Friday, January 13, 2012

Week 1: Lost in Space

We finally got our first snowstorm in Iowa this week, but I've been in outer space.

The first section of my science fiction novel takes place on a well-established space station tethered to Earth as a space elevator.  It's the kind of topic that has been taken on in practically unreadable books like Arthur C. Clarke's The Fountains of Paradise (see the link for my Goodreads review), but I'm hoping to take on this traditional SF topic and demystify it.  So for the past week I've been trying to envision what day to day life would be like in such a place and what kind of futuristic assumptions are reasonable.

Like what?
- great efforts would be made to live as independently and sustainably as possible.  Plants and hydroponic vegetables would be growing wherever direct light was available.
- a combination of concerns about muscle atrophy and a need to generate power leads to a culture that highly values motion and uses technology to capture energy generated through treadmills and even walking on floors.
- a wholly interdependent community like this would carry social networking to an extreme where each member could tap into a network and feel the overall mood and concerns of the community.

But that's the big picture.  This week I've been writing about my protagonist, Jarod, who works as a tour guide and whose brother is visiting with his family.  Hopefully, a tour guide character gets to give a lot of expository information in a manner that doesn't feel forced.

And, of course, I'm left with questions.  How would day and night work when the sun only disappears during an equinox?  Would it be possible or even make sense to grow bamboo in such a location (I'm going with the idea of a giant fishbowl so that fish farming can happen, but I'm not sure about bamboo)?  As a tourist, would you be able to take good pictures through whatever version of glass looks out onto the stars?

I've stuck to my schedule this week.  Here's the pace:  1000 words a day, 5 days a week, 20 weeks= 400 page draft by the middle of June.  I'm ready to hunker down for a long, productive winter.


  1. Have you read Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy? Space elevators on both worlds in that one, not to mention a political rebellion which makes it all really interesting.

    About diurnality, which would be needed (plants wither and die in too much sunlight): what about Niven's Ringworld solution? Screen shades on a different, slightly offset orbit.

    I like the energy tapping and social media aspects. Would it possible these two even combine in some way so kinetic energy is stored and wirelessly sent to a central battery or something? See

    Happy writing!

  2. Off the wall comment: "Lucky bamboo" is actually a type of water lily and can pretty much grow in straight water. It's not real bamboo though.

    More related comment: I've always liked the way Brave New World begins with a tour as a way to get the reader up to speed without forcing too much of an explanation. In just a few pages, everyone's (prepare yourself) on the same page.