1. aguywhotypes

    aguywhotypes Active Member

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    space ship building...

    Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by aguywhotypes, Dec 7, 2017.

    I want to write a detailed description of ship building. I want to have a section in my story where the engineers might have to fix or repair parts of the spaceship if it comes under attack.

    My question then is how do you describe something that doesn't exists?
    My only answer that I've been able to come up with is: to make it up, correct?

    In other words I would go about by first building a parts glossary if you will with a description on what each part does.
    I would have to build a sci-fi starship language just as much if I were to come up with a new speaking language for a non-human race, correct?

    I'm assuming it would be in sections like are computers are now. For example if our video card goes out on our computers, we don't sit and troubleshoot to the component level, at least most of us don't.
    We go to best buy and buy a new one and pull the old one out and plug it in and now it works. So I'm thinking more core component level, but deeper than just saying the "main warp drive."

    Thanks.
     
  2. mashers

    mashers Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    How detailed? As a reader, I'm not sure how enjoyable it would be to read all of the detail about the construction of the ship, unless it's relevant to the plot.

    That's a good way of sneaking in the technical detail. Your engineers could be discussing the best way to go about the repair, or there could be an apprentice who is figuring it out or having it explained. Just don't go into excessive detail in case it gets boring.

    Well yes, to an extent, if it's something which does not exist at all then you have to make it up. However, I would suggest you base the technicalities in science fact, in order to keep it believable. Love it or loathe it, Star Trek is an excellent example of a sci-fi universe with lots of internal consistency, and systems of technology which are grounded in real scientific theory.

    That would be a good idea in order to ensure you stay consistent when writing the story. But probably don't include the glossary itself - just use it as a tool when writing the story.

    Well, there might be technology which needs a new name in which case you might need to invent names. "Warp drive", "flux capacitor", "holodeck", "light sabre"... these are all examples of neologisms used in sci-fi to name things which don't actually exist. I would caution you to avoid excessive use of this, as it can make stories more difficult to read and less plausible. Also, don't try too hard to make your tech sound 'cool'. Readers will see right through it. The tech is either cool or it isn't, and if it isn't but you're trying to make it sound like it is, then your story will lose credibility.

    You seem to be asking about the technical specifics of how your yet-to-be-invented technology should work. That's up to you to decide, but I would say you're on the right lines when you say that component-level repairs and replacements are practically unheard of now. Especially in what I assume is a military-like setting. Modern-day militaries aren't going to dick about with a soldering iron replacing individual components--they don't have the time. They'll just rip out a whole faulty board and put a new one in. Technology of the future is likely to go the same way. The level of detail you go into is up to you. I wouldn't be excessive with it, or as I said earlier the reader might get bored or miss the point. I remember an episode of Star Trek Voyager where neural gel packs were failing. IIRC there was technical detail about what they did and why they were failing, and the level of detail was sufficient so you knew what was going on, but not so excessive that it was boring.


    I would suggest reading The Martian by Andy Weir. It's an excellent example of a novel which includes technical detail about the technology in the story, while keeping the detail relevant and interesting.
     
  3. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Contributor Contributor

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    Typically space ships use naval terminology. Regardless of the race of beings involved I would stick with that convention because readers will easily pick that up. Yes it's anachronistic to talk about a dry dock in space but it's the exact same idea as on a planet's surface, a cradle that goes around the outside of a ship so it can be built without having to be sea/spaceworthy. At the absolute most I'd go with 'cradle' to describe the structure. Unless you are utterly hell bent on not being humanocentric in your word use then there's no reason not to use words the audience can understand.

    As for modular ship building... That's something complicated. In theory some ships today are modular. But really all that means is you don't need to cut the thing apart to put different bits into it; it's still a super involved process to connect up power and water and electronics into a new module. I think the best thing is to take a semi modular approach, have ships that have some components that are template designed and can be swapped in and out by anywhere with a big crane and the rest of the hull is bespoke built to the needs of the ship. That'd mean that you can have ships of weird and wonderful configurations without trying to make out that they are all just built like lego because then you have to explain why don't they make every ship super kick ass if it's just as easy as building a boring freightor.

    Just some thoughts.
     
  4. Fiender_

    Fiender_ Member

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    I often imagine space-ship building as being similar to naval ship building. The principal is basically the same; build giant metal thing with an engine and electronics inside. Some research into naval shipyards or shuttle construction may be in order. It also matters of course whether or not your ships are built on a planet's surface or while in space.

    However, it does sound like you're overestimating the amount of terminology you need to provide. For one, even if you do go in depth with how ships in your story are built, there are tons of shorthands or existing terms that you could use. Most sci-fi call an orbital ship building/repair facility a "dry dock". It's based off the real world equivalent with boats but obviously there's no ocean in space.
     
  5. Stormburn

    Stormburn Senior Member

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    Real life experiences can provide wonderful fuel for you imagination. Just for starters do a quick google on the history of submarine combat. There you should have some technical background to play with and plug in. Also, there should be anecdotes about actual submarine saving repairs/fails to inspire your scenes. For even more drama, expand your search to ships at wars. For example, during WW2, the German battleship Bismarck was trying to stay ahead of the British fleet and make the safe waters of France. She was torpedoed by British biplanes. Her rudders jammed while making a hard turn and she stuck making a circle. With the British navy only hours away, engineers were diving and trying to unstick the rudder.
    Hope this helps!
     
  6. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Contributor Contributor

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    Oh that's a superb idea. In fact the best thing to look at would be Das Boot (the movie, although I also recommend the Kraftwerk song). Lack of knowledge of the outside world is the name of the game; you just have your sensors to tell you everything and they really are not that great. A lot of time spent just... Waiting. And hoping that if the boat explodes at least you'll know why.
     
  7. MilatheRose

    MilatheRose New Member

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    Most big scifi titles just name their parts after the basic text book physics names they relate to. "Ionic Disrupters", "Inertial dampeners", "Sensor array". They all do what they say on the box. Also it is not Archaic to use naval terminology.

    We do the same thing for all advancements. Do you know what is called when a tank crew's machine is destroyed and they have to fight on foot? Its called being "unhorsed", the jousting term for when someone is pushed off of their saddle by an enemy lance.

    We may not call them "land ships" any more, but the body of a tank is called a "hull" as if it where a battleship, even though its supposed to be called a "Chassis" because its a land vehicle. Army's tend not to update their language because, why would you? You will find the army littered with anachronisms. Most Paratrooper divisions use Choppers now, not parachutes, unless they have to Halo, but we still call them Paratoops. I could go on, but you get the point. The armies and navies of the world are ultra conservative.
     
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  8. mashers

    mashers Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Actually, a great resource for technical description of space combat is Jack Campbell’s ‘The Lost Fleet’ series. They’re quite entertaining to read, too.
     
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  9. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Contributor Contributor

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    Could you maybe rephrase that so it involves a Kraftwerk song?
     
  10. mashers

    mashers Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    How did I do?
     
  11. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Contributor Contributor

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    Not bad :p
     
  12. Johncrawfordz

    Johncrawfordz Member

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    Hi, please find my answer below in Bold.

    Hope this helps
     
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  13. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Wrting is never clean. :) Contributor

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    I think it would make sense to have the stationed throughout the ship,
    not just the engine room like Star Trek. And have them easily deploy-able
    with hull material so they can patch the ship up when it gets holes. :)

    Or you can take a lesson from Icarus Hunt, and have two hulls on the ship,
    making it much harder to penetrate. Granted in all likely hood, that will
    do diddly against things like particle accelerators, which can pierce any
    armor and spread radiation about that kills those it comes into contact
    with.



    But you do have to make it somewhat aerodynamic, as there still is drag in
    space on the atomic level. :)
     
  14. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan Active Member

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    Being pedantic, but the hull is the outer planking/plating/covering and the chassis is a framework that the hull is mounted to.

    It makes sense to me that they'd use older terms to describe things in the future, but I think there would be more of a natural progression for them to come from aeronautic terms or actual terms used by the space industry today. So instead of chassis and hull, you could use fuselage and skin respectively. Bulkhead is still cool, though. Everyone uses bulkheads.
     
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  15. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Wrting is never clean. :) Contributor

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    Here here. :)

    War-frames unlike tanks do not have hulls, they have armor plating. :D
     
  16. Shadowfax

    Shadowfax Contributor Contributor

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    For "trouble-shooting" at beyond the component level, you could do worse than watch a UK TV show called Escape http://www.imdb.com/title/tt7448396/ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt7448396/
    Watch how real engineers work in a (somewhat) realistic setting...including what prima-donna some of them are!
     
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  17. MilatheRose

    MilatheRose New Member

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    See, you are using the terms in the modern sense to correct me and not even realizing it. I'm talking about the words as they existed in the first world war. Ok, so armored cars predated tanks. They use the same basic construction method in that day. However if you are reading period documents nothing on the armored car is called the "Hull". The framework and the armor mounted on it are all called the chassis. Literally all of it, they just made distinctions and called the armor "plating", which is also weird since traditional plate armor isn't riveted.

    However people didn't see a tank as an armored car. They saw it as a ship, just on land. So none of the terminology that was used for the armored cars was used for the tanks until later in their development. Its kind of funny, because later when we started to develop modular armor for those armored cars we adopted calling the armor mounting a hull, even though that was not done before. But now I have gone on way too long.
     
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  18. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan Active Member

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    Hull originates from the Old English 'hulu,' meaning husk, pod, case, or covering as it would refer to a seed or nut. Even on ye olden tall ships, the hull referred to the outer surface structure that met the water and covered the framework of ribs, beams, carlins, and whatnot that on a land boat (also known as the Ford LTD) would be referred to as the chassis. I probably wasn't paying attention in history class, but I could have sworn that World War I happened after The Battle of Hastings.
     
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  19. MilatheRose

    MilatheRose New Member

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    I feel like you misunderstood me. I know wooden ships had their outer shells referred to as a hull. I was comparing Armored car terminology to tank terminology specifically at the time of its advent. The differences of reference words between those two vehicle classes has nothing to do with tall ships of the middle ages. I don't think the Ford LTD is not an armored car (I think, I'm not familiar with american vehicles so I could be wrong), and I don't think its from the period I was giving as an example about anachronisms and word confusion, so I'm not sure what you are getting at there.

    Either way, we are straying from OP's question so we should really continue this in direct correspondents rather than clogging the thread with our semantics disagreements.
     
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  20. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    Here's the thing about humans: we automate. Everything we've done since the industrial revolution is build more and more complex automation systems.

    Ship building will likely be no different.

    Here is how I imagine ships being build in the future:

    Swarms of small robots that dig and sort materials from asteroids. The selection of the asteroids is done by a human, but the entire digging, refining, and shipping process can be automated.

    Then you have the ship's specs. Those will be somewhat controlled by a human, but each individual component will likely be designed by an AI. AI, even now is vastly superior to humans when it comes to certain types of design. Here is an antenna used on a space mission, evolved entirely inside of a computer.
    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/ff/St_5-xband-antenna.jpg

    Then actually building it would be simply a process of taking the raw materials and creating the components. Putting the components together is not hard to imagine, car companies do it now. The extension of automating the process of refining the raw materials into the components is not much of a stretch.

    As each component was designed, tests would also be designed for it, so once the ship is completed, a quality assurance system would likely run millions to trillions of automated tests on it.

    Only then, I imagine, would humans go in and start their own secondary QA process.
     
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  21. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Contributor Contributor

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    I think it depends a bit on the kind of setting, but yeah I think this is a fairly plausible way for a truly space fairing species to operate, whether human or otherwise. Assuming that they are a civilisation that builds plural spaceships then it stands to reason that they've made efforts to do so in a way that is better than having a bloke on some space scaffolding with a welder.

    That's a very 'high' science fiction image though, and while I agree quite likely for a real spacedock, it does present some problems for a writer. At the point of civilisation that you describe there isn't really much of a function left for humanish beings. AI can design, mine, refine and build anything better than any biological being could. So what are the characters going to do in the story?

    It's the federation's problem in Star Trek; why go where no-one has gone before? Basically just to say we did. We could send automated scouts out and chill in our holodeck harems but we explore because seriously what else is there to do?

    Which is not to say that there shouldn't be automation in such a crafts building, but I think a more fertile area for fiction might be a kind of megafactory that is still mostly person controlled. Not some bloke welding the plates together, but at least people doing the design and operating the machines. Maybe that is a twinge more unrealistic, but at least that gives the actual creatures involved a role in their ships production.
     

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