Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Believability, Realism and Art

My future history has a massive war between humans and an alien species short conflict and cold war with an alien species, very much in the spirit of space opera battles such as those found in Star Wars, Babylon 5, Battlestar Galactica, Stargate SG-1, etc. In reality, the kind of technologies at our disposal in such a scenario and the energy required to power them would enable us to easily destroy all life on any planet.
The one horrific weapon I will have to deal with is the massive burst of deadly radiation that a ship coming out of warp would release. I’m basing my faster-than-light drive on a speculative concept based on real theory, The Alcubierre drive. Such a ship would build up radiation on the surface of the warp bubble. The further it travels, the higher the energy climbs and there is no limit on the amount of energy that can build up. Such a drive could easily be turned into a monstrous weapon.

Any civilization capable of spinning up a super-dense object like a miniature black hole or neutron star (like the future humans and aliens in my scifi universe) or generating other more exotic states of matter could just drop one of these things on a planet and it would tear the planet apart.

But you don’t have to travel faster than light to wipe out all life on a planet. A small mass, say about the size of the space shuttle, travelling at only 20% the speed of light hitting the Earth would release enough energy to burn the atmosphere and fry everything on the surface and sterilize the soil.

However, even that is more complicated than necessary. With technology we have now you could easily maneuver an asteroid the size of a mountain into a collision path with any target in the solar system. If it hit the Earth, for example, it may not kill everything, but it would make anything larger than mouse extinct and wipe out all civilization.

However, I won’t be dealing with most of those. My scifi universe isn’t about that kind of hardcore scifi realism. Not that that stuff isn’t interesting; I’m trying to keep this more light and streamlined. It’s not as fluffy as Star Wars style sci-fantasy, it’s more Star Trek (TOS, TNG) in tone. And while any war scenario is unpleasant, my future universe is more or less optimistic (despite the strife my future humans deal with) and the grim realities of such powerful technologies would make things too grim. I’m putting just enough science in to make things believable even if it’s not entirely realistic.

After all, I’m making art here, not writing non-fiction. Art at it’s best inspires and that is what I’m trying to do with this. I’ll paraphrase Harlan Ellison: no matter how bad things are for us in a scifi future world, it is still fundamentally optimistic because it presents the idea that we have a future.

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