Monday, April 23, 2012

T is for Technology

For the A to Z Blogging Challenge, I'm posting alphabetically on things related to Shayla's world from my (unpublished) novel, Ghosts of Innocence...

Space ships, anti-gravity, death rays ... all the staples of sci-fi are present in Ghosts of Innocence. But I try to keep them in the background. Part of the furniture. Not something to be drooled over.

I've talked about odd bits of technology in various posts already - space travel, drugs, electronic implants, passkeys, quark bombs, shimmerblades - and I will talk more about weaponry in a later post.

Alongside the "hard landscaping", such as faster than light travel and death-dealing weapons, I like to bring a lot more of the "softer" technologies into the story.

I also make a point that not everyone has access to the same technology. Some groups have specializations, and are far more advanced in some areas than others.

The Imperial Family Skamensis is all about the harder stuff. They have the big ships and the big guns. They also excel in electronics and computing, and have the more advanced artificial intelligence systems to command their fleets. The latter being their Achilles' heel, when Shayla dupes the Emperor into compromising his access codes, allowing her to take control.

The computing devices are worth a mention. Pretty much everyone carries either a notepad or a scroll, flexible computers no thicker than a sheet of cardstock that you can either fold or roll up and tuck in a pocket. Many tables, desks, and walls are also computationally-active surfaces that you can write on or throw up images from our own device.

By contrast, the Family Firenzi are masters of materials and biotech. Many of the drugs I mentioned earlier come from them, and they have more highly advanced medicines than the other Families.

They can produce materials able to withstand extraordinary temperatures, like the re-entry bubble Shayla uses to eject from a crashing starship.

Firenzi agents carry chemical recognition devices, usually a small piece of jewelry, which emit a chemical tracer that can be recognized by another such device close by. A stealthy version of a secret handshake.

My favorite device, though, is the "nose", which allows you to follow a planted scent...but let Shayla show you how it's done:

Finn took a deep breath and nodded. "Time to pick up her trail." He handed Shayla a thin translucent strip about an inch across and a few inches long. "You know how to use a nose, don't you?"

"Of course." Shayla took the strip and placed it across her eyes. It stuck to her skin and held itself in place. To outward appearances, this might have been nothing more than a fashionable sun visor. Perfectly reasonable in the high altitude glare.

Through the hard but flexible material, she could just make out the outline of the path. Her vision cleared when she squeezed the topmost of a row of tiny protrusions at each end of the strip, and a luminous display hovered in her line of sight. Shayla fingered the bumps along the edge, tuning the device in to the chemical signature that had been planted on their quarry. This was another secret from the Firenzi materials laboratories, but one which the Insurrection had known about for decades.

"Got it." A hint of fluorescent violet hung in the air in front of Shayla. "Raven managed to plant the tracer OK."


  1. That's interesting. I hadn't really thought about the differences between hard and soft technologies before.

  2. I like that you have names that are more reflective of how the society would call something, rather than the trend sometimes to name things based on description.

    That is, "Nose" rather than "Chem-trace" or something unnatural sounding.


  3. You make a good point about that not everyone has the advanced technology just because it exists. I think Star Wars did that a bit too much, come to think of it.

  4. Johanna: That's a distinction that I made up, mainly to help highlight the kinds of technology that often get overlooked in sci-fi.

    J: That was the idea. Trying hard not to come across as too nerdy :)

    McKenzie: I'm just going by what goes on in the world around us, and I reckon the differences will tend to become more pronounced the more spread out we are.

  5. Botanist this is wonderful but a lot of it over my unscientific head. Bit different from my little techo add-on today. Lovely to see you again. This A-Z frenzy is crazy!


  6. Denise, I appreciated your "little techo add-on", it came just in time. Blogger has "hit" me today and I'm all at sea.

    Yes, the A to Z is frenetic, and I think people are started to tire.

  7. Hi Botanist, Interesting concept, “the nose”. I find your scifi fascinating-- and your approach to it. It always sort of surprises me when I pick up and old scifi book, or watch a scifi movie, and realize just how dated their technology is now—and I know that it was cutting edge when it was created. I wonder if our ability to write any kind of technology “shelf-life” into stories will expand or contract with respect for future advancements.  Good post 

  8. Teresa, that's always a worry, especially when I think how technology has moved on just since I started writing the story!


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