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Monday, May 10, 2010

Science in Fiction: Living Arrangments

One of the nicer aspects about writing science fiction is that I will never spend a day crawling through piles of moldering books in search of the title, Textile Designs of 1490. Future fashion isn't set in stone, which means a sci-fi writer can create homes to suit their futuristic needs.

For some reason, authors aren't running with this.

It seems that most authors are content to slam four walls and a roof on a home, add a hard-good replicator, and call it a day. This bothers me.

Like a sore tooth, this concept that homes won't, can't, or shouldn't change in the next few hundred years plagues me. Really, how many of us have hard-packed dirt floors? Do you hang tapestries on the wall to keep out a breeze? Raise your hand if you don't have running water on a semi-regular basis.


I rather thought not.

Homes have changed in the past few years. I promise, by the time I am old and gray they will have changed into something we aren't predicting.

So don't fall back on the cube with a hard-goods replicator. Take a deep breath, grab your notebook, and let's explore some of the viable options for future homes for our heroes (and heroines, and villains, and miscellaneous characters destined to die by chapter three...)

1) The Solar Home
Isn't the swirly picture up top cute? That's what a magazine in 1958 predicted we would be living in. Dagnabit! I want my swimming pool! Where's my flying car? Why haven't I hooked up solar panels? Actually, photovoltaic homes aren't far fetched. If you're writing near-future sci-fi or specfic, I recommend hooking your characters up with some of these panels.

Electrons are knocked loose from impure silicon crystals by sunlight creating an electronic charge. Just the thing for powering smart fridge that weighs your groceries and tells you when you're low on milk, running the timer for your green wall, or selling back to the electric company when you have electricity to spare. If everyone in your neighborhood hooked up solar panels, your electric bill could feasibly be a check coming in from the city. Wouldn't that be nice?

Pros: Until bioluminescence can be adapted to shed more UV, every habitable system will use light. Imagine powering the basics of a shop with solar cells that are themselves fed by the lights the crew uses. Solar power is feasible, affordable, and probably going to be very common for the next fifty years or so. After that, we'll find something better and a little less breakable.

Con: The downside of solar panels is that they can be damaged by grit, debris, storms, hail, and other things flying through the air (like the neighbor's golf ball). Solar panels need cleaning. Other than that, as long as you can find impure silicon you should be good to go. If you want to frustrate your characters, limit the silica deposits on their new planet. :o)

Tomorrow: The Earth Home
Solar Home of the Future image found HERE, and originally published in 1958. I suddenly feel like a slacker for living in a house no different than June Cleaver's. Earth Sheltered Home found HERE.


  1. Mmmm here's something scarey. I rather like the swirly pic!!! darn it, I hate change. Give me a nice cottage by the sea anytime lol

  2. Geothermal heat. I predict that will be a big influence in the future. I can just imagine the possibilities...

  3. I'm still totally enamored with the designs at http://earthship.com/ as my future house... :)