Saturday, June 22, 2019

Epsilon Indi in Fiction - A World Building Exercise

In my latest work, so far unnamed, the heroes are bound for the Eighth Planet. The ship's AI has named this planet Urbian-Adams for the two people who "helped" discovery Neptune, Sol's eight's planet. The ship's AI is snarky as hell. Urbain Jean Joseph Le Verrier cranked some heavy math to pinpoint the planet for French observers, while John Couch Adams seems to have sent British observers on a wild goose chase. It was expedient at the time to make them co-discovers, but it turns out there was a lot of horse trading going on. There is a fascinating reading here about what really happened.

This is a hard sci-fi story, so the heroes are outbound from habitable worlds so that I don't have to describe them... yet. Except the question came up on MeWe.

So I need some scale here. Pales and Salus are huge brown dwarfs orbit each other. They are 1460 AU from Epsilon Indi and they orbit each other at a distance of 2.1 AU. They have no anlog in our solar system.

Kawal is named for 2060 Chiron's discover, Charles Kawal. This is a tiny body between Saturn and Uranus and it is classified as a small body and a comet. The ship's AI likes trivia. Additionally, the ship has been to Kawal before. It is fairly old.

Urbian-Adams is very like Neptune, while Minerva and Kawal are like Rhea and Dione. These planets are smaller than our moon and a mix of ice and rock. As mentioned before, there have been a manned mission to both planets.

Iuno Regina is a near Jupiter analog. It orbits much further from the star than our Jupiter. Either it is smaller than Jupiter and orbits at about 9 AU (like Saturn) or is more massive than Jupiter and orbits between 10-20 AU. I have selected the first, smaller mass planet.

Around this planet is Bacchus, which is one of many moons. Bacchus has a dense atmosphere and some sort of liquid on the surface. It is very much like Titan, which would be a good place for humans to have small outposts. There is no life, despite having mud and liquids on the surface. Vera memories take place here.

The trouble spot is Terra Mater. It is just .6 AU from the star. It does have an Earth-like atmosphere, called "The Stuff". Terra is much smaller than Earth, about 85% of Earth's radius but is far more dense. The stuff is largely nitrogen, CO2 and O2. It is not particular dangerous, but also not breathable. Life on the planet has been stuck at Devonian level, where plants first took to the land and fish ruled the sea.

So what is the problem? First, from a story teller's point of view, I have a planet named Terra (Mater) and character named Terra. I need to change that. Second, if Terra Mater is just .6 AU from the Epsilon Indi, I need to cram 3 other planets inside that orbit. This means Apollo and Vulcan must be very low mass and close to the star. No more than 0.15 for Apollo. Neither is as big as Titan.

Duellona is a hell like world at about .25 AU. There are two problems with it. This is too hot and it is in a belt of asteroids. This belt of asteroids is far less dense than our solar system's asteroid belt, but a Venus sized planet sharing orbits with big rocks is not good. In the time line of the story, it known before the colony left Earth. It was visualized by a scout craft and all seemed well. At some point between the flyby and the colonists arrival, it was clobbered by a very large object, maybe several. The whole surface is a magma sea. The colonists have deliberately sent several probes to their doom there. Duellona is interesting but deadly. It is the most telescopically observed object in the solar system, merely for being striking.

The colonists on Terra Mater arrived by massive ion ships. As a consequence of not being able to land on the surface of the Terra and the danger of space rocks from Duellona, the colonists have decommissioned their ships' engines and power plants on any old rock that looks like it could be a danger to the colony. These rocks have been moved to Trojan orbits around Terra.

I figured I would share this world building as it won't appear in my story and will go to waste. The primary purpose of this exercise was character building, which meant limiting the scope of the setting. The heroes are stuck, but not trapped on a single ship going to a planet with no surface. This is the stuff of character building.

As a result of this world building, I have significantly altered my characters, "Terra" in particular. She is now named "Keira" and will feature more prominently in Vera's story.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Solar System files - Background Information on Unnamed Project

I think I have crossed over to the point where my unnamed project is going to need a name. Its writing itself.

The characters are colonists of the Epsilon Indi system. I collected some data on this solar system, and it does seem to be a real solar system with planets and stuff. Pretty interesting, but also complex.

As of right now, Epsilon Indi has 3 known objects in orbit. There are a pair of brown dwarfs at 1460 AU from the star and hints that a Jupiter-like planet orbits the star. The most recent data indicates this Jupiter Analog is between 8.5 and 16 or 17 AU from its host star.

Heaven help me if they discover more companions to this star, because I went and invented a bunch of my own.

This is a chart of my fictional system:

This chart obviously has no scale and is wildly different than the actual system. I decided that the colonists have named the planets after Roman gods, specifically from the list Di selecti by Varro. The brown dwarfs are named after Sabine gods, as Varro was of Sabine descent. This has created an in-universe problem where if the colonies wish to continue the practice, they must reuse some names of the Earth's Solar System. That would be confusing, so the naming process stopped at the seventh planet. 

The characters are bound for the eighth unnamed planet. Their ship's AI thinks that the humans are being dumb and cheekily names the eighth and ninth planets Urbian-Adams and Kawal, for astronomers responsible for discoveries in our Solar System. It wouldn't do to have an adventure around an unnamed planet. 

The system is full of tiny planets, only Iuno Regina, the Jupiter Analog and Urbian-Adams are bigger than Earth. The smaller bodies in grey are airless. The blue body is Terra Mater. It has a earth-like atmosphere, made up of CO2 and nitrogen. There is a small moon, Bacchus which has a very dense nitrogen based atmosphere at a higher pressure than Earth's. 

If you would like to use this template for your writing or your games, feel free to download the Google Drawing from my drive. 

Saturday, June 15, 2019

What To Do With My Summer...

No vacation is in the stars, this summer break. So it's time to read.

I picked up a copy of Forge of God by Greg Bear. I love his characters, they are rather plain and unexceptional, even when he tells the reader they are exceptional. It's the big ideas that drive his books.

Over the summer, I plan on populating that weblog of choice websites to read. I have a ton of books to get through over the summer, but reading blogs really helps me connect with the "here and now", even if it is someone else's "here and now". I love seeing other perspectives on life and writing.

First up is Michael K. Ferrante's I'm You From The Future! Mr. Ferrante's is a budding hard science fiction writer, he is always full of great ideas and new perspectives. The first selection of his that I have read is "Introducing Smitty". It is one part character study and another part establishing shot. The main upshot of the piece is Mr. Ferrante's study of the concept of a church-like entity to distribute live extending processes to all, in an equitable fashion.

If this doesn't scream "here and now", what does?

Let me know what's on your summer reading list in the comments below or follow me on MeWe.

Friday, June 14, 2019

New Unnamed Project - Meet Terra and Vera

When the semester ends, I start losing my writing skills. While writing science fiction and fantasy is wildly different than writing about history or social studies, any writing helps keeps some of those skills sharp.

Tonight's posts are two excerpts from a 7 character study. Terra and Vera are travelers on a space ship in the Epsilon Indi system. When we meet them, they are waking from cryogenic sleep. This story is fairly hard science fiction story. There is no faster than light travel, no artificial gravity, few habitable planets as we would like them to be.

One interesting plot point is that Epsilon Indi seems to have a Jupiter analog in addition two brown dwarfs. The Jupiter analog is where their ship was built, about 6.5 AU from the primary star. The brown dwarfs are 1,500 AU from the primary. Since there is no FTL, travel between these locations is tedious.

When the colonists left Earth, they traveled in generation ships. On arrival at Epsilon Indi, the colonists developed suspended animation to make travel in the system easier on the mind. One of the side effects of the technology is that the human mind has to be awakened before the body is brought out of cryogenic freezing. This experience would normally be painful and boring, so the ship's AI is able to generate a mindspace for the humans to exist in. This is called chimeric space. Chimeric in the sense that it is a dream or wish, unfulfilled.

Chimeric space has some rules. An AI controls it, but that AI cannot impinge upon it. Some robots can appear in chimeric space, but this is quirk of software. They are being informed of the output of a simulated version of themselves, rather than an actual participant like human.

Another quirk of this simulation is, it cannot be used to create mirrors. When a mirror is requested by the sleeper, they instead see an external view of themselves. Any mirrors that do appear have special coding to make them work correctly and cannot be simulated at a whim. The closest chimeric space can go to creating a mirror on the fly is giving the sleeper an external view of themselves. Since people can shift between internalized and externalized points of view, they have concept of "entopic" point of view, which merely means "in the correct place or way".

The sleeper has an idealized sense of themselves, the real world and the virtual world. A person in chimeric space is slowly adapting back to their sleeping body and will detect changes happening to them in the real world. Their sense of time is highly distorted, so becoming aware of someone dressing them seems to take days or weeks.

Terra and Vera have some commonalities, despite Terra being twice as old as Vera. Both were injured in war, both had cancer. Terra is a space ship captain and her brush with cancer was a known occupational hazard. Vera, on the other hand was irradiated by a weapon. As a consequence, she has any number of physical and mental problems, few of which most people can relate to, although through age and experience Terra can come close to understanding.

The title "Vera 1.0" is a consequence of her PTSD. She is reliving the past. When I get to it, "Vera 2.0" will take place along side of Terra's experiences. "Vera 1.0" is taking place in just seconds, like how dreams coalesce in the moment of waking.

This is very rough draft. I hope you enjoy it. As always, please feel free to share your feedback.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Three Character Study - Moral Creatures

This document was written as 3 character study, where 2 of the characters are children. The main intent was to create a realistic seeming conversation including children. I did not want idiots or wunderkind. I think I succeeded, but in free writing, created a rather dark story.

The secondary intent of this post was to imbed a Google doc into a blogger post, as can be done with Google sites. It's a bit tricky, but I think I nailed it down. 

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Tabletop Game Models at their Finest.

Full discourse, this is my dad's video from Facebook. Imagine growing up in a house with this sort of insanity going on, on a daily basis. Instant gamer baby.

(Sorry for the slow load times.)

El Cid at the Siege of Augusta
The Cid fights at Siege of Augusta 2019!
Posted by Classical Hack on Sunday, January 20, 2019
Oh,yeah. Game on.

Monday, October 8, 2018

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon.

A couple of months ago, I signed up for Audible. My first order was Gibbon's The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. It's 126 hours long. I'd be lying if I said I finished it.

The audio is high quality and Charlton Griffin's narration is excellent. It's hard to believe this book is 200 years old. If you merely want to read this book, it is also available on Gutenberg. This version is also excellent.

One thing that you miss from the Audible version is the maps. Gibbon meanders through history and of course he assumed you'd be holding the book with the maps as you read. I am surprised that Audible provided a PDF for the record, but didn't include the non-copyrighted maps. It is an odd omission. I have pulled the maps from the Gutenberg copy and loaded them here. Perhaps some day I will make a PDF of just the maps for easy printing.

West East
North West of Western Empire

North West of Eastern Empire

North East of Western Empire

North East of Eastern Empire

South West of Western Empire

South West of Eastern Empire

South East of Western Empire

South East of Eastern Empire

The list price attached to the ad is for an purchase outside of your Audible account credit. An Audible account is $14.95 a month, which entitles you to one credit or book per month. Well worth the cost. Right now, Audible will double the number of books in the first month.

Click the link below to check out Gibbon's opus magus.