Monday, January 6, 2014

Space Colonists

Last month, I wrote a short story for an anthology on another blog where ten of us started our stories with the same sentence: “This was the last place she expected to spend Christmas.” Don’t ask why (the Muse works in mysterious ways), but what popped into my mind was an image of a woman waking up on Christmas Eve after five years in cryosleep. She and her team had arrived at an alien planet—the first humans to colonize a planet beyond our solar system.

What did I know about cryosleep? We-ell, I’d seen Avatar and Oblivion. That had to count for something, right? For a short (7k words) story, I had to do a lot of research. And this was for a free short story! Thank goodness for Google.

Now my science fiction romances are heavy on adventure and rather light on science. Still, I became curious about what is known about cryosleep. On a five-year voyage, putting the crew to sleep makes sense. It would save on space, food, oxygen, and the crew’s mental health. Can you imagine living with five other people (the number in my story) in a small room with nothing to do (bor-ing), no showers (eww), freeze-dried food, and limited exercise for five years? What would it feel like to wake up after being a popsicle all that time?

Even though I put my story in the next century, I wanted some basis in existing knowledge. Theoretically, freezing a live person (or putting her into “hibernation”) then years later thawing her out successfully is possible. Just not yet. The freezing part is. Successfully thawing the person out, alive, with no cellular damage? Maybe in several years.

We haven’t even colonized beyond our own planet, so I needed to know how the characters in my story would go about colonizing any planet, let alone one out past our solar system. The Mars One Project supplied a lot of information about applicant selection, sending supplies ahead, habitats, and many considerations I hadn’t thought of.

Do you remember history class when we learned about the pioneers who left everything but what they could carry in a Conestoga Wagon and headed west? No applications to fill out, no selection process, no psychological testing, no training. Are things ever different for going into space! announced on December 31st, that out of over 200,000 applicants for Mars One, 1,058 made the first cut for the one-way trip in 2023.

After searching the Internet for answers, I got some ideas but more questions. That’s when my imagination took off. After having so much fun writing my short story, I thought why not expand it into a novella or even a full-length novel. After all, I’d done quite a bit of research, my imagination was in high gear, and my Muse hadn’t left for warmer climes. Then, in a serendipitous way while channel-surfing, I found The Science Channel running a series called “Mars Rising” about what it takes to get to Mars.

Was that a sign or what? Now I have to write that novella--in time for next Christmas. <g>

If I’ve piqued your interest a little bit, my short story called “Christmas in Space” was posted on The Roses of Prose blog on December 28 & 29.

Along with writing science fiction romance, Diane Burton writes romantic suspense. One Red Shoe, her first book published by The Wild Rose Press, will have its worldwide release Thursday, January 10th.

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