Trunk Novels & Research

By my count I blew five weeks and generated ~100k words on a novel I’m regretfully consigning to the metaphorical trunk. And what’s funny is that I’m sure that if this novel was written forty years ago, it’d be on its way to my agent.

The difference is research and realism. With a little research and math, for example, reveals the sheer impossibility of using a physical “curtain” to secure, deflect, or deorbit satellites. The power budget’s too large, the volume of space, as crowded as it is in LEO, is immense, and the time to manufacture a solution from the time of crisis needed to be measured in many years, if not decades.

Space vehicles aren’t created the way or at the velocity of airplanes that went from idea to combat in World War II. It’s not enough to weld some reaction tanks on a skeleton and call it good enough. I mean, sure, if one’s looking to build non-repeatable and occasionally lethal craft. And while it was easy for me to create and model a graphene/kevlar sheet that could be put into debris’ way in space, the size of the sheets, the speed of cleaning… did I mention that space is big?

One NASA engineer calculated that just LEO orbit was ~1,292,613,096,000 cubic kilometers[1]. Lasers zapping debris? Powdered regolith shot out in sprays to interdict anything in its way and slow it down to deorbit? Dozens of teams of “miners” pulling sats out of range for recycling? Heck, how about putting a small asteroid in orbit to clear a path[2]? These solutions all might have worked in the fanstastical, stories in the Analog of the 1960s through 1980s. But now? I think a writer should be fair with the reader: if it’s science fiction, it has to be based on the most we know of science. And manufacturing, and human nature.

So Brightly Needing is consigned to that black hole into which every novel whose momentum slows below the Schwartzschild radius goes.

Okay, fine. I’ve got short stories to submit, a few to edit and still others to write. Rocking on.

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