114. Einstein Got It Wrong

As I said in the first post of this blog, way back in August, we are the last generation of writers who will have the privilege of putting the planets which suit our stories around nearby stars. It’s already too late for our solar system. Heinlein could not write Stranger In a Strange Land today; in fact, he eventually had to shift it to another timeline where Martians with their canals and cities still exist.

Answer this: if you read stories from the 60s and 70s, how many of them were set on planets around Alpha Centauri? Dozens, at least. Soon scientists will know what Alpha Centauri’s actual planets look like, and that party will be over.

The slowing of time at relativistic speeds – Heinlein got a lot of mileage out of that in Time For the Stars, as have many other authors. But not so much lately; these days, everything seems to move at warp speed.

The next real-world century will be exciting, but science fiction has largely moved on to the far future. Cyan, due out soon as an e-book from EDGE, explores that near future.

*****

Standard Year 594
Anno Domini 2086
from the Log of the Starship Darwin,
en route to Procyon system,
S.Y. 594, Day 167 (corrected),
entry by Stephan Andrax, Captain

Einstein got it wrong.  He took Newton’s tidy world and turned it inside out, ousted common sense from physics, and gave us the bomb, bent light, and all the rest.  So what?

The speed of light is not the central fact of the universe.  I am.  Not, “I, Stephan Andrax, am the center of the universe.”  The I which speaks when any one of us utters an ultimate truth . . .

I hunger.

I hurt.

I love.

I am.

That I is the center. Everything else is fantasy.

There are two chronometers on the bulkhead. One forges forward at the speed of Everyday, ticking off seconds and minutes and hours and days that make sense to the body and soul. The other races. Seconds flitter by. A new day is born every three hours and twenty-two minutes. Einstein told us this would happen, a century and a half ago; when an object approaches the speed of light, time slows down.

Beside the chronometers is a viewport and beyond it are dopplered stars which sweep through my field of vision as the ship spins. We are nearly six years into our journey. Half way through our journey. Yet, for me, only a year and a half have passed.

And through all the years and hours of our journey, the smaller, fleeter chronometer will rush ahead at Earthtime while our time is slowed. All those I knew and loved, except my companions here on the Darwin, are aging seven times faster than I am. When we return, my agemates could be my parents, and my parents will be dead.

The mind perceives what the heart cannot comprehend.

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