Writing Science Fiction

I’m currently working on a novel that I have described to a friend as ‘The 1920s of Star Wars, as written by Isaac Asimov after watching too much Tron.’ It’s kind of a science fantasy/ space opera/ space exploration thing, with some Asimov, Tron, and Three Musketeers thrown in.

Anyway, if fantasy is about the magic, science fiction is about the technology. If you’re writing a sci-fi novel, it’s best to do your research to determine if your tech would actually work, or just blow up in your hero’s face (which is also useful at times).

As an example, my sci-fi story has a weapon called a laserfoil, which I’ve detailed below:

Laserfoil: A very useful weapon. Though sadly hard to find if you are not an Imperial Soldier, the basic properties and technology of these weapons are fairly well known. The device functions by means of the emission of a blade of supercooled photons, with a thin coating of superheated plasma. The secret lies in building it correctly in order to keep the blade stable. Hence the focusing emitter, which keeps the blade stable by recycling the energies involved and reusing them, as well as holding the blade to its proper length and shape. However, if this emitter is broken while the laserfoil is active, or if it is activated after the emitter breaks, the blade explodes violently, making a handy grenade in emergency situations. -Kanelio’s Guide to the Galaxy.

The weapon’s breakage point is an integral part of the plot, providing the focus point that puts the main characters where they are at the beginning of the tale.

Since I wanted to have Faster-Than-Light travel, or FTL, I had to design some sort of device to let my characters bypass lightspeed. Here it is:

Propulsion Drive: The things that make the starship move, and usually break down at just the wrong moment- such as when you are being chased by debt collectors. They are also known as the Fusion-Ionic Drive. Superheated plasma is focused by electric arcs so that the plasma nuclei start fusing. This creates an immense level of thrust, caused by expansion of the reaction mass. However, it also creates lots of neutron radiation. This is dealt with by charging the radiation into ion particles, which are also projected out the back of the Propulsion Drive. The ions alone are sufficient for in-system travel, and many ships have an ion-only drive for this purpose. -Kanelio’s Guide to the Galaxy.

With the Propulsion Drive, you can go extremely fast, but not quite break lightspeed. Hence the

Hyperdrive: A type of Fusion-Ionic Drive which supercharges the plasma streams themselves into ions, and uses Etherspace to bypass the speed of light and travel from one distant point to another.

Now I suppose I need to explain Etherspace.

Etherspace: Accessed by means of a Hyperdrive, which enables travel much faster than the speed of light. Etherspace is defined by one scientist as ‘The tunnels between wormholes’. It is theoretically the dimension that ships travel through if they pass through a wormhole, and thus ships that use Etherspace travel are personally creating short-lived wormholes. Of course, there are limitations- for example, you can’t go through a planet or star in Realspace while you are in Etherspace- if you try, you kinda go boom. This is why charts are useful.

Incedentally, Kanelio’s Guide to the Galaxy is sort of my galaxy’s version of the Hitchhiker’s Guide.

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Writing Battle Scenes

While description is a good thing, too much description in any scene can cause the reader to become bored. Battle scenes should have even less description. Here’s an example of a battle scene:

Edmund faced off against his opponent. With a cry, they charged towards each other over the rough, dusty ground. Edmund drew his sharp, well-cared-for knife from its delicately tooled leather sheath at his hip, and the opponent took his battered knife from its’ own sheath of similar appearance to Edmund’s, but with black leather. The two reached each-other and began to duel. Edmund’s knife glanced off his opponent’s knife, causing a clinking sound, and the opponent retaliated. Their knives glinted and glittered reflectively in the bright sunlight.

See how much the description takes away from the action? Battle scenes are best written with short, staccato sentences, to convey the frenzied pace. Here’s the same event, but without unnecessary description.

Edmund charged his opponent. Drawing their blades, the two entered into a frenzied snickersnee. Knives flashed in the sun.

Much better!