Writing, blender, and more

A lighthugger from Alastair Reynolds Revelation Space Universe. Artist unknown. Downloaded from Alastair Reynolds com

Since I’ve last posted, a lot has happened.  I’m now living in the countryside for one, and tranquility has been great for my creativity.

My setting now includes five major characters: Triumvar Jonas Lothfield, the captain (of sorts) of the eponymous starship and one of the protagonists  of  Freehauler Alcione, teenage Kamren Sortnoi-Valentinon and her friend Marcel Landin, the two protagonists of Mechacross, who are gifted a mech by a rogue military entertainment complex AI, Marcel’s older brother Perryn Landin, the main protagonist of The Universe is full of starving xenopaleontologists, and mechaneer and spacer girl Freedai Reynofar, who joins the crew of the Alcione.

The Alcione herself has had a makeover.  I wasn’t really satisfied with the old modular design.  It was too much a compromise between high realism hard SF (an actual hardSF spaceship would certainly be modular, but it would be much smaller, say 100 meters, and use some sort of torch or nuclear pulse propulsion (such as feature on the excellent Atomic Rockets site), and the more fantastical space fantasy type universes of Star Wars and Warhammer 40k.

I decided to scrap the modular design and make the ship a single integral vessel.   I wanted to keep the vertical skyscraper/tower design, but add various organic elements, and also mechanistic greebles (bits and pieces on the outside of a ship hull that have been an essential part of the “giant starship aesthetic” for 40 years, since Star Wars revolutionised the way space opera should look).

Because I wanted a huge ship, I also kept the reactionless drive, but reluctantly decided to get rid of the negative matter propulsion idea.  Despite its hard science credentials and originality it felt too fidgety from a practical tech reason (the amount of negmass would constantly have to be modulated to exactly counterbalance the ship’s positive mass) and, more important, a great big ball of negative matter chasing the ship would be counter-intuitive and not accommodating to space opera aesthetic

One thing I definitely wanted to retain was the tower design.  The whole artificial gravity perpendicular to the direction of motion thing is so contrived and derived on the need to rationalise human actors in a 1 gee environment (only Gravity breaks the mould) combined with the naval ships in space trope of Star Trek and Star Wars that it makes absolutely no sense in a worldbuilding and storytelling context.

The result is a vertical spaceship a mile high, in which gravity is generated by acceleration provided by a handwavium drive, and when the drive is switched off, e.g. when the ship is docked, the situation is one of weightlessness.

The nearest I can think of to this configuration is Alastair Reynolds Lighthugger, and of the artwork available, the one at the top of this page, with its massive construction and menacing sense of power is the closest to how I currently envisage the Freehauler Alcione (part freighter, part privateer), although it would likely present a somewhat less intimidating appearance, if only to encourage trade.

Indeed, my own worldbuilding could probably be described as Revelation Space meets Warhammer 40k Rogue Trader, with some  Heinlein Citizen of the Galaxy thrown in for good measure

As I want to create my own scifi representations, I’ve started learning Blender (a popular open source and free 3d modelling package), with an eye to making a 3d model of the Alcione, although I may have purchase a powerful graphics card, because of the computational demands on rendering an image.

It’s turned out to be a steep learning curve indeed, as Blender isn’t the most user friendly of programs (though for all I know the professional packages that cost thousands of dollars are just as hardlearn).

Originally I was going to attempt the interior as well, but with the complexity and time requirements it looks like an exterior view will be enough for now.



5 thoughts on “Writing, blender, and more”

  1. I agree… a constant 1g acceleration is one of easiest ways to get gravity. Something pop scifi ignores. Star trek ships can easily do this, but still insist on more gravitric technology instead of just relying on acceleration.

    1g acceleration is also one of the easiest understood forms of getting gravity. Requires less contrivance by you to get it to work.

    I decided with my own scifi work that if I won’t have EVERYTHING… but use certain things for each race, to balance them out.

    For example, a race with constant 1g acceleration won’t have gravity manipulation across a distance because that’s overpowered to me. Yet the race that could manipulate gravity across a distance would not have constant 1g acceleration.

    Realistically, any ship that can GENERATE it’s OWN gravity would be SUPER hard to turn or accelerate (since as far as we know black holes and lotsa mass is the best way to get gravity). Even if you could turn this ability on and off, the moment you turned it on, your ship would be consigned to coasting. The only way you’re turning a ship with gravity generators is with a photon drive (which is quite deadly, think laser beams that hit with the force blast of a NUKE or worse).

    At least the constant 1g acceleration is not as overpowered… unlesss put on missiles. Then it is. But not really…. depends on shields. Which is a whole nother level… of scifi stuff.

    1. Yes, all this depends on the hardness/plausibility of the setting, as well as the way that gravity is generated (whether by centrifugal habitat modules, constant acceleration/deceleration, mini-black hole, or some other means).

      A photon drive with the power of a nuke is equivalent to a torchship. Even a small torchship generates the equivalent of a tactical nuke every second

      1. I am essentially anti-rockets for main propulsion since they don’t fit the setting.

        One of the big mistakes I think scifi writers make is assuming the tech we use now will be the same tech that is suitable later. It’s no better than the pictures of flying winged vehicles the ancients made (flapping wings is not what we use today for our main air vehicles).

        Rockets have some major limitations.

        They require propellant. Which is not the same thing as fuel. Fuel is whatever heats up the propellant. In some cases your fuel and propellant can ALMOST be the same thing (metallic hydrogen, just heat it up and you’re good to go). The issue is eventually you’re gonna run out. You may only use a few miligrams of antimatter fuel, but you’re gonna be using a LOT more propellant, and your ship will be more fuel tank than typical scifi goodness starship that we need for our setting.

        While I used to care more about basing stuff on today’s understanding, nowadays I just do whatever fits my settings needs. And rockets don’t. So I invent where I need to, following rules of my own devising.

        1. Scifi writers assuming the tech we use now will be the same that will be used in the future – Totally agree. When I was a kid I watched the moon landings and Star Trek, and (when I was a few years older) read Heinlein, Asimov etc. Everyone thought by now there’d be colonies and bases on the moon and Mars, but no one predicted the smart phone or the internet.

          Whatever fits the setting’s needs – agreed, especially because any attempt at prediction will likely be wrong (future rust)

  2. This is a bit off subject perhaps, but I wish to discuss it. Aliens that aren’t like humans…. in mindset.

    Admittedly doing this is hard, so ST settles for aliens that not only look human but act human too (plus it’s hard to do an alien space chick if she don’t look human enough).

    But beyond all that I have still brainstormed this enough to know how you can make aliens ACT differently than humans would. This is important to me, because it means little to nothing to me if aliens look different but still ACT just like us.

    Here are options I have tried during brainstorming, only a few would I prefer to ever use:

    Animal modeling (would use): Any alien with animal mindset modeling would have a morality unlike humans. To an animal, it is wrong to hurt it or if it’s offspring/or it’s friends. It is not wrong to hurt others, so long they don’t fit in the former categories. Basically… animals don’t have a conscience. So any alien based off that mindset would act differently. I would also add to that that that animals don’t care about spirituality (God), unlike humans who have a history-long obsession with God (and or any intelligent beings more powerful than them… aliens… angels, you name it). So nether would such aliens like them.

    Modeling by toying with human emotions: If you negate or eliminate some human emotions all together I find what you get is either boring (ST Vulcans), or some scary race that is downright villanous by nature (get rid of sadness and it’s hard to get much other than ANGER everytime something upsets you, which isn’t a good thing). So I chose not to use this approach.

    Modeling by making them value one thing deeply: I find this to be my favorite, since it allows me to make something unique, while also not getting rid of the human traits that make aliens interesting in the first place. You can take ANY word, and make aliens value that, shape their entire culture around it. They may still act human, but with a value system shaped around what they value they WILL act differently.

    For an object example of this: Look at this thread:


    Page two has even more examples that show the tactic to make aliens shaped by values.

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