Reading period week 9

Submissions now stand at 50 short stories and five non-fiction pieces. There is one month to go before the reading period closes. So if you’re planning to send something, do it sooner rather than later.

I had several conversations during Fantasycon 2011 this past weekend about Rocket Science, mostly with people who were keen on the theme of the anthology but felt they didn’t know enough science and/or technology to write a hard sf story. In each case, I responded that I was interested more in science fiction (or even literary fiction) stories about the “hard limits” of science and technology. I chose the title Rocket Science for the anthology not because I wanted stories featuring rockets, or stories filled with complex science, but because I wanted stories which didn’t break those hard limits.  The chemical reactions which power rocket engines are an excellent example of such a limit. The F-1 engines on the first stage of the Saturn V rocket were powered by a mixture of liquid oxygen and kerosene. Each one developed 6.77 million Newtons of thrust. No matter what you do the various parts of an F-1 rocket engine, you cannot change the energy output of the chemical reaction between the two fuels. That’s a hard limit. Human ingenuity cannot overcome it.

It may well be that the speed of light proves to be a hard limit. Or possibly, a theoretical means of exceeding might be possible but we’re constrained by the energy requirements of doing so. The escape velocity of Earth is 11.2 km/s. We cannot change that, though perhaps we might discover more efficient or effective means of reaching it. Interplanetary space is seething with dangerous radiation and particles. In his autobiography Leap of Faith, astronaut Gordon Cooper describes how a loud bang startled himself and Pete Conrad during their Gemini 5 flight. They were observing a meteorite shower, and a particle had hit the spacecraft. Although no large than a grain of sand, it punched a dent 0.25 inches deep in the titanium wall of the Gemini capsule.

It’s these sorts of things that I expect to be the drivers of the stories submitted to Rocket Science. I am prepared to be flexible – in other words, I’m not setting a hard limit on the degree of presence of those hard limits.

And now for the charts:

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