Sunday, September 20, 2009

Science Fiction and Missing Bits

Watching The Empire Strikes Back on Spike, right now, thinking about other Sci-Fi shows. One thing I sometimes find interesting is what can happen when you take something out of the standard sci-fi setting. I'd like to hear some thoughts about the topic. Here are some of mine:

1. When I was young, and managed to catch a few episodes of Babylon 5, tension was often added when this Trek fan realized they couldn't simply beam people out in the nick of time.

2. Didn't watch the show, but in a note on TV Tropes, I heard that Andromeda didn't have FTL communications to go with their FTL travel. As a result, they had to use couriers in small ships to send messages over long distances. Might be interesting to have a show about such a courier.

3. It might be interesting to some effort at realistic space combat, since I've been exposed to everyone turning it into a metaphor for air and/or sea combat.


Professor Preposterous said...

Realistically, I think air combat is a better metaphor for space battles, but even there there are certain...problems.

3 degrees of freedom plus inertia are the big rules here. Outmanuver your opponent, sense them from afar, and fire an undodgable barrage before they see it coming.

I imagine that range would increase rapidly to the point of all battles being conducted by sensor, which would be really boring for a cinema.

Brian York said...

It would be remiss of me to read about the possibilities of realistic space travel without pointing out what is perhaps the best single-stop resource for such things: Atomic Rockets.. Although sadly, it doesn't do much to dispel the consensus that near-term future space battles would generally be boring. (Disclaimer -- I know the principal author, and it's possible that I'm quoted somewhere in that website).

Another excellent place to go for such discussions is Rocketpunk Manifesto (again, a disclaimer that I know the author, and am occasionally involved in the comments).

(Final disclaimer: both of these websites, and especially Atomic Rockets, have been classified as Grade 3 Time Sinks by the Internet Regulatory Council.)

Dark Jaguar said...

By sensor as boring eh? I've seen enough submarine scenes in movies to know that with the right direction and mood such a battle can be very tensely done.

Dweller in Darkness said...


Some of the best space action I've seen was in Firefly. The TV show, not the movie, which went for the straight-up space battle a la The Battle Over Britain, although in their case they had the excuse that the enemy were literally insane and they were an ionic cloud or somesuch that would make long-distance combat impossible.

On the show, space fighting was rare, slow and nerve-wracking.

James K said...

Dark Jaguar:
The distance isn't the only problem. There's no way to hide in space, with current technology manoeuvring thrusters and even radiated heat from life support are visible from the best part of an AU away, and masking the emissions is physically impossible.

Not only that but without defensive technologies that are essentially magic under our current understanding of physics most weapons would be one-hit kill. As soon as you fail to dodge, you die.

Pile on top of that the fact that there'd be no feasible role whatever for humans in space combat and it gets hard to figure out how you'd make it both realistic and exiting.

It would be pretty awesome if you succeeded though.

Valhar2000 said...

Given the enormous range that space weapons would likely have, lessons learned from ocean combat might come in handy.

Since the largest warships ended having some of the largest cannons ever made, with ranges of tens of kilometers, ocean battles got to the point where most of the crew could not see the ship they were firing on. It was all about figuring out where the enemey ship was, and where they needed to fire the next shell in order to hit it.

Barages of bullets and misiles, though proven effective in earthly combat, would be of little use in space, since such an enomous volume would have to be covered by them that enemy ships could easily fly in between them (though heat-seeker rockets might be good here).

Figuring out realistic space combat would incolve a lot of knowledge of earthly combat and much creativity, it seems; little chance of ever seeing it on TV.