Friday, September 11, 2009

Author Nancy Kress is having problems with teenagers on the Red Planet

Award-winning science fiction and fantasy author Nancy Kress is having problems with teenagers on the Red Planet. According to a recent post on her blog, “I am writing a story promised to a theme anthology: teens on Mars. The restrictions are few, just that the story be SF, not fantasy, and that Earth has already established colonies on Mars. The time is from 100 to 1000 years from now. And I'm having difficulties.” Read the rest of Kress’s blog post and see if you can help her!

Pictured: Robert A. Heinlein’s character Podkayne.


K. said...

Nuts, I can't leave a comment on Nancy Kress's blog unless I have an account... so I'll comment here and, perhaps, magically, it will reach her.

She says, "Or it concerns some specific aspect of the Martian environment, in which case I can't see how teenagers who grew up there are going to find it unusual or even interact with it significantly."

The martian environment sometimes does things that are unusual. Small (a few meters to tens of meters diameter) impact craters are forming on the planet all the time -- we learned this from MGS but have seen even more with MRO. The observations suggest that, for a base/colony/city on Mars, one such impact is likely to occur near enough to the base/colony/city every 20-30 years that the people there would notice the event. Another thing: mid-latitude gullies have these flows that come down through them every once in a while. It is not yet understood how to predict when and where one will occur, as not very many have been seen yet, but they do occur, and they do seem to require liquid water to form.

Granted, Ben Bova's more recent Mars novel utilized both ideas that were first reported from MGS in 2006 (the cratering and the gullies), but he butchered them, so it would be nice to see someone use one or the other idea (they don't go together and there would not be a release of water at an equatorial crater as in Bova's story).

The Mars environment does present some things that would be unusual or rare over the course of the lifespan-lived-so-far by a teenager. It also presents some spectacular things, such as the extremely large dust devils that occur pretty much every day all through the spring and summer seasons in northern Amazonis... they are so predictable (they shut down within days of the start of autumn, and re-start within days of the end of winter) and so large (towering several km into the sky) that perhaps "kids" would figure out a way to turn these things into some kind of sport. Or a game of chicken (stand still as the giant dust devil approaches... knowing it will not be pleasant when it reaches you, how long before you jump out of the way? and how good can you jump if you were born on Mars vs Earth?).

One can have a lot of fun with teens interacting with the oddities of the martian environment. One can always have a newly-arrived person, as well, to shed some perspective.

It is humbling for me to see that even the amazing Nancy Kress struggles with story ideas.

By the way, Paul, that tiny picture of Podkayne is terrific... is there a larger picture you can provide a link to? I assume it is from a book cover... which edition/publisher/year?

Paul said...

K: Thanks so much for the lengthy comment on Nancy's story. Hopefully, she will find it here!

I've added a link to a cover scan I found over on Flickr. It’s British, New English Library. Looks like the number in the top left is “2386,” but I can’t figure out the date of publication. It looks like a paperback from the 1980s, but I’m probably wrong. I’ll work on it some more later.

K. said...

Nice! Thanks! Hadn't seen that cover before... usually book covers of Podkayne make her look like some kind of wimpy girlie girl.

Paul said...

This is a beautiful cover. All the pieces work together, even the yellow background.