NASA’s Kepler mission has been watching a swath of the Milky Way watching for the signs of stars being eclipsed by planets in orbit around them. This takes patience and favorable geometry, but Kepler has already been successful in finding dozens of confirmed planets and is producing lists of thousands of additional candidates. You can even look through the data yourself and see if you can spot some planets that the computer algorithms may have missed (humans can still compete here and have found several!).
It’s an exciting time. When I was in graduate school 20 years ago, we had not found any planets around stars other than our own sun. Science fiction writers were free to make up almost anything they wanted about exoplanets (they’re common or they’re rare, other star systems are like ours or ours is unique, etc.). Not so any more. Now we know that many if not most stars have planets and we know what they’re like, and it’s a wonderfully diverse universe out there.
One of the things I think is great about science fiction is that it provides a vector for science education for the people who don’t want to read non-fiction or watch documentaries. Story broadens the audience for science.
For this reason, I was very happy to contribute a story to a forthcoming anthology called A Kepler’s Dozen, now available for pre-order, that features 13 tales that take place on confirmed planets discovered by Kepler. It promises to be a diverse bunch of worlds. My story, “Middle Ground,” takes place on a small Mars-sized planet in a close orbit around a red dwarf star.
A Kepler’s Dozen
Edited by Steve B. Howell and David Lee Summers
Thirteen stories about distant worlds that really exist
A new anthology of action-packed, mysterious, and humorous stories all based on real planets discovered by the NASA Kepler mission. Edited by and contributing stories are David Lee Summers—best selling author of Owl Dance, The Pirates of Sufiro, and other novels—and Steve B. Howell, project scientist for the Kepler mission. Whether on a prison colony, in a fast escape from the authorities, or encircling a binary star, thirteen exoplanet stories written by authors such as Mike Brotherton, Laura Givens, and J Alan Erwine will amuse, frighten, and intrigue you while you share fantasy adventures among Kepler’s real-life planets.
Projected ship date: June 15, 2013
Twenty years ago there could have been a similar anthology of science fiction stories taking place on alien worlds, but it would have been much more speculative and uncertain. Now we can write stories like this, and they’re much more deeply grounded in science and reality. Science fiction itself is becoming more science-based in this case, and it’s a benefit of living in the future. We are in fact living a near-future science fiction scenario, and it’s great!
Very cool – this sounds like a great idea for a collection. I just wrote a blog the other week actually on weird planets: http://alastairsavage.wordpress.com/2013/01/23/5-… . Unfortunately, most of them have names that are impossible to remember…
That is so seriously cool. Sorry, this may not be a very deep comment, but I had to get that out.
I agree – as a teenager, I really got into a certain TV program, and reading science fiction, and for me that was an incentive to find out about the science behind it, hence I read every popular astronomy and physics book available in our school library, later chose physics for my A levels. Haven't really done anything with it, but I still feel compelled to catch up on the odd "Physics explained to laypeople" book once in a while. And it still works for me that way – whenever I really get into a story, I want to find out everything about the factual background, be it scientific, or historical, or cultural, or whatever!
Hearing about new planets always makes me happy. I might have to pick this up.