I’ve been having great fun this week as I near the completion of my first science fiction novel — and I do mean the completion, this is the final draft. And yesterday, as I was re-writing a particular scene, I allowed an explosion to take place on a space ship. Which led me on this wild chase to find out how fire behaves in space.
Which led me to flame balls.
That’s right, they’re called flame balls. They don’t burn as hot or as wild as here on Earth, but in zero gravity fire turns into a spherical blob that gives off no light and no smoke, so you can’t find them. Look here at this wonderful explanation on flame balls!
The discovery of flame balls has led me to several problems. First of all, I really wanted to use them, but I can’t. Not completely anyway. You see, I built an artificial gravity system on board this particular space ship, which means that they aren’t really in zero gravity. However, the artificial gravity is … artificial … and located in the flooring, not the ceiling, so the little flame balls can do an upside down teardrop sort of shape.
Secondly … an explosion on board a space ship while it is in space is hard. More than one thing gets affected by the explosion. Compression, airflow, hull integrity … all of it has to come into play.
But one of the really cool things about a flame ball is that they don’t move like fire here on earth. They let the oxygen and fuel come to them, instead of spreading to consume everything in their path. So they’re like little invisible sand-glasses, sucking the oxygen out of a particular place and putting a time limit on any living, breathing person nearby.
However, I need at least one of the characters in this scene to survive.
Lucky for me I still have two weeks before school starts again, so I can devote my energy into problem-solving flame balls in space, explosions, and countermeasures that might be taken to keep the entire ship from destruction.
Oh! By the way … you can totally fire a gun in space. (The right kind of gun, mind you, but a bullet nonetheless.)