How Science Journalism Helped Me Become a Better Sci-Fi Writer

Howdy all. I hope our readers don’t thoughts that I’m taking a little bit of a diversion right here as we speak to interact in a little shameless self-promotion. Principally, I needed to speak about my recently-published novel – The Jovian Manifesto. This guide is the sequel to The Cronian Incident, which was revealed final yr (and was a little  shamelessly promoted on the time).

Nevertheless, I additionally needed to take this chance to speak about arduous science fiction and the way writing for a science publication helped me develop as a author. By definition, exhausting sci-fi refers to tales the place scientific accuracy is emphasised. This primarily signifies that the know-how within the story conforms to established science and/or what’s believed to be possible sooner or later.

So once I got down to write The Cronian Incident, I needed it to be as sensible as potential, each when it comes to know-how and setting. Most of the concepts I got here up with, and far of the fabric I drew from, was impressed from my work right here at Universe Immediately. Since I joined the group in 2010 and have become a common member in 2014, I’ve had the prospect to write down about space-related information, in addition to thrilling analysis and scientific breakthroughs.

MESSENGER picture of Mercury from its third flyby. Credit score: NASA/Johns Hopkins College Utilized Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Establishment of Washington

From the start, I felt that what I used to be writing about was inspiring me in my different main pursuit, which was to turn out to be a sci-fi writer (one thing I had been pursuing for years). The truth is, it was an article that I had simply completed writing for our Information to Area (The Planet Mercury) that impressed your complete collection. After writing it, I started speaking to a good friend about how people might make a go of life on Mercury, offered that they had the appropriate know-how and adopted correct precautions.

Principally, I stated, Mercury could be very metal-rich and near the Solar, which might make it an ample supply of minerals and power for our future selves. The one drawback is that miners must stay on the darkish aspect of the planet to keep away from being incinerated. However since Mercury has a spin-orbit resonance of three:2 – the place it completes three rotations on its axis for each two orbits across the Solar – a single photo voltaic day works out to about 176 Earth days.

That signifies that so long as they stayed well-ahead of the terminator (the road between the day-side and the night-side) miners would have a lot of time to tug ore out of Mercury with out being cooked of their area fits! In the meantime, I argued, everlasting bases might be inbuilt Mercury’s cratered polar areas, that are completely shaded and have ample provides of water ice in them.

View of Mercury’s north pole. based mostly on MESSENGER probe knowledge, displaying polar deposits of water ice. Credit score: NASA/Johns Hopkins College Utilized Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Establishment of Washington/Nationwide Astronomy and Ionosphere Middle, Arecibo Observatory.

Inside a few of the bigger craters – comparable to Prokofiev, Kandinsky, Tolkien and Trggvadottir – bases could possibly be constructed the place miners would keep between work shifts. Water and constructing supplies could possibly be harvested in-situ, and photo voltaic arrays positioned across the edges of the craters might collect all of the electrical energy they wanted. With the suitable know-how, a few of this might even be beamed off-planet to Venus, Earth and Mars.

My pal then indicated that it will be very onerous to get individuals to need to stay and work on Mercury, to which I recommended that maybe solely convict laborers would ever be despatched there. That set off the sunshine in my head, and earlier than lengthy, a a lot bigger concept started to take form. I didn’t simply need to speak about Mercury and miners, however how we’d go about colonizing the Moon, Mars, Venus, and past.

I additionally needed to do a story that explored the explanations for why humanity turned a multi-planetary species. That is an more and more related concern, thanks in no small half to many high-profile people who need to see a everlasting human presence established on the Moon and/or Mars on this century. These embrace Elon Musk, Buzz Aldrin, Robert Zubrin, James Lovelock, and the late and nice Stephen Hawking.

Artist’s idea for a attainable colony on Mars. Credit score: Ville Ericsson

Right here too, I’ve had the privilege of reporting on what these plans are and the way they’ve taken form over the previous years. I’ve additionally discovered a nice deal concerning the historical past of proposals to colonize the Moon, Mars, and different our bodies within the Photo voltaic System. Whereas numerous works of fiction helped me find out how authors have addressed these proposals up to now (corresponding to Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Kim Stanley Robinson, et al.) there was additionally the theoretical work of scientists like Carl Sagan, James Lovelock, Freeman Dyson, Geoffrey A. Landis and others to attract upon.

Taking a look at this from a modern angle, I went with the concept the primary drivers behind off-world settlement will Local weather Change and the accelerating tempo of change caused by the Technological Singularity (each of that are anticipated to culminate across the center of this century). I additionally needed to discover the long-term concept of terraforming, which was impressed by the Full Information to Terraforming collection I used to be writing on the time.

That is the place the onerous a part of exhausting science fiction got here into play. In writing about colonies on Mercury, Venus, the Moon, Mars, and the moons of Jupiter and Saturn (the Jovians and Cronians), I did my greatest to explain the settings based mostly on what is definitely recognized about these our bodies. As for a way individuals would reside on them, that too wanted to be dictated by what we find out about their environments and floor circumstances.

Artist’s impression of SpaceX’s proposed Mars Base Alpha. Credit score: SpaceX

It was a lucky coincidence that my day job occurs to incorporate writing about these very issues. That means, when it got here time to explain what it was like strolling round on the floor of Mercury or Titan, or describing how Martian settlers lived on the planet over time, I had one thing strong to attract upon.

Briefly, The Cronian Incident owes its existence to my work right here. It additionally owes its existence to Castrum Press, who revealed the e-book after the 18 months it took for me to write down it (in the summertime of 2017). It’s sequel, The Jovian Manifesto, was revealed a few months in the past, and I plan to complete the collection off with a third installment titled The Frost Line Fracture (which ought to be accomplished someday in 2019).

Thus far, the evaluations for the primary two books have been fairly encouraging. Of The Cronian Incident, Professor Abraham Loeb himself – the Frank B. Baird Jr. Professor of Science and the Chair of the Astronomy Division at Harvard College – stated that it was “An exciting science fiction adventure into the technological future. An exhilarating read for scientists and fiction lovers alike.”

Artist’s impression of a attainable lunar base. Credit score: NASA/Pat Rawlings

Numerous reviewers who posted on Amazon have additionally had encouraging issues to say:

“This was probably the greatest science fiction novels I’ve learn in a while. Its universe is huge in scope, its plot filled with intrigue, its characters delightfully properly rounded with simply the right combination of flaws and strengths.“

“This story was a good read that sucked me in and kept me wondering. I particularly enjoyed the world building aspects, and the overarching storyline which is clearly going to continue in the next book.”

“I really like how the action is taking place on various planets/moons of the solar system, and am eagerly waiting for further installments of the story.”

“Mr. Williams delivers an exciting tale in this story. It was a very enjoyable read and I’m looking forward to seeing more from him.”

“The Cronian Incident (The Formist Series) (Volume 1) by Matthew Williams is a slow-paced, contemplative science fiction story that fans of The Expanse will really enjoy.”

The sequel, The Jovian Manifesto, has additionally been well-reviewed:

“I don’t think I’ve been so involved in a science fiction series since I read the Honor Harrington books by David Weber. I snapped up a copy of The Jovian Manifesto as soon as possible, having immensely enjoyed The Cronian Incident when it first came out.”

“It’s much faster paced than its predecessor and features some pretty awesome action scenes interspersed into a story involving a conspiracy and a plot to counter the conspiracy. There were also some great twists along the way, which I won’t give away here, and I really enjoyed the characters, who were diverse and well-developed.”

The Cronian Incident by Matt Williams. Credit score: Castrum Press

Up to now, the settings have included a penal colony on Mercury, the floating cities of Venus, domed cities on Mars, a Martian area elevator, round enclosures on Callisto, honeycombed settlements on Ganymede, settlements inside the ice of Europa, and spartan domes on Titan. However earlier than the collection is full, I hope to incorporate descriptions of what life is like on Earth, the Moon, and within the Asteroid Belt sooner or later.

Past that, I additionally need to get into writing about interstellar journey, since that may give me a probability to discover the ideas and concepts we coated in our article, “How Long Would it Take to Get to the Nearest Star?” And, if all goes properly, I want to write concerning the biggest science fiction draw of all. You understand what I’m speaking about – Aliens! No spoilers, however that story arc might contain an concept launched to me by Professor Abraham Loeb himself – hypervelocity stars that may carry their planets alongside for the experience!

However that’s all stuff for an additional day and one other dialogue. Within the meantime, I hope individuals right here will take a look at this collection and luxuriate in what I wrote. If not, nicely that’s positive too. Along with maintaining with the newest in area exploration and scientific analysis,  trustworthy suggestions is the one means I’ll proceed to develop as a author.