Hot Jupiter!

As a follow up to my last post, let me mention that there are now a lot more really-actually known worlds on which a modern Hal Clement can put his next realistic aliens. See here:

Thus the scientific community was stunned by the announcement in 1995 of the detection of a Jupiter-mass planet in a four-day orbit, whipping around at a rocket’s pace just barely above the stellar surface. This planet—now called 51 Pegasi b—is at least half the mass of Jupiter, orbits ten times closer to its star than Mercury is to our own sun, and has an atmosphere at a roasting hot 1200 K. To the naked eye, it would glow like an ember, shrouded in clouds of molten metal and rock vapor.

No more need to invent goofy planets like Trenco or Ploor! It turns out that molton superjovial bodies are common, as are planets with a more-than-Plutonian eccentricity. In other words, there is plenty of authentic and interesting scientific material to be turned into tales of space-knights rescuing space-princesses from space-warlocks. The reason why we write science fiction is that the real warlockery of what is likely to happen is more awe inspiring (or terrifying)  than any spells of Atlantes or Prospero.

Even keeping up with the new discoveries is difficult for your friendly neighborhood space opera writer. Fortunately the new discovery of the Internet makes some research absurdly easy (albeit, keep in mind not every source is trustworthy. It is called ‘the world wide web of lies’ for a reason).

But I recently had to look up the relative positions of the planets of the year 2830, to find out if perchance Jupiter would be in conjunction or opposition to Neptune that year. For another book, I had to look up launch windows and travel times for a Hohmann transfer to Mars (and clever readers can discover what year TITANS OF CHAOS takes place in, given Mars in the position described). For another book, I had to get the speculative dates for the heat death of the universe, or the brightness of the Pistol Star. My current book required me to research V886 Centauri, the distances and directions to the Hyades cluster and the galactic cluster M3, the relative motions of Andromeda and Milky Way, the characteristics of the Virgo Supercluster, the distance to the Corona Borealis supercluster. I cannot tell you how many maps and star charts, both for this and other books, I have to look up to get realistic travel times for slower-than-light drives. It would have taken forever to get this info through the library. We must all thank Al Gore for inventing the Internet.

So, go out and right, young SF wannabes! There is plenty of new information, new discoveries, and plenty of old stories that we want to hear again: how about “Boy Meets Girl, Boy Loses Girl, Boy Recreates Girl Out of Brain Information of Alien Computer the Size of the Great Attractor?” or Roboto and Juliet? The Montague company will not release the special “adults only” command code allowing Roboto to marry a Capulet, and so he dies, the girl dies, everybody dies.

Set the same story on a burning hot Jupiter planet, and make up a reason why a colony could be there, how the culture and society would be changed by the high-gravity, absurd-heat, high-revolution environment, add a space princess, and a clean-limbed fighting man from Virginia, and you’re off!

If you cannot get some local color, or a memorable piece of cover art, out of a supergiant planet with an atmosphere of molten metal and rock vapor, you’re not trying hard enough.

Love stories have been written before? Robot love stories have been written before? Yes, I know Tanith Lee wrote SILVER METAL LOVER and that Lester del Ray wrote HELEN O’ LOY. 

Everything has been written before, young fanbloke! Nothing has been written the way you would write it.