Writer’s Craft # 127 – Writing Space Travel
Michelle Murrain is a science fiction writer who has published seven novels. Her novels are largely hard science fiction, and incorporate social, political, and spiritual topics. She lives in Northern California.
I’m a hard science fiction author. Proudly, even. As much as I love to ponder social structures, like relationships, culture and family, explore political systems, and delve into theological questions, first and foremost, I love science, and the implications of science as we understand it.
Hard science fiction does provide certain parameters for writing. Of course each subgenre of speculative fiction has its own set of rules, generally obeying the laws of physics is one rule of hard SF. The fun part, of course, is that you get to think about how our understanding of the laws of physics, or our abilities to manipulate matter might get better over time. And that framework actually creates some really great opportunities.
Space travel has been a core part of science fiction since the beginning. In fact, one of the earliest novels considered science fiction, C.J. Defontenay’s Star ou Psi de Cassiopée, published in 1854 is about space travel. (There is a translation available. It’s a strange read.) And as our understandings of our current and possibly future limitations on travel have changed, new inventions and ideas have been created to circumvent those limitations. I’ve used one of them in some of my writing, notably wormholes. They are useful short cuts, but in the end, I think some of the most interesting stories don’t allow such workarounds, but make us face head on the vastness of space, and the terrible distances involved.
In one novel I wrote, called Becoming Queen, I combined the idea of using quantum teleportation for immediate communication with the long amounts of time space travel would take (even with improved drive capacities.) It’s fun to think about how that might affect things – ideas can travel fast and easily, but people can’t. There are a lot of ramifications to that kind of reality, and it was a quite enjoyable exercise.
And of course, there is a richness in our own neighborhood of space, and there will be a lot of time, if we ever get around to it, where travel within the solar system will be quite interesting. Quite a bit more interesting than, say, the Oregon Trail was in the mid-19th century.
I have noticed a marked decrease in the number of science fiction novels about space these days. I guess perhaps that might be a reflection of the malaise related to the US space program. Or maybe it’s just not as popular as it used to be. But I’ll be writing about space for a long time to come.