Charlotte McGary & Sharon Faiola-Petersen
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August 21, 2014

Putting the Science in Science Fiction
By Charlotte

As a total nerd who loves the science in sci-fi as much as the fiction, I expect the level of technology in a story to be at least plausible. That doesn't mean it has to be available now, or even in the near future—only that, given our current level of scientific knowledge, I could imagine such advances someday coming to fruition.

When creating our own worlds, Sharon and I try to be as accurate as possible. Whether incorporating elements from quantum mechanics or string theory as part of the plot or simply getting the timing right on how long it takes for a character to travel to her destination, I do my research.

I was once challenged by a reader who questioned whether a life-bearing planet such as Gandara could exist in a binary star system, even if life evolved there before the capture of the second sun. So, to prove it could, I wrote an app that roughly calculates the "Goldilocks Zone" around single stars and certain types of binary star systems. Feel free to play around with the app (available for download here). The zip file contains a C# executable (.exe) file. To run the app, you donít have to install it, just save it to a folder, then double-click the file name. It does, however, require that you have Microsoft's .NET Framework 4 or higher installed on your system.

Less intensive calculations involved a scene in the "Dream Crystals of Gandara" where Nerissa is riding her droma Kheema from the Royal City to the Ember Hills. The trip is supposed to take the whole day (from sunrise to sunset), so we wanted to know at what distance from the city to place the hills. Our fictional beast, the droma, is basically what you might get if you genetically created a camel-like creature that combined the speed and endurance of a camel with the disposition and maneuverability of a horse. I spent some time (okay, waaay too much time, but it was fun!) researching speeds of horses and camels over different types of terrain, then took an average between the two animals. If youíre interested, the Ember Hills and the Royal City are separated by approximately 30 miles, which is how far our dear Kheema, old as he is, can travel across desert terrain in a Gandaran day. (While Gandaraís year may be longer, it's rotational period is not much different than Earth's.)

"The Dream Crystals of Gandara" is "soft" sci-fi with a milieu reminiscent of medieval Earth. There are no spaceships or lasers—not even a telephone. But what technology there is in the story, we were determined to make as plausible as possible.

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