It’s been interesting to read some of the reader comments (‘reviews’) of my novella ‘Missionary’, which was published in the first volume of the Endless Worlds anthology series last year.
I deliberately wrote it as a homage to dieselpunk – specifically, 1950s atomic-age dieselpunk of the kind written by Heinlein and Clarke. The starship had two different sorts of atomic motors (nuclear-fluorescent and nuclear-thermal), and a third (Zubrin’s uranium tetrabromide system) was referenced. The fact of these being ‘nuclear’ raised no eyebrows among the crew.
The ship itself was a classic modules-on-a-girder design of the sort being considered then – and which hasn’t actually been superseded. The International Space Station is exactly this kind of construction, minus the motors.
Of course this was simply backdrop to a story in which the starship was attacked by a dark alien force and the lead character, a fallen alcoholic minister, had to somehow find strength to do what had to be done to rescue the surviving crew, and so redeem himself. All of it was set up with proper physics and realistic engineering where the only real hand-waving involved the computer AI and the way the star drive worked.
My beta-readers loved it. Out in the wider world? Some reviewers raved, noting the way I was effectively commenting on human arrogance. But others didn’t – and based on their comments, I suspect they didn’t ‘get’ what I was trying to do. Modern sci-fi certainly doesn’t take the same approach – it’s more personalised and (I think) zombified.
One reader thought it was boring. Others thought it was gripping and exciting. I suppose it’s like the difference between the space battle described in Arthur C.Clarke’s Earthlight – which is the only space battle description I’ve read that follows proper physics (he made one probably deliberate error/handwave) – and the fantasy whimsy of Star Wars. No question that the latter is visually far more appealing. It’s just….not science.
It takes all sorts, of course. There are stories that don’t appeal to me, either. And there are others that do.
Want to know more? Check it out for yourself.
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2016