The Stone Soup Novelist

I have a great idea for a novel. You know what would make it even better?…

Category Archives: World-Building

Where in the galaxy is a good place to have an adventure?

In the story I’m writing, there are 2 planets, neither of them Earth, and a round trip between them takes about 5 years. Spaceships don’t have warp drives, just constant acceleration. Where in the Milky Way is a plausible location for my story? Or where else in our galaxy would you want to visit? What do you think the  night sky would be like there?


Serious Science Question: How do you blow up a space monster using 18th century technology?

So, in this scene from my novel, the heroes are attacked by a horrifying creature, and they’re limited to ~18th century levels of technology to deal with it. The monster floats in air by means of a hydrogen bladder; its metabolism breaks down water into hydrogen and oxygen. I’ve devised a spear that lets them pierce the creature’s skin and send a spark into its hydrogen bladder to blow it up. I figure there would be no oxygen inside the bladder though, so the weapon sends a spray of saltpeter (KNO3) to act as an oxidizer.

My question for any chemistry buffs out there: how far-fetched does this sound? Okay, okay, I realize the whole thing’s pretty-blinking far fetched, but I mean specifically the way I’m blowing up the monster? Is there some basic fact about the combustion of hydrogen that I don’t understand? Is there some easier way? If you have any ideas, please drop them in the Comments below. Thanks!

If I haven’t said it before, thanks to Michael P for the idea of deepstaria enigmatica as a model for an alien life-form, and to novelist Michael R Wilson for the image of a cloud bank stretching across the horizon like a wall.  Those two images together formed the nucleus of this scene.

The Light-Speed Barrier: It’s Hip

One of the first things that I decided when I sat down to write my own science fiction novel was that faster-than-light travel would be impossible. The book I’m writing isn’t “hard” science fiction, more planetary adventure, but the tropes used to get around the light speed barrier just seemed like magic wands to me, and I didn’t want to use them.

I became interested in having my characters traveling across the galaxy at near-light speed, and seeing civilizations rise and fall while they stayed more or less the same age (due to the time dilation effect). That gave rise to the notion of a galactic Government so vast that its bureaucrats take centuries to fly from one assignment to the next.

After a little thought and googling, however, I realized that even at ludicrous rates of acceleration – 5G, 10G – the subjective time for a trip across a significant portion of the galaxy could still take more than a human lifetime. More on this topic over at the World page.

So (here’s the funny part) I decided I would introduce some kind of suspended animation that allows the characters to “sleep” through the long journey in their starship. That is, of course, likely just as impossible as faster-than-light travel, for a whole host of reasons. It did not bother me one jot. I’m sure this says something about my psychology and nothing about science, but I’m glad to hear I’m not alone. Here’s an article on the trend toward obeying the light-speed barrier in SF.

Giant Man-Eating Jellyfish of the Air

Thanks to Michael P for the suggestion of deepstaria enigmatica as a real animal that should be an alien.  Over on the World page (choose The Story | World from the menu), it’s become a floating, carnivorous jellyfish that hides itself in clouds and attacks unwary air sailors. I’m picturing a desperate life-and-death struggle in the air somewhere in the third act.

(Note: I’ve come to the conclusion that my posts and post titles have been a little too understated up to now, so I’m unleashing my inner Stan Lee here.)

Finish this sentence: Society would just fall apart if…

I think my fictional world is in for some kind of crisis.  But what kind?

Who is someone you knew…

Who had an interesting belief system different from yours?

I want to take my readers to different, new places with different, new people.  Who are some different people you’ve met?

Finish this sentence: You know who I love to hear talk? People from…

I’ll have to start writing dialogue eventually.  Who are some good models of colorful talkers?

Thanks for the ideas

Thanks to Nate over at NC Pendergast at for cool geology ideas.  Iceland…Cloud Forests…a river with great green trees sprouting up like mushrooms.  This is helping me flesh out my vague idea of a cloudy planet of airships and 18th century technology.

What’s a really cool geological formation?

I need to imagine another planet.  What are some places with really interesting landscapes or geology to help me brainstorm?

What is some of the freakiest weather you’ve ever encountered?

I’m trying to imagine what weather might be like on another planet.  What’s the weirdest weather you’ve ever encountered on Earth?