Thoughts (and occasionally fuming) about the state of science, fiction, and science fiction.
by author and technologist Edward M. Lerner
Monday, February 13, 2017
This (maybe) is how the world ends ...
SF writers enjoy wreaking (fictitious!) mass destruction, and I'm no exception. In Dark Secret, for example, I pretty much sterilized the solar system with a gamma ray burst. (That's not a spoiler ... you find this out early in the novel. The story is all about what comes after the discovery of that imminent danger.)(*)
(*) I know what you're thinking: gamma rays travel at light speed -- because they are (high-frequency) light. If the arrival of gamma rays is the first you know about a GRB in the galactic neighborhood? Well, you're toast. That said, one of the mechanisms that can produce a GRB emits "I'm going to blow" indications before the actual blast (warnings which you won't detect without a gravitational-wave observatory, such as, but more sensitive than, LIGO).
How else, at a global or grander level, might things go Really Bad? I haven't done a death-by-asteroid novel (yet), but rocks from the sky are popular among my peers. (Though not so much with dinosaurs. Just sayin'.) A recent study suggests that asteroids may pose a bigger risk to us homo saps than formerly supposed. See "Fresh craters point to constant 'churning' of moon's surface." The takeaway: More than 200 new craters popped up on the moon over the past seven years – a third more than expected.
Planet Nine (if it exists -- though the inferential support is looking better and better) is way out there: well beyond Pluto. It might not seem likely that an object so remote, even one (inferentially) several times more massive than Earth, could gravitationally disrupt Earth's orbit. But if Planet Nine disrupts, say, Neptune, and Neptune disrupts Uranus, and ... who knows? A plot possibility, to be sure -- just not a near-future story line.
Here's an interesting end-of-everything possibility that caught my eye (and fancy): "Vacuum decay: the ultimate catastrophe." Perhaps that's because the engineer in me appreciates efficiency, and: Of all the ways the Universe might die, vacuum decay is the most efficient.
Is "decay" not dramatic-sounding enough for you? Then consider: Vacuum decay is the ultimate ecological catastrophe ... not only is life as we know it impossible, so is chemistry.
Alas, a universe suddenly rendered devoid of life, and even of chemistry, seems rather plot-limiting. Perhaps I should take that on as a challenge -- while I can.
If you're into cosmic apocalypses, there are many more possibilities. I highly recommend Death from the Skies!: The Science Behind the End of the World, by astronomer Phil Plait. (Do not judge this book by its cover. Man, that's hideous.)
As in ... I did not see this coming. A bit over a month ago, I was delighted to discover (see A(n inter)stellar start to the day ) that m...
“When the artificial intelligences ... go maverick, they turn out to be the true weapons of mass destruction. A fast, fun read.” — Sci Fi Weekly
"Suspense and action enough to fuel any thriller, and even to drive it to the big screen." —SFrevu
InterstellarNet: Enigma (I-Net #3)
"One of the most rewarding SF reading experiences anyone could ask for, on both an intellectual and emotional level." — Tangent Online
InterstellarNet: New Order (I-Net #2)
“A twisted plot complete with conspiracies, alien psychology, antimatter physics neep, AI spies, and plenty of shooting action at the end.” — Internet Review of Science Fiction
InterstellarNet: Origins (I-Net #1)
"One of the most original, believable, thoroughly thought-out, and utterly fascinating visions ever of what interstellar contact might really be like." — Stanley Schmidt, editor of Analog
Fate of Worlds (FOW #5)
“Brings to a stunning close a multivolume saga that has captured the imaginations of a multitude of readers … a story that will attract attention from series fans as well as readers of hard sf.” — Library Journal
Betrayer of Worlds (FOW #4)
“Rescues, captures, kidnappings, reluctant temporary alliances, backdoor negotiations, propaganda campaigns, bluffs and double-bluffs, alien and cross-species politics, and, of course, betrayals. Lots of betrayals ... One hopes that Niven and Lerner come up with some additional twists and turns.” —Locus
Destroyer of Worlds (FoW #3)
"Combines sparkling wit and 'old school' hard sf with masterly storytelling and cosmic vision ... enjoy the return of good, old-fashioned sf, packed with ideas, philosophical musings, and plenty of space action." —Library Journal
Juggler of Worlds (FoW #2)
“A snazzy thriller/mystery that keeps us (and our hero) guessing until the very end ... Wide screen galactic scope, nifty super-science, crafty aliens, corporate corruption and cover ups, and a multi-leveled spy vs. spy vs. spy mystery with little being as it first appears make Juggler of Worlds a first class exemplar of pure SF entertainment.” —SFsite
Fleet of Worlds (FoW #1)
" ... Needs recommending within the science fiction community about as much as a new Harry Potter novel does – well, anywhere." —Locus
A Time Foreclosed
"A nice little foray into the paradoxes of time travel" — SFRevu
"... A fast-paced, hold-on-to-the-edge-of-your-seat thriller" — Illinois Quarterly
"A taut near-future thriller about an energy-starved Earth held hostage by a power-mad international cartel … Lerner’s vision of the future is both topical and possible in this crisp, fast-paced hard SF adventure.” —Publishers Weekly
“Moonstruck is not just another alien invasion novel, but truly an original performance." — Science Fiction Book Club
Frontiers of Space, Time, and Thought
"If you only read one Hard SF book this year, make it this one. You won’t regret it." — Tangent Online
ARMAGEDDON / PARADISE -- two books in one
"A romp through time and history ... an intriguing selection." — Bookloons
"For its compelling vision of what could be, you will want take more than a glimpse of Creative Destruction.” — Fast Forward: Contemporary Science Fiction
I'm a physicist and computer scientist (and an MBA, of less relevance to most of these posts). After thirty years in industry, as everything from individual technical contributor to senior vice president, I now write full-time. Mostly I write science fiction and techno-thrillers, now and again throwing in a straight science or technology article.