Posts Tagged science fiction

Fortnightcap: Heat Death

Heat Death

A Fortnightcap by DL Thurston

Creative Commons License

Implications.  People never think about implications.

Immortality was one of those things people talked about wanting, talked about needing.  Of course, who doesn’t want to live forever?  I’ll tell you exactly who: everyone who is living forever.  Sure, it seemed like a great idea for a few centuries, but then the ennui kicked in.  Eventually there’s only so many time you can do everything you always wanted to do.  And in the end there’s only so many people to do things with.  After everything else is exhausted, all you can do is wander, and hope to find something new.

We left earth.  Let it become what it wanted to be.  Let it heal, gave something else their turn.  I heard of someone who went back.  I guess that was several million years ago now if there still was an earth to go back to.  He said cuttlefish had taken over, filled all the spaces that we’d left behind.  Good for them, I suppose.  In the end, it was like learning that someone had repainted a bedroom in the house sold years ago.  Any sentimentality I had for that old place left longer ago than I could really say.  Anyway, after the first billion years, time feels rather immaterial anymore.

We wandered.  And we waited.  There were others out there, those who had made our mistake, and those who hadn’t.  At least not yet.  I tried to dissuade a few planets, told them what a mistake immortality had been.  They just called me unimaginative.  I guess there are some mistakes people have to make on their own.  Touching a stove hurts.  Falling in love leads to heartbreak.  Immortality leads to meaninglessness.

The universe continued on.  And we waited.

Finally, we congregated again.  We were brought together, those humans who hadn’t found a way out, those aliens who had joined us in folly.  We were brought together around the last star in a cold and unfeeling infinite.  The universe was running out of energy, running out of stuff.  All that remained were scattered molecules and this one star, burning hot and bright as it swelled towards a super nova.  It was something to do, and then there would finally be nothing.

And we waited.  Right up until the end.  I remembered a feeling, a sensation I’d left behind so long ago.  It was anticipation.  It was hopefulness.

The star burst forth with a magnificence that stunned us all, then rapidly contracted into a dead mass.  No energy.  No heat.

We were so hopeful that the universe would take us with it.  That heat death might finally give us release.

Now what?

Fortnightcaps are biweekly experimentation into short form fiction. All Fortnightcaps are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. So if you like the story, please feel free to link people back here. And if you didn’t, maybe the one in two weeks will be better.  Picture of Kepler’s Supernova courtesy of NASA, released to public domain.

, , , , ,

1 Comment

On Origins of Species

Aka: the morphology of Science Fiction.

Over in Unleaded this week I talked about science fiction that lacks variation in phenotypes among alien species.  Here I’d like to talk about science fiction that has an abundance of variation in morphology.  And, oddly, just as I used the Na’vi as an example of a lack of the one, I’m going to use Pandora as an example of the abundance of the other.

Look around you.  Okay, perhaps not right now, because you’re at your computer and not in the middle of the zoo.  But perhaps you can see non-human mammals from where you are.  Pet dogs or cats, a gerbil or a hamster.  While there are a lot of ways they differ from you, they’re smaller, they’re fuzzier, depending on their species they poop in a box.  But they have faces.  Two eyes, two nostrils on one nose, two ears, one mouth.  They have four limbs.  Go to the zoo.  Look at the mammals.  Look at the reptiles.  Look at the birds.  Look at anything with a backbone, and what will you see.  Two eyes, one nose, two ears, one mouth, four limbs.  Even going back to the dinosaurs, there’s the same quantities of the same five features.

This is common descent at work.  Evolution found a formula that works, works well, and even while whole scale changes happen to species those few constants have remained.

Now look at Pandora.  Lots of six-limbed creatures, lots of four-limbed creatures.  Enough of a combination between the two that, during the movie, I had to work out just how such different morphology came to being on Pandora.  Which species shared common ancestors.  The fauna presented just didn’t offer enough similarities to the Na’vi for me to feel like there was a common ancestor.

Is this a big problem?  Probably not.  Are there people reading this who never gave a second thought to that?  Absolutely.  But it is one of those things to keep in mind when creating a new world, first to ask yourself whether it’s something you care about, whether you care if other people care about it, and then if you decide you do…what exactly you want to do about it.  This may involve another phase of your world building, but the resulting world will potentially be deeper and feel more cohesive in the end.

, , , , , ,

1 Comment

Fortnightcap: Field Trip

Field Trip

A Fortnightcap by DL Thurston

Creative Commons License

The sunshields went from opaque to clear, and the kids went silent for the first time in the trip.  The vessel beyond was huge.  It had to be.  Larger than the star jumper they were in.  Larger than any vessel these kids had seen.  Likely larger than all the star ships they’d seen combined.

“Class, this is the Generation Ship Eden.  The very first generational ship that was sent out from earth.  This is how humans first left Earth to settle new solar systems.  It was designed to hold thousands of people for centuries.  Can anyone tell me why?”

A hand went up.  “They didn’t have star drives?”

“Very good, Billy!  Yes, these ships were sent out in the years before star drives existed.  Back then it was believed that nothing could travel faster than the speed of light.  Can anyone tell me the speed of light?”

No hands.  They were still just third graders.  They wouldn’t get into astrophysics for two more years.

“Well, let’s put it this way, the speed of light is such that light traveling from Sol to the earth takes only eight minutes.  We call that eight light minutes, the distance light travels in eight non relativistic minutes.  A light year is the distance light travels in one year, and from one solar system to the next is dozens if not hundreds of light years.  And thus without star drives, those old ships could take centuries to reach their destination.  So these generational ships were sent out, designed such that the crew that arrived at the destination would be the great great great grand children of the crew that left.”

A hand went up.

“Yes, Michelle?”

“How many years was the trip of the Eden?”

“It was launched in 2105 towards what we now call New Caldonia, the first planet outside of the solar system confirmed to be habitable by humans.  The Eden was rediscovered in 2340, and ever since it has been maintained as a museum.”

She waited.  This was the time where the smarter kids got to show off their math skills.  A hand went up.

“Yes, Billy?”

“Has anyone told them about the invention of the star drive yet?”

“That would disturb the historic nature of the ship.”

Fortnightcaps are biweekly experimentation into short form fiction. All Fortnightcaps are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. So if you like the story, please feel free to link people back here. And if you didn’t, maybe the one in two weeks will be better.

, , , , , ,

3 Comments

%d bloggers like this: