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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Retrocon Ahoy! (Continuity II)

No one is perfect. Sometimes mistakes make it into print. Sometimes huge steaming mistakes get in without anyone noticing until you need to write a sequel and go, "oops how did that happen?"

You can probably guess, there's a goof in Hostile Takeover. What is it? Well here's a hint in a couple of quotes:

Quote #1:

The atlas listed Kathiwar, an airless ball of rock out on the extreme fringes of the Indi Protectorate. Kathiwar orbited Beta Pictoris, and had a population of less than a million. It was inhabited only to put a way station between the Confederacy and Tau Puppis, the one contact with the Volera Empire. . .

Quote #2:
Volera was discovered during the Indi Protectorate's massive colonial expansion. Sixty-two years ago, one of the hundreds of Indi scouts had discovered a highly attractive planet circling Tau Puppis, a star not only on the fringes of the Indi Protectorate, but on the fringes of the Confederacy.

Of course, I don't think anyone sees the problem here. The quotes are from different books in the trilogy, and only an astronomer with photographic memory would pick it up. But this is the thing, these two stars are 120 ly apart from each other. That's wider than the whole Confederacy at that point.

What happened is, when I was writing Hostile Takeover, there was no such things as a downloadable stellar database, and programs like Celestia were in the far future. I had to enter all my stellar data by hand into a database from various reference books. Unfortunately, it seems that the data I was working from was somewhat inaccurate. (Ok, misplacing Tau Puppis by 100+ light years is a little more than somewhat.)

The good news is that the stars I mention by name in Hostile Takeover are mostly located correctly, most of the errors are misplacing stars where I only ever named the planet. It's simple enough to put the named planet around another star that really exists where I thought the original one did. And errors where I never named the planet or the star are easily dealt with, since those only appear in my notes.

Volera is a problem, though, because it's a major part of the Hostile Takeover universe. It wouldn't be so bad if I only mentioned Tau Puppis, but I placed it in rather specific relationship with Kathiwar, orbiting Beta Pictoris. How do I fix it. (Other than ignoring it?)

Here's my solution, a little bit of retroactive continuity I'm inserting into the current book:

A star-map sprang to life between him and Father Mallory. A large lumpy dumbbell-shaped cluster of stars shone bright yellow, marking the familiar confines of human space.

One end of the dumbbell was deformed, pushing away from the galactic center and away from a dusting of red stars clustered on the other side of human space from Beta Pictoris. The red stars were outposts of the Voleran Empire, governed by the only other space-faring race humanity had encountered in nearly five hundred years of interstellar expansion.

Humanity had discovered the Voleran Empire at a time when political power between the arms of the Confederacy was measured in the number of planets the arms controlled, how old they were, and how populous they were. The structure of the Confed government gave a strong political imputus to colonize new worlds, even when the economics didn’t quite make sense. At that time, the arm of the Confederacy that grew from the original colony on Epsilon Indi was the most aggressive in spreading outward, placing colonies on planets solely as launch-pads to reach further out. The relatively tiny outpost of Kathiwar was built on an airless rock orbiting Beta Pictoris to serve as one of those way stations, scanning the stars around and sending probes, and eventually, colony ships.

Shortly after Kathiwar was established, its observation platforms found a planet orbiting Tau Puppis. The discovery, Tau Puppis IV, seemed an obvious Dolbrian remnant, as no reasonably habitable planet should have evolved around that star. Its history might have ended there, as it was close to five times the maximum distance the Indi ships could reasonably supply a new colony, over 120 light-years away.

But when someone discovered that Tau Puppis was emitting faint EM radiation of demonstrably intelligent origin, the planet was moved to the front of Indi’s priority list. First contact with an alien race was important enough, and in the front of the mind of every Indi decision maker was the fact that the accidental contact between the Centauri arm and the delphinine natives of Paralia had resulted in the development of the first tach drives and Centauri dominance in the new Confederacy. So Indi routed money, people and Paralian-designed tach-ships down a corridor from Beta Pictoris toward Tau Puppis.

The aliens from Tau Puppis met them more than halfway.

There was a lot of diplomatic dancing, as it became very clear that the bird-like aliens were the rulers of an interstellar empire as large or larger than man’s, an Empire that claimed much of the hundred-twenty light years of space between Beta Pictoris and Tau Puppis, a volume as great as the whole of the Confederacy at the time. At some point Tau Puppis IV was named Volera, a name that carried over to the aliens as a whole even when it was clear that Tau Puppis was only a small outpost of the Voleran Empire.


aeros51 said...

I cannot honestly say that caught that when I read HT. If that is the biggest error that needs to be rectified, then IMHO the research for Hostile Takeover was done pretty well.

Then again, in another ten to twenty years, we should have the planet finder telescopes up and running, and we might actually know what kind of planets are found around Tau Puppis and Beta Pictoris. The hundreds of giant planets found since HT was written has overturned some key assumptions of star system formation that was held by our most brilliant scientists at the time. Such is science: today's absurdity may be tomorrow's reality.

RobRoy said...

It's funny what can be caught and not caught by fans. Depending on the scrutiny, crazy stuff (contradictions, logical fallacies) can be found that the author completely missed or wasn't even aware of causing.

Very nice patch, Steve. It creates a logical consistency and explains the potential issue, if anyone brings it up.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't worry too much about misplacing a star. It's not like you claimed Pluto was a planet or anything! :)