Monday, November 02, 2015

Interstellar mailman

I think I have that elusive thing.

A possible story idea. I don't think I'll dive into doing NaNoWriMo, although it would be fun to see what would happen if I did so. When I write posts like this, it'll start from a basic idea and usually just flow into a Wall of Text. With occasional picture.

I'm curious what would happen if I shunted the writing over to story writing. I've thought about doing that before but didn't actually translate much into story. I think I'm in a better place now though, after coming out from recovering from bad outsides being what dominated my thinking. It's weird looking back at posts from even just one year ago and remembering what I was like then. And that was when the decline had been arrested and I'd started to very slowly recover.

Hell, it's been a year and a bit now since that recovery started and I'm still not all fixed up yet. It's getting closer ... but it's still a state of always improving, never actually fixing. And although work tends to tire out my brain to the point where I don't really want to exert the thinking too much at home in the evening, I think writing stories would be somewhat cathartic.

You know that feeling when you're reading a book or watching episodics on telly ... where you wonder what would happen if they went further, did things different or just didn't fall into the scifi trope of having a magic solution happen in the last 5 minutes of the episode. Where you think you could write a better story. Where you think they missed opportunities. Yeah, I get that a bit.

One of the really magic space scifi series of the last little while was Firefly ...
I think my story would owe a lot of influence to that series, although I would set it in a different universe. It would be Post Diaspora Earth universe. I.e. humanity's home would still be Earth in our Sol system but we would have spread out through the stars. Firefly has humanity jumping ship to a massive solar system with loads of planetoids. I love the series but I'm not a fan of the setting.

I'd have a setting with faster than light travel, possibly hyperspace. There's a few examples of that :

Star Wars - has hyperspace and a magical means of space drive when not jumping between the stars. The type of drive that seems to depend on drag and other weirdness.
Star Trek - faster than light warp drive and sublight impulse. This makes a lot of sense, although it wasn't really used much in the series or it was dealt with in an inconsistent fashion when it wasn't just ignored for thin plot devices.
Firefly - I think this uses sublight exclusively. It takes a while for them to transit from planetoid to planetoid in that system.
Farscape - lol. Again, love the series but its means of travel made no sense whatsoever.
Andromeda - probably the king of scifi space travel. This had a slipstream drive where ships travelled rapidly across the galaxies by riding cosmic strings and then by sublight when in system.

And there are more, like David Weber's Honorverse using gravity drives that go quick in system and go to higher dimensions for interstellar travel. They don't explain that one all that well.

Yeah - I'd want to go with a warp drive and sublight. Gene Roddenberry was a genius for making scifi sound realistic, although a lot was sacrificed to allow it to get to our screens.

But this time, it's not about the journey. Errrm ... misquote. It's not about how you make the journey, it's what happens on the journey.

Interstellar mailman ? So much scifi ignores communication delay. They have a magical system where base can talk to ships many light years away, in real time. If your comms are bound to light speed like our's are, then if you beamed your message to a neighbouring system 5 light years away, they'd get it in 5 years. That's bad.

So my story could well be based around an interstellar mailman. One of many. They'd be contracted to move the messages from system to system. They'd file a course plan jumping through several systems and would load up with the messages that needed to be sent on. That way the messages get there so much quicker than beaming them from system to system.

That wouldn't be all they did though. That'd be kinda boring and ... it sounds like government contracting. That doesn't pay very well.

Enter the Firefly influence ...
If a ship is going from system to system, lots of people will want to move more than messages. There's also the potential for nefarious dodgy deals to happen before moving on. Exciting things. Way more exciting things than just delivering the mail.

I'd want to go a bit further too. There's potential for things happening on the home ship. It'd be an old battered, beat up tramp freighter (how many times have we heard that trope !) with a character of its own. But we'd want to do things off ship too.

One of the better books I've read for getting the feels out is one called Time Enough For Love by Robert Heinlein. That's a series of shortish stories woven together by the central character, a protagonist of many Heinlein books called Lazarus Long. One who is so in love with life and those he comes into contact with that he just keeps on living. Several thousand years and counting. One of the more memorable parts of that book is where he goes homesteading. The intelligent mule character is adorable. Anyway yeah, one of the miniplot ideas is that our protagonist has to disappear off the grid for a while and he just happened to be carrying homesteading kits* along with the mail.

*A homesteading kit would be a wagon with all the bits needed to start off a homestead away from support from a town, Time Enough For Love sets up the concept pretty well. There's more to it than you'd think ... And the people going would need to be jack of all trades to survive without that trader/crafter support.

Curious concept. It's bubbling away in part of my head looking for the ideas to develop into something more usable.

Actually there's another couple of influences popped up while I took a moment or two away from keyboard ... 3d printers ! Essential for that homesteading kit. Except that I think that 3d printers now are restricted to cutting nylon. The future 3d printer would do that with metal for hardier bits and pieces. And you'd have another machine for getting the metal.

Dragonsdawn by Anne McCaffrey is also a great influence. It goes several thousand years backwards from her Dragonriders of Pern series and it is a fantastic tale of setting up a colony from scratch.

So many influences. The challenge is to keep them all consistent and come up with a tale that's truly Your's. Or Mine.

Hopefully the tale will still be coherent by the time it escapes from my head. That's what has happened before, I haven't had the mental energy to go keyboard tapping and the idea fades before I do type.

Or it turns into something completely unrelated to what I started typing. Wall of Text Alarm ! I better stop there :-).

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