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#1 2022-01-27 03:49:28

Terraformer
Member
From: Ceres
Registered: 2007-08-27
Posts: 3,560
Website

Let's build a hard sci-fi space opera setting!

Space opera is fun. Star kingdoms, trade wars, dogfights... unfortunately, in almost all depictions, it's also physically impossible by current knowledge.

But there's no reason is has to be. When you look at a classic of the genre, Star Wars, they don't actually visit that many planets throughout the entire six movies. The Phantom Menace has Naboo, Tatooine, and Coruscant. A New Hope has Tatooine and Yavin IV (and, briefly, Alderaan, but no-one goes there anymore). It is not necessary to have hundreds and thousands of planets, especially when other habitats are considered (it would make more sense for rebels to hide out inside a cold asteroid).

And our own solar system has, within 5AU of its star, nine sizeable rocky (eh, icy in some cases) bodies, one (two?) dwarf planets, an asteroid belt, and two asteroid clusters (Trojans). All of which are very different from each other, enough to provide the diversity of settings that are needed for proper adventures IN SPACE! If you can get the speed of your ships up, there's another system of moons another 5AU out. And 10AU after that, a planet that one could turn supramundane without needing dynamic support loops, just atmospheric buoyancy...

So our own solar system is perfectly fine as a setting. You don't even need to go that far out to make it work.


"I'm gonna die surrounded by the biggest idiots in the galaxy." - If this forum was a Mars Colony

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#2 2022-01-27 04:07:58

Terraformer
Member
From: Ceres
Registered: 2007-08-27
Posts: 3,560
Website

Re: Let's build a hard sci-fi space opera setting!

Now, to make a setting work we need some ground rules. Being space opera, these rules have to ensure human primacy and adventure friendliness. We want to see people doing stuff, not being watched over by machines of loving grace.

So my ground rules are:

- No AGI. We want humans to be the dominant species here, not the pets of some stargod that's busy dismantling Mercury to construct a Matrioshka brain. Frank Herbert solved this by having a religious prohibition on thinking machines; I will solve it simply by not letting them be developed. We don't have them now, so it's not inevitable that a future setting would have them.
- No self-replicating swarms. Again, we want the planets to stay around, not be devoured by people looking to build a ringworld. Like AGI, we don't have these now, so there's no requirement to explain why we wouldn't have them in the future.
- Neo-medievalism rules the day. The more factions there are, the better. Dune, Star Wars, Warhammer 40K, all of these understand this. Rather than having a few superpowers, as in The Expanse, there should be a proliferation of independent colonies, guilds, religious organisations, Great Houses, trading blocs... the friction between these is where we find Plot. The more factions, the more they step on each others toes and start low-intensity interplanetary conflict that provide work for independent contractors.
- Technology is a straightforward development from present day. This is connected to the No Singularity rule mentioned above. It should not be too alien a world. Anything that is used should have its roots in what we have today.

It *should* go without saying that there is no FtL in this, or time travel, or psychic powers, with it being hard scifi. Unfortunately, very few people actually understand what hard scifi is, and put works that have these things in this category...


"I'm gonna die surrounded by the biggest idiots in the galaxy." - If this forum was a Mars Colony

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#3 2022-01-27 04:33:46

Terraformer
Member
From: Ceres
Registered: 2007-08-27
Posts: 3,560
Website

Re: Let's build a hard sci-fi space opera setting!

Now, the planets we have available to us (inner edition)...

Mercury. Metal rich, energy rich, and desolate. Perfect for a mining world. Vast solar power farms, constructed from the materials of the planet itself, cover the surface and orbit, the power dedicated to producing more and more aluminum and titanium and other valuable elements from export. Over time, with so much energy available and space to construct particle accelerators, the planet has become the primary source of antimatter in the system. But this is not a place for independent settlers. Megacorps rule here, the only ones with the resources to establish operations.

Venus. The surface is scorching hot. But the clouds... up in the clouds, where temperature and pressure are at Terran norms, aerostat city-states drift around the world. The water level is increasing as ice is directed inwards, and sulfur is being gradually removed from the atmosphere, with the goal of enabling engineered life forms to survive on the outside of vast flying islands.

Luna. The Ecumenopolis. Most of the surface remains as it has always been, but extending from the poles are two vast cities, the cultural hearts of the solar system. These are the Lunar Republics. Here you will find the full diversity of humanity on display. Just take care when visiting the underhives, the air filters aren't always maintained correctly...

Mars. Partial terraforming has taken place. It is not somewhere you can take off your breathing mask, and may never be, but the atmosphere is thick enough for engineered plant life to survive on the surface. Boreal forests cover the equatorial regions, tundra in the higher latitudes. With the greater ease of growing food, and the ability to pull oxygen from the atmosphere for life support, it is a far more hospitable planet than it used to be, which has paved the way for homesteaders. It is a planet of microstates -- some democratic, some despotic, some aristocratic; the full spectrum of political systems can be found here.


"I'm gonna die surrounded by the biggest idiots in the galaxy." - If this forum was a Mars Colony

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#4 2022-01-27 07:24:30

tahanson43206
Moderator
Registered: 2018-04-27
Posts: 11,986

Re: Let's build a hard sci-fi space opera setting!

For Terraformer re new topic ....

Quaoar is a resident science fiction writer .... he's asked about real-Universe design in the past, so he must have ** some ** inclination toward hard science.

Best wishes for success with this interesting new topic.

Of course you must be familiar with Analog.  We have a topic dedicated to that hard science/fiction magazine.

(th)

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#5 2022-01-27 07:36:03

tahanson43206
Moderator
Registered: 2018-04-27
Posts: 11,986

Re: Let's build a hard sci-fi space opera setting!

For Terraformer ...

Here's a carefully thought out setting, if someone wants to build a story ...

https://www.yahoo.com/news/meet-ukraini … 24527.html

Even though the architects seem to have creatively addressed any potential threat to human life on Mars, the planet that’s a whopping 141 million miles away from the sun isn’t livable for humans just yet. That said, it’s the most similar to Earth—even though temperatures can dip as low as negative 220 degrees Fahrenheit. So, perhaps Makhno Studio’s vision for a future away from Earth isn’t that far off. And for all the design enthusiasts, rest assured that the architects are taking Plan C’s look seriously. Hopefully, we can all stay on Earth for at least a little while longer, but it’s still good to know that perhaps one day, when our beloved planet is no longer livable, we have a stylish backup plan on Mars. And maybe even more of the world’s most creative architecture firms will join forces to bring these unique developments to the formerly uninhabitable planet.

Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest

(th)

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#6 2022-01-28 01:37:31

clark
Member
Registered: 2001-09-20
Posts: 6,348

Re: Let's build a hard sci-fi space opera setting!

Science fiction bozos think environment is key, but no, it's character. People make the world go round. You think otherwise, f@ck off.

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#7 2022-01-28 04:37:57

Terraformer
Member
From: Ceres
Registered: 2007-08-27
Posts: 3,560
Website

Re: Let's build a hard sci-fi space opera setting!

As soon as I saw your name I knew you'd come here to be an asshole, clark. Nice to see you again.


"I'm gonna die surrounded by the biggest idiots in the galaxy." - If this forum was a Mars Colony

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#8 2022-01-28 08:08:16

tahanson43206
Moderator
Registered: 2018-04-27
Posts: 11,986

Re: Let's build a hard sci-fi space opera setting!

For Terraformer re #7

You recruited me to join this forum, after you persuaded Dr. Dartnell to give you membership in the Knowledge Forum. I still marvel at your achievement, because Dr. Dartnell had closed off admissions due to the high number of spammers.

It is difficult to know if I have lived up to your expectations, but you may have put in a good word here or there.

In any case, I am now willing and able to help you maintain decorum in your topic.

Here is a course of action we might take, subject to your concurrence and SpaceNut's approval:

1) Move clark's post to the new clark Postings topic
2) Move your friendly reply to the same topic
3) Remove this advisory post
4) Remove your reply if the answer is yes

Your decision will provide a model for other Topic Managers, who might wish to maintain a semblance of order in their topics.

(th)

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#9 2022-01-28 09:30:56

Terraformer
Member
From: Ceres
Registered: 2007-08-27
Posts: 3,560
Website

Re: Let's build a hard sci-fi space opera setting!

Oh clark is always like that. He's a pathetic little thing that only comes here to insult people. Probably doesn't like hard sf because it's too plausible. Scares him. Thinks fiction should be nice and far away and impossible.

Anyway, don't feed the trolls is my usual approach. Just ignore him. He can post all the petty posts he wishes to post.


"I'm gonna die surrounded by the biggest idiots in the galaxy." - If this forum was a Mars Colony

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#10 2022-01-28 10:59:52

kbd512
Administrator
Registered: 2015-01-02
Posts: 6,217

Re: Let's build a hard sci-fi space opera setting!

Terraformer,

I knew lots of guys like clark in the military.  After you understood them, you learned to take the point instead of the arrow.  He has a point, but doesn't know how to make it without being excessively rude for the reason you've already noted- certain ideas scare people with a very narrow view of the world.  They cloak their fear and paranoia of other people they don't understand in arrogance and rudeness.  It's a defense mechanism / character flaw, sort of like the character flaws that define the characters in any good story line.  As always, art will imitate life.  Anyway, I agree that the other planets within our own solar system are suitable for further development work and a reasonably realistic setting for the next great "space drama".  If all the world is a stage, then why not the universe?  In the near future, we will have the ability to both travel and live there.  We did a ton of development work to get to this point, but even more is required to live on Mercury / Venus / Mars.

We will have our own miniature version of "Star Wars" / "Star Trek", even if we lack hyperdrives and light sabers and photon torpedoes.  The replicators (turning energy into matter) would be the most useful of all the technologies to have, IMO.  Good progress is already being made on the "hyperdrive" / "warp drive" technology- our boffins have already created a real warp bubble, however small.  Even after we have usable warp drive technology, it's probable that we'll first use it to move about our own solar system.  We need accurate maps of the space around us to avoid "warping" through a planet or an asteroid, but we don't have those, so we're initially confined to "our own neighborhood".

Are technologies like warp drive really science fiction after we've already done it?

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#11 2022-01-29 07:26:39

tahanson43206
Moderator
Registered: 2018-04-27
Posts: 11,986

Re: Let's build a hard sci-fi space opera setting!

For Terraformer re new topic ....

The activities of the existing forum members might be input to a "space opera" for the right author....

Here are some scenarios off the top ...

Canadian imagines a space passenger vessel and persists despite many obstacles to achieve success.

Texan imagines a competitive space passenger vessel and persists despite many obstacles to achieve success.

Texan imagines a landing probe configuration and writes to Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos to offer plan.

Texan imagines an orbital refueling system and writes to Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos to offer plan.

New Hampshire citizen imagines a regolith scoop to collect water on Mars.

In the fantasy world of Space Opera, these swashbuckling heros can achieve the success that looks unlikely in the real Universe.

Update:  Last night's news commentary included a humor routine poking fun at Angela Merkel ... The joke was about Angela trying to tell a joke.

However, the line used fits here ...

Two Texans and a Canadian walk into a bar in New Hampshire ...

You'll have to supply the Swash and the Buckles!

What happens next?

(th)

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#12 2022-03-03 01:20:26

clark
Member
Registered: 2001-09-20
Posts: 6,348

Re: Let's build a hard sci-fi space opera setting!

I'm only slightly insulted that you think you know people like me. If originality hadn't died with Warhol, I would be in tears.

Before you reply, look up irony.

Anyways, science fiction isn't really considered literature because, like fantasy, the environment is entirely made up. Author is God, and you can wave a magic f*cking wand and just say this is how the universe works. Not saying I agree, but I do think there is a valid point.

Hard SF at least tries to apply the rules of our universe to the story, but the problem still is that we are all imagining how we might experience the human condition in the environment never experienced by human beings. It is contrived.

Anyways, my prior statement stands. Characters matter, a sunset or a mountain range never made a story someone wanted to read.

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#13 2022-03-03 15:34:13

Calliban
Member
From: Northern England, UK
Registered: 2019-08-18
Posts: 2,210

Re: Let's build a hard sci-fi space opera setting!

I agree with Clarke's point in Post #12.  I recommend the Expanse to anyone looking for a good hard sci-fi.  It is good precisely because it develops complex characters.  The character of Amos Burton, a sociopathic hard nut mechanic who grew up as a child sex worker on the streets of Baltimore, is probably the most intriguing.

It is set in the 23rd century.  Mankind has colonised the solar system, but not yet the stars.  Earth is united under the UN; Mars is an independent military power.  Belters are spread across numerous colonies in the asteroids.  Relatively poor and bitter at generations of mistreatment by Earth and Mars.  One of the things I like most is the way it realistically constrains human technologies with real physics.  There are no warp drives, no transporters, no inertial dampeners, no deflector shields.  Ships are made of steel and familiar alloys.  Acceleration is limited by human physiology.  Battles take place slowly, with ships firing missiles and rail guns at each other over thousands of kilometres of space.  It also provides a realistic view of human societies, which are unlikely to evolve into altruistic communist utopias.  All in all, the show comes across as a fairly realistic impression of where humanity could be a few centuries hence.  There is a gritty realism to it that sets it apart from shows like Star Trek, which are really just fantasies.

Last edited by Calliban (2022-03-03 15:37:08)


"Plan and prepare for every possibility, and you will never act. It is nobler to have courage as we stumble into half the things we fear than to analyse every possible obstacle and begin nothing. Great things are achieved by embracing great dangers."

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#14 2022-03-09 02:20:02

clark
Member
Registered: 2001-09-20
Posts: 6,348

Re: Let's build a hard sci-fi space opera setting!

Expanse is fun but fails once they add the "aliens" and worm gates. It fails like the rest of sci-fi when it engages in fantasy. Again, I don't agree necessarily, but the reality is that when you introduce non-reality elements to a story, it requires the reader to suspend disbelief. Literature in the classic sense is about engaging the human condition and experience. When the author introduces elements outside of either, it becomes something else, and something that isn't literature as currently defined.

Is it possible to write a sci fi based story that respects the human condition and human experience without succumbing to fantasy? I think so, but I haven't found it yet. When it is realized it will be the equivalent of Harry Potter in terms of financial success. Harry Potter isn't literature, but it does a pretty good job of breaking down the human condition within the framework of a defined and logical universe.

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