by Darcy Pattison
Why science is so important to science fiction?
Let’s look at the Arecibo Message. In 1974, the Arecibo Observatory in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, sent a message into space looking for extra-terrestrial intelligence.
A great deal of thought went into the message, and included input from Carl Sagan, Dr. Frank Drake (the Drake equation) and other prominent scientists.
Quoting from Wikipedia:
The message consists of seven parts that encode the following (from the top down):
- The numbers one (1) to ten (10) (white)
- The atomic numbers of the elements hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and phosphorus, which make up deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) (purple)
- The formulas for the sugars and bases in the nucleotides of DNA (green)
- The number of nucleotides in DNA, and a graphic of the double helix structure of DNA (white & blue)
- A graphic figure of a human, the dimension (physical height) of an average man, and the human population of Earth (red, blue/white, & white respectively)
- A graphic of the Solar System indicating which of the planets the message is coming from (yellow)
- A graphic of the Arecibo radio telescope and the dimension (the physical diameter) of the transmitting antenna dish (purple, white, & blue)
Science + What If = Science Fiction
When I write science fiction stories, I can’t write in a vacuum. I need facts to extrapolate from or to build on. I read about the Arecibo message, especially that the scientists didn’t expect an answer for 50,000 years because it was aimed at the distant globular star cluster M13, and that’s the time needed for a round trip with current technology.
But what if. . .
That’s where things get interesting to me. I build on facts, but take it to a new and imagined place.
What if. . .there was another civilization who was also sending out their version of the Arecibo Message. Their technology is faster than ours and meets our message much, much earlier than expected. Let’s say, just 25 years after launching the Arecibo, we heard from another intelligent species. OK, but why are they out there looking for something?
Unlike Earth, they are faced with the destruction of their planet and are looking for a suitable place to live. (Well, then, you have to go and read all about the Kepler space ship’s search for Earth-like planets!) Speculation leads to more science! Which leads to more what ifs! The rich, fascinating interaction of scientific fact and speculation leads to fascinating milieus, or worlds for a story to inhabit.
Throw in Characters
Within the world created, it soon becomes clear that certain types of problems are inherent. That’s when I start to add characters who must face those problems and find ways to defeat the problems and/or live with them.
Does that mean that the characters are slighted in science fiction? I don’t think so. Often, there’s the same interaction with scientific fact: psychology studies feed into the fiction. Characters act and react according to current thinking about human behavior. Sorta. Of course, there’s always the what if and the imagination that adds twists and quirks.
When I write science fiction, the science blends with the fiction seamlessly to create a powerful story.
Take the premise of The Blue Planets World series. What if a planet experiments with ways of controlling volcanoes, only to discover that they’ve ruined the planetary core and it will implode soon. They’d destoryed their own planet through arrogance.
That means they need a new world. Which means that when they find Earth, they want to come here as refugees.
Finally, I had the premise for “The Blue Planets World series.”
The Series is Complete
Pilgrims, Book 3, The Blue Planets World series launches on November 1. Preorder now! With this publication, the entire trilogy is now available as ebook, paperback, and hardcover.
Jake Rose joins the courageous crew of the Eagle 10 as they streak across the galaxy to Rison, the other blue planet. Their goal is to find the umjaadi starfish, the host of an organism that is deadly to the Phoke, the water people of Earth. The mission is foolhardy because Rison will soon implode—the catastrophe is mere days away—from a science-gone-wrong scenario. Forced to enter the Risonian society at its darkest hour, the team struggles against local politics and race against time to find the starfish.
Utz Seehafer, the son and heir-apparent, of the southern Bo-See coalition is assigned to help the Earthlings’ search. He battles his own demons of a lost brother, a grieving father, and the urgency of escaping a dying planet. Will he be able to save his beloved Derry, and their pet project, the great white shark named Godzilla?
Pilgrims is the exciting conclusion of an epic science fiction trilogy that pits Risonians and Earthlings against inevitable implosion of a planet. In a rush against time, they must deal with the politics of desperate men and the tricks of a dying planet. Will they find the cure and escape in time?
And to think it started with a simple binary code in 1974 that was broadcast into space in hopes of finding extra-terrestrial life!
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