Spaceships in Fantasy fiction.

Oct 19, 2013 | Thoughts, Writings | 0 comments

The War Against the Gods is a fantasy series. It also has spaceships.

Several drafts ago, the world of tWAtG was a set in a world of shards suspended in the ether. Special etherships would travel from shard to shard, as well as (what else?) dragons. Fortunately or unfortunately, I couldn’t quite make the physics of it all work*, as well as certain other spoilery reasons came up, and so it was axed.

I still wanted to have ships though, so now we have spaceships in a solar system, with magic added.

The problem, usually, with mixing high fantasy and scifi together, unless they’re in conflict, is that  is that that you end up with something resembling neither. Yes, I’ll enchant my rocket to make it fifty times lighter, and then strap a seven-league boot to its nose, so I can skip past all that rocket equation nonsense. Or, oh, you have a spell that will kill all life on earth? That’s nice, but I’ll just drop this here asteroid on your dark tower.

In practice, to avoid this, either the magic makes the science irrelevant or the science subsumes the magic under it.

In this series, the magic wins out. Though, it obeys its own natural laws, so I guess science has the last laugh?

Anyway, the spaceships are propelled by magic, but then we have the problem of Newtonian physics: namely, the space bombardment problem. This is fine if you want to have big explosions, not quite so fine if you want to have hand-to-hand combat on the steps of the palace.

In a previous draft, I solved the problem with point defense: ground buildings would simply shoot the objects out of space. Looking back, I realize this would not have solved the problem of sufficiently small rocks accelerated at a fraction of c, but there were other problems. I was inspired to consider that the mechanical adding machines** required to react fast enough didn’t fit the story either.  So I did what any good SF/F novelist does when encountering an intractable problem:

I “borrowed” someone else’s idea.

In The Mote in God’s Eye, space battles are kept from devolving into one shot, one kill, by adding the Langston Field, a sort of forcefield. Dune has the Holtzman shields to have sword fights in a SF novel. Neon Genesis Evangelion has the A.T. field to explain its mecha/cyborg things.

My version is called an aura: a field created by a stargem or a star weapon that is near-impenetrable by objects traveling at high speeds. The higher the speed, in fact, the harder the aura is. The easiest way to get past an aura is to easier to simply bring another aura to cancel it out. It is also possible to bombard an aura with enough kinetic energy, though this is more difficult. Auras have capacitance: the aura grows stronger linearly as more ethereal power is pumped into it, and it does not decay.

This means, in practice, that if I spend three stargem hours accelerating an asteroid towards your dark tower, and your defense aura has been up for three hours, the aura will just break—but so will the asteriod.

Smaller, weaker versions powered by ethereal crystals also exist, called psuedoauras, though they only last for so long.

Thus, space bombardment is impossible for anything important, and as a side effect, single combat becomes even more reasonable, as archers cannot pick off warriors with auras or psuedoauras from a distance.

Here’s to hoping this will fix things.

* It’s not as if I actually went and wrote down a physics textbook describing new laws of physics, but I’d like things to make some modicum of sense. For example, does a small shard have the same gravity as a large shard, and if they’re both at a standard 1 G, why? What about ships traveling between shards? Do otherwise normal laws of physics apply? Are there atoms? Does gunpowder work? et cetera.

** I refuse to have computers. Computers are one step too far for the series. I’m still thinking of ways to keep them out.


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