In this post we talk to Jayson Adams, author of Infernum, about the propulsion and ship designs in his novel.
FF: What was the inspiration behind the ships in the book?
JA: Early on I decided to riff on present day UFO reports. It’s as if within the next three hundred years we discover that all the sightings were real, and that these are the ways you need to build ships that can travel between the stars. The Starship Avenger is based on reports of triangular shaped UFOs with bright lights at the vertices. The research vessel Adiona is a classic saucer shape, complete with a ramp that descends from its underside.
FF: And the propulsion system—seems like a warp drive?
JA: It’s similar to the warp drive in Star Trek but with a twist. The ships in Infernum use a “gravity” drive. Gravity in this case doesn’t refer to the gravitational force but instead to how massive objects warp spacetime. Now for this story I needed a propulsion system that allowed you to reach the center of the galaxy in a reasonable amount of time. The problem is if you can get there in five days, say, you can reach the Andromeda galaxy in 500. I’m not sure that anyone would sign up for a four-year space trip but I wanted other galaxies to remain out of reach so I added a quirk. The Gravity Drive propels ships by pushing and pulling against the spacetime deformations of massive objects (stars and planets). You can get to Sag A Star in five days but once you leave the galaxy there’s not enough mass to get you anywhere.
FF: I loved the description of traveling at warp speeds with the Gravity Drive, the rainbowed streaks of starlight.
JA: Yeah, all the spacetime eddies that form around the ship twist the incoming starlight.
Speaking of Star Trek’s warp drive, I had a copy of the Star Fleet Technical Manual growing up (and still do). I remember it had a formula for converting warp speed to actual speed: it was the warp factor cubed times the speed of light. When I was a kid I thought that was super fast—warp factor 7, for example, is 343 times the speed of light. But in writing this book I did the math and got a better feel for just how incredibly large space is. You think, as a kid or a fan, that maybe you travel Warp 1 to get out of the solar system, but going that fast it’ll take you 5 ½ hours just to reach Pluto! The Avenger had to travel around 300c just to transit the Infernum star system in a reasonable amount of time. Warp 9, which was supposed to be so incredibly fast, is only about 2 ½ times faster. That won’t cut it getting you to another star.
FF: The Adiona’s Gravity Drive uses Moscovium. That’s a fairly exotic element.
JA: That’s more UFO lore. Moscovium is theorized to power UFO warp drives. I actually have this great book, Anti-gravity Propulsion Dynamics, which purports to describe in great detail exactly how UFOs manipulate spacetime to travel faster than light. I’m not sure if that’s where I first learned about Moscovium.
FF: Lastly, can we talk about the sleepers …?
JA: Oh, yes. A gruesome way to travel 😬. It’s just you, asleep in what’s essentially a coffin traveling at warp speeds, streaking between the stars. Commodore Ahrens needed to get out to Plana Petram and couldn’t hitch a ride on another ship, so traveling the three weeks in a sleeper was his best option. I guess if something bad happens on the way you’ll never know, but man, lying awake at your destination, waiting for them to get you out … that would be too much.