Six things you didn’t know about my novella ‘Missionary’

My novella ‘Missionary’ was released a few weeks back in paperback, following the Kindle-only advance release last year. It’s part of a seven-story anthology – Endless Worlds Vol. 1 – by Endless Worlds Publications, a Brisbane-based publisher.

Star Witch no tanks
The “Star Witch” sans fuel tanks, orbiting the alien slime world HD 45364c. This picture is a bit skewed – in the story the ship orbits stern-first to put the drive module and radiation shield between the hab module and any debris. But hey… art…
What's this about? Click to discover...
What’s this about? Click to discover…

My novella is about ordinary people finding the strength in themselves to do extraordinary things. On a spaceship. Above an alien slime world. It’s also my tongue-in-cheek homage to dieselpunk – I tried to get as much ‘1950s atomic’ thinking into it as possible, all the while inverting that social context into current ways. I mean, isn’t that what sci-fi is always about?

Go on – you know you want to read it!

Here are five things you didn’t know about it.

  1. People 1. My main character, Cam Suttler – an alcoholic minister who doesn’t really believe and is dogged by his personal failings – is based on a real person. No, not me.
  2. People 2. I deliberately didn’t describe the look of any characters. However, the publisher commissioned an artist to draw my main character and I had to come up with something…fast… The artist exactly captured my concept despite my vague sentences describing Suttler in words. The drawing, which is totally awesome, now represents the way I envisage him. Which in turn suggests ideas for a sequel… And how cool is that?
  3. Suttler_MissionaryScene setting and stupid geekery. I don’t say in the novella, but the story is set around a real planet – HD 45364c,  one of two Saturn-type worlds found orbiting the star HD 45364 – which is 107 light years away and has a magnitude of 8.07, which is below naked-eye visibility, although it can be seen with binoculars or a small telescope pointed at the constellation of Canis Major. It’s a G8V class star, making it similar to the Sun (a G2) but a tad cooler – an ‘orange dwarf’, whereas the Sun is a ‘yellow dwarf’. The planets were discovered in August 2008 through the HARPS programme. They’re in 3:2 orbital resonance (like Neptune and Pluto), but close to their star. The outermost one is inside the ‘habitable zone’, and the coolest thing for me is that at closest approach each is big enough to show as a distinct disc to the other, a bit like the Moon. I calculated the angular diameter of b, as seen from c (how my imaginary spaceship crew could see it) but lost the information when I saved over an early draft of the story and I have no idea where the piece of paper I did the maths on ended up. And no, I’m not going to redo it for this post…
  4. More stupid geekery. Thanks to Sir Isaac Newton (1643-1727), the fact of HD 45364c’s orbital period gives us the mass, which is 0.659 Jupiter. That, in turn, means I could work out the orbital period of my spaceship. I did the maths…this is dieselpunk. And yes, Einstein’s General Relativity field equations do a more precise job, but that didn’t matter for my story. I postulated an orbit 365,000 km from planet centre (300,000 km from top of atmosphere), generating an orbital velocity of 15.1113 km/sec with a 1.75 Earth day orbital period. Escape velocity at that distance is 21.373 km/sec – and that’s crucial…you’ll see…We also know the temperature, which is Earthlike. This means the world has the same hydrogen-plus-stuff atmosphere as Jupiter or Saturn (including hydrogen sulphide, aka ‘silent but deadly’ fart smell) – but with water clouds. If you were inside the atmosphere, the sky would appear blue, like Earth’s, not because of the water clouds but thanks to Rayleigh scattering. Oh, and I worked out the angular diameter of the planet as seen from the starship’s orbit. That did survive to the version I sent to the publisher. Just saying.
  5. Yet more stupid geekery. Given the ‘1950s atomic’ homage, I wondered about portraying a ship fuelled with uranium tetrabromide, Zubrin-style, but I couldn’t figure out how it would work in a practical motor without a lot of hand-waving, and I had enough of that in my postulated star-drive. Don’t ask… well, do, in the comments. Must admit, Stanislaw Lem similarly hand-waved propellant problems with diborane in The Invincible.
  6. I never finish anything until after the technology’s died. The story began life wa-a-a-a-a-y back, typed out on my iPAQ PDA. Compaq’s last invention before HP took them over. It went to the Great Computer In The Sky in 2013 after a long and fruitful life. But I didn’t re-write and finish the story (conveniently backed up) until 2015.

EW Vol I Cover 2 450 px‘Missionary’ – along with six other stories by six other authors – is available on Kindle or in paperback through Amazon- click on the cover or the links to check it out.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2016