One of the themes I am exploring in the sequel to Newton’s Ark is the impact that our environment has on society.
When the survivors in Faraday’s Mine find their environment radically changed from the comfortable existence they knew before, they are confronted with making some social and political and economic changes that make sense in their new context but which nevertheless seem at best repugnant and at worst downright immoral.
The relationships between the sexes are fundamental to the organisation of society as demonstrated by the growing social problems China is experiencing due to increasingly distorted sex ratios. Imagine then that a group of a few hundred survivors find themselves in a position where a) they believe they are all that is left of humanity and b) there are two men for every woman. What would they do to encourage procreation? How might the roles of men and women change? To what extent would changes be imposed by the group rather than chosen freely by individuals?
As I have mentioned previously I was very conscious in writing Newton’s Ark to keep the science as real as possible. The most speculative technology I included was probably the micro fusion reactor – a small, highly portable fusion reactor that could power a satellite for decades.
This technology requires us to find a way to build a self-sustaining fusion reaction that produces positive net energy. And then you have to miniaturize it – I’m going to ignore that challenge assuming we can solve the main problem.
This technology has been a decade away for the past sixty years. Will we ever solve this problem? Who knows. It may really be a only decade away, it may be another sixty years away or it may never happen. It’s hard to extrapolate from the experience to date. There has been some progress but not enough to be completely confident that the fundamental challenge can be overcome.
It is still an active area of research though. In fact I recently received an assignment to design a biometric security system (iris recognition) for an experimental fusion reactor facility!
This post brought to you by author of Newton’s Ark, D.A. Hill.
“Despite all the holo-movies you might have seen where they destroy the asteroid before it hits the Earth and everyone lives happily ever after, it isn’t possible with the technology and time we have available. To nudge the asteroid off course we have to hit it far enough out that we would need to launch now. Problem is we don’t have anything with the range and payload required….”
“Can’t we just nuke the damn thing when it gets closer to Earth?”
“Yes sir we can, but we risk turning a single very large asteroid into multiple asteroids, each still plenty big enough to wipe out a large city. Better to have only one object to track and to limit the impact to a single location.”
I think this quote from the article nicely captures my philosophy:
…fiction is all about the make-believe. But good science can make for a more plausible narrative, making it easier to suspend disbelief.
One of the things I set out to do when writing Newton’s Ark, was to keep the science part of the science fiction plausible, by basing the technology of the future either on already emerging technologies or at least on plausible projections of current technology trends.
“The early drones worked exactly that way, Major. They were vulnerable; if communication is disrupted the drone is pilot-less. Worse still, if the signal is intercepted it is possible for a hostile force to take control of the drone. Back as far as 2012 the Iranians captured what was then one of our most advanced drones by spoofing a GPS signal. They convinced the drone that it was landing back at its base in Turkey when it was really landing in Teheran. Incidents like that were the impetus for the EM program.”
I’m attempting to explore similar concepts through fiction, with the goal of trying to understand how these sorts of technological developments might affect the human experience. My view is that when confronted with ideas this radical, stories are the best way to explore the possible implications. Otherwise it’s all too abstract, all to clinical, all too remote, and therefore all too easy to ignore, at least until it actually begins to happen and we’re totally unprepared.