June 04, 2007
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.
"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)
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)
Posted by: Will at June 06, 2007 09:08 AM (olS40)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at June 07, 2007 12:16 AM (PiXy!)
Posted by: Will at June 07, 2007 08:05 AM (olS40)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at June 07, 2007 09:58 AM (PiXy!)
Posted by: Pixy Misa at June 07, 2007 10:01 AM (PiXy!)
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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