My first novel, “Journey to Ohmani,” is a cri-fi – a murder-mystery science-fiction that takes place in a futuristic space city dubbed ‘Ohmani.’ The people of the future refer to this city as the ‘Las Vegas of Space’ for its vibrancy, diversity and progressiveness. The most interesting aspect about the metropolis, however, may be its location inside of an asteroid. This city is so vital to the plot of the book that it inspired the front cover design (thank you Mike Phillips!)
As a science teacher, it was important to me that my world-building is based on practicality and possibility. So why would a city be inside an asteroid in the first place, and what would it be like to live there? Great questions! There are several things that make life on Earth possible. It is in the Goldilocks zone between extreme temperatures, it has an atmosphere, and is abound with liquid water. These are just a few things I had to take into consideration when making my book’s setting realistic.
Before Ohmani became a habitable place, it was a monstrous and unstoppable bullet on a straight trajectory towards planet Earth. The human race was saved from destruction by the friendly midaki aliens – subject of another blog, I’m sure. They helped us hollow out the asteroid and move it to Lagrangian Point Five. This location for a potential space colony is not something I came up with on my own. In fact, there was an L5 Society in the 1960’s when the space program was well funded and immensely popular. This Society was essentially a big group of nerds that had picked L5 to be the location of a space station, if one was ever built. Placing an object at L5 is ideal in many ways. For one, it would require no energy to keep the asteroid at L5 because it is a location where all the gravitational pulls from the moon, Earth, and sun cancel out, i.e. reach equilibrium. The location is also ideal because the asteroid would never move out of the habitable strip taking care of the temperature problem.
Before my brain kicked in, I originally had Ohmani sitting on top of the rock, but that is a huge problem for many reasons. One, earth has this invisible layer called the magnetosphere, thanks to the liquid iron core churning below our feet. This magnetic shell, along with the atmosphere, protects us from daily doses of killer radiation. The ‘spaceflight radiation carcinogenesis’ phenomenon exists because of the sole fact that astronauts leave this protected bubble. As a side note, the aurora lights result from solar flares (radiation bursts) being fed by the magnetosphere to the poles and exciting the atoms in the atmosphere. Talk about beautiful but deadly!
Another reason Ohmani is inside of an asteroid is because building an artificial atmosphere would be much easier in an enclosed space…especially on an asteroid where there isn’t even a foundation of one. In my book, the main character learns a little bit about the creation of Ohmani’s biosphere when he gets into a hairy situation and ends up in a factory running through rows of bubbling algae vats. Our atmosphere is only 21% oxygen, and so it is entirely possible…albeit expensive…to build artificial atmospheres. In fact, there are plenty of companies that do this today for testing specialized equipment. My book takes place decades after the atmosphere was first established, and so these factories are losing money. During the time of the storyline, enough plants have established so that much of the oxygen is naturally produced.
You can’t think about living in space without thinking of floating or bouncing around like the moon. There is a minor gravitational pull on an asteroid, especially on one the size of Ohmani, but it would not be enough to work with functionally on a daily basis. With the help of the alien technologies, Ohmani spins to create centripetal force. Much like a gravitron at a county fair, this spinning creates artificial gravity all the way around the perimeter. Since the equation gravity is well known (ugh, physics), one could simply plug in numbers and change the rate of spin to get that nice sweet spot of 9.8 meters per second squared we feel here at home.
This idea of spinning the asteroid led to the city being “double deckered.” If you were standing on Ohmani right now, inside the asteroid’s belly, you could look above you and see the tops of buildings coming down at you. It would be quite a strange sight indeed! People would be bustling around and cars would be driving on roads all seemingly upside down. Transport to the other side and your world would be suddenly flipped, like you were right side up and the place you just left was now upside down. This was a really cool element to the book because I had to come up with ways the city inhabitants could go from the “ceiling” to the “floor” rather easily. That was made even more interesting when you consider the fact that the centripetal force caused by the spinning would not be felt in the dead center the asteroid…so you would float there. This would not be good if you barfed, as one of my characters unfortunately found out!
It was a blast world-building not only the physical environment of the city, but the socio-economic fabric that any realistic metropolis would have. Every city on Earth has every type of person and every type of neighborhood. In Ohmani, the higher-class people live in high rise apartments where gravity is lower and the view is spectacular, but its lower income citizens and rough areas were located in what I called, “the Underground.” New York City and D.C have underground metro stations, but Ohmani has a whole underground portion that is described as a dark, cramped, and stuffy warren-like series of labyrinthine corridors. It houses all types of business from dance clubs to political lounges, and it made for a great setting for bad things to happen.
Thank you for taking the time to read my little blog about the world I have come to love and please stick with me on my own journey of writing stories worth sharing.