I’m still stuck out of my element. While I wait for an Ethernet adapter for my PC, I have to be out of my inner sanctum to engage the world, whether that’s to check email or to argue on the internet or to post on my blog.
For the last of these, this is usually good thing, and a lot of good work has been inspired from getting myself out to cafés but while I’m still processing the New Era of Trump and what it all means* having to be outside my shell means being vulnerable while I figure out what I’m going to do to help save the country, or barring that, to survive.
I’m reminded of the segment of Apollo 13 when Odyssey and Aquarius circle around the far side of the moon. Radio contact between Mission Control in Houston and the flight Command Module requires line of sight (which we get here on Earth via relays and bouncing signals off the atmosphere) once the spacecraft orbits behind the moon, there’s no radio signal until it pops back into view on the other side. It’s a tense moment, because if something bad happens (say, yet another auxiliary explosion breaches the LEM and the astronauts all die) then it going to be unlikely that Mission Control would ever know what happened now that Odyssey is dead and silent. Fortunately, the module appeared on the other side of the moon, and the mission to return it home resumed.
For a long time, I’ve imagined a tidelocked world would be a great setting for a sci-fi story. Rimworld or Everdusk or Forever Avenue (Not this, this or this) or in Ray Bradbury style The Road Goes On Forever, in which the settled colony would be on the thin band of the planet where the sky is eternally twilight. If it librates like the moon, there would be day and night cycles where the sun may pop up above the horizon, or recess down below it. With the right atmosphere, this would allow for sparsely-settled worlds not officially in a habitable zone.
But for me there’s a problem (besides that my fiction chops are still rusty) which is that it’s not enough to put something like this in as a novelty. Much the way I was (still am) with black holes, I wouldn’t put Telegraph Road in a story unless it was critical to the events. Because if another remote, undersettled town would do, the spiffy world in another time and another galaxy is just flash.
Checkhov’s Gun is always a common rifle unless making it a laser changes the story to something new.**
* What happens when Trump realizes he can’t do all the shit he wants to do without disrupting the lives of millions of people? Does he grossly disrupt millions of lives? Will he order a military assault on the Water Guardians at Standing Rock? Will he bring to bear the full post-9/11 authoritarian powers of the Presidency upon his enemies? Will he quit and resign in the first year? Will we end up with Pence pushing his personal homophobic, creationist religious values on the people of the United States?
** Robert A. Heinlein once advised that you can add a futuristic air with small details, such as doors that dilate open or levcars parked along the curb (magic wands in The Number of the Beast predicted wireless key fobs by which people interact with their motor vehicles today), but I’d argue that the setting itself should impact how the story unfolds, much the way that phone tropes and police tropes change the classic devices to keep the circle closed.