Serving the Story Makes My Science Fiction Hard

 Author Commentary Track #4

Serving the Story Makes My Science Fiction Hard

Get your mind out of the gutter.  Weirdo.

I'm talking about hard science fiction vs soft science fiction.  Think The Martian vs Star Wars.  One is heavily steeped in the physical realities that we exist in and the other is basically, 'Fuck it, Laser Swords!'.

It took me some time to figure out where on that glorious spectrum, I wanted my little story to fall.  At the beginning, I  gravitated towards hard science fiction.   The first concepts for this work involved telling a story that was much more focused on what and how it might be possible for a terrestrial civilization to expand to the other bodies within the solar system.

One of the most consistent positive responses I've gotten back from the few that have read the story up to this point is that they like the idea that there is no artificial gravity on the space ships.  And, after several hours cursing myself as I cleaned up the first drafts and reminded myself that people don't walk or run in zero gravity, I like it too.  It does lend an air of realism to the piece.  Plus not a lot of authors characterize space travel this way so it sets mine apart on that level.

But I ran into a wall when it came to how a civilization might rise and exist on Titan.  Because, here's the truth, Titan is bloody cold.  Like colder then a whole coven of witches tits cold.  Colder than all the grave digger's balls in the Known Universe cold.  So cold that methane actually exists as a solid, liquid and gas there in the same way that water exists as a solid liquid and gas on this planet and, HOLY SHIT, if methane can serve as a solvent for other chemicals in the same way water does on this planet, WHICH IT TOTALLY CAN!!, that means that a whole different tree of life could be swimming in the methane oceans of Titan right now which means that life can exist far beyond the narrow boundaries of Earth conditions which opens up a whole new idea of WHAT LIFE IS and WHAT LIFE CAN BECOME and PLANETARY NERD TIRADE!!


My point is that humans ain't gonna be walking around Titan any time soon.

But.... What about terriforming?  That  is the method I used to explain why Titan is suddenly a lush, green oasis.  At some point in time humans arrived on Titan, looked at that frozen hellscape and said, "No, no, no.  This will not do.  It's too bloody cold."

And... poof!  Titan is habitable.

Yeah, not gonna happen.

Setting aside the engineering problems of trying to warm Titan and maintain that heat, we have learned in recent years that Titan is basically a giant ice ball.  So if you warmed up Titan.... it would melt.  And then you would have Waterworld.  And we all know how that turned out.  Basically a lot of movie executives loose their ass and Kevin Costner drinks his own pee.

Not worth repeating.

The problem is, I wanted to tell a story about a lost human civilization on Titan.  And the only way to do that, and do it the way I wanted, was to take all those nerdy facts that I love so much and pitch them into the bin.

And that's kinda where I ended up on the whole hard vs soft science fiction question for Saturinus Mons.  If it helps tell the story and adds to the realism, then I kept the physics of this world grounded in reality.

But if it doesn't help me tell the story I want to tell?  Fuck it, terriforming.

Maybe laser swords later. 


Popular Posts