David J. Williams Guest Post 2 of 3: O’Neill cylinders

I haven’t forgotten the giveaway. I’ll write more about that later in the week, but if you’re curious check out Dave’s first guest post. Take it away Dave!

Last week we talked about the space elevator from my first novel THE MIRRORED HEAVENS. This week it’s time for the O’Neill cylinder in the sequel, THE BURNING SKIES

Because I just can’t get enough of O’Neill cylinders. Interestingly, though, they’re not exactly flavor-of-the-month . . in fact, if you google “O’Neill cylinders”, and search under images, most of the art you’ll see dates from the 1970s, back when Gerard O’Neill was first championing them as the ideal space habitat. . . a construct that would allow its inhabitants to experience both gravity and open expanses, with a faux sky two kilometers overhead: a revolutionary way to avoid the “corridor cultures” that typified most prior off-world schemes. And it was a great setting for science fiction: the climax of Gibson’s NEUROMANCER occurs on an O’Neill cylinder (the Straylight Run), which always left a profound impression on me.

So as I cast about for the ideal location for a secret summit conference between the leaders of East and West, I found my mind returning over and over again to O’Neill cylinders. Why not put one of those at the neutral libration point L3, and hold the conference there. . ? why not indeed, except of course there IS no singular when it comes to O’Neill cylinders. By definition, they come in pairs — two connected cylinders balancing each other through opposite rotations. So that became the basic topography for the Europa Platform . . . a double O’Neill construct.

With an additional twist thrown in. Because let’s face it, no one in the O’Neill cylinder is going to stand a chance once the bombs start flying and the elite terrorist strike-force Autumn Rain makes its move (THE BURNING SKIES’ plot in one sentence: everyone sets a trap for everybody else). And indeed, even assuming no-military-operations, you’re still going to probably want to have some kind of secure area in the event of ultra cosmic rays or some kind of emergency. So I strapped asteroids onto the north pole of each of the two cylinders, and then stipulated that they were cored out with a honeycomb of passages and rooms. A habbed asteroid would make a great off-world colony in its own right, so this was a fun chance to play with –and combine – multiple architectures. Even as they all go to pieces… .

Mirrored Heavens Burning SkiesMachinery of Light


~ by mentatjack on May 25, 2010.

3 Responses to “David J. Williams Guest Post 2 of 3: O’Neill cylinders”

  1. […] Mentatjack indulges me as I talk about the technology behind the books in general and O’Neill cylinders in particular. […]

  2. […] the large technological set pieces in each of the books. Read about The Phoenix Space Elevator and O’Neil Cylinders and he’ll start off June with a description of the explosive propulsion system of those ships […]

  3. […] First we talked about the LEO space elevator in THE MIRRORED HEAVENS. Then we turned to the O’Neill cylinders in THE BURNING […]

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