Month: November 2017


One thing that often is poorly thought out in science fiction books is how trade works. I don’t mean the technology but how it work economically.

Trade of manufactured goods only happens when the cost of transporting something is cheaper then the cost of making it.

The thing is that with enough technology you can reach a point where you don’t need trade or it can’t be profitable enough to justify it.

You also have to take time lag into account. If you just got to a new system, and you find it has almost no uranium, which you need to power your nuclear reactors that does not mean you can send for it. If you have no FTL travel you would have to wait so long that the whole thing would be moot.

You can of course have trade be only possible because things are not natural. For example if only the home planet of an empire is allowed to mine and refine uranium then they could trade, even though it would not normally make economic sense.

Think about how trade works in your setting. Why certain places trade instead of making things themselves.

Review: Odyssey 5 (8/10 stars)

Odyssey Five is a sadly short lived series (just one season). It starts on the space shuttle, then suddenly the earth is destroyed (sort of implodes). Just when they are running out of air a large aliens ship appears.

The alien tells them that they are far from the first that had their planet imploded, he has spent centuries going from one system to another. He detects radio waves, then by the time he gets there the planet is gone. This included his home.

However there is hope, he can send their minds back, five years back in time. He knows nothing about what is causing it (and one of the five people still alive is dying so time is short)

He sends their minds five years back in time, with little more then the bare knowledge of what will happen.

While it was rough in spots, the show had interesting plot lines, and interesting characters. There very much is a fish out of water element. Three astronauts, a science writer, and a reporter are not the group you would pick to investigate aliens destroying the earth. That is not the say they are not capable, they are, but they very have to make it up as they go.

Its very good, if you like sci-fi you will like this.


People Should Solve The Problems

One problem that you see too often in science fiction is that technology is used to do more then set up problems, it’s used to solve them, to the detriment of the story. Basically the technobabble problem. People talk and the problem is shown to be bad. The problem is then easily solved by hitting a few buttons.

It’s one of the easiest ways to tank your story, but it’s easily avoided as long as you remember that your characters should be solving the problems that you put forth as serious. In almost every case if a problem is easily solved then your characters should know it is and fix it.

Its like if my low fuel light comes on, and I get worked up only to have the car come to a stop in the bad part of town. Then after worrying and being scared for ten minutes I realize I have a spare can of gas. I would have know about the can of gas before, you would need a VERY good reason to make that not make me look stupid.

Any problems you present should be solved by your characters, and if you want people to care about them they should have a cost to solving.

If you have an asteroid coming to hit a ship, and they hit it with a laser that is boring. It’s certainly not worth having as a focus of your story.

If the asteroid is so large they have to rush trying to tie all the power of the ship to one laser, which takes about as long as they have to live, that could be a good story.

Writer’s Block

Writers block is the most lamented problems writers have, at least on the internet. It’s often defined as when a writer can’t keep writing, the idea’s just won’t come or has a mental block or something poetic like that.

Honestly I think many people over state it, they think that because writing is art it can’t be forced or understood.

If your having writing block odds are its one of a few things that are really the problem.

First if could be you did not really think out what your doing well enough.

The worst two weeks of writing I had was when I was planning out a set of scenes, nothing worked. It felt like quicksand, I would make a little progress then it would just fill back in. However the problem I had was that I had no good reason to have the main character do anything interesting during the scenes. The only logical thing for him to do was to hide in a closet and let the marines handle the situation, I was trying to shoe horn him and the entire situation, that was why nothing worked. The solution was to cut the entire part out and work around it.

Second it could be you have not broken down the problem enough. Like everything else in life writing is about solving problems. Most problems can not be solved as they are, you have to break then down.

For example one problem I had in my fourth draft was that I needed to detail how the relationship between the two main characters started better.

Instead of just trying to hop right in and start writing I wrote the three abstract things I wanted to do. Then under each one I wrote practical things, like “Have a scene where they do [X] together”. This made it into something I can understand and do.

Lastly, because you don’t have anyone breathing down your neck to finish you have no or little pressure to make progress. This can mean that you keep looking for the perfect solution to everything.

There are several problems with this, first you often will only find that answer when your writing, not planning. Many many things have changed in my book because of idea’s I had when writing, things I could have thought of when planning but never would.

You also need to accept that some problems have no good solutions. For example in the Martian, the most hard sci-fi book I have ever read, the sand storm that starts everything is VERY unrealistic. However Weir could not think of another way to set his book up so he kept it.

Sometimes you have to accept bad answers and hope your readers forgive you.