Thursday, July 26, 2012

Writing thoughts: Laser Guns

Guns! A hot topic lately, and a few posts have been going around about guns in stories. Through the various posts, I asked the question:

In a science fiction world where guns can be made of deadly lasers, pew pew pew, that you'd have to move at the speed of light to avoid, would there be a need for guns? I mean, if you got mad at someone and whipped out your laser gun, they could be dead before they heard the gun go off, sonic boom style. So... why guns?

So here I go!

It doesn't make much sense to me. I've watched so many sci-fi shows and movies where guns are supposed to be made out of light. Star Wars, Star Trek, they all have phasers. The problem is that in all the shows I've seen, the laser light moves at about the speed of a bullet, not the speed of light. In sci-fi, it's constantly used that the good guy can somehow avoid the slow laser light as modern super heroes can somehow avoid bullets. 

But is this feasible in a sci-fi world?

Let's say that you're in a laser light gun battle. The idea with normal guns is you can avoid being hit because you can dodge the bullet, but when the bullet is going at the speed of light, that just isn't going to happen. You would see the laser gun fire at the same time you were struck, and depending on how far away you were, you'd hear the shot seconds later.

It would be too easy to set up a laser cannon on your high mountain, and shoot people down below. They wouldn't even know they were being shot at until they were dead! Like lightening, they wouldn't hear the shot until after they were hit.

With this kind of fire power, this kind of technology, would guns become obsolete? Eventually everyone would be killed or someone would come up with a way to block light itself. You would have to make armor that always blocks you, it'd be too easy for a bad guy to put your armor's one weak spot into the scope and fire. You wouldn't be able to move away in time. It's not like you could outrun light itself, to do that you would need infinite mass, which means you wouldn't be able to move anyway.

Maybe guns could be used at incredibly large distances. A gun atop a ship stationed around Earth shooting a gun at the sun would take 8 minutes to get there. Enough time to get away! But still, you'd have to see the light as it came towards you, but once you saw the light, you'd be already dead...

That scene in Star Wars, where everyone is shooting down a corridor... The movie would have ended very quickly with real laser guns. All they'd have to do was shoot a wide burst of shots across the entire corridor for several seconds and Han Solo and the rest would be dead. Of course, the storm troopers would've had to make their ship out of some material that didn't get punctured with laser lights, otherwise the shots would just go straight through the ship and punch a hole in it's side. If that was the case, than ships would be made of some super dense material, or everyone would have the material woven into their clothing to absorb the deadly light, in which case only head shots would count, so wouldn't everyone wear masks? So really, would they even use guns on a ship? If they did, they'd have to be bullet guns that don't break ship's hulls.

Of course, they could always make the laser light of a lower intensity, so instead of puncturing through both skin and ship hull, it would just burn. But someone would eventually make a lethal version. Perhaps that would be the illegal guns? The ones that kill instead of just burn? Either way, no one is getting out of the way of that shot. Burn wards would suddenly become very popular places.

It's an interesting though, but makes me think that deadly laser guns in a sci-fi setting would necessitate a story with more characters, because most of them would die. War would probably become less popular, so perhaps it would be a universe where wars were fought only through political means, rather than with guns. Maybe society would revert back to simple hand to hand combat because guns would just be too lethal? I can imagine a gladiator ring with laser guns set up around the edge, to stop any of the combatants from leaving the arena.

It's bears some thinking. The stories I write tend to be more about magic, set in a medieval setting, but I may have to think of a short story about laser guns and how incredibly deadly they could be.

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