I'm going to let Bryant introduce this one...
You might wonder why I'm asking you to spend so much time on this. Well, if you look at the most common weaknesses in fantasy and science fiction, you'll find that people dislike unbelievability. Now, a spec fiction audience will believe a lot. They're willing to believe in dragons, elves, magic, faster-than-light travel, ansibles, warp drive, transporters, holodecks, teleportation, ghosts, werewolves, vampires, and even God, for the purposes of enjoying the story.
But as soon as the rules are broken-- as soon as people stop acting like people, or the warp drive only works when the hero needs to shorten the time spent traveling to the Bad Guy's hideout, but fails once he needs to make a getaway-- as soon as something inconsistent happens in your story, you lose your reader. They'll stop reading, or at the very least they'll stop believing, and that is death to your story.Makes sense. Which brings us to today's task:
What are the limits of your speculative element? What's the trade-off for using it? Magic usually comes at a cost-- what is that cost? If there's no cost, then what's the trade-off? What keeps it from being used all the time, for everything, or is it used that much after all? What keeps people from spending every hour in the holodeck? Why would anyone bother to learn to pilot a ship when there are transporters? Can your vampires go outside in daylight, or are they strictly limited to the dark?
Write down your rules, specifically focusing on what's impossible, and what should be established as unstable early, so when it fails conveniently in your novel, it won't be out of place or throw your reader out of the story. Establish the limits and boundaries of your spec element today.Aright, so let's go over the limits of the Jump Gate:
- The Jump Gate has to be big enough for the ship to pass through it completely. This limits ship design dimensions that intent to use a Jump Gate rather than their own jump drive.
- Jump Gates require a massive amount of energy; each jump gate has a series of reactors as well as several back up reactors in case one fails.
- Powering up a jump gate takes several minutes for the reactor to build energy and momentum to create the jump field within the gate ring.
- Jump gates can remain open for some time, allowing several ships to pass through to one destination. To change destinations, or after 10-15 minutes, the gate must power down, re-orient itself to a new target point, and power up.
- Jump gates can only reach a certain number of points in nearby systems, where gravity fields are low enough to create an arrival point.
- Once a ship starts passing through the gate; it has to complete the jump. In the rare instance a jump gate destabilizes while sending a ship through, the ship has almost always been annihilated (scattered across space near the jump gate and at the arrival point)
- You cannot jump into orbit near a planet, nor into the atmosphere of a planet. Gravity distorts the arrival point and the ship is destroyed (like an egg hitting the windshield of an oncoming car)
- Attempting to jump to a point farther than possible will result in the ship emerging from fold-space along the vector of the jump. Quite probably in the middle of nowhere. How far a ship makes it to the intended target point will depend on the mass of the ship (the higher the mass, generally, the farther it will get)
Now, how are jump-drives different:
- Jump drives are a lot riskier to use, as the ship can generally only have enough reactors to power the jump drive with few or no back-ups. If a reactor fails, the ship is stuck.
- Jump ships can generally get a lot close to a planet than a ship sent through a jump gate; because the jump ship is able to stabilize it's jump field throughout the jump. The jump field can cancel more gravitational effects at the arrival point, but it's still very risky to do so. Ships can become damaged by a miscalculation at the intended arrival point.
- A ship cannot, or at least should not, power up it's jump drive while attempting to use a jump gate; the two fields create a dissonance that will destroy each other (and possibly cause a quantum singularity).
- To use a jump drive, emitters are extended from the ship's hull to create the jump field the ship will pass through. These emitters are usually well armored, but are vulnerable to attack. Destroy enough of them and the jump field will collapse with possible catastrophic results for the ship attempting to jump (see "Once a ship starts passing through a gate.." above)
Aright, time to work on tomorrow's post; Mood II.