In space, it has to be done. Somehow. And while there are many methods of ‘travel,’ let’s focus on a detail often overlooked in space travel. But … I’ve already said that …
Never mind. Let’s try to focus here. When I wrote the book, I did have in mind the distances being traveled. Many of these distances are undefined in the text of the novel. Though, I will show that they are not unknowable.
For example, Richard makes a trip from Earth to Feldspar. Based on the dates given, Chapter 2 starts on Stardate 78.06-03, and Chapter 3 is Stardate 78.06-04. Before we get too carried away, this should help with understanding the date conventions:
Captain’s Signature Log
Thirty-fourth year of King Mordecai A. Tyberius, the sixth month, the second day of the month.
Stardate 2178.06-02 (according to the Terran trade calendar, which most worlds at least know)
Richard (Log Entry)
Richard doesn’t Identify the names of the months, like many people on earth. Not everyone knows the 6th month as ‘June’ in the English translation of the Gregorian calendar. And in the United States, the date convention is Month/Day/Year. Many places use Day/Month/Year. In the book, Year/Month/Day was used.
While it could be assumed about 24 hours has gone by between entries, one thing you’ll notice in this section of the book is the lack of references to time, such as time of day and hour of the day. So while I do know how long they traveled and the likely time of day they arrived, I didn’t put it in the book. Looking at it broadly, what is to say that it is 8:00 am when you arrive (according to your circadian rhythm), though local time is 6:00 pm? My view at the time was, why would it matter if you don’t have a sunrise/sunset to regulate your view of time?
How do we figure the distances, then? Well, if we speak broadly, we know these two days would total 48 hours, and while it would be silly to think Richard would make an entry one minute into a new day, then make the next entry one minute prior to the end of the next, we can still use this to get some idea of the distance. Since in the Prologue a cruising speed of 1.5 Kliks was given, we will use this as our average speed. Therefore:
1.5 Kliks x 24 hours = 36 light years traveling at the minimum, or …
1.5 Kliks x 48 hours = 72 light years traveled at the maximum.
So 36 to 72 lightyears to Feldspar. So, anything in that range as possible systems in the real world?
Before I answer that, I want to offer a little perspective on my thought process. Consider: Where you live, how many towns/cities/boroughs/villages within 60 miles/100 kilometers have you visited? I decided to do some investigation using myself as an example. One tool I used listed the ‘cities of significance’ near me. Basically, they were places above a certain population threshold, likely 5k-10k (any higher and my town might not show up!). There were less than 10 listed (I live in a small American state), and I have been to all of them. But, I figured there were more incorporated towns than these, so I used another tool to determine how many in totality there were.
The number was closer to 150. I knew I haven’t been to most, but I did see I’ve been to a lot more than I thought, some I had been to multiple times even recently. It wasn’t like I was just going there to see if there was anything to see, or just for this blog. There was a need fulfilled by my visit to that location, or I visited someone I wanted to see. None of these places visited, though, were larger than the town I lived in.
The point of this exercise is to illustrate there is often more attention on a major population center as the anchor for an entire nation or even a region. Like Beijing, London, or even Warsaw or Oslo. To focus on this city as the defining city of that given nation. And there is no variation beyond that population magnet.
There is, of course. Even where I live, most of the towns surrounding have a distinct personality and flavor. So to define the region by where I live, by this city (it is the largest city in the area) seems silly. But worse, to assume that just because something is close to this city, it can’t be as good or as different as something further away might be a grave error also.
I bring this up because many novels view travel in space this way. ‘Why try to stay in this corner of space, when I could leave this galactic cluster for a more interesting one?’ Because, nobody is in this corner of space, or they would’ve visited by now, one would think.
Considering our example, Feldspar and Earth appear to be not only the most significant populations in the region, but they may also seem to be the only ones, perhaps even the only stars in the area. However, within 50 light-years of earth, there are at least 1400 stars. This chart only shows 133 of the brightest.
Even with this generous chart, we can easily find ourselves in the trap of flying past things of interest just because of an unusually bright, shiny object set before us. I want to use the galaxy, and the universe entirely in my novels. But, I don’t want to assume everything must be impossibly far to be interesting. I haven’t tried to estimate the radius Richard travels in the book, but I’m sure it is less than 1000 light-years (or, as Part 1 showed, 6 quadrillion miles). Looking at this chart only showing a 50 light-year radius, you can see that will encompass a large volume of space. Remeber, Richard will be traveling in 3 dimensions. He could fly for a week in a grand circuit and never be more than 100 lightyears from his home, or even Earth. Yet he could travel a thousand light years and never cross his paths. All it would take is time.
There is, of course, the toll gateways. These obviously negate travel times. And while it would seem I could use them more exhaustively, I think this story makes clear this system has limitations.
Here is one, just mentioned as an aside:
As a final gesture, my grandfather commissioned a gate for Earth, which would allow them to travel to Alexandria, or other worlds of their choosing.
Here, Richard is describing a toll gateway in the Sol system. It can be implied that ‘commissioning’ something may be a more involved matter than this sentence elaborates. But it also points to a fundamental flaw – you can only travel between gates. So if there is no gate, you likely can’t go there. With this technology though, it has the advantage of allowing transit between two points not only quickly, but also allows a ship to not need a ‘light drive’ for interstellar transit.
The other method of extra fast travel is the Mass Displacement, or fold drive. Next week, we’ll touch on some basic principles to its function.
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