I was doing a little preliminary research on terraforming yesterday — yes, of course, reading the Wikipedia article on it — & a friend asked me what terraforming is. Oh yeah, that’s right: I’m I read a lot of science fiction, & forget that a lot of other people don’t so they might not be familiar with some concepts that I take for granted. Basically, terraforming is the process — mainly a theoretical one at this point — by which a planet other than Earth is rendered fit for human occupation. It’s appeared a lot in science fiction, both in books & in movies/television. The second movie of the “Alien” franchise, the one called “Aliens”, featured Sigourney Weaver as Ripley, backed by a crack team of interplanetary Marines, rescuing a little girl who was the sole survivor of a terraforming project on a planet where Ripley & her ship had encountered the monster bad guy aliens in the first “Alien” movie.
So far the most detailed work I’ve read on terraforming in SF literature has been Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy — Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars. Just read them this past spring, tuned into them by a friend (Chris?) after I told him about what I wanted to write this November. That helped quite a bit, giving me a basic idea of some of the processed that might go into the terraforming of a planet. Though when I think back on the state of my knowledge before I read those books, I knew a bit already, just from all the other SF books I’d read. And while not a scientist, I’m not exactly ignorant of a few basics either. A geology class I took backwhen was a big help, not to mention the research I did for a poem I wrote called “Spiritus Mundi” which is in part a sort of a shorthand description of what geologists believe went into the formation of the Earth’s lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere — rock, water, wind — all of which are necessary for the support of the biosphere —life — & with it the noosphere — the realm of humanity.
My premise for the planet on which Cold is set is that it was a lifeless planet in a solar system some many light years from our own, that exploring humans or perhaps robot ships run by humans had come across & deemed capable of being engineered through terraforming to support an Earth-compatible biosphere. Another premise is that it’s now sometime later, decades & perhaps even a century or two later, & the terraforming project is far advanced, such that there is now breathable air on the planetary surface, & it’s increasingly filled with life. But it’s still a tad cold. And most of the humans who now live down on the planet are part of a culture that has for centuries lived within protected habitats: the spaceships that got them to this solar system, the ships or space stations they lived in while they mined the system for the metals & minerals needed for some of their work, the habitats on the planet itself where they lived as the work proceeded.
I.e., a project like this would be a big damn project, would take a long time, & would have a huge impact on the structure of the human society that was actually working on it. The project would, for these people, be their society & culture, & it would be a society & culture that had little trust for the open spaces outside the enclosures of a spaceship or space station or habitat, because open space in outer space is unbreathable vacuum, & open space outside a habitat on a planet undergoing terraforming might have an atmosphere composed of the wrong sorts of gases for a human or other earthly animal to breathe. The safety procedures that started just as commonsensical rules for the humans who first left Earth but knew what out-of-doors was like would become, in time, institutionalized & internalized as being the very nature of things by later generations who had no experience of breathing open air. So when the time eventually comes that the whole goal of terraforming is reached, a lot of the members of that society are going to be too damn scared to walk out of the habitat without a breather.
Change comes with the next generation, with its youth. That’s why the main characters of Cold are young.
But back to terraforming. I don’t want to have to know everything about it. But I do need to know just enough to get me by. Such as what kinds of occupations might people hold in a society that is completely geared toward such a project.
Enough for now. Another of this post’s purposes is to test out the method I intend to use in November — writing in Google Docs since I can do that from both my own laptop & from my computer at work (during lunchtimes only, of course) without having to email files back & forth to myself — & then, when I get done with a day’s writing, to publish it directly from Google Docs to the blog. Of course, I could always do the writing directly in the blog, but it doesn’t count the words like Google Docs does. Right now I’m at… 870 words. Whoa. That would be more than half my daily quota of 1,667 if this was November! Hey, this might be possible after all!