From: Gaute Tengesdal
Great with a page where it is actually possible to ask questions to a sci-fi writer. About the question; it's a trend that those who have written about the future in the past, often have missed what would come. For instance that the classic spacerockets of the past were monsters that instead of orbiting the planets and moons while being connected with the celestial bodies and a mothership with a traffic of smaller ships, the giants were simply landing and taking off on the earth itself. Or there were no computers inside them (and how many of the fictional ships of today have quantum computers?), or canned food instead of a genetically engineered miniature ecosystem on board, or heavy spare parts instead of prototype machines/3-D printers that can build new ones from the old ones (or even food printers), perhaps even morphing materials, and so on.
After reading a couple of articles where scientists are making new breakthroughs in smart materials and ways of controlling the ligh, it looks like this could affect the future as well.
for instance this one: http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/science-scope/scientists-create-a-3-d-invisibility-cloak-for-visibile-light/8274
(Scientists create a 3-D invisibility cloak for visibile light)
Or this: http://news.travel.aol.com/2011/06/14/airbus-invisible-concept-plane-revealed-as-future-of-commercia/
(Airbus 'Invisible' Concept Plane Revealed As Future of Commercial Flight)
So far, spaceships have always been portrayed with windows. But windows are often the weak spots in planes, stations and shuttles. If the future makes it possible to turn a whole wall or parts of it transparent in one way or another, there is a chance that there would be no windows are all. Or perhaps no more than just one or two small ones in the cockpit, in case of emergency (it depends on if the transparency depends on electricity or not).
Is there a chance that we might see these and/or other changes when it comes to how futuristic spaceships are built in your stories where such elements are present, or in science fiction in generel, sometime in the nearest future?
From: Greg Bear
Thanks, Gaute! That Airbus design is very pretty! Actually, going all the way back to Tsiolkovsky, a lot of visionaries have considered many solutions to the problems you address... Didn't Jules Verne's astronauts being live chickens with them? Not very practical, that, for long voyages. It's always good to add new ideas and reconsider the old ones, no? (As an occasional claustrophobe, I still like my spaceships to have windows...)
Before the 70s or 80s, (mostly) men SF authors were depicting things they knew and were familiar with. Rarely, such as with Arthur C. Clarke, did they have insight into technological efficacy and exercising of human whim with regard to it.
Similarly, Popular Mechanics-type articles have been written since the late 19th century with boasts of revolutionary designs and such. The designs as often as not have been remarkable. Alas, the whim of those who would determine the implementation of them.
From: al brady
Location: cambridge uk
I really liked Charlie Stross's star wisps; thumb-sized spaceships composed of smart matter and computronium with enough memory to hold the personalities of the crew in the virtual surroundings of their choice, but weighing only a few grams... seems a lot more elegant than hauling around meat bodies and all their requisite plumbing..
From: Kelly Marsh
Location: United States
Er, if a wall were to become transparent, wouldn't it then by definition be a window? Just saying... :)
From: Greg Bear
Indeed. Would we cling to our seats as we seem to fling through the skies?