Science & Space

World Building New Technology

One of the more challenging parts of writing anything in the far future is what I call mundane tech. The everyday things that you use without thinking about. Things like washing machines, books, or desklamps.

It may not come up often but you do need to consider how those things will look in your book. If I am reading a book set in the year 3,834 I expect EVERYTHING to be better, not just the big ticket items like power generation.

Once you have a grasp on the big leaps in technology you should just sit back in your chair and look around. Look at everything in your room and ask what you would be using instead if you lived in the world of your book.

This also will let you know if you really do have a good grasp on the basics of your world’s technology. You SHOULD be able to do this, if you can’t then you may need to think about going over your technology again.

Human Aliens

One thing that was much more common in the fifties then it is today, at least in books, is what I call human aliens. These are aliens that look and act human to a degree that they could easily pass as one.

In TV and movies this is done for practical reasons, even Babylon 5 did it. Any number of good stories would not work if every alien was so different that it took years to understand them, and years longer to have a real conversation.

To that end if you do use it there really are only two ways to have it make any sense.

First, convergent evolution. This means that if you have two planets with the same conditions, and both develop intelligent life, they would look and act the same.

From a current science point of view, this just does not work. It would require EVERYTHING about us to be forced that way by evolution. There are just too many things that could have gone any number of ways. For example, do we really need five toes? Why not six? If aliens on a very earthlike planet also had five that would mean there was a strong evolutionary reason for exactly five.

That said the storyteller in me does like the idea, it means you can find aliens that might as well be human on the other side of the galaxy.

I would note that you should not make any two races EXACTLY the same, have at least some difference between them, even if it’s just skin or hair color.

Second is a common origin.

This one has less use by far, and is generally the center of a book, rather then being background info inside it.

This could mean that humans did not come from earth or that humans left earth before and we lost all of our technologies and had to start over.

To be honestly, neither of the above holds much water scientifically. It would take a VERY long time for the signs of a space faring society to be removed from a planet, like well past what it would take to make those technologies again.

If we did not come from earth you would almost have to have earth’s whole biosphere (maybe even including fossils) be transplanted too.

A much better way, at least in keeping with what we know scientifically, would be to have a third party involved. Meaning someone came to many planets and nudged life in the same direction, making it look like evolution. Or maybe they took humans from earth and planted them elsewhere, if it happened before written history then we would not know.

We Come in Peace

When your writing a story that has aliens making first contact, there are several things to keep in mind.

First you must remember that the aliens would be seen with plenty of warning. That is unless they were using an anti-gravity drive system or something equally beyond us that would have no visible exhaust.

Secondly, and I can’t stress this enough, the approach matters. If the aliens are peaceful they will probably enter high orbit and open up contact via radio, they may not even get that close and stay a few AU away.

This would be done first their safely, having better tech does not mean they are immune to nukes after all. It also would be done to show that they do come in peace. They would have no reasons to land on earth without an invitation.

Such a contact would be delicate to say the least, the last thing they would want is for one side or the other to feel threatened.

Even beyond the stake’s being so high the fact that we would have no background for them would make things hard. We would not know their history, the only information we could use to judge them would be how they approached us.

They would have our entire history, and would have everything they would want to know at their fingertips. In such situations it would be very easy to assume the worst, they should know that and be willing to wait as long as it takes.

What You NEED to Know About Science

One thing that people think about science fiction is that you have to be an expert in engineering and physics to write it. You don’t, you just need to know where the stoplights are are.

By stoplights I mean things you can’t do, or if you do you must do with forethought.

As for the laws of physics there are really only a handful you need to be wary off. This is not saying you can’t violate them, but if you do it will have a big impact on your setting and you should think about it.

The first of course is faster then light travel. I will say that technically are a few ways around this that do not violate the laws of physics, but they tend to require exotic matter (matter with negative mass) or something equally unlikely.

Also be aware that you would be hard pressed to find a way to go faster then light in the real universe that would not also work as a time machine.

The second of course is time travel. Violating causality is probably the first or second thing most scientists would say if you asked them for a list of impossible things. No plot element causes more problems, for the love of god if you use this think it out.

The third is conservation of energy and momentum. Also known as not getting something for nothing. If something is being powered, where does it get the power? If something is moving what pushed it?

You don’t have to do math but if you have a machine doing something think about the kind of power it uses and what that means. If you have a ship move half the speed of light that takes a lot of power, it does not matter what kind of drive system it uses.

Lastly try not to go against the grain of science. By this I mean make your fake science SOUND like real science. Science in its most basic form will be the same in a thousand years as it is now, the thought processes will be the same because we will still be studying the same thing (the universe).