Friday, May 8, 2015

What If?

Last weekend, I attended Demicon, a science fiction convention held in Des Moines, IA. While there, I gave 5 panels and 1 reading. So far, readings have not brought me loads of fans, but I don’t think I’ve ever given a reading where nobody has shown up, so those who do come get a taste of my writing style.
The panels were better attended. As I explained to the audiences as each panel broke up, I generally like to introduce a subject, and let the ‘talk’ turn into a discussion. In that case, the audience members might participate as much - or more! - than I do, although I will attempt to guide the conversation from time to time. I really like that formula, because being an introvert, I tend to sit at my computer for long periods of time, and that can lead to thinking in a circle... no new ideas. But when I get other people lending their thoughts and knowledge to a conversation, I wind up with a whole batch of new (to me) ‘what if’s to ponder.
One of these discussions was on planet building. This subject is not just for science fiction; I have one fantasy universe set on a world with 3 moons. But we tended to compare our ideas to situations we’ve heard about within our own solar system, and when the talk moved to dwarf planets, I mentioned that one of the dwarves living out beyond Pluto is not spherical, as the definition states, because it spins so fast, it has flattened itself. That brought up the question, what if you had an actual planet, roughly the mass of Earth, but also spinning so fast that it is flattened quite a bit. Would the gravity be different at the equator than the poles? What an interesting idea! Of course, nobody had an answer for that.
The side subject of moons - If you don’t have a relatively large moon, you probably won’t have tides in your oceans - brought the question, if your planet had rings like Saturn, would they exert enough gravimetric pull to effect your tides? Another stumper! If I had been giving out prizes...
These particular questions both came from James C Hines, who poked his head in the door half-way through this panel. I invited him to join us, without realizing who he was. He looked familiar, but I couldn’t put a name to the face until the talk was breaking up. Thank you, James. I now have specific questions to pose to my brother-in-law, the astrophysicist.

Every sf writer should have access to an astrophysicist.