Jet lag and the creative muse


I don’t know about anyone else, but at the moment my time sense is off by what feels like eighteen hours.  Had a long last 48 hours in airports and am began beginning this post in the deserted bar of an English hotel with my senses scrambled.  According to the local time it’s past two in the morning. According to what’s left of my sleep deprived brain I’ve lost all frame of reference.

The flight over wasn’t great, as two excited Dutch seniors gabbled on all night in loud voices, despite being asked to keep it quiet.  Maybe they didn’t understand, but I’ve found that’s unusual for the Dutch.  Most are such good English second language speakers.  Perhaps it was their first time coming back from BC.  I don’t know.  Angie was her usual restive self, so I watched the in flight movies with my neurons quietly dissolving  into temporal shifted chaos.  Tried to cat nap in the airport, which took the edge off it, but that was all.  At the moment, Mr Wonderful I’m not.  As I get older I get less tolerant of these things.  Next time we will plan at least a 24 hour layover between long distance flights.

Writing as I do about interstellar travel and its various challenges, this raised the point of ‘Star lag’.  A disconnect between Earth time zones and human diurnal synchronisation.  Say you have a star traveller who has been living on time zone in one world who makes repeated trips to Earth and a specific time zone there, what does this do to their body functions?  I’ve heard some issues referred to as ‘Biorhythm upset’ (Larry Niven) and a few other references, which not unnaturally escape me right at this moment.  In the Stars series, various characters report feeling less than in tune with themselves after forty or fifty light year trips.  Coupled with the time disruption caused by a disconnect between normal space / time function and what I refer to as ‘subspace’.

Working from personal experience of long distance travel, I’ve jotted a few notes on what it might be like for people who have to live and work on Star ships, and all the mental and physical challenges raised.  If there is a secret to faster than light interstellar travel, and if humankind is not dumb enough to self destruct in the meantime, what does this do to the people who will regularly traffic between worlds?  How will they cope?  What will their needs be?

Personal space will be an issue for star ship designers, and cabins will need to be roomy, with facility for low gravity sleeping arrangements.  Digging around for anecdotal reports and more scholarly data from Astronauts on the ISS, and from the old Russian Mir programme and Skylab leaves us with plenty of clues.  Regular reports on the condition of Astronauts like Chris Hadfield, for example, the Canadian Astronaut whose YouTube videos went viral on the web also provide material.  There’s a hell of a lot of good basic primary source material available, and research is half of what writing is all about.

In ‘Darkness’ all these themes have to be addressed, and with all the necessary astronomical data to plough through, there’s a rich seam to be mined.  Especially for the critical ‘Asteroid miner’ story thread.

Amazing what inspiration can come, even from jet lag.

Truro UK today and tomorrow.  Visiting Bath and seeing Jo and Laura the day after.  Then family in Stratford.

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Martyn K Jones

A writer who first trained as an Electrical Engineer, then fulfilled various roles within the computing industry. First published in 'SuperBike' magazine, 1978 under the pseudonym Harry Matthews. Since then has written and had published a wide variety of work; from PR copy in trade magazines to supernatural short stories and the occasional satirical article. Emigrated to Canada in 2007. Became a Canadian Citizen December 2014. Now branching out as a serious science fiction novelist.

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