Threadsplit - Space Exploration : Star Trek Solar Sails

Has Star Trek ever featured a solar sail. I can think of a couple of good plots for TNG that would feature a solar sail.


I think there was a DS9 episode that had one.



The concept has appeared a few times in science fiction, notably Think Blue, Count Two and The Lady Who Sailed The Soul by Cordwainer Smith.

Information about Smith online is pretty thin. I hadn’t thought about him in years, but many of the titles brought the stories back, so they must have made an impression on young me.


Ok real name acording to wikipedia
Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger
Other pen names
Carmichael Smith" (for his political thriller Atomsk ), “Anthony Bearden” (for his poetry) and “Felix C. Forrest” (for the novels Ria and Carola )


He’s public domain here.,%20Paul%20Myron%20Anthony


Yes, the link I posted re Think Blue, Count Two goes to the complete story, and there are others out there. As one of the writers from the Golden Age, although not a prolific one, he should be better known.

Fun fact: Harlan Ellison used the pseudonym “Cordwainer Bird” when he didn’t want to be credited as the author of works he felt Hollywood had ruined. It’s not clear if that was intended as an insult to Cordwainer Smith, but given that it was Ellison, the probability is 99%.


Yeah. The link I posted gives downloads for pretty nearly his entire métier as Cordwainer Smith (which was slight and almost entirely short stories). I read most of the Instrumentality stories when I was young. Fadedpage doesn’t seem to have his one novel as Cordwainer Smith, Norstrilia, but does have the short stories that went into it.


His stories are so weird. But enjoyable.


My understanding is that he pulled much of his storytelling style from Chinese tales (he was an expert in Asiatic studies). I think literary experimentation in SF/F was in air in the '50s. I suspect that Jack Vance, who also got his real start in that decade, cribbed from 18th century Picaresque, for instance.


Thanks for the link.


You’re welcome. This site is kind of like IMSLP, i.e., Canadian and Public Domain. We seem to have become the last refuge for the public domain.


According to an article I read yesterday, Smith’s work is public domain in New Zealand, which seems to have similar copyright laws to Canada.

A google just now came up with a few links that it didn’t two days ago, including the official one, run by his daughter.

A good biography here,

With this remarkable anecdote:
From 1950 to 1952, Linebarger deployed to Korea, where, according to science fiction publisher J.J. Pierce, he pulled off a memorable coup. Late in the conflict, when Chinese soldiers began to surrender, they were approaching American troops with weapons still in hand because dropping them was too dishonorable. American soldiers, believing they were still under attack, were firing upon and killing the surrendering Chinese. Linebarger met with Chinese prisoners to devise a series of Chinese words a soldier could yell when he wished to surrender—culturally acceptable words like love, virtue, and humanity that did not insult the soldier’s honor but when said together were phonetically similar to the English words, “I surrender.” Pamphlets with explicit surrender instructions were dropped behind enemy lines and the number of botched surrender attempts decreased significantly. According to his widow, Linebarger considered saving the lives of these surrendering Chinese soldiers his most worthwhile accomplishment.


I finally have a few minutes to write out my ideas for the inclusion of solar sails in Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Plot 1

Season cliffhanger. After the Enterprise has been lured by the Ferengi into a pitched battle with the Borg, they have been left with minimal power and drifting toward a quasar. The energy released by the quasar forced the Borg to withdraw, but is now beginning to destroy the enterprise. The situation seems inescapable.

At this point Data speaks up, “Excuse me, Captain, but I have been analyzing the situation and I believe that by discharging the auxiliary tetraphenol tanks, we would rotate the Enterprise perpendicular to the flow of electromagnetic radiation. In this attitude the saucer-section would act as a source of Maxwell propulsion, acting as what is commonly called a solar sail.”

At this point, Riker and Picard share a smile and a chuckle. “Make it sewww, Number One. I will be in my ready-room having a cup of earl grey tea.”

Plot 2

This would be similar to the episode where Picard, Wesley and a reactive guy are stranded on a desert planet where the only water source is guarded by a force field.

In this case, Picard and a small group of Enterprise crew are evaluating a new, long-range type of shuttle craft: the Albatros Class. Their mission is to transport a sample shipment of graphene B to a remote mining colony on the third moon of Theta-Tau III.

Meanwhile, Riker receives a distress call from the medical facility on Theta Nu I.

While nearing their destination, soon after transmitting a favorable report back to the Enterprise, they suffer a complete systems failure. Sparks fly. Geordi is flung across the cabin. Only basic life-support is still functioning. They’re drifting with no form of communication available. Not even their transponder is working.

At this point Geordi has the idea of forming the graphene B into a large solar sail. However, they have no charts and no navigation computers, but Picard’s deep knowledge of space-fairing, and of Riker’s behavior, allows him to navigate the small craft through the depths of space to where he knows the Enterprise will be.

At one point the small crew on the shuttlecraft become despondent. Picard is forced to give a stern, rousing speech, ending with: “As Admiral Funaki said, we shall sail the ship fate has dealt us!”

This is like Captain Bligh’s voyage to Timor. When everyone is safely back onboard the Enterprise, Riker asks Picard how it was, Picard replies “it was freedom, Will.”

Plot 3

While hosting high-level trade negotiations between the Bandi and the Berellians, the Enterprise runs into a much smaller, slower-moving craft. It’s a small trading vessel of unknown construction and appears to be quite old. The craft is propelled by a large solar sail. Scanners indicate there is a single life-form on board. Picard orders the life form beamed aboard.

Picard proceeds to the transporter room with a small security and medical detail to greet the visitor. When he rematerializes, we see he is a old-time sea captain type-of-guy. Reaction shot. Commercial break.

Captain Jones is quite angry. “What is this barnacled garbage scow that don’t follow the laws of the sea!? Arrr! Shiver me timbers!” Picard is quite apologetic, and gives Captain Jones freedom of the ship while the situation is resolved. Captain Jones is quite upset — not only has his ship been run afoul, but he has no time for fancy technology of the Enterprise.

While Picard tries to resume the trade negotiations, hijinks ensue.

Ice is broken between the crew of the Enterprise and Captain Jones when he gets into a rum drinking contest with Riker and Worf. Then he takes Wesley under his wing and teaches him how to not be a dickweed. He and Picard even come to an understanding when they realize that although they are different people on the exterior, inside they are very-much the same.


Wil then hitches a ride with Captain Jones and a spin off series starts where at the end of each episode it ends with:
“Good night, Wesley. Good work. Sleep well. I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.”


Sounds engaging



This is the thing about Star Trek. It allows for a lot of different ideas and scenarios. I would watch the shit out of that.


Actually, I had an ending planned for that episode, but I couldn’t quite tie all the loose ends together.

Captain Jones, first name Davy, blunders into the trade negotiations. At first this seems like it destroys any hope of a successful treaty signing. But somehow the Captain’s knowledge of trade and how to negotiate in tight situations, brings about an agreement favorable to all.

One of the Federation’s team of negotiators finds herself attracted to the Captain. And, blast it! he feels the same. In the end they set off together in his repaired craft. She decided she’s had enough of just traveling through space, but wants to live as a part of it. And he realized life is not meant to be lived alone.


:thinking: Now picturing the captain as David Bowie, not unhappy with that.


Hmmm. Star Trek/Monkees mashup. That could work.


…with an obligatory musical interlude featuring the Last Ship to Clark’s Planet