The Hot Equations
The indefatigable Larry Correia is running another book bomb today. Again, as it happens, I’ve already purchased and read two of the works on the slate. So today I will contribute by reviewing those two works.
First on today’s list is “The Hot Equations: Thermodynamics and Military SF” by Ken Burnside. This essay is part of a wider collection of military science fiction stories and essays about military science fiction entitled Riding the Red Horse.
There’s no other way around it: this essay is essential reading for aspiring writers of space based “hard” science fiction. The main gist of the essay is this: the laws of thermodynamics impose limitations on space travel. Space opera and science fantasy mostly just ignore these problems, but even most “hard” science fiction barely acknowledges them, much less actually account for them. If you’re going to write “hard” science fiction, you need to deal with these issues.
The essay covers the relevant material in a thorough but concise manner. Importantly for most laymen – especially of the aspiring writer variety – he also touches on the concepts with minimal amounts of math. You will understand this essay. And if you’re planning to write about space travel, you should read and understand this essay.
Non-writers who are simply interested in the topic will also find this essay to be of interest… unless you’re an actual rocket scientist, in which case you’ll probably find it boring.
This essay was actually the direct inspiration for my story “The Fourth Fleet” which appears in the anthology Make Death Proud to Take Us. I leave it to the readers to decide if the story honors the science of “The Hot Equations” – or if it’s any good.