In The Music of Mars, I wanted to explore practical aspects of having a colony on Mars, which means dealing with planetary separation, and how various elements of such a distance affected character motivation and actions.
Today, it takes around 260 days (a tick under nine months) to travel from Earth to Mars with the best planetary alignment at a minimal cost. Naturally, such a separation would cause the Mars culture to shift away from Earth.
The problem is that amount of time hindered the story I wanted to tell. No one would travel for so long for a short-term consulting gig–it’s implausible.
I needed travel to last about a month. I also required real-time communication between Earth and Mars. Who’s willing to read a conversation with a twenty-minute break between every line of dialogue?
In the end, for real-time communication, I envisioned the use of wormholes to shortcut the distance. I can’t change orbital mechanics, but I can reasonably expect fuel and propulsion systems advances that would allow us to ignore planetary alignment considerations.
Having gotten over those hurdles, I could start having fun with the story.
Given the distance, supplies from Earth would be expensive on Mars. Talk about shipping and handling fees! Mostly necessities, rather than luxuries, would be shipped. I’m thinking spare parts, food, and fuel. And ships wouldn’t arrive every day like the mail. Likewise, only so much can be shipped at a time. All of which means that luxuries would be hard to come by as necessities would fill the shipping pipeline.
On the other hand, Earth would have everything in abundance. People would live well without having to work overly hard. The titans of industry would routinely use connections and favors to achieve their goals.
The government would have steadily acquired power. For instance, they would finally take over housing with a vast bureaucracy assigning houses and condos based its understanding of the individual’s needs. As a result, the housing market would collapse.
Naturally, the government would also take it upon themselves to save people from themselves for their own good. For example, they would pass several laws related to food and nutrition. They would mandate a nutritional allocation for each person. Plus, they’d criminalized certain types of foods, particularly snack foods. Of course, black markets would spring up and thrive.
Other changes would have occurred. Marriage would be for a set time frame of five years. The term would auto-renew, and for couples without children, a thirty-day notice would be enough to end the relationship at renewal time.
In short, Earth society requires little work to live well while hard work is the only way to survive on Mars.
Against this backdrop, conflict is inevitable as characters pursue tangible goals.
For instance, Peter Konklin, CEO of Interplanetary, wants to take over MarsVantage and will pull strings with bureaucrats to make MarsVantage’s path more difficult. He’ll even call for murder to achieve his goal.
Chuck and Frank want to loosen Earth’s grip, which is slowly strangling MarsVantage. They’ll take a chance by hiring Gretchen, an archaeologist, to gain access to an energy source.
Gretchen, whose husband recently non-renewed their marriage contract, accepts the job to get the energy source with the hope of reclaiming a place in the archaeology field because her last project leader blackballed her after she insisted on investigating her theory.
And all of these agendas clash.
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I’m an author living in northern Virginia with a wife and a cat. In the late ’80s, I worked on the International Space Station project. I recently retired from managing a group of software engineers to focus on writing science fiction and speculative fiction. Learn more.