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February 25, 2014

Tin Star guest post!

Today I have the pleasure of hosting Cecil Catellucci as part of the Tin Star blog tour. But first a little more about Tin Star!
Title: Tin Star
Author: Cecil Castellucci
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Release Date: February 25, 2014
Synopsis: On their way to start a new life, Tula and her family travel on the Prairie Rose, a colony ship headed to a planet in the outer reaches of the galaxy. All is going well until the ship makes a stop at a remote space station, the Yertina Feray, and the colonist's leader, Brother Blue, beats Tula within an inch of her life. An alien, Heckleck, saves her and teaches her the ways of life on the space station.
When three humans crash land onto the station, Tula's desire for escape becomes irresistible, and her desire for companionship becomes unavoidable. But just as Tula begins to concoct a plan to get off the space station and kill Brother Blue, everything goes awry, and suddenly romance is the farthest thing from her mind. 

The thing about writing about deep space Science Fiction is that we don’t yet have faster than light travel to get anywhere.  Even the planets in our own solar system have only been begun to be explored.  We’ve got a few rovers on Mars.  We’ve got humans orbiting us.  But space is very large and even objects close to home are slow to get to and still sort of out of reach.  Voyager One still hasn’t even left our solar system and it’s been traveling for over 30 years and while in the past few years we’ve discovered thousands of planets orbiting distant suns, some with water, some within the goldilocks zone, we still have no evidence of extraterrestrial life.  No one has contacted us.  We have received no signals.  We are still alone and very far way from being able to go explore any alien planet for ourselves. So when you are writing science fiction, while we have so much to swing our science on, there is a lot of room for making things up.  That is what is exciting and fun about it.  You are trying to make things make sense when we’re telling stories that we cannot even live right now. 
But there are a few things that we can look to give us inspiration and ideas for making the science in our sci fi feel plausible. And here are some that I’ve done to kickstart the creative juices in order to help me build the world of Tin Star, create the aliens and let the story unfold while Tula Bane is forced to survive on the Yertina Fera  space station.  It helps that I’m a big space buff and will gladly listen to anyone wax poetic about our space program and what we’re studying out there. 
First I’ll talk about travel.  Right now, as I said, we don’t really have a way to go to any other sun in any quick manner.  I was not interested in writing a story about an intergenerational space ship, so I had to come up with a device that allows the characters to travel quickly in space.  In my book, they lightskip, which to me means some kind of faster than light travel point so that voyages are cut down and the story can take place in one time period rather than over generations.   I had read something about solar sails and using a sling shot around a planet, the Juno spacecraft just swung around Earth to give it speed http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2013-360 and NASA is currently experimenting with solar sail technology. http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/tdm/solarsail/solarsail_overview.html#.UvQSYva587U
I used these things as the basis for my imagined way of travel.  The solar sail is why I imagine Tula Bane, thinks that the ship that is leaving her behind looks like a Tin Star.  If you google solar sail, you’ll see why.
Another thing that I had to consider was how to create aliens.  Astrobiology is the study of the origin and evolution of life both here on Earth and elsewhere.  So I actually took a class on from the University of Edinburgh on astrobiology through Coursera, which is a place where you can take massive open online courses, It was fascinating to study the building blocks of life on Earth and how we might look for it elsewhere.  This class sparked my imagination and got me thinking about the different kinds of environments where life could be.  Of course the main takeaway is that life not on Earth will be very different than life on Earth.  So the aliens that I created had to be very different than human or else it would just feel like Tula wasn’t really in such a bad situation.  And trust me, Tula is in a bad situation being abandoned on that space station and being the only one of her kind.   I really wanted the aliens to be comingling and creating a society together like an old west town.  But when you consider aliens living together, you have to think that their planets would be different, they would breathe different mixtures of gases, their gravity would be different, their sun would be different.  All of these things are overwhelming.  How can you make such a variety of beings come together and be in the same place and easily interact?  When I was at the Launchpad workshop, which is a crash course in space science developed by Dr. Michael Brotherton from the University of Wyoming, I started thinking about all these kinds of questions.  The solution I came up with was nanites that regulate how a species breathes the base atmosphere on space stations and space ships and amplifies translation in the brain to facilitate language and communication.  It’s not a perfect solution, but it was a way for me to get all of my aliens in the same place and interacting in a way that we humans are familiar with. 

What it really boils down to is that writing science fiction is fun and having a healthy appreciation, respect and understanding of science is essential.  As for me, I like to springboard from a real place in science and stretch it out to the plausible imagined.  Because until we actually go there and meet up with aliens, how we get there and interact is all up to you!   
Tin Star Blog Tour Schedule

Monday February 17

Tuesday February 18

Wednesday February 19

Thursday February 20

Friday February 21

Monday February 24

Tuesday February 25

Wednesday February 26

Thursday February 27

Friday February 28