We’re all addicted to communication, especially to the internet. And how can you not get addicted to it? The internet brings us instant knowledge and porn and blissful anonymity, while also letting us be part of a global community in real-time. It removes our physical limitations (though it highlights our moral ones), and makes ideas available across vast distances and cultures. It’s the grand equalizer of our era, making us all senders and receivers, targets and shooters at the same time. (Well, some people use shotguns instead of sniper-rifles, and others use potato-guns and shitbags, but whatever.)
Yet the greatest feat of the internet is practically limitless communication at the tips of our fingers.
Communication is essential to human evolution, and it’s been so ever since we painted on cave walls with calcified sabertooth poop to warn each other not to piss off hairy things bigger than ourselves. We grow that much smarter and faster the more we can communicate. Just imagine where we’d be today if we had not invented the internet… the telephone… the written word. Okay, we’d have invented some other way to spread porn and troll each other, but we’d also be considerably less advanced as a society.
But how will we communicate when we’re not just countries or continents, but star systems and galaxies apart?
Enter: The ansible.
The quantum entanglement phone.
The space warp messenger.
The wormhole tube.
The future com.
Tell your best friend back home about your morning coffee, on the Space Explorer IV just beyond Andromeda, in 140 characters. He’ll think-type you a reply on his way to the rejuvenation clinic.
There are about as many ways to invent futuristic communication technologies for science-fiction stories as there are theories of information transfer, and the good part is: real-world physics aren’t a limit.
It’s hard to imagine a far future universe where communication across interstellar distances is not possible, one way or another. There are stories which build on that barrier, of course, making it an integral part of their setting, but most far-future sci-fi stories have one form of FTL communication or another. That doesn’t mean you should take it for granted. As with anything, a little care goes a long way.
First, you need to build your storyworld physics, and make sure you remain consistent. It’s not that important if the technologies and devices you invent are plausible (unless you write hard science-fiction, in which case I humbly bow to your erudition), but it’s crucial they follow clear, unconflicting rules within your story.
Do you base your FTL travel principles on wormholes? Then your communication will use them too. Wormholes (or Einstein–Rosen bridges) are fairly popular in science-fiction. Since they are a widely discussed theoretical construct in mainstream physics, you can find plenty of information on how they are supposed to work.
Do you build your ship engines with space warping abilities? Then your com system might fold spacetime in on itself to deliver messages too.
If you use quantum entanglement for your coms, you need to make sure the devices used to communicate come from the same source, or at least they’ve crossed paths at one point or another, so their “cores” could have become entangled. There might be severe compatibility issues, since you can’t call whoever you like, and different generations of devices are likely incompatible, but that’s yours to decide. Whatever serves the story best. Limitations can be great plot devices, but they can also crush your story. Handle with care.
And if you succeed to use quantum entanglement to travel between the stars not just fill the void with chatter, I totally want to buy your book.
Maybe you use some other bit of twisted physics to ensure your ships get from A to B, like remote matter re-construction (aka teleportation) to make your jump drives work, or inter-dimensional slipstreams and hyperspace tunnels, or whatever. You can even combine them. But make sure you remain consistent throughout the story and don’t break your own physics.
What’s your favorite means of travel &/ communication?
What have you developed in your fiction?
I use quantum entanglement for communication in my novel The Deeplink, and a twisted form of teleportation, where matter is transformed into energy then further abstracted into quantum information and teleported through the interstellar plasma at great FTL speeds (though not instantaneous), with the only limitation being that travel between galaxies this way is impossible. And also wherever the interstellar plasma is disturbed by… artificial means. Like alien armies descending upon your measly location. Or space-time anomalies that have achieved consciousness. That kind of stuff.
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This post is part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge, April 2014.
In 2012, my A post was — 13 Aspects About Aliens You Shouldn’t Ignore