Saturday, 12 January 2013

Day Twelve: A Place By the Water

Let’s talk about Trash City…which is an idea I came up with for this setting early on, and one that I didn’t really plan on turning into a place that the novel visited. Things change, though, and world creation is organic which is a big part of why I go through this process that I’ve been showing off over the past couple of weeks. Sometimes you just kind of come up with something that you only ever intended to use as a background detail, and sometimes that thing starts to sing to you and slots itself into the framework of the narrative in a way that you didn’t expect. And that’s what happened with Trash City.

You might remember Trash City from the timeline earlier this week. It’s the Google funded effort to clean up the Pacific Garbage Patch, and it’s gotten a little bit more development over the past couple of days. At it’s most basic, it’s a double ring of ships. The outer ring functions as a kind of atoll—aging, retrofitted freighters connected by deep dredge nets designed to keep the interior of the ring as clear of debris as possible—and the inner ring is made up of both solar panel barges and, well, we’ll get there.

So, these outer ships are big old freighters or tankers that—with the exception of one unit—have been gutted and heavily retrofitted for trash sorting, processing, and light manufacturing. They’ve also all been fitted with starboard-side (that’s the right side, for those not of a nautical bent) trash aggregators and scoop armatures. They pick up and drain large amounts of waste before dropping them onto the deck for sorting. Biological waste is dumped back in on the interior side of the ring to sink, certain recyclables are set aside for return to the mainland and reclamation, others are processed on-site, and anything else is heavily compacted. The remaining outer unit is a pair of ships that have been joined together and repurposed into a field—featuring a landing strip, several helipads, and a launch tower.

Reclaimed materials, which are mostly light-weight metals and ceramics, are rendered down and repurposed into storage cylinders which are filled with the compacted trash and sealed before being moved to the double-hull launch site. Once in place, the canisters (which have got nose cones on them, obviously) are fitted with collapsible, reusable hydrogen-electric launch packs and shot into orbit where they engage in automated braking maneuvers..forming a line of waiting cans.

Once a month, the launch rig sends up a small, manned shuttle, which goes from can to can, collecting the launch packs into its cargo bay and firing the cans  at the sun with a low-powered onboard magnetic accelerator. The shuttle then returns to Trash City, gliding into the landing strip with the assistance of drag-chutes.

The whole thing is—as I’ve said—bankrolled by Google, who are essentially funding a collective of environmental non-profits that decided to get serious and pool their resources. In exchange for this funding, (which is supplemented by World Wildlife Fund-esque donations and “adoptions”) Google uses the site for publicity and company retreats, and one, other thing—which brings us to the second, inner ring of ships and solar barges. The barges provide a significant amount of power to the whole enterprise, and the inner ships house large wireless server rooms that support and extend Google’s longstanding “free internet” initiative.

Now, at this point, you might just be wondering how this place fits into the story of a sad, broken-down detective looking into a possible murder on the moon? Well, firstly, it plays into this running theme of isolated places that I’m building—Dow’s home, the orbitals, the lunar surface, and now Trash City—and the staffing of the novel with the sort of fringe-ish people that tend to inhabit these places. Secondly, Trash City is a good, relatively close launch-site to where the UN is pulling Dow from in Peru, and I just happen to like it for the place that’s got the next scheduled launch—my thought being that to prevent a panic, the UN is going to try to sneak Dow up to the lunar surface and he and the shuttle will be meeting a cislunar transport in orbit.

It’s kind of a good example of how these kinds of things evolve, actually. Does that make sense?



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