Faster Than Light…From the Perspective of a Writer

In building my SF world, I had to do everything from creating the history, society, technology and politics along with the military of the time. Yes it was a lot of work and I spent more than a few hours banging my head on my desk trying to figure out something and watching hundreds of hours of YouTube videos. These interludes will show some of the things required to write believable and compelling SF.

One of the things which really annoyed me about many SF shows was a spaceship would pop of Faster Than Light (FTL) above a planet. First off, the mathematics involved are astounding. Not that they probably don’t have much better computers but a minor bit of thinking reveals everything in the Universe is always moving and based on what it takes to put spacecraft around a planet in our very own Solar System is very difficult showing up exactly where you wanted to be and when. (I’m a trained rifleman and have had to take into account that the Earth is moving at 32K miles an hour to be able to hit a target at extreme ranges!) And what’s to say you didn’t pop out where someone else had put another spacecraft? And what was to prevent Bad People (BP) from showing up above a planet, nuking it and than disappearing?

I chose an Alcubierre Drive as a way to get through space faster and better. The Alcubierre Drive is named after a Mexican physicist and is very cool in playing in the universe Einstein postulated by forming a bubble outside this universe so now not constrained by the laws of this universe like not being able to travel FTL. You all know how to use Google so look it up yourself to find out the details.  But be prepared to spend a lot of time in that particular rabbit hole of really interesting reading.

There are a couple of problems with the Alcubierre Drive. The first is it requires an enormous amount of energy. So I had to come up with a power source which I will discuss in more detail on some other posting. However it did mean that there would be no rowboat sized ships able to travel quickly around the stars. Another element is that once a Drive Bubble is established, you can’t turn it off without being smashed into subatomic particles. This is one of those “wink, wink” moments with the understanding once a theory is determined and essentially proved, the details are solved by the engineers.

Another niggling point is that there was no apparent constraint on being close to a gravitational body when you pop the Drive Bubble. I didn’t want BP showing up over a planet causing problems. So I postulated the Alcubierre Drive didn’t work close to large gravitational bodies like planets, suns, moons and even decent sized asteroids. And I come up with the idea of an extremely large ship powerful enough to bring the rest of her squadron with her in the Drive Bubble, ready to fight. It’s just like the squadrons surrounding a battleship during both World Wars. After all, Dauntless was a battleship–the queen of battle until they were replaced by aircraft carriers.

So I was writing along and then found myself asking the question, “How do you steer when you are traveling at FTL?” Several serious hours of very intense physical head banging ensued. The CAT scan cleared me but I will have the physical scars for years yet. There was no logical way, given how fast the Universe was moving, to be sure you don’t end up in the middle of some random star making for a very short book. “They engaged the Drive Bubble. They dropped the Drive Bubble. It was suddenly extremely hot. The End.”

The navigation issue was solved simply by using way points. The Dauntless would travel for a while, drop the Drive Bubble, look around for a bit, get her bearings and plot a course to her next way point. Anyone with any type of land navigational skills knows what I’m talking about.  These way points were a chance for further jamming up the tension. Read the book when it comes out to discover why, how and what happens.

So, now I had a way to go FTL. And now you know how I got to that point… The journey is the most fun possible with clothes on. Stay tuned for further stuff about what I came up with and why.

JF Collins

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *