Sci-Fi's Big Lie


Sci-Fi’s Big Lie

Sci-fi lies to you. And this is pretty okay actually. If you like your adventures in the far reaches of space, you’re probably used to it.

Most science fiction relies on a few big lies. These lies are things that we know to be impossible or at the very least extremely unlikely, but the world of the tale often requires these things in order to function.

The most common of these lies is faster than light travel. Ask any physicist past a high school level, and they can list off half a dozen reasons why this cannot and will not ever work. It is a sobering reality that our universe has a speed limit set, and rather than simply getting a ticket for bypassing it, you simply cannot break the law.

This doesn’t sit well with writers wanting to tell a story of space empires and aliens. And so the most common Big Lie of science fiction comes about. Writers tell us about hyperdrives, warp drives, slip space, fold space, wormholes, and more. We the reader (or audience) are expected to accept these lies as truth and not question them. It’s often required if you want to enjoy a good science fiction story. The simple fact of the matter is that we as humans still don’t know much about the universe, so we find it easy imagine fantastic new technology.

So what are the big lies of After Moses? I’ve tried to limit it to three, three places where I cheat science in fabulous ways. The first is my frameshift device, my method of super speed. After Moses is limited to our own solar system, so I didn’t have to break the universal speed limit of light. Rather I’ve set a hard limit of 2% the speed of light, fast enough to get around our local neighborhood, but also slow enough to make it take some time to travel. (And slow enough that no one would want to LEAVE our solar system.) The speed isn’t impossible. Just the method. Speed being relative to the observer, the frameshift device simply shifts the frame of reference of anything within the effect. Rather magical I suppose, but this isn’t the first time this has shown up in sci-fi. A similar technology is described in Orson Scott Card’s Speaker for the Dead.

The last two lies are linked, in that they are an attempt to tame the dangers of space. Humans are humorously fragile. Our own planet is the only place observed in the universe even remotely hospitable to our species. To get around this, I had Moses develop technology to artificially curve space-time. In easier terms? Artificial gravity. This lets me have colonies and ships where people and characters can walk properly. This is convenient for storytelling purposes, but it’s also important for human health. The long term health effects of low gravity are numerous, and artificial gravity allows me to avoid this issue.

The third and final lie is environmental shields. I use these to keep air in colonies and also keep radiation out. Once you leave earth and it’s protective atmosphere and electromagnetic field, solar and cosmic radiation get rather nasty. I thought it best not to have my characters get cancer and die by the ripe old age of forty.

The frameshift device, artificial gravity, and environmental shields are the three lies of After Moses. And I let these three lies permeate the story and help shape the world. The frameshift device helped shape the civilization itself, how quickly people can get from one place to another. Artificial gravity gave rise to the heavy sci-fi weapon of After Moses, thumpers, and Abigail Sharon’s shield. And environmental shields proved to be exceptionally handy. Not only do they make colonies possible, but they protect ships from dust strikes and radiation, reduce drag on the train in Chapter 3, and more. I’ve tried to imagine how these technologies would have permeated the world they live in and what the implications of such technology would be.

So there you have it. Science Fiction lies to you, and so do I. It’s not malicious, I promise. I’ve just got a story to tell, and I have to bend a few rules to do so. Thanks for reading!

Michael KaneComment