I love research. I love libraries. In a different time, I think I would have happily become a research librarian. Now my research is talking with people that have experience in areas I don’t and wading through websites. So many websites. It becomes very easy for me to spend hours researching a topic with only peripheral impact on a story. Enter the latest area of (likely too much) research: supercomputers.
Supercomputers in a Super World
High tech is a standard aspect of the superheroic genre. For The Jagged Earth I’ve been aiming toward believable, if fantastic, physics rather than simply disregarding the rules we trip over on a daily basis. I don’t intend to weigh down the story narrative with pages of technical details on supercomputers, but they certainly have a role within hero and villain groups. So, I set out to learn about the current -or currently projected- state of the art.
Specifications are relatively easy to come by and mostly weren’t too difficult to understand. The challenge is in projecting the technology into the future: all those wonderful toys (apologies to Jack) I plan on using would, even somewhat realistically, require titanic amounts of computing power. You might even say a quantum leap would be required… I won’t describe the headache from attempting to understand the implications of quantum computing.
So Why Suffer the Headache?
Other than the joy of research and learning, even if only the surface, something new? Primarily for two reasons:
- I want to put supercomputers on the list of ideas for Psykout’s technical column. It’s there that I can use all that technical research to a depth that most likely will never appear in a story, and
- In order to extend current technology and build believable “super” supercomputing resources into the stories.
Well, There’s Your Problem
I want to create computers (really any technological construct) that are at least semi-plausible, but don’t seem dated five years or more from now. That’s where the “future proofing” part rears its ugly head. The underlying concepts of technological items like firearms really haven’t changed that much since they were first implemented. Faster, bigger, higher capacity, etc., but even positing things like caseless shells still doesn’t change the basic concepts that make firearms do what they do. So there’s no real issue with extending them into the future. Computers on the other hand, have not only changed performance characteristics, but entire supporting technologies have come to light and passed away just in my lifetime. Does anyone remember ZIP drives? I still have a SCSI-based one. Yes, I’m that old.
So, there’s yet another challenge for my tales of The Jagged Earth! I look forward to it, actually, especially creating the ubiquitous pseudo-science of the comic book world. It’s going to be a headache, but I think it’s going to be a nice slice of the encyclopedic sourcebook pie for my readers.
Hopefully you will think so too!