Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Elements: Water

I am suddenly reminded of my great love of marine biology—although, the truth of the matter is that I hate fish. When I studied marine biology, I kept most of my adoration for the invertebrates: give me a sea cucumber, a jellyfish, a crinoid, or something similar over a fish. Please. The ocean is teeming with everything imaginable, but for some reason fish never really gave me much pause. The vast variation of other creatures, large and small, provided more than enough amazement for me.

Most of our planet is covered in it.

Its glittering blue provided not because of some refraction of water itself, but in most cases simply the reflection of the sky. At sunset the oceans become painted with a wash of gold and red; and at night, they betray no color, perhaps except the hushed green of bioluminescence tipping the waves as they crash in the surf.

Water will display prominently when I write the stories of the Helljammer series—a story mostly about naval engagements, pirates, zombies… You can’t have good pirate stories without lots of water. Unrelenting waves of blue, cast against open and clear skies, from horizon to horizon, but for the ports we visit to regain supplies.

Without water, we wouldn’t have piracy on the high seas. So I’ll thank it for that.

Water doesn’t show up so much in SciFi, relegated to the terrestrial worlds—or worlds that are entirely water themselves, like Europa, if simply covered in a layer of ice. Alien planets, perhaps, but not the spacers. They do depend on it, to an extent, but given enough power it’s possible to just tell an oxygen and two hydrogen to produce a water molecule, and form there it’s just a matter of doing that a billion times.

Water shapes the world.

Neither earth nor fire stand up to water. Water is patient. Mountains rise up, water wears them down. The slow, driving course of rivers carves out great swaths like the Grand Canyon; and perhaps it did the same on Mars—the arid world showing evidence of once perhaps having its fill of liquid water.

Water. It’s what’s in my drinking glass right now.

An excellent suspension for syrup and caffeine.

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