How Space Debris Inspires My Current Novel

How Space Debris Inspires My Current Novel - How To Write the Future podcast

Quote from How Space Debris Inspires My Current Novel - How To Write the Future podcast


How Space Debris Inspires My Current Novel – How To Write the Future episode 57

What are you deeply inspired about, are you doing the research on it? Have you figured out who the players are in the current world who are talking about those things, discussing them, studying them, putting out reports on them?”

In “Episode 57, How Space Debris Inspires My Current Novel” host Beth Barany, creativity coach, and science fiction and fantasy novelist discusses one of the things that has been influencing her storytelling, space debris, or space junk, and explains what different countries are doing to combat and protect Earth’s orbit. Beth also shares tips on how to start the research on the topics for your story.

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Transcript for How Space Debris Inspires My Current Novel


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Hey everyone. Welcome to How to Write The Future podcast. I am your host, Beth. Barany. I am a creativity coach, a novelist, and podcaster. And a writing teacher.

This is a podcast for science fiction and fantasy writers and anyone who cares about the future here, we focus on how do you create stories, that focus on positive, optimistic stories because when we vision, what is possible, we help make it so.

What is Space Junk or Orbital Debris? 

One of the things that has been influencing my storytelling and definitely for this upcoming science fiction mystery, Book Five in my Janey McCallister series, is space junk. Also known as orbital debris.

It really bothers me that we have so much of it in Earth’s orbit and it is problem that most people aren’t aware of and doesn’t impact yet most people.

But here’s the alarming fact.

Space Junk is a Sustainability Problem 

If we do not clean up our space debris, space junk, that’s in Earth’s orbit, we will actually ground ourselves as a species. We will never become a space-faring species. And the problem is only going to get worse and has gotten exponentially worse, especially, in the last 10 years or so.

I have been doing research and there’s much more to go. One of my resources is this book by the O E C D. Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. This book is called Earth’s Orbits at Risk, The Economics Of Space Sustainability.

Now ever since I was a kid, definitely since I was a teenager, I have been very interested in green technology. And did research and would read the Whole Earth Catalog, if you remember that those of you who are around my generation and older, And when I learned about space junk, I was frankly shocked that we would be taking our stupid human behavior of junking up the environment and be junking up Earth’s orbit. So I bought this book last year and I’m just now starting to dive into it.

I’m going to read to you the blurb on the back of this book.

About the Book: Earth’s Orbits at Risk: The Economics of Space Sustainability 

Earth’s Orbits At Risk: The Economics of Space Sustainability. Society’s dependence on space infrastructure is at a critical juncture. Public and private actors worldwide are planning to launch tens of thousands of satellites into Earth’s orbit in the next five years. This will greatly expand and enrich the use of space resources. But it will also result in more crowded orbits and greater risk of damage from satellite collision and space debris. As satellite launches continue to multiply and concerns grow the long-term sustainability of space-based infrastructure on orbit and beyond is set to emerge as an increasingly important space policy issue of the 21st century.

This publication takes stock of the growing socioeconomic dependence of our modern societies on space assets and the general threats to space-based infrastructure from debris in particular.

Notably, it provides fresh insights into the value of space-based infrastructure and the potential costs generated by space debris. Drawing on new academic research developed, especially for the OECD Project on the Economics of Space Sustainability.

Now, if we want to go to the moon and beyond, we have to protect what’s called the spaceways. And, I’m happy to report I know that the European Space Agency is actively working on what’s called ADR, active debris removal. And there’s some really interesting experiments that have been happening, and that may happen in the future.

Things like harpooning junk, things like attaching engines to dead rocket bodies that are there orbiting and moving them out into parking orbit, which is beyond high earth orbit.

Or for things in low earth orbit, if you attach an engine to it and you get it to accelerate into Earth’s atmosphere and then burn up.

So, those are just a few of the things that people are currently working on. And I am very curious about them because they inspire me to come up with solutions that I am writing into the current novel.

Again, that’s Book Five of the Janey McCallister mystery series. Books one through four already published and out now, everywhere books are sold.

How can this relate to whatever project you’re working on? 

So now, how can this relate to whatever project you’re working on?

I was asking my husband, Ezra Barany, also a novelist, for a prompt and he got me thinking about how much I care about space junk and to share it with you. And to encourage you to now connect, what are you deeply inspired about?

Are you doing the research on it?

Have you figured out who the players are in the current world who are talking about those things, discussing them, studying them, putting out reports on them?

I have a background in working in libraries at UC Berkeley when I was a student. And then after I finished school there. So I know a lot about researching things. And if you are at the beginning of your research or you’re stymied a little bit on your research, I encourage you to think about a few key things.

Questions to help you in your story research 

One: who are the people already talking about the topic that you want to research?

Where are the experts gathering like location-wise or company-wise or country-wise?

Make a list of all the keywords that are related to your topic.

For example, when I first started researching space junk, for some reason I knew of the term space junk. And then through my research, I discovered there’s more terms. There’s orbital debris.

One time I was talking to someone in the space industry about space junk, and they’re like, ” Oh, do you mean orbital debris?”

Right. So different people in different fields will use different terminology. So see if you can come up with all the synonyms for the topic.

And then think about all the kinds of agencies, organizations.

So there’s people, there’s keywords, and then there’s organizations that are involved directly or tangentially in your interest.

So, for example, with space junk, not only do all the official government space agencies care about it, NASA, ESA, which is European Space Agency JAXA, which is the Japanese space agency, the Russians, the Roscosmos; Australia has a burgeoning space industry now. The UAE; Luxembourg is very deeply involved in the upcoming space infrastructure. Britain. And of course, there’s China.

So I make a point to say: what are each of these agencies doing actively right now about space junk?

And you can go online and go to each of their websites and find out. And I’ve done that.

So for example, NASA has a report they put out quarterly about, orbital debris.

ESA is actively working on missions to test different things.

And then there’s private companies.

So there’s the public companies though, governmental organizations, and then there’s private companies very active in the space industry right now. And some of them are working on ADR active debris remediation or removal.

And then I’ve also been tracking who is tracking space junk. So I found out there’s a private company doing it. NASA has been doing it. And then people know I’m very interested in space junk, so they send me articles.

So then of course, there’s the media.

What is the media saying about your topic?

So we talked about people, organizations, keywords. And when you think of organizations, I’ve broken it into governmental organizations and private industry.

And then there’s media: what is the media reporting?

On your topic if you’re using contemporary topic like I am to inform a story that I’m writing, which is set in my case a little over a hundred years in the future.

So those are some of the main ways to research.

Where specifically do you do your research? 

Now, where specifically do you do your research?

Of course the search engines. That’s very obvious.

Then there’s YouTube, which has been a great source of information for me. I’ve found all kinds of interesting articles from all kinds of perspectives. From the science explainers, journalists to graduate students talking about space debris. In fact, I recently found a podcaster who does space engineering focus, and he was interviewing a professor who’s worked at NASA and also was his professor, I believe, talking specifically about space debris.

Which is so exciting to hear about people who are directly inside the industry and have been for quite some time working in that industry.

When you think of people think of– the people could be journalists, but really the best people to learn from are people who’ve probably been interviewed in the media who are experts in the field that you want to study. And I have found several of those.

What else did I want to say on this topic?

Remember Your Library 

Oh, where to research. Please, please, please do not ignore your local library.

So if you’re in the United States and Canada and England and Australia and New Zealand, you have local libraries. I know France has local libraries. Then there’s going to be national libraries.

And, remember also universities have incredible libraries and librarians. So libraries. What a great resource. Libraries and librarians.

And then because you love your topics so much, you’ll probably be telling your friends and welcome, you know, If they say, oh, I saw something about your fun topic. Can I send it to you? And you’re like, of course, send me stuff.

And then, podcasts. Do some searching in the podcast directories. See if you can find who is talking about your topic. Maybe it’s a bit obscure. Maybe they haven’t come up yet in your research, or it’s also a great way to gather who are the people involved in your topic. And I’ve discovered some wonderful, people who aren’t, they’re not like the top person in their field, but they’re deeply interested also in the same topic I am, and maybe coming at it from a little bit of a different angle, but they’ll still address it and talk about it.

Another resource is textbooks.

I found an old textbook on a space engineering. The edition I have is I think written in the early two thousands. Over 20 years old.

And I’m reading it. And it’s written for the student for graduate students and people in the industry, but it’s fascinating. And it’s helping me understand what were the concerns then, and it’s giving me great language and vocabulary and fun, fun phrasing that I can use in my science fiction story.

So I’ve covered a lot of places where you could go and get resources. and, Yeah. I think that’s it.

If you have any questions on how to research your topic, let me know. Because I was a professional researcher for a time and worked in libraries, I find that I have, really good processes for finding out things. And happy to share.

If you have any, questions you would like me to feature on an upcoming episode of How To Write the Future, please write me. Let me know. I’m on all the socials. I have a contact form on my website, how to write the Your question can be featured on an upcoming episode.

And that’s it for this week. Thanks, everyone. See you next time.

Thanks for Playing! 

All right, everyone, have a great week and happy writing.

I look forward to connecting with you next time in our next How To Write The Future episode.

Thank you so much, everyone, for listening to my podcast. Your interest and feedback is so inspiring to me and helps me know that I’m helping you in some small way.

So, write long and prosper.


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Image of Beth BaranyBeth Barany teaches science fiction and fantasy novelists how to write, edit, and publish their books as a coach, teacher, consultant, and developmental editor. She’s an award-winning fantasy and science fiction novelist and runs the podcast, “How To Write The Future.”


Learn more about Beth Barany at these sites: 


Author siteCoaching site / School of Fiction / Writer’s Fun Zone blog


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