Intrepidly Exploring Inland (WIP)

While I’ve been exploring the jungles of Peru, the stranded astronauts of Aniara have been exploring the jungles and islands of Kepler 62f, fifth planet of a star 1200 light-years distant from Earth. I know you’ve been worried about the fates of Anna, Laxmi, and Jaci, so read on to learn what happens as they press…

 

Inland

 

It has been a few months since I last published a scene from my serial work-in-progress, The Silence of Ancient Light, so if you’re just joining us on this journey, you might want to start at the beginning. You can find an overview of the chapters and scenes so far at The Silence of Ancient Light.

Speaking of publishing scenes, I have a question for you. Do you find it more effective — are you more drawn in to want to read — if the scene is published as a page, the way I’ve been doing so far, accessible via menu links and so forth, and then announced with blog posts like this one? Or would you rather see the text of the scenes appear directly as blog posts?

There are pros and cons to each approach. Blog posts appear automatically in the WordPress Reader, for instance, and thus if you have a WordPress.com account, it’s possible for you to read the entire scene from your Reader feed without ever having to visit my website. Static pages do not, so you have to click the link in this post to take you there. I notice that I get more visits and likes on blog posts announcing scenes than I do on the scenes themselves, which leads me to believe that many people never follow that link. Pages also do not have a mechanism for assigning categories and tags, so there is less control over search terms and keywords. They may or may not show up as easily in Google searches.

On the other hand, blog posts become ‘lost’ in the blog roll over time, without an easy way to link directly to them with website menus. They can be found via category links, of course, but it would be more difficult for someone who wanted to read all the scenes straight through, in order (do any of you do that?). So, I tend to think of the blog as having a more immediate but short-term advantage, and the page as being more persistent and easier to find in the long-term, at least for someone who knows what they’re looking for.

What do you think?

What about a hybrid approach, posting the scene first in the blog, and then copying it later to a static page? Or would the repetition be a turn-off?


header image credit: user:DasWortgewand / pixabay.com under CC0 1.0

WorkInProgress: Geostationary

This scene obviously took me a bit longer to finish than the others before it, as I wrestled with a number of factors. Not least among those was simply figuring out how the crew would go about forcing their way into an alien space station, one that has no direct analog to our technology or knowledge.

That turns out not to be that big of a deal in the end. Is there a hatch on the station? Well, yes, the aliens would have needed a way to get in and out. Ok, so how different can a hatch be? Well, it might be quite a bit smaller, for one thing, if the alien species is quite different in size from humans. But otherwise, it’s still going to be essentially a door, and a door must have some mechanism for opening it.

But… what if the aliens don’t have hands in the way that we do? What if they have claws, instead? Hmm, well, a handle for claws is probably not too different than a handle for hands, assuming those claws can grasp something. And if they can’t, then we don’t have much in the way of tool users in the early history of those aliens, do we?

Do we? Oh, we could go down so many interesting rabbit holes with this one. I think we’ll return to this subject in a later post.

Ok, so there’s a hatchway, possibly a bit of a tight fit, but still a hatchway, and it has a handle. One that’s either frozen with disuse, or locked. Either way, it’s going to need some modicum of force to get in. Applying force, or cutting your way in, in vacuum, in microgravity. What could go wrong?

A lot could go wrong.

The other factor that kept me up late at night doing math puzzles was figuring out what a good parking orbit for Aniara would be relative to the space station. I spent a good part of the last two weeks reading and reading about orbital mechanics and astrodynamics, and my head still spins from some of the math involved. At one point I had myself convinced that, like Zeno’s arrow reaching its target, it was impossible to truly rendezvous in orbit.

Except we do it all the time with the ISS here at Earth.

There’s another post to come on this subject. This one is really quite fascinating to the geek in me.

However, for purposes of this ongoing serial story, there is one factor about Aniara‘s orbit that the careful reader will discern as a departure from the previous scene. In Flip and Burn, you may recall, the Captain, David Benetton, asks our pilot, Anna Laukkonnen, to bring the ship to a parking orbit 100 kilometers north of the station, and to a matching altitude.

However in the scene you’re about to read, Anna does something different. She parks the ship 100 kilometers higher than the station, but directly over it.

Why the change? That, my friends, is going to be the primary subject of my forthcoming post on orbital mechanics. Suffice it to say that after several evenings of scratching about on Excel, I realized that the only way to maintain the same altitude but a different inclination and not smash into the station (twice per orbit, in fact) would be through a fairly constant use of thrusters. This would be an expensive thing to do, in terms of using up not-unlimited propellant, and a responsible pilot wouldn’t do it when a safer alternative that uses far less fuel (or none at all) is readily available.

The risks of pantsing a novel, indeed. That detail in the previous scene will have to change in the rewrite.

Right, so more to come on this subject. Meanwhile, you’re tired of me driveling on about these boring topics, and just want to read a good scene, right? Well, here you go!

 

Geostationary


image credit: NASA

Work in Progress: Flip and Burn

A two-fer!

I’ve combined two scenes into a single post here, mainly because one of them was quite a bit shorter than all the others so far (just under 500 words), and also because I felt like keeping on writing after that one.

You’ll recall that the crew of the starship Aniara has been accelerating in toward the planet Kepler 62f, around which they’ve discovered what appears to be an orbital ring station — the first indication that somebody once lived here, even if they may not be here any longer. They are now halfway there, and it’s time to begin decelerating.

The “flip and burn” maneuver. No, I didn’t coin that phrase. For that, I have to credit a pair of my favorite authors, collectively known as James S.A. Corey (a pen-name for the writing duo Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck), best known for their science fiction series The Expanse (and the SyFy TV series of the same name). In the opening chapters of the first book, and the pilot episode of the show, the interplanetary ice hauler Canterbury needs to alter their acceleration trajectory in order to respond to a distress call. The executive officer, James Holden, warns the crew, “This will be a high-G maneuver. Prepare for flip and burn.” (I think the dialogue in the book was slightly different from that in the show, but I digress.)

That, right there, was what made me want to see that show, and then after to read those books, which I now consume just as fast as Abraham and Franck can churn them out. No magic “artificial gravity,” no spaceships that fly around like fighter jets in an atmosphere, just full Newtonian physics at work. If you want to change the direction of your ship, or slow it down, you need to point engines ahead of your travel vector and burn.

If your engines are efficient enough, and you can carry enough propellant, then the fastest way to get somewhere is to accelerate constantly until you reach the halfway point, then flip the ship around and decelerate the rest of the way. That’s without taking into account matching aphelion and perihelion of initial and final orbits, but again, I digress.

Aniara, of course, is not burning as hard as the Canterbury. She’s moving very fast, due to twenty-one days of constant acceleration, but the acceleration itself is relatively minor. At the halfway point, the crew shuts down the engine, flips the ship, and restarts it, for twenty-one days of deceleration. They aren’t changing the direction of their vector, just reducing speed, so no massive G forces on superstructure or crew are necessary.

So, that’s our first scene here, followed by arrival at the ring station. Enjoy!

The Silence of Ancient Light: Flip and Burn


image credit: NASA

Celestes: Ring

The 4th installment of my little space opera is now up, another 1000 words for you to enjoy and critique.

Which begs the question: what makes a story a “space opera”? Does it need to have a large cast, multiple points of view, numerous intricate subplots, and galaxy-spanning empires? Or is any story that takes place primarily in space, far from Earth, visiting other planets and star systems, a space opera? What’s your view?

Either way, please take a moment to read Ring and drop me a comment, tell me what you think!

Celestes: Observatory

Episode 3 is ready for your critique and enjoyment. At almost 2400 words, this scene is more than twice the length of either of the previous scenes, but I hope you’ll find it worth it.

Aniara and her crew are still on approach to Kepler 62f, the exoplanet that has drawn them 1200 light-years from home. Anna Laukkonnen, pilot and astronomer, searches for evidence of life or any technological civilization on the planet.

Please let me know what you think. Remember, this is a first draft, and you are my beta readers!

Now on to the continuing story: Celestes: Observatory