A few months ago I responded to an ad I found online looking for people to write science fiction short stories. This sounded right up my alley, so when they asked me to submit a sample, I jumped at the chance.
Or rather, looked carefully before I leaped. I was given a premise to start with, and told to flesh things out from there. Except the premise was… not what I’d ordinarily work with. It involved a brilliant scientist- who is also a former special forces soldier- who has to stop an alien invasion. The aliens’ evil plan involves moving Earth to some other part of the galaxy, which will supposedly make it easier to conquer us.
It should go without saying that anybody who can move Earth can probably do whatever they want with us puny humans without needing to go to all that effort. It’s harder than it looks. We’re not talking about using bulldozers or- “earthmoving equipment.” This is grabbing hold of a giant ball of iron and bringing it somewhere else. Blogger Sam Hughes has given this much more thought than I have, and have some novel ideas with varying degrees of practicality.
It seemed like what the people who’d posted the ad wanted was some action-shoot-’em-up, where the aliens and sci-fi elements are incidental- the story could be about gangsters, pirates, cowboys and Indians, and be essentially the same. My first few ideas quickly descended into biting satire. In an attempt to take things somewhat seriously, I tried to think of how the aliens might actually go about moving Earth.
I didn’t want to write out some explanation in technobabble, which pushed the story further down the Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness. This is a way of gauging how much an SF story plays by the real rules of the universe- the more natural laws you bend or break, the softer the story. Star Wars is so soft it’s pretty much high fantasy. 2001: A Space Odyssey is about as hard as it gets. Other things, like Dune and Battlestar Galactica, are somewhere in the middle.
The plan I came up with to move Earth had a certain elegant simplicity to it that I really liked- same with Our Hero’s solution. They’re also simple enough anyone can understand them. I hope Isaac Newton would be proud.
My correspondence with the people who posted the ad ultimately didn’t lead anywhere, but I think the story I wrote, called Long Shot, isn’t that bad. I’ve changed the relevant details so it’s all my own work. You can now check it out on the Media Page!