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

Celestes: Approach – the story continues

When last we left our intrepid spacefaring explorers, they had just shut down the Alcubierre drive that allowed them to cross 1200 light-years, depositing them on the outer edges of the Kepler 62 star system, far from home. They still have many weeks of travel left, however, as they fire up the more-conventional ion engines and begin trawling toward their destination, the fifth planet, and during this time the crew must begin coming to terms with their insecurities, physical, intellectual, and professional.

Scene 2 — or is that Episode 2? — of Celestes is now ready for you to enjoy, to review, to pick apart… to help me improve. Have at it! Please let me know what you think in the comments.

Celestes: Approach

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image credit: NASA/JPL-CalTech

Work in Progress – Celestes

Do you enjoy a good serial, a story that comes out chapter-by-chapter, or even scene-by-scene? Do you enjoy reading works in progress, before they are finished? Here you go! The opening scene of a new story idea I’m working out. And yes, I’m making this up as I go, though I do have a vague notion of where it’s heading. Want to influence the direction of the story? Have an idea for improvement of what’s already here? Found a mistake? Please comment and let me know! You can do so here on the blog post, or on the story itself by following the link.

This is a “hard” science fiction story, set in deep space. Beyond that, I’ll let the narrative speak for itself.

Celestes

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