‘Tholin’ is not a Dwarvish king …

23 02 2013

My first Titan story, ‘Storm in a T-Suit’, appeared back in 2010, in Aurealis 44. I drew, to the extent that seemed practical, on my prior knowledge of research on Titan, to try to build a credible fictional world, but I also pantsed it, to a degree. Titan isn’t a world that gives up its secrets willingly–even mapping its surface is a considerable challenge, because of the dense and almost completely opaque atmosphere that envelops it–so pantsing, even after almost a decade of Cassini’s periodic snooping, is definitely necessary. One of the things I pantsed was the occurrence of windstorms: I needed a crisis to drive the story’s action, and since Titan is one of the few solid bodies in the solar system to experience what we’d consider weather, a storm seemed like an appropriate choice for a crisis. Not being able to find any reliable research on Titanian storms, I just extrapolated, and hoped my extrapolation wouldn’t, in hindsight, appear too extravagant.

I concocted, for my protagonist, a ‘shit-storm’ with winds of up to 20 kilometres per hour: gentle enough, on Earth, but on a satellite with much lower gravity, intrinsically poor visibility and a much denser and innately toxic atmosphere, 20 klicks per hour is plenty. I worried, though, that I might have overdone it: the Huygens descent measurements suggested the near-surface windspeed was very low, only a couple of kilometres per hour or so.

It doesn’t sound, now, as though I did overdo it. According to a report in New Scientist, Tetsuka Tokano at the University of Cologne has determined that Titan’s large northern seas are capable of generating cyclones with windspeeds of up to 20 metres per second, i.e. 72 km per hour, significantly more fierce than anything I’d conjectured. It’s kinda reassuring to learn that I wasn’t overstepping the mark …

It’s also very good to have learnt of this in the same week I sold my fourth Titan story (actually my fifth, but the fourth hasn’t yet found a home ). ‘Emptying Roesler’ has been accepted for Random Static‘s upcoming anthology, Regeneration: New Zealand Speculative Fiction II.

Now, if I could only finish that novel …

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3 responses

3 09 2013
debs

I’d really like to read your Titan stories, Simon. Are they online anywhere, on kindle, perchance?

4 09 2013
simonpetrie

Debs, thanks very much for the expression of interest!

Three of the Titan stories are available online, but they’re all in separate e-books — “Hatchway” is in Keith Stevenson’s ‘Anywhere But Earth’ anthology, “Broadwing” is included as a bonus story in my ‘Flight 404’ ebook (both of which are available through the Kindle Store), and “Emptying Roesler” is in the ‘Regenerations’ anthology reelased by Random Static (not available through the Kindle Store, but the mobi e-book can be purchased from the publisher). There are two other stories for which electronic versions don’t (currently) exist: “Storm in a T-Suit”, as mentioned above, which was in Aurealis 44, and the as-yet-unpublished “Lakeside” (which doubles as the opening chapter of my as-yet-unfinished Titan novel).

I have given some thought to collecting the stories, but since there are a few others I’m intending to write in that series (as well as the novel), it would seem to be premature just yet …

4 09 2013
debs

Thanks, Simon. I’ve just bought ‘Anywhere But Earth’ and ‘Flight 404’. Ah the wonders of this instant gratification age. I’m looking forward to reading about how you’ve imagined Titan.

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