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Some books use this as good plot points. Most people are not interested on new things but old and comfortable things that make them warm and happy. I love Hannu's books but they take some effort to take in if you are not adventurous. The Quantum Thief will probably remain one of mynall time favourites. Exponential growth doesn't require empire building. Each time a colony is built up to the point where it can send out colonies of it's own, all it requires is an inevitable percentage of "people" that want to migrate to "greener" pastures, and the persistence of knowledge of the know how to do it.
While some sapient cultures in a randomly generated galaxy will choose to stay at home, inevitably some will want to expand. And while some will want to leave alone alien sapients they encounter, inevitably some of them will want to eat them or use them to build pyramids or something--unless life or sapience is very rare.
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In which case expansion will be inevitable until the galaxy is full. A few light years is no big deal. A few million light years is no go. And while boron may be the simplest way to do fusion and the first done, surely on future-historical time scales direct hydrogen-hydrogen fusion engines will become common. Cultures will tend to migrate to the most common types of materials.
That's why we insulate wiring with polymers synthesized from oil rather than using gutta-percha or natural rubber. Some of these are repeating Charlie's points in different terms; what I'm hoping to contribute here is really the mid-level headings, with the bottom level just being examples of how to apply them. There are probably other things space travel is "basically just like" as well.
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Let's define space opera then. It would also exclude Neptune's Brood. And all three of those are clearly space opera in character. I know it when I see it.
But you can't just say "Fiction involving space travel I think a whole space travelling or star travelling background culture is also a prerequisite. A culture in which space or star travel is commonplace, and the space or star travel of the characters is no big deal. I know, but I wondered if there are theoretical limits that would keep you from using laser cannons on your ship of the wall thingie. If you want to get into crunchy examination of technologies which don't technically exist yet, there's a classic discussion on the laser versus missile question over at Rocketpunk Manifesto: Battle of the Spherical War Cows: It's worth a read if you're into that kind of thing and many of us here are.
I propose that Mind reading is forbidden for Minds because Minds have a built in and irrational love for biological humanoids that underpins the entire Culture. It's a consequence of how the very first Minds were originally created, an evolutional scheme that still isn't understood, so new Minds are just replicated from designs that are known to work, though embellished on the outside.
Minds that read minds risk having that core corrupted. But Consider Phlebas is not about genocide so much as it is about simple extinction.
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The extinction of the crew of the Clear Air Turbulence Banks spent a paragraph telling about each of the 20 or so characters then killed them various ways--why? The Changers were rare at the beginning of the Culture-Idiran war, the Culture was not ill disposed to them, and their asteroid was in Idiran space. All we know is they were wiped out as a species during the final stages of the war. And the Idirans were not. The Idirans probably wiped them out. There's even a Mind out there somewhere named Bora Horza Gorbochul. At least the Culture mourns.
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I just wanted to pick up on Apollo 13 because it illustrates some of the massive complexity involved in building a real working spacecraft, as opposed to a Space Opera starship based on various sources The structure containing the service module's Oxygen Tank 2 was partially dropped during assembly — denting an outflow pipe that was only used when draining the tank after a pre-launch test i. Solution we are still on the ground here!
Due to a miscommunication between subcontractors, the heater and thermostat in the oxygen tank had been rated at 28 DC Volts rather than the 65V used on the rest of the spacecraft. The tank reached approx. The temperature gauge on the tank was only calibrated up to the notional temperature the tank should have reached.
Whose insulation has melted. Cue spark, fire and massive explosion. The mechanical shock also caused a failure in the plumbing of Oxygen Tank 1. Ships that easily accelerate to near-lightspeed happens, time dilation happens, interest on money in bank accounts happens, yet people who work on these ships are still poor. No-one seems to start a modest saving account then return in years after a trade run and retire. Some manner of anti-senescence technology was created in around the year , but is never perfected and fails at just the wrong moment.
Only the very rich can afford it, and the peasants don't rebel. Everyone is immortal, families continue to have 2. Overpopulation never destroys worlds or leads to war. You don't use a laser in a space battle. Let's, for the sake of argument, call them "plasma torpedoes". Each one packs about 1GJ of energy. When it comes to space opera the ones I no longer read are ones with conflict based story lines. That's actually an easy one to answer, thanks to lasers as weapons being an actual Thing that a fuckton of research dollars have been spent on over the past few decades and which are actually being bolted to USN warships for sea trials as I write.
The laser itself is bulky, but you just mount it inside your ship's hull and point its emitter at a mirror -- — that's what you need to aim, not the entire weapons system, and it's comparatively small and light. Just ridiculously expensive to implement on the scale needed, using hardware in orbit. For every joule you deposit on the target, you need to dump about four joules of waste heat -- which is difficult, in space.
The US Navy gets a get-out-of-jail-free card for the waste heat problem with point-defense lasers for warships because they're sitting in a special heat sink called "the ocean". It's considerably harder to build a ground-mobile laser air cooled , and much harder to build a high-powered airborn laser weapon, which is why the F laser program is going to have some interesting constraints to beat.
Tales of the Zorantian Brotherhood Volume One has 2 ratings and 1 review. Albert said: So here we are jumping into another Science Fiction novel. And jum.. Black Winds: Tales of the Zorantian Brotherhood [Luther Giordano, Nancy If you buy a new print edition of this book or purchased one in the past , you can. As for space-based, that's the big prize There is a very very special deleted scene in GQ where Dr Lazarus is shown his quarters: The bathroom still brings tears of pain to my eyes. You don't fight a laser battle across many AU, unless your target is on a fixed trajectory and isn't going to dodge.
It isn't about how well you can aim, its about lightspeed lag. I suspect that once you get into light second ranges and an AU is light seconds you're not going to be hitting much.
Using slow plasma toroids sounds like a less than great idea, because they'll have sharply limited ranges you don't get to stabilise a plasmoid for long , their effectiveness also diminishes with range and they are far slower than lasers. On the bright side, they do provide scope for energy shields, and everyone likes those!
Dave Langford and Brian Stableford took a stab at describing it in the gigantic monograph on space opera in the Encyclopedia of SF , but it lacks a coherent definition because it's not a tightly-defined form. I think that for a work of SF to qualify as space opera it requires certain features to be present. Breadth of scope is one of them: Interstellar scale is almost mandatory although I think there are exceptions: A sense of wonder is necessary as well. The key factor is that it's almost invariably romanticist in sensibility, often overlapping with the gothic: Jean le Flambeur is a classic space operatic anti-hero in the mold of Gully Foyle.
The site has a number of other interesting little articles on various SF tropes, and has a charmingly 90s aesthetic. The laser itself is bulky, but you just mount it inside your ship's hull and point its emitter at a mirror. But doesn't that point to the other reason lasers would be useless in a space battle: Conventionally lasers are used defensively because they are short range and quickly aimed while guided missiles are used for attacking because they are long range and can change course to track a moving target.