I promised in my previous post to elaborate on the futuristic world building in Cerelia’s Choice. Checking on the date of that post, I notice five months have passed. Sometimes life gets in the way, big time. Sorry about that.
I love classic space opera as much as the next geeky guy, but it often assumes too much, so that the setting becomes almost irrelevant to the story. I’ve read far too many stories that are in effect nothing more than traditional naval battles set in space.
The reality is that any sort of human settlement beyond Earth will necessarily have to deal with some damn big challenges and constraints.
The least avoidable leap usually made in space opera is assuming some mechanism for faster than light travel. It is hard to have a story extending beyond our solar system without that.
The next biggie is gravity. In your standard space opera every ship has an artificial gravity field, and every inhabited planet seems to miraculously have Earth standard gravity.
The one that really irks me is spaceships designed for faster than light travel in the near vacuum of interstellar space somehow having the ability to land on the surface of a planet, dealing with the drag and friction of an atmosphere when landing, not to mention overcoming the enormous energy demands of escaping the planet’s gravity well when leaving. The design constraints of interstellar travel are so fundamentally different to the design challenges of atmospheric travel that it makes no sense to try building a single ship capable of doing both.
Imagine now the world of Cerelia’s Choice. Yes there’s faster than light travel. But there’s been a recent technological development that has increased maximum speeds by ten times, upsetting the existing economic and political balance, something that is important to the story.
There’s also artificial gravity, but I decided to put some constraints around that to make it interesting. The artificial gravity field is fundamentally inconsistent with FTL travel, so you either have to deal with weightlessness, or have a rotating habitat.
And you can land a spaceship on the surface of a planet, but only one designed exactly for that purpose, and it’s a one way trip. The only way off is by space elevator. They’re expensive to build and easy to control, which underpins the feudal political system of the Empire.
If you have doubts about the romance element of Cerelia’s Choice (what do you mean you don’t like romance?), then just remind yourself that it also contains a lot of well-considered science fiction world building to keep the reader interested.