Wednesday, 8 November 2017

The Technology Of Lost Solace


I thought I'd do some blog posts about Lost Solace. It goes without saying that it will make more sense, and avoid spoilers, if you have read the book first! This one is about some of the terms used, and the technologies that appear in Lost Solace. I'll include quotes from the book where relevant.

Some Acronyms That Aren't Explained In The Book

HUD = Head-up display
IFF = Identification friend or foe
EMP = Electromagnetic pulse

I took the risk that readers would accept Opal using military jargon without comment (since it would be weird for a soldier to spell it out). Some of it is just flavour, and for other terms the context and repeated uses should make it clear.

Futuristic Technology That Is Real

The probes launched. Small cubes as they sped towards the hulk, but extending flexible silver spines from the corners as they impacted with the hull. Each probe showed up as a dot on the Lost Ship’s overlay which was permanently displayed on half of the screen. They mobilised and spread out evenly over the surface in small bounds.
The "Hedgehogs" used for scanning the Lost Ship are a real tech designed for microgravity. Read more about them here. I've not heard of them being used offensively, as happens in Lost Solace.

“Thank you. So, how’ve you been?”
“I have been functional. Minor impacts during travel, but the subdermal gel hardened immediately at each puncture point with no loss of efficiency.”

"I can self-repair to a degree with substrata hard-gel, similar to the ship’s hull, but with each repair the overall integrity weakens. And it is not so easy to repair soft components.”
“You mean my body?”
“Yes."
You've guessed it, the gel is real too. In the novel it is used both in Clarissa's hull, and in the warsuit. It's often referred to as self-healing material.

It felt good as she scrubbed down, her pores opening up, the final bits of sleep and unreality washing away with the sweat. She knew it would all be recycled for later. Everything would be, on a ship like this. Urine would provide pure water and nitrogen, with the nitrogen in turn used to fuel bio-engineered algae and yeasts; even her breath would be filtered and changed, with carbon extracted as another fuel for the bioconverters, which in turn could produce lipids and polymers. There was a lot more going on below that level, but she suspected asking Clarissa about it would just lead to brain ache.
Waste conversion is going to be a vital part of reducing the need for resources; in this case, NASA is interested because of the impact on space travel.

Military Spaceships

Often sci-fi writers adopt naval terminology and conventions when talking about military spaceships. There's a great article On the Taxonomy of Spaceships that taught me a lot. Hence we have two Hammer-class corvettes, backed up by a Scythe-class cruiser. The classes are fictional.

Since I love issues of grammar, here's something else I had to research: use of "The" in ship names. There was useful guidance here, here and here. Hart's Rules covered use of italics. Hence it is acceptable to say:

aboard the Aurikaa
aboard UFS Aurikaa

but NOT

aboard the UFS Aurikaa
aboard Aurikaa
aboard The Aurikaa

(UFS = United Federation of Sectors)

The long-distance ships travel via rule-breaking Nullspace (sometimes referred to as the Null). Realspace is the opposite - the normal physics and world we know. A Null-C warp drive is the latest development for travelling through the Null. It is a reliable method for crossing vast distances, apart from very rare cases where ships disappear without explanation - but since that may only affect one journey in billions, it is seen as an insignificant risk.

Government

Not actually technology, but since I mentioned the UFS it may be of interest to explain the fictional Government and command structure of Opal's world.

At the lowest level there are regional interplanetary conglomerates (Opal and sister were made wards of one). They may be as small as a single solar system. A number of these make up a Sector, which will have its own Sector Government.

UFS Central Authority (or UFS Central) is the main central government, made up of all the sectors - or rather, those that aren't rebelling at the time. UFS stands for United Federation of Sectors. "United" may not always be true. UFS Central is the very top of the administrative pyramid of all human societies. Think of Rome's role in the Roman Empire.

If UFS Central is the brain, then Military Command (colloquially known as Mil-Com) is the body - or, more accurately, the military arm of the Government. It has a lot of autonomy because UFS Central came about due to a military coup, something that is downplayed in patriotic literature (in the same way that many of today's Western governments on Earth were formed by civil wars, disenfranchisement and killing of native populations, land stealing, rebellion, acts of terror, overthrow of existing regimes and so on). Some branches of Mil-Com are also transferred to Sector Government command, but only for Sector Governments favoured and trusted by USF Central.

Enough background for now!

You don't need to know any of this, but I always find the details fascinating. If there's anything in the book you'd like to know more about, feel free to ask in the comments and I'll do my best to answer!

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