Kim Stanley Robinson
Kim Stanley Robinson lives in Davis, California. His latest Book, 2312, won the 2012 Nebula for Best Novel
Many problems in travel around the solar system were solved when asteroids were adapted to the task. Thousands of ovoid asteroids were hollowed out so that their insides were empty cylinders, and then they were set spinning on their long axes to create a gravity effect inside. Crews and passengers live at one g, well protected from cosmic radiation, and move in orbits around the solar system like giant ocean liners. They never slow down, and catching up to one in a little ferry can be a crushing experience, as your reporter recently learned.
Each asteroid contains a particular biome, filled with the plants and animals from particular landscapes back on Earth. Some are more aquarium than terrarium. If species have been mixed to make a mongrel biome, as has happened on Earth since the first living creatures migrated from one ecosystem to another, the result is called an Ascension, after Ascension Island in the South Atlantic. The island was bare rock until HMS Beagle landed there, and Darwin himself planted a variety of plants which have since prospered.
By a nice coincidence, your reporter's recent voyage was on the Wegener, an Ascension asteroid composed of plants and animals from West Africa and eastern Brazil. It is a beautiful space, highly recommended, but all the terraria are gorgeous in their own ways—in effect, floating works of landscape art.
Take a trip on one and see!
Elizabeth Bear has written nearly 100 short stories and more than 20 novels, of which the most recent is Shattered Pillars.
The repair completed, I pause in the web of lines connecting the rotating habitat of the Kalpana Chawla to the vast, filmy glory of its solar sail and imagine the space ahead. My patch is all but invisible; a job well done. Drones carry out much of this work, but some is better—well, easier—done by human hands.
When I pass through the air lock and unseal after my space walk, I notice the smell. Space has a distinct and pleasing scent. I can't detect it when I'm outside—I'm sealed in, and the vacuum is sealed out. But when I reenter, there it is, clinging to the skin of my suit. A hot, metallic reek—earlier astronauts, who had been on planets and eaten meat, called it "steaky"—lies over the familiar laboratory-machine shop-kitchen-locker-room smells of the habitat.
I rack my suit. The lock is coded to my DNA. It's a proof against vandalism, not theft. Suits are tailored to each member of the bioengineered crew, and my suit—manufactured for someone with a prehensile tail and a hand on each limb—wouldn't be much use to a swimmer or a spider. But some of the younger crew members, born in space, are disaffected with the idea of generations spent traveling to a destination they will never see. Some want to turn back. Others want to become fully adapted to space and give up entirely on living at the bottom of gravity wells.
I can see their point; I have a hard time imagining giving up this infinite voyage for the limits of the shore.
This was a great post. Really loved some of those photos too. Canadian author Bennett R. Coles paints a fascinating and daunting image of the future in his writing. He writes sci fi military fiction and you can easily draw a lot of comparisons between his stories and todays wars. His latest novel 'Casualties of War' paints a picture of a how the veterans of future colony wars might deal with their homecoming to Earth.
"With a colonial rebellion put down, the veterans of Expeditionary Force 15 can return to Earth. But the welcome they may have expected isn’t waiting for them. The State is on a witch-hunt for someone to blame for the recent war. The Astral Force has placed incompetents in charge of developing a new super-weapon. Families and friends have no concept of what happened amongst the stars. And subtle forces from the colonies are secretly at work. Finding themselves in a world that is in some ways just as hostile as the colonial battlegrounds, the veterans must hold close to each other amongst the chaos of a peace no-one thinks will hold, combatting enemies from without and, most of all, from within."
My interlink node malfunctioned today for the first time, forcing me to leave my avatar floating helplessly in orbit around Phobos while the Narrbots (Nano Replicator and Repair Bots) are busy fixing my link. I hope its automated systems keep it safe. Being offnet is something most people never get to experience. I don't know how our ancestors remained sane with nothing to do but to think!
I use my own eyes to look out my incubator. That too is a first, and the world seems very surreal and lonely. My avatar's visual acuity is much greater than my real eyes. What a limited experience our ancestors must have lived. The real world looks dead compared to the vibrancy and life of the virtual world we all live in. I miss it very much already. I think when my link is re-established, the first thing I will do is land and walk in the Gardens of Eden.
I can't even tell how long I've been offnet! How did they keep time in the old days?
Oh good, my interlink is back! Boy, do I have a story to tell my friends!
Today's magic is tomorrow's technology.
Very beautiful picture I love such things it makes me feel much more rewarding. thank you.
http://www.kizi1.org | http://www.kizi4.info | http://www.yepi2.info
The post seems to be missing the review of the Ian McDonald book. Would love to have this digitally.