Everybody loves stories for different reasons. Some people love to escape the bounds of their own realities, some people love stories that get at the heart and soul of what it means to be a person, to be human. Some stories can lift us up into a grand soaring vision of possibility, an endless sense of wonder. But I think the best stories, the ones with the most magic, are the ones that we all tell together.
I recently wrote a novel. I had not intended to write this novel, and when I sat down with the initial idea I certainly had no more intent than just playing with what I thought was an interesting concept. But like most ideas, this one took root, and it kept growing and branching and developing. I had so many amazing people that I could talk to about the concepts as each fresh one came up, that I think this book is much more a product of a community than it is anything that came from my head. And because of that, I want to extend an opportunity to everybody to be a part of bringing this story into the world.
The initial idea began as a conversation with my partner about the theoretical best form of government for an interstellar civilization. This was about the time where SpaceX and Blue Origin had just started to announce their intent to develop commercial space flight. And here we are, today, where not just one but two companies have successfully launched and recovered astronauts. So, while we may be in the infancy of it, we are definitely entering the age of human space flight. Just like the advent of aviation, I have no doubt that it will remain firmly in the realm of the rich, famous, or powerful for several years. But just like the costs of a commercial airline ticket have come down, within my lifetime people will be able to afford to hop on a rocket to anywhere on earth. A jaunt out to the foothold on the moon and mars? That might take a while, but it’s still there.
So when we think about what does the future look like in 10, 15, or 50 years, we’re tempted to think that we know pretty close to the trajectory that we’re on. But that night on the couch, I wanted to think about the far future, about the destiny of our species. What is the future look like a thousand years from now? How about two thousand years? What is our society shaped like? Will the nature of humanity have changed, or just its character? Asking these sorts of questions is what eventually led to the development of the universe of the novel, Steel in the Blood.
After much debate, I came to the conclusion that if an interstellar civilization were, in fact, to have a single unified government, it would have to be an empire. And there would have to be some rule, some method, by which the rulers held on to their power. Because of the distances and scale that we are talking about, there would also have to be some way to move information, as well as goods, quickly across the stars. Without these two critical components, my conclusion was that an interstellar civilization would be, at best, a loosely conglomerated set of independent planetary governments, that either cooperated or fought as they saw fit. Which one do I think is most likely? That’s probably an investigation for another time, but I wanted to explore the idea of a stable interstellar empire and see what conclusions I could draw about humanity from it.
So, the two critical components to a stable interstellar empire are transportation and consolidation of power. In the universe and the world building that I did, these two mechanics are folds in space, and absolute control of technology keyed to a single human genome. The folds in space were fascinating to research – I’ve never buried my head further into physics textbooks and online reading about timelike and spacelike curves. If you look at the initial work in progress that I have published on my website, you’ll see how far into the hard science fiction realm I dove. Trying to develop entertaining exposition that also is informative about theoretical physics proved to be a little much for me, especially given that I am just beginning my journey as a writer. But the principle remains – you can fold one set of spacetime into another, however it takes a vast amount of energy, and indeed a type of energy that we have not yet figured out how to generate or work with. Sometimes called Casimir effect or negative energy, the idea is that if you can reduce the energy density of an area of spacetime below zero you might be able to create a stable passage between two different folded regions. The problem I ran into was that space and time are actually the same substance, the same fabric of the universe. So how do you travel across the spacelike curves without falling into the timelike curves? Here I took a bit of a leap of faith, and assumed that the further from a gravity well you were, the less deeply entangled the time like and space like curves would be in the mouth of the fold.
This presented a fascinating logistical issue for the civilization that I had been developing – how far away from a star did you really need to go? Getting outside of the heliopause should put you far enough out that spacetime is essentially flat, or flat enough for the purposes of our theoretical physics applied to the real world. So in order to travel between star systems, you need a fantastic amount of energy, and you need it far away from a star. So, macroengineering it is.
By turning the magnetosphere of a star into essentially an antimatter generator, you might be able to build up enough antimatter to create the energy densities that you’re looking for to build your fold. And so, keeping a fold open and stable is expensive. The only reason to do so would be for trade, or some low risk – high reward activity. Which actually threw a really interesting wrench in the concept of warfare, because if the defenders hold the only way in, they inherently have the advantage. It would essentially require war to be either very slow, or mutually agreed to!
So what is all this have to do with telling this story? These sorts of exciting forays into applied theoretical physics and looking at the human aspect of future societies are only possible with lots of people and lots of ideas. So this friday, I am launching a campaign on Indiegogo to get more people involved in creating this book. There are a lot of different opportunities, a little something for everybody. If you don’t want to back the book financially, that’s fine too! Simply clicking on the generate link button and sharing the campaign link page will get you into a raffle for free signed copies after publishing. But if you do want to be involved, you can do everything from select the cover design, read and give feedback on excerpts from the story while I am still in the revisions phase, even have a character written into the next book that’s loosely based on you! If you want that character to survive, however, then of course there will be a cost. Space is dangerous, after all.
So please keep an eye here on the website, follow me on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, and maybe carve a little time out of your Friday afternoon at 3pm CST to join me at the campaign launch event on Facebook. Who knows, maybe I’ll see you at the launch party in Austin, Texas in January! Either way, thank you for being an active part of this community and for reading as much as you have! You are the reason I write!