We’ve all heard the hypothesis that a Mercury sized planet hit Earth to create the moon billions of years ago. Now here’s the proof that it really happened.
There are implications from this. The collision made the Earth’s core more radioactive, which generated heat and a roiling iron core, which in turn created a magnetosphere, which in its own turn protected us from the Solar radiation, which in turn meant we could develop into a human society. Or putting it another way, without this collision, human civilisation as we know it would never have happened.
But there’s even more implications. It means that it is very much less likely that like, as we know, it will have developed elsewhere in the Universe. We could, as an intelligent species, really be alone. But even if that was not the case, the chances are that alien civilisation is far more sparse than we previously thought, therefore likely to be far more far apart distance-wise. That would make contact with aliens more difficult.
Science fiction has over the decades run the gamut of what and where we come into contact with intelligent alien species. But this piece of science has in effect indicated that a lot of the previously published science fiction is unrealistic.
Nothing wrong with that. We’ve been here before with faster than light travel, Mars having some atmosphere and life on the surface, and that the dark side of Mercury was the coldest place in the Solar System. These are all themes that are still accepted as science fiction if they were published before the discovery was made that they were wrong. Where stories that have the wrong science are published after the discovery was made, then people, quite rightly treat them more as fantasy.
So the scope of ‘real’ science fiction is continually narrowing.
Or is it?
Discoveries continue to be made. But a lot of these discoveries, like the one at the link, involve details when compared to the basic science discoveries in the previous centuries. What becomes headline news these days is if that detail proves something rather basic or fundamental.
But how does a science fiction pick out a detail like that and more it onto big implications in a story?
I was reviewing my stories this afternoon wondering what I should work on next. This ranged anything form just one-line ideas to a heavy editing session with mature-ish texts. This is when I noticed that all the basic premises for my stories were the detail leading to something big. You could say this is the butterfly effect of science fiction – the butterfly effect is based on the flap of butterfly’s wings in Brazil leading to a Hurricane in Caribbean saying.
But how do you identify such a starter as the flap of the butterfly’s wings?
In my case, it has often been by accident rather than deliberate planning. It’s more a case of keeping my eyes open for the opportunity and making a mental note of it when something passes by.
But sometimes I did go looking for it. Usually this involves having a large database to pull on and searching through. This is where the googles of this world has made things easier. They can do the searching for you. It would have taken me ages upon ages to find exactly the same fact in the old-fashioned libraries.
So I would say that the advent of the internet has changed what science fiction themes I write about in a very fundamental way.
Is this true of other science fiction writers?
Well, I can’t say I have seen any evidence to that effect. We are still following the old themes, even if they are mixed and matched more these days. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy the stories, but where are the new science fiction ideas?
Meanwhile, I’d better go and get some supper before I start hitting the keyboard again…