Swarm Rising with Steve Cole and astronaut Tim Peake

Published on: 03 September 2023

Author Steve Cole wrote Swarm Rising with astronaut Tim Peake about two teens who end up in space - but what's it really like up in the stars?

Separating science fact from fiction

I’ll be honest. The idea of writing science fiction with an actual astronaut – and a really cool one like Tim Peake! – was incredibly exciting, but it did worry me a bit. After all, astronauts deal with science fact – the realities of space travel. But in fact, Tim is full of ideas for making the seemingly impossible possible.

We’ve never been able to venture out into space further than the Moon, a journey of about 3 days. We’re planning missions to Mars, a journey of around seven months. But with our current tech it would take over 6,000 years to reach the nearest neighbouring star. That’s a long time – even with decent in-flight entertainment.

Of course, Captain Kirk and Doctor Who never worried much about this. The sci-fi idea of hopping across galaxies in the blink of an eye is fun, but it doesn't play nicely with the laws of physics. There are ISSUES, people.

  1. Einstein – the spoilsport – proved that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light in a vacuum, which is about 186,282 miles per second.
  2. As an object with mass accelerates, its energy increases. To push that object at the speed of light would require an amount of energy that is literally astronomical. That bill could bankrupt a planet!
  3. Time passes slower for someone travelling near the speed of light than it does for someone standing still – it’s called time dilation. If you spend three years zipping through the stars on your spaceship, back on Earth more than 60 years will have gone by. Just imagine the issues with sending postcards!
  4. Moving at such incredible speeds, a speck of dust could hit you with the force of a nuclear explosion. Game over.

So, sadly, the laws of physics have put a firm brake on our super-fast space dreams. And not just ours. Perhaps the reason we’ve never been visited by aliens before (at least, not in a way we can prove) is that they’re stuck in their own solar systems too, all of us cut off by the laws of the universe.

Digital aliens

Tim Peake thought about all this while up on the International Space Station. And he thought… What if some of those aliens evolved beyond their bodies and became digital creatures? Beings of pure intelligence. They would have no mass ­– so they could travel at light-speed with no problem. They wouldn’t age or get sick, so the length of the journey wouldn’t matter. And if the population could travel together in swarms, then keeping connected would be no bother either.

All they would have to do is whizz through space until they found a planet with reasonable technology. Not so hard to find, you just follow the radio waves and TV signals sent out into space back to their source. Then this swarm of digital intelligence could sneak into the internet undetected and use 3D printers to print new bodies.

Even now, aliens could be walking about disguised as humans, watching us. Learning about us. Judging us… And what if the only ones who knew were two regular teens… who don’t stay regular for long!

Tim wanted a writing partner as he’s not written fiction before, and that’s where I come in. We had such a great time writing Swarm Rising together – mostly over lockdown in 2020 – we wrote a sequel – Swarm Enemy. So if you get our book and you enjoy it, there’s another one already waiting for you. Why not rush out and get started?

At the speed of light, obvs.

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