Conceptualising Etheric Sailing Techniques as they relate to a Frictionless Miasma

And now that I’ve thoroughly confused you all…a close friend asked me the other night ‘so how do the sails work in space?’ with a genuinely curious and expectingly confused expression. This person knows me well and expects me to pull some trick like pull out a like using big, confusing words like the above title. Also the Americas Cup is on  (ooh, a real life topical sporting reference in a sci-fi/fantasy post!) so sailing is on everyone’s mind at the moment. And the New Zealand team (ignoring the fact that all the teams are heavily comprised of my countrymen, zing) is winning right now which puts us all in a good mood. We’re terribly competitive and tend to depression when we lose.

Right, back to the fictional. How do you sail an old fashioned (or new-fangled even) wooden ship (alright, Margaret, tall ship) through space. If you’re my co-worker you tsk tsk and say ‘You’ve got it wrong, Tom, a wooden ship would just burn up on re-entry.’ If you’re my friend you demand to know where the wind comes from. I always focused more on how everyone was just breathing. Seemed important. And then how you got the wooden(tall) ship off the water and into space in the first place.

Ok, no I wasn’t. I played the rule of cool trope card which states ‘the willing suspension of disbelief for a given element is directly proportional to the element’s awesomeness. Stated another way, all but the most pedantic of viewers/readers will forgive liberties with reality as long as the result is wicked sweet or awesome. (This is taken directly from the TVtropes website which is a huge distraction to me when I should actually be working/writing The cited example is Terry Pratchett, who I’ve very briefly met (been in the same room as) and is responsible for things such as Death, the Grim Reaper of the Discworld, playing an electric guitar. One does not need to question why the electric guitar is not plugged in. It is Death playing an electric guitar. Drops mic.


However, knowing that a bunch of my friends and potential customers are all scientists, engineers, lawyers (actually ignore the lawyer as her reaction to news of impending publication was; quote “OMG OMG OMG” so surely a locked in customer, incidentally my lawyer rides sharks recreationally and may have taken the metaphor too literally, but again my lawyer RIDES SHARKS and is therefore cooler than your lawyer) scientists and other jobs that rely on logic and hard facts. So believe it or not there is an explanation for all in the in-universe physics as to how ships sail around space without wind, barring a few solar breezes. It relates to miasma, which let’s say is a gas, and ether, which for our purpose is a solid, and how they interact with one another. Or react, is perhaps a better way of putting it. It touches on ptolemic physics and cosmology, but not too much as that’s been done before in other settings.


So how do the ships sail? With a well trained (or not) crew, like any other ship, under a capable (definitely not) captain. But what fills the sails, what powers the ship? What do you use when you can’t use wind? You fall back on another trope.

A wizard did it.

Ooh, I can hear you grinding your teeth now. Ok, so there’s more to it than that. In fact our wizard, Loveland Quill in the case of the Tantamount, does not appreciate being called a wizard. He’s a navigator, the Tantamount’s navigator, as with any other ship it’s his job to plot the course and get the ship to where it’s meant to be be. How he gets it there is really beside the point, isn’t it?

What, you still want to know more about the mechanics of astral propulsion? Get yourself a copy of the book as soon as it comes out. It’s all in there. Just don’t call Quill a wizard, bad things happen to people who do.


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