The Journal: All About SF

In today’s Journal

* Quote of the Day
* All About SF
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Quote of the Day

“A starting crew of just 98 people would be enough for a 6,300-year-long journey (travelling in a hypothetical spacecraft at speeds that are possible with current technology) to Proxima Centauri b…. [The crew would consist] of 49 unrelated breeding pairs, ready to pass on their genes. The population would only remain genetically diverse and healthy over time under certain conditions, so for example, the crew’s breeding would have to be monitored and restricted.” excerpted from the first item in “Of Interest”

Today’s post might be of greater interest to those interested in writing Science Fiction or Science Fantasy Fiction (SF or SFF). Though generally speaking, good writing is good writing and a good technique in one genre usually transfers flawlessly to others. Anyway, when I write in the genre, I’m writing SFF. I don’t know enough about physics to write a story that is both interesting and sticks to the rules.

There are different definitions of the two forms, but my definition is simple and useful: Science Fiction must adhere to the laws of physics as we know them, period. Science Fantasy Fiction has no such requirement. And this is another situation in which subgenre trumps everything else: if your story is SF and if it has even one fantastical element, it’s Science Fantasy.

But as is always the case, no matter how realistic or futuristic or fantastic the science, the story is never about the science itself. The story is about the characters’ reaction to the science.

For just one example, I took the excerpt in the quote of the day from the subject article because it seems to me chock full of intriguing story ideas.

I wrote my version (well, one of my versions) in the Future of Humanity (FOH) series, consisting of The Ark, The Journey Home 2-9, and Terra 2, the tenth novel in the series. But in my books, I didn’t address the problem indicated in the quote of the day. And it’s a very intriguing problem.

You could begin on Earth with the generation ship ready and in orbit awaiting its crew. What would the selection process be? Who selects the crew? Adhering to the notion in the quote of the day, how would the selectors absolutely ensure that none of those selected are related to each other? What might applicants do in an effort to be chosen or to sabotage another’s chances of being chosen? Etc. There’s a novel or two or three without even leaving Earth.

But once you DO leave Earth, and if the primary mission of the relatively small crew is to repopulate the species (as indicated in the quote of the day), you have only to establish the setting: a space ship on a journey that is intended to last through several generations. But after that, the story might go in any of several directions:

* How specifically (and by whom) is the crewmembers’ breeding “monitored and restricted”? Are there eunuchs aboard (presumably robotic to avoid having to feed another mouth) for that purpose? If there are robotic eunuchs aboard, are they maintained by humans? If so, might the humans attempt to manipulate them? Etc.

* Or perhaps the ship itself monitors and restricts the humans’ breeding. How? Non-lethal electric shock delivered to unauthorized pairings before the act can be consumated? Etc.

* And which humans (and why) will attempt to override the ship’s supervisory functions? And what might go wrong? Might some glitch develop in the system and “teach” the ship that humans are never to be allowed to breed?

* Or might some alien species intentionally implant that glitch or manipulate the ship’s code and have to be convinced of humanity’s worthiness to breed and continue as a species by a desperate crew? And who among the crew would rise to the challenge to discover and make contact with the aliens and argue the point?

* No matter how or by whom the crews’ breeding is monitored and restricted, human nature being what it is, the crew would resist that monitoring and restriction. What occurs as a result of that resistance? Would it necessarily result in a happy ending?

* And then there’s the establishment of a rank structure (someone has to be in charge of the trek): are there differences in the monitoring and restrictions of various ranks (e.g., who’s going to tell the CO with whom she can breed and when?) Etc.

* And of course this could be “straight” SFF, on or off-planet Earth, dealing with the human and/or non-human characters’ reactions to the science that is causing the problem and the science that might correct it. But it could also wander off into SFF erotica if you choose to play in that direction.

If any of the ideas above spark a story in you, run with it. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve already written my version, though I admit I might write another. The notion of monitored and restricted breeding is just huge. It explodes into so many different ideas that it would be almost impossible for any writer not to at least consider writing about it.

Talk with you again later.

Of Interest

See “What’s the minimum number of people needed to survive an apocalypse?” at

See “Interstellar Space Travel: 7 Futuristic Spacecraft to Explore the Cosmos” at

See “China wants to build a mega spaceship that’s nearly a mile long” at

See “The Rule of Three” at Sorry. I thought this was going to be more instructive than promotional.

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 920 words

Writing of WCGN 5: Tentative Title (novel)

Day 1…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for August……… XXXX
Total fiction words for the year………… 623282
Total nonfiction words for August… 1760
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 156980
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 780262

Calendar Year 2021 Novels to Date…………………… 13
Calendar Year 2021 Novellas to Date……………… 1
Calendar Year 2021 Short Stories to Date… 3
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 66
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 217
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

Disclaimer: In this blog, I provide advice on writing fiction. I advocate a technique called Writing Into the Dark. To be crystal clear, WITD is not “the only way” to write, nor will I ever say it is. However, as I am the only writer who advocates WITD both publicly and regularly, I will continue to do so, among myriad other topics.

1 thought on “The Journal: All About SF”

  1. This is an awesome treasure of ideas to generate and run along. Definitely sparked my imagination.
    Thanks for sharing this Harvey.

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