Afterword

Earthlight was inspired by the concern that the Trinity explosion would ignite the atmosphere (seriously considered as a risk in 1945, but dismissed after further calculation). The section involving spaceflight inevitably contains NASAspeak. A Command Module is a CM and a Service Module is an SM. The second stage of a Saturn booster (retained for use in Earthlight’s timeline for interplanetary injections) is an SII (S-2) and the third stage is an SIVB (S-4-B). The SIVB uses a J2 engine. Trans-Earth-Injection is abbreviated TEI. Similarly, Trans Mars Injection, Low Earth Orbit and so on.

The last paragraph of Even After The End There Are Still Good Days occurred to me while walking the dog one evening, and I wrote it this unpleasant little tale the following morning.

Proserpina is a double drabble inspired by a photograph posted on io9 by Little Dragon. At some point during Sol’s red giant phase, Pluto should experience Earthlike temperatures. For a world, a few hundred million years of warmth is only the blink of an eye. In this ficlet, it’s long enough.

Sirius has several origins. There are numerous articles by Michael Shara et al relating to stellar collisions in globular clusters. About ten years ago I stumbled across a 1975 edition of Analog in Hay-on-Wye, in which Robert L Forward speculates on, amongst other things, coupling between spin and linear momentum. It’s pure handwavium. The story of the ant colony is drawn from life. Internal evidence suggests that Sirius, Earthlight and Enjoy Such Liberty take place in different but closely related universes.

1938 was again inspired by a photograph posted on io9 by Little Dragon.

Enjoy Such Liberty began as a homage to two authors who nurtured my love of science fiction: James Blish and Poul Anderson – particularly Common Time, Nor Iron Bars, and Tau Zero, with a nod to The Triumph of Time and a dash of Niven’s One Face. It was intended to be a few thousand words, but it expanded uncontrollably to about 25,000 words. It’s a creation myth masquerading as moderately hard SF – the most obvious magic is the kernel, but kernels allow a multitude of sins. And clearly there’s a great deal of unexplained back story, not least regarding how this peculiarly utopian society actually functions: not only is it post-scarcity, it’s several centuries after a radical change in human nature….

Enjoy Such Liberty attempts to cover a lot of ground. The logarithmic spiral is the primary motif: studied by Descartes and Bernoulli, the spira mirabilis is self-similar and occurs throughout nature, and is related to the Golden Mean. Eadem mutata resurgo! Esoteric Voyageurism connects the spiral with the kundalini, the ouroboros, DNA, the Asclepius, Serpens and Ophiuchus and so on. The structure is meant to vaguely invoke a logarithmic spiral, with the origin being the finding of the Shankha. Much of Voyageur terminology is drawn from Hinduism – it’s similar to a form of tantric Shaktism, Shakti being the divine feminine creative force. Blackett and Lenora are shoutouts to Blish and Anderson. The chapter titles are mostly terms from musical dynamics. Pararrdha is a length of time, but only part of the life of Brahma; the Kali Yuga is the final, most corrupt of ages, but time comes round again. The eight treasures turn up at various points, most notably the conch, but the rest are all there, such as the endless knot represented by the kernels. Resembling an eight is the lemniscate, symbol for infinity, a slice of a torus which can become a mobius loop when rendered in three dimensions. Escher frequently used lemniscate figures, and they often represtent autopoesis. The significance of the Phoenix eagles is, I hope, obvious. Lucasta and Althea are both characters from the poems of Richard Lovelave, who was imprisoned numerous times – but stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage. There are several stories in the same history, including The Other Side of Midnight and The Sounding of the Dawn.

Escape Function occurred to me while finishing off Enjoy Such Liberty. I was thinking about recursion and self-similarity. Julia Islands, the Chasm, the Antenna and so forth are all to be found within the Mandelbrot Set. Lorenz, Feigenbaum, Shishikura, Hausdorff, Pierre Fatou, Gaston Julia and Georg Cantor are all mathematicians who’s work relates to the reality through which Pierre travels. The title itself refers to a method of rendering the Set.

Dark Flow is the first in a loosely connected Mythos cycle which also includes Dreams in the Witchlight and several stories involving The Queen of Emerald’s Daughter. Unlike most of the other stories here – which are usually hardish SF – Dark Flow is quite unpleasant Lovecraftian horror. In reality, Orkney is really a very nice place to visit, and none of the residents bear the Innsmouth Look. The henge is roughly analogous to Brogar, Seabrook’s location approximates Birsay, and the German fleet  really was scuttled in Scapa Flow in 1919. Charles Seabrook was unfortunate enough to experience the battles of Passchendaele; he fought in a part of the Great War which involved chemical weapons, left hundreds of thousands of casualties, and resulted in poorly understood post traumatic stress.

The 1960s EMPIRE studies really did suggest interplanetary flights using Apollo hardware, although none ever advanced beyond the concept stage. EMPIRE concentrated on flybys, although some missions were intended to build up to a manned Mars landing in the ’80s. The mission mode described here most closely resembles the 1966 study by NASA’s Planetary Joint Action Group, although I’ve omitted many details. The launch window, mission duration and flyby dates were as described. Apollo 19 never flew, but Copernicus was a possible destination, and the standard crew rotation would probably have put Fred Haise on the surface. The final Shuttle mission – STS135 Atlantis – is currently scheduled for 28 June, 2011.