June 04, 2007

A "Novel' Idea

When it comes to hard sci-fi, I am not a well-read individual. I'm much more familiar with fantasy literature (but that's still not saying much).

I've had an idea kicking around for a bit to write a story.

What I want to know is, has there ever been a sci-fi story set in the extreme distant future? I'm not talking about 1,000 years, or even 100,000 years. I'm talking about a story set so far in the future that the Second Law has had its way with the Universe. The last few red-dwarf stars are guttering out and any exergy source is priceless. Universal expansion has spread everything so thin that, even traveling faster than light, trips would consume decades, centuries, and millenia. There are no points of reference left. The universe is littered (thinly) with dark objects to smack into. All in all it's a pretty dreadful scenario. There are a few fictional works listed in this Wikipedia entry, none of which I've read I'm afraid.

My basic setting is based on projecting *ahem* knowable knowns, knowable unknowns, unknowable knowns, and unknowable unknowns way out into the future:

    What if humanity becomes capable of mastering our corporeal form (aging, death and hunger all but unheard of through genetic engineering and mechanical augmentation), but never masters FTL travel? At this point, c still looks like a hard speed limit. I've run into a lot of people who say, "Well, we broke the sound barrier, we'll get past light too." The part they don't seem to gather is that we'd empirically observed objects (bullets, namely) traveling faster than sound. We just didn't know what it would take to push a vehicle to those speeds. We don't have much to go on when it comes to going faster than light. If the math is too be believed, the energy requirements are "non-trivial."

    Science fiction is full of fictional races that somehow "evolve" into energetic forms.

      What if that evolutionary "next step" never comes? What if we can't even force it? What if there's nowhere to go but sideways?

      What if that evolution is possible, but doesn't mean escaping this Universe? Would that state of existence really be less confining?

    If a human, through science and technology were suddenly able to live for millions/billions of years, would the human mind be able to contain all the accumulated memories? What would be the psychological impact of living that long?

    Which universal fate do these people have to contend with? Big Freeze, Big Crunch, or the Big Stall (aka Flat Universe). I could flip a coin I guess. Heads you Freeze. Tails you Crunch. Edge-on you Stall. Freeze and Stall are functionally the same thing, and something about the Big Rip just doesn't click with me.

    What kind of theology would you expect to develop in such an environment.

    Would people even bother having kids? Would suicide hold the same stigma?

I've been trying to world-build by taking all these what-ifs and cogitating on how they would interact to come up with an intriguing setting. What I'm afraid of is stepping on somebody else's toes.

Feel free to throw up any thoughts you may have. If anything, I find it fun to speculate on this sort of stuff.

      Posted in Random Debris by: Will at 02:38 PM | Comments (10) | Add Comment
      Post contains 546 words, total size 4 kb.


      "The Last Question", by Asimov. It's about the heat death of the universe -- and what comes after.

      Posted by: Steven Den Beste at June 04, 2007 11:42 PM (+rSRq)

      2 Well, I broke down and read the synopsis. Sounds like a literal case of deus ex machina. I guess I'm going to have to find a copy somewhere. Some wording in their synopsis has left me with a lot of questions.

      Posted by: Will at June 05, 2007 09:08 AM (olS40)


      "...has there ever been a sci-fi story set in the extreme distant future?"

      Would you count the second book of the Hitchhiker's Guide series? 

      Posted by: Wonderduck at June 05, 2007 11:47 PM (ccSyJ)

      4 Yeah, that counts, but it's a completely farcical take on the end of the universe. For example, unless Milliways is the center of all commerce and banking by that point in time, how is the few cents change you place in savings billions of years prior to even afford your stay actually still around? Seems to me someone (government most likely) would have stolen your savings long before that point anyway.

      Posted by: Will at June 06, 2007 09:08 AM (olS40)

      5 The Last Question is quite short.  That synopsis pretty much covers the whole story.

      Posted by: Pixy Misa at June 07, 2007 12:16 AM (PiXy!)

      6 Oh... hmm... Then how is it that the universe in The Last Question suffers what sounds like both heat death and the Big Crunch? I mean, space and time won't just end with heat death. Unless you declare that without any points of reference, space and time lack meaning.

      Posted by: Will at June 07, 2007 08:05 AM (olS40)

      7 As I recall, it's just heat death, or near-death; all the stars have guttered out, and all the other galaxies disappeared beyond the event horizon, but matter hasn't dissociated yet.

      Posted by: Pixy Misa at June 07, 2007 09:58 AM (PiXy!)

      8 Erm... Linky.

      You didn't see that.

      Posted by: Pixy Misa at June 07, 2007 10:01 AM (PiXy!)

      9 Dang.  Click on the Text link when you get there.

      Posted by: Pixy Misa at June 07, 2007 10:02 AM (PiXy!)


      That is quite short. Like a short Whittle essay.

      Matter and energy had ended and with it, space and time.

      There's the line that's causing the confusion. Entropy doesn't destroy matter and energy, just spreads it around irreversibly.

      Posted by: Will at June 07, 2007 11:28 AM (SOx9v)

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