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More space stuff

Crumbly Writer

Okay, once again, I'm wondering how to handle space trivia in a sci-fi story (the same one as before).

In the scene, there's an ongoing dialogue (as usual) with a bunch of different people who already know this stuff, so there's little cause for one to define anything for anyone else.

How safe is it to drop terms like Heliosphere and especially heliopause without losing readers? I'm assuming most can easily look up heliosphere, but there just aren't as many references to heliopause. The dialogue puts the usages into context (i.e. ships must exit the heliosphere in order to engage their faster-than-light engines) but they don't define the actual terms themselves.

Any ideas, concerns or suggestions?

By the way, this is mainly coming up because I needed a synonym for "at the edge of the heliosphere", and not finding any, simply specified "at the heliopause".

Geek of Ages

@Crumbly Writer

Both terms are a quick google search away from understanding. If you're using well-established scientific terminology, you don't need to fret about it at all.

Consider for instance the use of geological terminology in the Broken Earth trilogy. I'd say that's a fantastic example of how to do it well.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Geek of Ages

Consider for instance the use of geological terminology in the Broken Earth trilogy. I'd say that's a fantastic example of how to do it well.

That's the problem, I know how to do it well. My problem, is that I've got a chaotic scene, with various people arguing while thousands of lives are at stake, so there's no time for one person to stop the ongoing dialogue and detail what they're talking about. :( It's more a question of 'can I get away with cutting corners'.

Replies:   Geek of Ages
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

By the way, this is mainly coming up because I needed a synonym for "at the edge of the heliosphere", and not finding any, simply specified "at the heliopause".


Do you actually need the edge of the heliosphere or do you really need the edge of the stellar gravity well?

Would "the edge of the star system" work.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

Do you actually need the edge of the heliosphere or do you really need the edge of the stellar gravity well?

Would "the edge of the star system" work.

I need 'beyond the heliosphere,' as that's where ships launch into faster-than-light hyperspace (technically, they travel FTL within the solar system too, otherwise it would take years to leave, but they're traveling much slower than they do in deep space than they can within their home solar system.

However, I'd prefer using a specific term like heliopause than 'the edge of the solar system'. That just sound incredibly vague, where the heliopause or 'edge of the helisphere' is easily defined. When discussing a launch point, 'edge of the system' would leave on guessing.

Replies:   Dominions Son
REP

@Crumbly Writer

Try perimeter, boundary, or edge.

Geek of Ages

@Crumbly Writer

no time for one person to stop the ongoing dialogue and detail what they're talking about


You're fine using it. Just like how most of the geological terminology in the Broken Earth trilogy isn't explained offhand. If you really want to know what it means, you can look it up. For the few terms it's necessary to explain for plot reasons (caldera being the prominent example in the first book), then the author does it with simply a short aside that doesn't disrupt the flow of anything.

Again, your readers can always use google!

Here's a suggestion:

"We need to go to the heliopause!" The captain said. Outside of the sun's influence. That seemed risky to me.

"That's too far!" I protested.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Geek of Ages

Here's a suggestion:

"We need to go to the heliopause!" The captain said. Outside of the sun's influence. That seemed risky to me.

"That's too far!" I protested.

Again, that's the best technique, but there's a crisis unfolding, several angry participants, thousands dying and alien kidnappings, and one man, brought in late, who can singlehanded end the whole thing, so no one's going to waste much time defining common concepts (instead, they're explaining why their in so much friggin' trouble).

It's more a pacing issue. Each time I insert a contextual definition, it just sounds wrong. I might have to take a second pass at revising the chapter.

One party is describing where the one side's fleet is, at the moment, and how they're being torn to pieces by the invading aliens. Their one hope, the one the aliens are willing to negotiate with, needs to be brought up to speed so he can intervene, hoping to save their asses. The reason why he's only NOW being informed, is he was under house arrest until the invasion started.

Replies:   Geek of Ages
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

I need 'beyond the heliosphere,' as that's where ships launch into faster-than-light hyperspace (technically, they travel FTL within the solar system too


Well, the heliopause is the correct term for the edge of the heliosphere. I doubt any reader who couldn't handle that would even understand antything more technical then "the edge of the solar system".

I thought you tended to prefer harder science fiction.

In terms of our solar system, the Oort cloud, a cloud of icy comet like objects, orbits the sun well outside the heliopause. In fact, the Oort cloud, which is supposed to be a complete sphere around the sun is also supposed to be denser than most of the inside of the heliosphere, except maybe the asteroid belt.

https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/solar-system/oort-cloud/overview/

Given that, I'm puzzled by your choice of the heliopause as the boundary between slow in system FTL, and interstellar speeds.

Replies:   madnige
Geek of Ages
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

Another option, if you really don't think your readers can either figure it out or google it, is to introduce the term earlier, at a point where it's not a tense, fast-moving moment, and spell it out then.

And actually, from a "guns fired should appear first" perspective, if the heliopause is an important aspect of your FTL and that is important to the plot, then its importance to the FTL should be established before this argument. That would actually heighten the tension, because then the reader would be aware of why it matters.

(You'll note this is what happens in the Fifth Season around caldera: that it's a volcanic thing is clearly established through the quick aside a while before it becomes a slightly relevant thing to the plot)

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
madnige

@Dominions Son

I'm puzzled by your choice of the heliopause as the boundary between slow in system FTL, and interstellar speeds.


I can quite well see how a fictional fast FTL could be inhibited by the solar wind inside the heliosphere thus requiring getting out beyond the heliopause to engage it. This gives another tack to try:

We need to get out of the solar wind

Replies:   Dominions Son
Crumbly Writer

@Geek of Ages

if the heliopause is an important aspect of your FTL and that is important to the plot, then its importance to the FTL should be established before this argument.

I've stipulated that moving past the heliosphere is necessary in the story before, but I wasn't sure readers would remember something from earlier in the book that wasn't a major plot point, or which wasn't repeated a few times to burn it into readers memories.

As for the Oort Cloud obstacle, I dealt with that in prior stories, though in this one, the alien science relies on a completely different 'technology' to avoid collisions. The heliopause restriction is mostly about escaping the effects of the sun's gravity well (and the FTL method of travel not screwing up the local solar system for everyone else).

Basically, even IF everyone is traveling faster than light within their own solar system, I needed a way of accounting for it NOT taking twenty years to escape the local solar system, so the story wouldn't lag 40 to 100 years between each plot point.

We need to get out of the solar wind

Technically, it would be "get past the solar winds", since the winds are basically behind anyone leaving a solar system. Essentially, the solar winds are like helping push the ship forward, but the sun's gravity well is holding them back.

docholladay

As long as it is kept to the rules you laid out for the science in your story it should be okay. Some terms might need explanations, but not all of them. For example scientific knowledge or terms can be used as long as you say they were either discovered or invented by a historical figure say someone in the 24th or 25th century. (in other words someone who hasn't been born in our current time period) Just keep it consistent. Sometimes details might be important to the story, other times those details can actually harm the flow of the story.

BlacKnight

A number of space SF series I've read use phrases like "hyper limit", which has the advantage of referring directly to the relevant concern without complicating matters with actual astronomical terminology that has an actual meaning unrelated to your plot devices.

This reduces the potential for confusion, for nitpicking from smartasses who know more about astronomy than you do (or think they do), and helps your story age better, as your fictional tech is less affected by the inexorable march of actual science.

Also, speaking of nitpicking from smartasses, "denser than most of the inside of the heliosphere, except maybe the asteroid belt", isn't saying much. The average density of the asteroid belt is roughly 42 milligrams per cubic kilometer. And that tends to be clumpy - more than a third of the belt's total mass is just Ceres, and roughly half is concentrated in Ceres, Vesta, and Pallas - which are pretty easy to keep track of.

Despite how Hollywood likes to depict asteroid belts, it's mostly vast stretches of nothing at all, populated by small rocks close together only by astronomical standards where a hundred thousand kilometers is "close". You could go blasting through it blind and it would take tremendous bad luck to actually hit anything.

Replies:   Dominions Son
doctor_wing_nut

Isn't this the reason footnotes were invented?

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Dominions Son

@madnige

I can quite well see how a fictional fast FTL could be inhibited by the solar wind inside the heliosphere thus requiring getting out beyond the heliopause to engage it.


The problem is that the Oort cloud is filled with mountain sized icy bodies at a relatively high density. Trying to move through it at a large multiple of light speed would entail a vary large probability of a collision with an object far more massive than the ship itself. And since the Oort cloud is a sphere, a shell completely surrounding the sun, you can't just go around it.

Dominions Son

@BlacKnight

Also, speaking of nitpicking from smartasses, "denser than most of the inside of the heliosphere, except maybe the asteroid belt", isn't saying much. The average density of the asteroid belt is roughly 42 milligrams per cubic kilometer. And that tends to be clumpy - more than a third of the belt's total mass is just Ceres, and roughly half is concentrated in Ceres, Vesta, and Pallas - which are pretty easy to keep track of.


That's still significant at a large multiple of the speed of light and the Oort cloud is around 99,000 AU thick. For comparison, the entire heliosphere has a diameter of only 200 AU.

Crumbly Writer

@doctor_wing_nut

Isn't this the reason footnotes were invented?

Footnotes are generally restricted to non-fiction. Although they're sometimes used with fiction, it's never an easy fit.

The same with parentheses. They're generally used in non-fiction to include additional information. But for fiction, you're supposed to fold the information into either the narrative or character's dialogue.

Besides, it get worse when you post to SOL, as the ONLY way to include a footnote in an SOL story is either tacked onto the end of the chapter, or as an appendix which will never get looked at. :(

Wheezer

That's my major nitpick with FTL plot devices that are simply acceleration above the "C" limit of Einsteinian physics. Space is not empty. Not even the voids between the galaxies. Gas, dust, etc. It's still hard vacuum, but there is enough matter between the stars that any physical object travelling through interstellar space is going to be colliding with it constantly - to it's detriment. Wormholes, "Quantum Tunneling," Fold-drives, or whatever the author can imagine that moves the ship from point A to point B without physically travelling between the two points avoids that particular problem. Also, unless the drive generates some massive gravity field greater than that of all the gas giant planets combined, wtf is the problem with firing it up near a planet or star? As mentioned, it is obvious that some sort of FTL or near-C drive is necessary to move around inside of a solar system.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Wheezer

Also, unless the drive generates some massive gravity field greater than that of all the gas giant planets combined, wtf is the problem with firing it up near a planet or star?


The general rationale with hyperdrive systems where you most commonly see this restriction used is not causing a problem for the local system but rather that the gravity well interferes with the operation of the hyperdrive. "Interdiction" devices to force ships out of hyperspace are generally depicted as massive artificial gravity fields.

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