Most of us grew up on big, bold space operas in which interstellar travel was unrealistically and delightfully fast. I’m talking making the Kessel run in 12 parsecs fast- faster than light fast. When we think about great Science Fiction, that’s still what resonates with myself and many others. Which leads us into Science Fiction taboo number four.
NO Faster Than Light (FTL)
FTL – if you know Science Fiction you know exactly what it means. For those of you who may not, it stands for Faster Than Light, or Superluminal, and describes the speeds at which starships travel through space. Think warp speed, hyperspace, starburst, slipstream, worm holes, fold-space and any number of other fictional FTL propulsion systems. They are the door that opens the galaxy, the universe and our wildest dreams to us.
For the most part, they have been anathema in much of the Science Fiction literature of our time. Our current understanding of physics discounts Faster Than Light space travel. Nowadays we seem to crave Post-Apocalyptic and Dystopian stories. If space travel is involved, we tend towards Hard Science Fiction in which realistic and believable science is king.
However, that’s not to say there’s not a place for the rigid and scientifically plausible hard fiction in which the difficulties of exploring space are brought to life. Firefly is an example of great Science Fiction done without the use of Faster Than Light. The Expanse is another one, although it does slip some FTL in there.
Here’s why I think this Science Fiction Taboo needs to be broken.
There’s something amazing about being able to jump to hyperspace, or warp speed, or whatever and explore the farthest reaches of our galaxy and the universe. Granted, it takes imagination to write a story with subluminal speeds as a constraint, but I’m not one to remain in the small paddock for too long. Eventually, I’m going to want access to the large and never-ending grazing fields of Faster Than Light travel. I need to expand my universe and Faster Than Light is just one of many ways to do it!
What do you think? Is it okay to use Faster Than Light in a story? If not, why? Would you write a story using this method?
I’d love to hear your thoughts. You can leave leave a comment here…