zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)
[personal profile] zeborah
In my high school story, the sky broke when one too many aeroplanes flew through it. Itshattered and fell, and afterwards humans had to live underground. I think the sky had acted much like the ozone layer: afterwards people were greatly at risk of sunburn. Possibly, but I can't remember, all the air had also escaped in defiance of gravity.

Considering it now, I see four ways in which a breaking sky could be a disaster:

1) the shards of the sky could fall and hurt people, by concussion or by slicing. But even in the middle of a bright sunny day, I don't see how this could possibly kill more than half the population. Meantime, on the other side of the world, 99.9% of the population will be safe in bed or at work inside.

2) the sky could have been protecting against harmful radiation from the sun. If the radiation was severe enough, even the light coming through windows could kill you. But this would kill the rest of the biosphere too. And worse, of course, if the radiation's that bad, then even the survivors won't survive long.

3) the sky could have been holding the air down. Bt handwaving gravity seems to go a bit far. Besides, not only are there very few people who have spare oxygen tanks lying around, I suspect they'd have a hard time securing a permanent supply before their existing supplies ran out. And then there's the rest of the biosphere again.

4) the shards of the sky could be poisonous. They could release t toxic fumes – and for bonus points, the fumes could only affect humans. But the humans who survivve would tend to be humans who have gas masks readily to hand. And I want to write about ordinary people, not soldiers, emergency service folk, and survivalists.

I think (1) is a given. But it obviously needs something more. My imagination likes (2) best: the idea of sunshine being deadly (both at the moment when the sky falls and in the after days) has a lot of storytelling potential. I think I could even cope with destroying the whole biosphere: then part of the story thrust would involve the survivors having to grow plants again, first for mid-term survival, and then on a larger scale needing to find a way to regrow rainforests to ensure the long-term health of the planet. It would be a massive, multigenerational task, but that's where the optimism comes in. It does leave me with the problem of handwaving a kind of radiation that can kill near instantly but doesn't linger to be a nuisance once the sun's set.

Unless the toxic fumes from the shards of the sky made humans extremely photosensitive. That might almost work. I still kinda want this to happen almost instantly, mostly because the sound of nearly 7,000,000,000 people dying of sunburn... makes it hard to be optimistic.

Or – I was going to start the novel as it happened, with the flash of light, the brightness of the sky concentrating itself into the blinding brightness of the sun – but maybe I had the right idea when I was a teenager: start the story with a hand wavy paragraph saying “yeah, we didn't think the sky could break either, but, well, it's happened, so let's just get on with surviving and staying away from sunlight" and just carry on from there.

Date: 2011-01-15 11:37 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] ajk
For 3, you could have the planet be too small to retain an atmosphere by gravity alone.


zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)

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