Technically, I probably should be posting about Swords of the Damned right now, but I've just seen something really cool that I'm going to be heavily featuring in the next Alamo book, so I'm going to be talking about that instead! (Though I will say that progress is going really well now, and I'm on the home straight with – hopefully – four more days before I've got the draft completed for the beta readers. I'm at the stage now where I will be glad to put it to bed – and get some of my nerves to rest!)
Anyway, I have been doing a little thinking about the next book, and I already knew that it took place in a system with a cold gas giant, something like Neptune, and that I wanted reasons for people to go diving into the atmosphere after resources. As you all know, I like to keep the science as accurate as I possibly can – with the exception of my faster-than-light drive, of course – so I wanted some reason why such prospecting could take case. I knew that I was taking Neptune as my model, and intially figured 'some sort of gas', so started to hit the journals to find something that they could be exploiting.
By god, I hit paydirt.
Apparently, researchers at Berkeley determined that when the conditions were right in the atmospheres of Uranus and Neptune, diamonds would form. Form in the sky and rain down towards the planet's core. The link to the article is here, but you can instantly see how that's going to work, and just what is going to sustain a low-orbital station. Now, I would bet good money that artificial diamonds are going to be commonplace by the time of the Alamo books, but that isn't necessarily the point. They'll still have a value all of their own as jewellery, and besides...how often do we see portrayals in fiction of space industry whose time has come...and gone. At some point fifty or a hundred years ago diamonds formed in this way might have had great industrial value, but now, that has ended. Except that there are still a few prospectors around, dipping into the diamond rains, scooping up their precious stones to sell as trinkets back home.
This is exactly the sort of thing I love – finding something a little obscure like this that becomes child's play to form a story around...