SciFi Policy has posted an in-depth interview with N.A. Ratnayake about the issues in Red Soil Through Our Fingers.
Human expansion into space is happening. Where previous generations imagined the push into space driven by government programs such as NASA, we are seeing now that it is likely to be corporations or private interests staking claims out there at least as much as governments. In fact, multiple companies have already declared near-term space intentions such as orbital tourism, mining lucrative asteroids, extracting fresh water and hydrocarbons, and settling on the Moon and Mars.
There is likely more platinum and water in the asteroid belt than there is in all of planet Earth. To whom does this wealth belong? Commercial enterprise and private interests will need to play a large role in opening up space for humanity, but strong public space policy now is essential to shape and guide the coming age for society as a whole. Writers, scientists, engineers, and policymakers have been talking for decades about what our future in space will look like. The public at large needs to enter this conversation, so that we can make sure our expansion into space results in an equitable, sustainable, and responsible distribution of the truly staggering amount of resources right here in our own solar system.
SciFi Policy has posted an in-depth interview of me about the social, political, and economic issues in Red Soil Through Our Fingers. SFP is a group that seeks to review, discuss, and advocate for science fiction that helps us explore issues of political, social, and economic importance. Check out this interview for discussion of Red Soil‘s plot and characters, human spaceflight, space settlement, corporate space, Mars, and my favorite policy-relevant fiction!
The story of Red Soil Through Our Fingers takes place against the backdrop of Hellas-Dao, a Mars colony owned and operated by the Rekos-Breland Xenomaterials Corporation (RBX). Though the setting is obviously fictional, I wanted to make sure that I incorporated much of what we already know about Mars and what future Mars colonies might look like. Though I have a background in aerospace engineering, neither Mars nor Mars colonization architectures were my area of expertise. The process of researching defining the setting for the novel was a lot of fun.
It will be viewed as a historic milestone: the act that first allowed merely multinational mega-corporations to become interplanetary ones: The United States congress has recently passed legislation, H.R. 2262, that guarantees the private property rights of United States citizens in space.
On the surface, private property rights in space may seem like an innocuous, or even positive development. We are on the cusp of a real space age, as private companies begin exploring Earth orbit and our solar system. As a species, we need to come to an agreement over how space assets will be managed and regulated, and private property rights in space would be a major needed component of such an agreement. In general, commercial enterprise in space is good thing for expanding humanity’s reach into the solar system.
But the actual text of this bill raises questions of equity and corporate oversight for humanity’s future in space. The bill is a clear violation of a decades-old treaty that pledges to make space the peaceful domain of all of humanity. Without additional oversight, this law could legally change the role of the United States in space from guarantor of freedom to protector of profit.
I find the issues raised by the law timely, as my upcoming novel Red Soil through Our Fingers that imagines a future Mars where corporations own vast stretches of Mars.
Red Soil Through Our Fingers will be my first published novel-length work. But I’m not the only one with a “first” coming up in January… it will also be the first time graphic artist Stephanie Hoover will have her art on the cover of a published novel!
Stephanie and I grew up together on the same street in suburban Idaho. We lost touch over the years, but reconnected last year through social media over the intersection of our creative passions. Cover art is a special genre; it brings together the crafts of writing and graphic/visual art into a unified symbol of a story. Stephanie was kind enough to answer a few interview questions about her approach to the cover for Red Soil Through Our Fingers, as well as her work in general.
My debut novel, Red Soil Through Our Fingers, is one step closer to publication! Thanks to the excellent feedback I got in response to Draft Alpha, I was able to implement a number of much-needed revisions. Draft Beta went out last night with several structural changes, a more streamlined set of character arcs, and over 6,000 words of “deepening”… character backstory, fleshed out relationships, more windows into emotional reactions of POV characters, and higher stakes for scene-level character motivations.
Map of the Hellas-Dao colony from my upcoming novel, Red Soil Through Our Fingers.
During the world-building process for Red Soil Through Our Fingers, I spent a lot of time on Google Mars exploring the surface of the red planet for possible settings. I settled (no pun intended) on a region just northeast of the Hellas Planitia, a large depression in the southern hemisphere. Hellas is the lowest altitude point on Mars’ surface, and hence the highest ambient pressure and temperature. It is one of the areas with the highest probability of liquid or near-liquid water on the planet.
Below are some excepts from the novel, currently approaching Draft Alpha (first complete revision).
I saw on the Mars Society’s webpage that the Mars One colonization program will debate their MIT critics at the society’s upcoming convention next month. I have a triple interest in the debate. My novel-in-progress, Red Soil Through Our Fingers, a Mars colonization novel. Secondly, as a former aerospace engineer, I have experience and a huge personal stake in the design and outcome of space exploration missions. And further, one of the listed critics of Mars One, Andrew Owens, is a friend and writing group member!
Needless to say, I have a few thoughts on the matter.
My novel-in-progress, Red Soil Through Our Fingers, takes place in a farming settlement that is part of a Mars colony. As I wrote Draft Zero, there was a lot of handwavium going on with respect to various technical details — the focus on just finishing the story. Now that I’ve progressed about a quarter of the way into Draft Alpha, I’m needing to clean up some inconsistencies and gaps. Today I figured out a piece of the story world that is good for me to know as I construct the novel, but probably won’t make it explicitly into the next of the work: how various molecules necessary for both human life and agriculture are going to be circulated on this Mars colony.