few more story possibilities. Now if I could only write stories instead of encyclopedia entries… But I’ve digressed. I thought, chortling with simultaneous bombast and trepidation, I’d share part of the universe.

Most tech is a reasonable and relatively constrained extrapolation of “now”. There are no aircars. No teleportation or telepathy. No magic drives… well, with one exception. How the heck do folk move between stars.

The fast and simple-but-wrong is that it’s a jump drive. Ships make small jumps with pauses between. Ships cannot jump if the local gravity is too strong. So you need non-jump to get from orbit to the limit, and jump to get to the stars.

A little (well, lot) more detail is that it’s a spin off the Alcubierre/Van Den Broeck drive. The ship spins up its own universe. From the outside the universe is only a bit larger than a planck length in the shortest dimension while from the inside it’s barely larger than the ship. It is, for story reasons, more or less lenticular. In other words, something between a very large chocolate M&M and one of those flattish mylar balloons.

It takes a lot of normal energy, and of course there’s that exotic matter. Making the bubble uses a lot of energy, and moving takes a lot. I have a second hand-wave with working fusion, but these reactors need to run pretty close to all out to generate ‘enough’. A major downside of this is that there’s a lot of heat, and since the universe is so the heat is trapped.

So a big reason the ships stop every few minutes is so they can cool off. They stop, and they extend radiators. While they’re stopped they refine their aim and position. There is no aiming — you aim, bubble, run, and when you come out you’re on that line. Position? There’s a bit of imprecision in the drive. You’re going to be off – faster or slower – by about 0.01%. The longer you run, the further off you’ll be.

A brief bit about jump limits is that because of the foibles and randomness of local conditions, it’s not safe to unbubble in a gravitational field stronger than that found at about one light-second from earth. Because you can analyze local conditions you can jump OUT of a field of about twice that strength, or about 2/3 light-second from earth.

For the traveler, the main reasons to stop are to refuel, resupply, and to change loads/ships. Often these will be at the same place, though there will be exceptions. Not all stops will be at colonized worlds, but all colonized worlds will be stops at least for cargo/passenger changes.

Multiplanet governments beyond cooperatives of one type or another are uncommon. Where they exist they tend to resemble feudalistic systems or empires — largely self-governed and self-responsible, but answerable to some degree to the next system up the chain. The reason is simple: time. It takes about 7 to 8 days to get from Sol to Alpha Centauri, a distance of only about 4 light years. That’s one way just for a message. Add a day or two getting to and from the starship to the ground at each end, or round trips, and it begins to add up. Even if everyone is cooperating it can be three or four weeks before another system is able to provide assistance. Add obfuscation and confusion and, well, let’s just say that interplanetary micromanagement cannot happen. Not to say there aren’t places that don’t try – human nature is human nature after all. It just doesn’t work very well.

So anyway, I’ve got three stories at least conceptualized in this universe. One’s a blatant lift of westerns with a bit of a murder mystery — and it’s so far along I really just need to turn a bunch of notes into a story. The second is a romance hiding in a tale of adventurous trade ‘on the high seas’, er, in space. It’s got a couple of pieces that don’t work right for me, yet. The third is a coming of age story set on one of the older, more populated worlds. It’s got some bits that shine, just as the other two had earlier, but they’re not yet some glorious scenes much less a story in fragments needing hammered together.

Just thought I’d toss it out for your amusement. Who knows, maybe in another decade I’ll actually finish one of them.

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