Good News… of a Literary Nature!

Good News… of a Literary Nature!

First off, let me apologize for not announcing this sooner. But as with all good things, I didn’t want to announce anything prematurely or risk jinxing it. To put it simply, I have been approached by a publisher about my current work in progress – The Cronian Incident. And while nothing has been put in writing just yet, if all goes well, it will be part of Space Dock’s 2017 publishing catalog – which is the sci-fi subsidiary for a UK publisher.

To  start at the beginning, back in October, this publisher sent me a message via Facebook. It seemed that we were part of the same writer’s group, and he had heard me going on about The Cronian Incident and all the ideas I was exploring to create it. Apparently, this is something lots of publishers do these days, which is rely on social media to look for aspiring authors.

Anyhoo, I replied to him that I would be interested, and that the manuscript (though not yet complete) was coming along nicely. Over the course of the next few weeks, we did the usual back and forth. He explained what they were looking for and asked me about my long-term plans, I told him about the overall story and how I hoped to write sequels to it.

Jupiter's larger (Galilean) moons, Callisot, Europa, Io and Ganymede. Credit: NASA
Jupiter’s larger (Galilean) moons, Callisot, Europa, Io and Ganymede. Credit: NASA

 

He then asked me to send the first four chapters to see if it had promise. Here too, I learned something valuable. These days, its the first four chapters (not five, not three) that make-or-break many online sales. You see, people using Amazon are able to download these as a sample and will base their decision to buy the whole book depending on whether or not it’s grabbed their interest.

So the first notes the publisher gave me was that he liked the idea, but also stressed that the beginning needed “a hook”. There was little in the first four chapters of my original draft to introduce the overall plot, they said, and things kind of built slowly. So I revised it, added a prologue that contains the “inciting event” of the story (a kidnapping) and sent it back. This met with his approval, and he sent it on to one of his editors for a second look.

And just a few days ago, they got back to me again. Once again, I got some kudos on the story, but more concerns that things take too long to develop. However, this time around, it was more in the form of a suggestion. I took this to be a good sign, but of course I took the suggestion seriously. These people know what readers are likely to buy, so I’m not about to disregard their recommendations.

Terrafomed Mars by ittiz
Terrafomed Mars, one of the focal points of the story. Credit: ittiz

So I’m doing a second round of edits now, and working to complete the novel so its ready for the 2017 publishing season. At this point, I’m over 70,000 words into the story, and I imagine there’s about ten more chapters to go. At this rate, I can estimate that the final product will be probably be about 100,000 words (though that is likely to come down after all the editing is finished).

And like I said, nothing has been signed yet so nothing is written in stone. But so far, I’m pretty enthused about how things are going. It’s taken me over ten years to actually get to the point where a publisher was interested in my work and contacted me. In the meantime, feel free to join me in being cautiously optimistic!

New Movie Trailer – Arrival

New Movie Trailer – Arrival

This trailer is now making the rounds, which previews the upcoming science-fiction, first contact thriller Arrival. Based on the short story, “Story of your Life” by Ted Chiang, this film tells the tale of aliens coming to Earth, and the arduous process that follows as we try to figure out their intentions, communicate with them, and not provoke a “War of the Worlds” scenario.

In the lead roles are Amy Adams (famous for her role as Lois Lane in Man of Steel), Jeremy Renner (of Avengers and Bourne Legacy fame) and Forest Whitaker, who just finished up working on Rogue One. Adams plays Dr. Louise Banks, the world’s foremost linguist who is called in to find a way to communicate with the aliens. Renner plays Ian Donnelly, a mathematician, who’s present because math is considered the only universal language. And Whitaker plays Colonel Weber, the requisite military man who’s there to disagree with the scientists and emphasize security.

arrival
Credit: Paramount Pictures

As you can see from the trailer and gauge from the description, the story is one that has been told many times, but never gets old! In many ways, the plot, themes and aesthetics call to mind such movies as War of the Worlds, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Contact, Sphere, and even more recent ones like Prometheus. And from what I saw, I am desperately hoping they choose to take the more complex and nuanced approach, and avoid any Independence Day messiness with this one! If there’s one thing that’s been done to death, its the idea of scary aliens coming to kill us all. If anything, I am hoping they take a more Childhood’s End approach with this one.

After all, if we found another intelligent species which we could make contact with, and our level of technology was more sophisticated than theirs, would we kick in the door and just decide to conquer willy-nilly? Or would we take a slow approach, try to get to know them first, and go to war once we screwed all that up? Exactly!

The movie comes out this November 11th, 2016, on Remembrance Day (also Veterans Day and Armistice Day, depending on where you live). One has to wonder if there’s some subtle message there, eh? Enjoy the trailer:

Cover Selection for The Cronian Incident!

Cover Selection for The Cronian Incident!

Okay, so I finally finished work on a few possible covers for The Cronian Incident. I recently got my CreateSpace account reactivated and used the lovely cover creator feature to get some visuals going. The problem is, I’ve been having trouble deciding which one I want t use. On the one hand, I can’t choose to between two themes  – one that put text boxes over a full cover image, and another that uses a solid background on the front page, a shadow on the back, and puts the main image and title in boxes.

Then, I found that I couldn’t decide which image I wanted to use after all. Initially, I was all set on the green image of Titan that you can see in the first two options. But there’s also the Cassini image of Titan that shows its hazy atmosphere being illuminated from behind, giving it an eerie, yellow glow. I thought this one worked pretty well too in the mockups. So in the end, I made four covers, using both themes and both images, and figured I’d entertain some outside opinions.

Which one do you think works best? Be sure to vote below…

Green Titan – Whole Cover:

Cronian
Green Titan – Box Cover:

Cronian_1
Yellow Titan – Whole Cover:

Cronian_3
Yellow Titan – Box Cover:

Cronian_2

Vote here and thanks for the input:

The Cronian Incident – Setting The Scene

The Cronian Incident – Setting The Scene

In my last post, I explained how I was struggling with my latest story. Particularly, it has been the task of setting the scene over and over again that’s been tiring me out. Luckily, I’m beginning to get to work again, thanks to getting a second (or third) wind. But the challenge is still a big one, so I thought I might share some of what I’ve working on and see if it helps break the logjam.

As I also mentioned last time, there are four major settings in The Cronian Incident. These consist of the planet’s Mercury, a space elevator above Mars, Jupiter’s moon of Callisto, and Saturn’s moon of Titan. Establishing these places as backdrops for the story presented many opportunities. You have to think about how people would go about colonizing and living on these worlds.

But there’s also the fun that comes from figuring out what a culture that evolved to live on these planets and moons would look like. What languages do they speak? What religions do they practice? What does their clothing look like, what kind of music do they listen to? And what kinds of technology do they rely on?

mercury_mapMercury:
The story opens on the planet Mercury, where mining crews diligently travel out onto the dark side of the planet, extract ore, and then return to the northern polar region. This area, which is permanently shaded, is the only part of the planet which is inhabited – after a fashion. In truth, no one really calls the planet home. But there are facilities located in the large craters, where convicts and temporary laborers harvest minerals, energy, and ice.

For the miners, their facility is located in the Prokofiev crater, which one of the larger craters in the northern polar region. It is here where miners return with their hauls of ore, which is then processed and fired into space by the Sling – a magnetic accelerator that shoots it into orbit. Some food is grown on site, most of it is shipped in, and water is sourced locally from the ice deposits. And all waste products are recycled to provide the bare necessities of life.

It is a dark place, where convicts and laborers are housed four to a room and are administered regular doses of antidepressants (to address their natural feelings of isolation and lack of natural sunlight). Convicts also have the added bonus of being equipped with “Spikes”, a neural implant that monitors their aggression levels and incapacitates them if they ever attempt to do anything violent.

And just in case they attempt anything illegal, the convict population can be confined to solitary cells, where the room’s are entirely nondescript, tiny, especially dark, and they have no company at all except for their demons.

mars_life

Mars:
Along with Earth, the Moon, and Venus, Mars is part of the Triumvirate – a loose alliance that embraces the most advanced worlds in the Solar System. Over 50 million people live on its surface, whereas a few million more live in orbital habitats and the Ares Installation, which sits atop The Drift (the planet’s space elevator). This installation is essentially an O’Neil Cylinder (though its more like an O’Neil can) that consists of two “hemispheres” that rotate in opposite directions- simulating gravity up to the standard Martian 0.376 g.

This self-contained world is divided into Sadak, the Hindi word for road (which is one of the official languages on Mars). Each Sadak has its share of domiciles, parks, recreation facilities, and aerodromes, where people go to test out their personal fliers. At the “southern” end of the facility is Sadak Lovelock, which is the home of the Chandrasekhar clan. Within the Formist faction, the people dedicated to terraforming Venus and Mars, they are kind of a big deal. In tall towers that face towards the planet below (which is visible through massive panels) they plot the transformation of the Red Planet into a green planet.

Lovelock is named in honor of James Lovelock, the British scientist who co-authored The Greening of Mars (one of the seminal works about terraforming). It is here that the elder Chandrasekhar (Piter Chandrasekhar) lives in what is known as a Heilig Room. Also known as a Lattice Quantum Chromodynamics environment, this room allows Piter – who is basically an upload at this point in time – to assume physical form and interact with simulated environments.

Terrafomed Mars by ittiz
Terrafomed Mars. Credit: ittiz/deviantart.com

When Ward (the MC) meets him in this environment, he gets treated to familiar places from Piter’s life. This includes Mombasa, where Piter lived and worked during the mid-21st century, helping to create the coastal Lillypad city of Kimbilio. He then gives him a vision of Mars, of how it will look once the Formists are finished transforming it into a world with oceans, vegetation, and a breathable atmosphere.

Callisto:
In part III, Ward reaches the Jovian system – aka. the system of Moons that orbit Jupiter. His first stop is the moon of Callisto, which is the outermost of the Jovians. It is a cold, frozen world with virtually no atmosphere. All major settlements consist of sealed domes that were built into the moon’s massive craters. The largest of these is the moon’s capitol of Valhalla, which was built Callisto’s massive multi-ring impact crater of the same name.

The city consists of several rings, each of which is named after a different world of the Norse mythology. Working from the outermost ring, there is Vanaheim (where the spaceport is located), Alfheim, Midgard, Jotunheim, Svartalfheim, Nidavellir, Niflheim and Muspelheim. When travelling through the city to find an old friend, Ward stops in Niflheim. It just so happens to be one of the city’s poorer districts, where the moon’s radical elements (known as the Aquiline Front) live.

Credit: Kees Veenenbox/space4case.com
View above a methane lake on Titan. Credit: Kees Veenenbox/space4case.com

Titan:
Last, there is the Cronian moon (Saturn’s moon) of Titan, where Ward inevitably goes to determine what happened to the man he’s trying to find. Much like the other moons of the outer Solar System, Titan is a world who’s surface consists mainly of ice. But unlike the other moon’s, Titan has a dense atmosphere of nitrogen, methane and other hydrocarbons. It’s surface is also covered in lakes of liquid methane, which is one of the planet’s chief exports.

The capitol of this world Huygens, a domed city named in honor of the moon’s discoverer (Christiaan Huygens). Located near the moon’s equator, this city is home to the moon\s main spaceport and is also the economic and administrative center of the entire Cronian system. As such, both the offices of the Cronian Union and the system’s more radical element – the Centimanes – are located here.

The city is also home to the infamous “Yellow Light District”, a pleasure dome that caters to every appetite imaginable. Naturally, I make sure that Ward visits here at some point, hoping to learn what he can from the moon’s many “pleasure technicians”. And of course, what he learns will both shock and intrigue him.


That’s what I got so far. And as I said, it’s been quite exhausting creating it all. I can only hope that the interest people derive from reading it will be proportional to the amount of energy it takes to write it all down!


 

The Cronian Incident – Halfway Done!

According to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, a work needs to be over 40,000 words long to be classified as a “novel”. This is just one standard, but right now, it’s an important one as far as I am concerned. Why? Two reasons: one, its what the SFSWA uses to classify books when considering them for a Nebula Award. Since science fiction is my chosen genre, I got to think these people know what they are talking about.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, it is because my WIP, The Cronian Incident, just passed this milestone. At present, the novel is 22 chapters and just over 43,000 words in length. And I’m only about halfway done! Problem is, this is where I begin to feel the crunch with most novels. Halfway is a bad point to be in when you’re me, because you’re feeling the weight of all that you’ve created so far, and are really aching to get to the finish line!

sb10067155f-001

In the meantime, I am busy exploring the various aspects of Part III of the book, otherwise known as “Jovians”. In this part, the story’s MC, Jeremiah Ward, has traveled to the Jovian moon of Callisto (the fourth large moon of Jupiter) to meet his associate in the investigation. It is also here that he meets an old contact of his from his police-work days, and tries to learn more about the people he is working for.

One of the things that makes this challenging is that I spent the past few months developing characters and the settings of two different worlds. The story began on Mercury, moved to Mars, and now, its in orbit around Jupiter. From the surface of a cratered, hostile world, to a space elevator in orbit of Mars, and now to a frozen moon around a gas giant. Gah! I think I’ve officially OD’d on setting!

A possible base on the surface of Callisto. Credit: NASA
Artist’s impression of a possible base on the surface of Callisto. Credit: NASA

But I shall persevere. I’ve put too much into this idea to abandon it halfway, and this is one novel that I am determined to see through to completion! So – and I apologize in advance for this – expect to hear me blab a lot about it in the weeks and months to come. And you can bet I will be blabbing non-stop about it once its finished. Thanks to all those who are still paying attention 🙂

 

Guest Post By Maria Ramos: How “Cli-Fi” Comments on Energy Crisis, Climate Change, and Overpopulation

Guest Post By Maria Ramos: How “Cli-Fi” Comments on Energy Crisis, Climate Change, and Overpopulation

Welcome back Maria Ramos! Today, she would like to talk to you all about another aspect of the science fiction landscape – a lesser-known subgenre known as “cli-fi”. Embracing dystopian narratives and speculative fiction that looks at the future through the lens of environmentalism and climate change, cli-fi is very similar to other sub-genres of science fiction. In the end, its all about cautionary tales and agitating for change. But I’ll let her explain it, as she’s better at this sort of thing!


Dystopian fiction has always provided a means of commenting on and critiquing the political and social statuses of the eras they were created in. From George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm to the more recent P.D. James’ The Children of Men and Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, the fiction changed with the prevalent issues of the times, from the cold war and communism to concerns over reproductive rights. Throughout the genre the fear of too much government control over some or all aspects of our lives has remained a central theme. More recently, focuses have turned to nature and the negative effect that humanity has on the environment.

While existing for decades, the recent upsurge in dystopian fiction has taken a turn into the newly coined sub genre of “cli-fi” or climate change fiction, which depicts current and very valid concerns over environmental, overpopulation, and global warming issues. Much of this fiction also targets a young adult audience. Perhaps this is to encourage the next generation of scientists and technology experts to work with the current generation in seeking solutions for our environmental issues. Such problems include a steady increase of the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere since 2007, creating what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has reported are the highest levels in 650,000 years. Some cli-fi books even tackle this very issue head on.

Climate_Change

Two of the best-known examples of young adult cli-fi are The Hunger Games trilogy and The Maze Runner trilogy, both with blockbuster movie counterparts. In each of these, the characters live in a world depleted of natural resources because of some sort of man-made, or at least man-assisted, environmental disaster. While The Hunger Games doesn’t provide the specifics of what caused the world to become Panem, it’s clear that a central government controls the limited resources that are left while the general population struggles. While criticized for ignoring such issues as racial tensions, it nonetheless ticks the boxes of government excess leading to suffering for the general populace.

In The Maze Runner, the cause for the world’s destruction is more specifically attributed to solar flares, which devastated the majority of the planet and left the few survivors destitute. Further government meddling then caused many of those survivors to degenerate into a crazed and animalistic existence in which they tear each other apart. While neither of these trilogies, nor many of the other works of cli-fi, provide solid solutions for fixing the world once it’s gotten to the post-apocalyptic point of the stories, they remind us that consequences will remain devastating if we do nothing now.

The term “cli-fi” is popularly attributed to Dan Bloom in 2008, but nonetheless can define works of fiction created as early as the mid-20th century. Before there was such a term, authors such as J.G. Ballard were producing works of fiction describing a post-apocalyptic world caused by the effects of global warming, works such The Wind from Nowhere in 1961, The Drowning World in 1962, and The Burning World in 1964. Describing different worlds ravaged by hurricane-force winds, melting polar ice caps, and worldwide drought, respectively, such works provide early warning of the ravaging effects of global warming if left unchecked.

oryx_and_crake

More recent examples that existed before 2008 include the first novel of Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy, Oryx and Crake, written in 2003. Set closer to the present, this trilogy delves into the possible detrimental effects of biotechnology on both the environment and on the human inhabitants of the planet. It also takes aim at multinational corporations that ignore and/or deny their role in global warming and environmental disasters, alluding to real issues faced by today’s environmentalists worldwide. Other examples of more adult-oriented dystopian novels that address the possibility of environmental catastrophes include The Road, the excellent post-oil-crisis novel The Windup Girl, and The Children of Men.

Whether the rise in recent works of cli-fi is having any effect on our actions toward being more environmentally responsible or not, artists and writers have always found ways to provide commentary through entertainment. In the case of saving our planet, any means of getting the message across is welcome and necessary.