A year or so ago I wrote a short science fiction story named “L’Orgoglio di Smirne” [Smirne’s Pride], I was thinking about translating it into english after a massive editing process. While I was at work I thought that it could be a nice way to write about the logical ramification of a story, it’s one of the biggest traps for anybody who write fiction.
My story was about a young spaceman/miner who got himself in trouble rescuing another spaceship in the Asteroid Belt. The AI system in his spaceship became infected and he got to find a way to save his life and going back to his base. So far it’s a classic story; the young man who became more experienced under the stress of a dangerous situation, the superiority of an educated mind over a challenge.
While I was writing the italian version of this tale a number of questions came up. How about this kid? Was he born in the space? Aboard a spaceship? Or a more stable base anywhere? How does he adapt to live and work into space? How about cosmic radiations, exposure to low-level of gravity (or none at all)? Who took care of his education and what about his relatives and such?
That was nothing but the top of an iceberg of questions. In the next paragraphs you will find a lot of this stuff.
The spaceship; OK, I want something that could be manned by a single operator. It have to be able to travel at good speed in a very dangerous zone like the Asteroid Belt, it have to be able to load the minerals mined from an asteroid and to transport a crew of robots. [by the way, Smirne’s Pride it’s the name of the spaceship].
Now the questions; how about the engine? What size does it have? What kind of propulsion could be used in the near future? How about fuel, heat emission, vibrations? How much technobubble can I use to describe it?
Again about the spaceship; does it have an artificial gravity generator onboard? How does it work astrogation between asteroids and to and from the Asteroid Belt to the base (and where the Hell i sit?) and to and from Earth? And the communications? Are we still using radio frequencies or there will another technology for it?
There’s an AI onboard. It got to have it for my story, it’s a logical step if this kind of device will be easily available in the future (wait, can I name an AI “device”?). So, how can I set up an AI designed to “live” on a spaceship? What its personality could be? What about its attitude? How many tasks it will control aboard? What are its weakness, if any?
For our computers we have malware, viruses and such. How do you name a hostile program able to attack an AI? Psychoware? Mindware? That’s linked to the question about the potential weaknesses stated before. If an AI detect an attack what happens? Will it became unstable? Schizoid? Depressed?
As you may see the sheer number of questions was more than enough to drive me out of my task, I stopped writing my story while running up and down search engines for links and related pages. I was wasting my time and the job was far from done. The real question was different: how much have I to put in the story aside from the main plot?
My choice was to cut down to a minimum, favoring a straightforward way to tell my story. Was I right? What do you do when it comes to choose?