New Anthology Sample: Arrivals!

dome_cityI told you it’s been a busy time for the Yuva anthology, and not just for my venerable colleagues. In my case as well, I’ve made some headway on the short story Arrivals and thought it was time to share! For the last few samples, the story was focused on the goings-on of the Planetary Council once they had learned that a new convoy of ships was approaching the planet. As always, there were hard questions, fears and agendas at play.

For this part, I have chosen to shift the focus back to the person who noticed the new convoy of colonists (aka. the Second Wave) coming in the first place – Marcellin Strauss, a simple technician who toiled in anonymity prior to the detection of the approaching convoy that set everything on the planet in motion. Now, he finds himself being sought out by the Planetary Council, and told to report to strange location for reasons that are not shared. Hope you like the sampling, and stay tuned for more!

_____

Asteria Research Facility
Zarmina, Vogt

It was like looking at a still frame in some futuristic SenSim. The building had the appearance of a mushroom, an off-white, ground-hugging thing with just the slightest overhanging edges. And yet, its dimensions seemed unnaturally large for the setting, far bigger than anything he’d seen in an auxiliary dome, which this place certainly appeared to be.

As he disembarked from the transit car, Strauss consulted his Tab to make sure he was in the right place. The Council’s message had been somewhat short on explanations, but the directions had been quite precise. The private line he had taken to get here had deposited him at a stop just over a hundred meters away, and every building and laneway that sat between him and the mushroom cap seemed awfully quiet. As he looked around the expanse of the small dome, he got the strange feeling that he was very much alone… and being watched.

“Welcome resident! How may I assist you?”

Strauss almost jumped. He turned quickly to the right and noticed the transit chest sitting there. As always, this consisted of a squat red box with a tall display stand at the side. On the display screen, the words it had just uttered were displayed prominently; the happy, iconic face of Magid Mukhtari smiling as it repeated them.

“Welcome resident! How may I assist you?”

“I, uh…” he replied dumbfoundedly, and looked back in the direction of the far building.

“Will you be requiring personal transit on this trip?” the voice asked, suggesting the most obvious option. He considered the distance between him and his destination and judged that it was not an unreasonable suggestion.

“I guess so,” he said, and placed his Tab on his chest.

“Very good, sir. Please return the vehicle to one of several designated transit boxes on your journey when you are finished with it.”

The door on the box opened and a ground car presented itself to him. Stepping onto the foot rest, he placed his hands on the control ring and felt the car power up. The terminal in the middle came online and the face of Muhktari was there as well, giving him a quick tutorial.

“Just place your feet on the acceleration pads located at the front of the footrest to-”

Strauss didn’t bother to wait for it to finish. He had had enough experience driving himself around to know how the capitol cars worked. The face of the screen laughed as he took off, putting distance between himself and the stop.

“Whoa! I see you’ve done this before! Please exercise caution when driving amongst pedestrians and other vehicles. And remember to return the car to a designated transit chest when you are finished with it. Have a nice day!”

What pedestrians? he wondered, as he drove towards his destination. Several minutes passed as he closed the distance between the transit line and the far building. And at no point did he see anyone, nor any indication of people working inside the other structures. The feeling of isolation intermixed with the sense that he was being watched yet again, and it did not make for a happy state of mind.

He was just glad he wasn’t hungover as well, though a shot of liquid courage would certainly have been welcome! He did his best to focus on where he was headed and tried not to think of the eerie, empty buildings that were passing him by, or the distinct impression that they weren’t so much empty as containing spies who watched him from every window.

But on that front, things weren’t much better. At his current distance, the building seemed to loom much higher than before, forcing him to look up towards the dome’s roof to take it all in. This meant that the ceiling, with all it’s rigid struts and panels were now it’s backdrop. The strange, webbed pattern only served to make it all look somehow more… spooky.

As he got closer, he came to realize something else about the building. All along the façade, there were lines of various colors, but none of them seemed to correspond to a segment in the structure. As far as one could tell, the building was a single piece, no joints or seams to speak of. Such seemed unlikely, but the illusion was not dispelled with any decrease of distance.

That’s when every single device on his body began to signal to him. The sound was unmistakable, indicating that they were going into offline mode since there was no longer any bandwidth in this area. He came to a stop and pulled his Tab from his chest to confirm this. Sure enough, the Tab presented a topographical representation of the area that showed a large, circular dead zone emanating out from the mushroom-shaped building. Rather than having ventured beyond the range of the QIN’s wireless network, he was now entering an area where it was actively being denied.

He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Between his observations of the structure and this latest revelation, it seemed clear that whoever was inside was taking great pains to keep what they were doing in there a secret.

What am I stepping into here? he wondered. He scanned the outer edge of the building again, trying to see if he could spot any telltale signs of cameras or spy drones. There were none that he could see, but he sensed they were there… somehow, somewhere.

And yet, he found himself pressing the accelerator pedal again and driving closer. Whatever this summons was, whatever was going on inside that odd-looking building, he wanted to know. Besides, at this point, he was just about there. Might as well go all the way and see what all the hubbub was about.

“You have reached your destination,” the happy face of Mukhtari said once he came to  stop. “I am not picking up any transit chests at this location. If you would like to park this vehicle for later use, please say so now. If not, please tell this car to –”

“Return,” he ordered, stepping free of the footrest. The voice stopped in midsentence, having recieved the requisite order to head back to it’s last storage location. It did manage to issue a kind farewell as it zipped away along the street, moving in a perfect rectilinear fashion.

“We hope that you enjoyed your ride!”

Strauss chuckled to himself and looked towards the mushroom, which now had the appearance of being a big, white giant. He was tempted to walk up and touch it, thinking at this point that it had to be composed of some kind of ceramic or composite material.

However, in one spot there was an irregularity –  a sort of circular hole that was two meters high and less than a single meter deep. Inside, the same seamless ceramic material sat, solid and impenetrable. But this was the only thing that even resembled a door. Taking another deep breath, Strauss took a few steps towards it and steeled himself for a surprise, one way or another.

That’s when he heard a loud hiss and a high pitched squeal. Strauss’ gate came to an immediate halt and his heart began to beat overtime. He stood motionless for several seconds, worried that he had set something off, afraid to move lest he make it worse.

But the noticed, the circular opening was opening further. Inside, several small lines appeared on the circular surface, bisecting the door at cross-angles, and then began pulling it open. When they finally opened all the way, he saw a woman standing there, wearing a grey jumpsuit with the same strange color patterns he noticed on the building’s façade.

“You Marcellin Strauss?” she asked, sticking her head through the open doorway. He found himself scanning her suit still, wondering just what the hell section it represented. She wasn’t with Planetary, or Defense, for that matter. Neither the color nor the insignia patches matched. He then realized she had asked him a question and simply nodded, unable to form words at the moment.

“Good,” she said. “Get inside, we have a lot to cover and we’re running late.”

She turned back inside and clearly meant for him to follow. Strauss managed to find his voice and clumsily uttered the obvious question. “I- I’m sorry. Who are you?”

She turned back to him and raised an eyebrow, a reaction that let him know exactly how little she thought of the question. “Madeleine Hartberg, Yuva Cosmonautic Corps.”

“Cosmonau-” he stuttered. “I- I wasn’t aware there was one.”

She smiled sideways. “There is now. And there are people inside who would very much like to talk to you. Are you going to come see them, or stand there like an idiot all day?”

Strauss once again fell mute and couldn’t move. And whoever this woman was, she was clearly getting annoyed because of it.

“Look, Strauss, I don’t have time to explain everything right now. Bottom line is, you’ve been asked to participate in something bigger than anyone on this planet has known since we made ‘Fall. Now are you coming, or are you going to miss out on that opportunity?”

Marcellin’s voice didn’t respond, but his feet seemed to be in working order. He knew this, because he began to follow her inside.

“Good!” she said, ushering him in. “Now please move it. Thirty seconds of this and I’m already sick of you!”

2014’s Master To-Do List

Colourful 2014 in fiery sparklersWith this year in full swing and the events of 2013 now a memory, I thought it was high time to take stock of everything I need to do in the coming twelve months. As always, I got a lot of projects in the works and plenty of things I want to get done, some of which I was supposed to be finished with already. And I seem to recall mentioning a few of these items in the course of my New Year’s resolutions…

So here goes…

1. Finish Editing Papa Zulu and Release It:
Now this is one I’ve been letting linger for quite some time! Originally, I had hoped to have this book ready a year ago, but editing has proven to be a more arduous process than previously expected. However, I got my trusty and professional editor (hi Leslie!) in my corner, and she’s editing both it and Whiskey Delta. So sometime before the Spring season hits us, I plan to release the one and re-release the other. It will be a kind of one-two, launch/relaunch combo!

2. Edit Fast Forward and Release it:
Back in April of 2013, I penned a number of short stories for the A to Z Challenge. Since that time, I’m coalesced the best stories, added a few extras from over the years, and created a volume of futuristic tales that I named “Fast Forward”. And with my membership over at Shutterstock.com, I also prepped a new and eyepopping cover that I think will get some attention once its published. But before that can happen, I need to go through it again and make sure its all cleaned up.

FlashForward_2

3. Bring Yuva Anthology to Completion:
Khaalidah and I – a friend and fellow indie writer over at Writer’s Worth – started this anthology of space travel and colonization two years ago. At first, we found ourselves joined by several friends and respected colleagues who also wanted to see the project come to fruition. But after several months of initial progress, things began to slow down and linger.

But I’m pleased to say that in the past few weeks, things have really picked up again. Owing to a full-court press to recruit new talent, we have just about all our stories accounted for and I’m waiting for drafts from all the participants. It would be really nice if we could get this book – a tribute to Ray Bradbury and a tale that is more relevant than ever now – finished by the end of the year.

Yuva_cover

4. Finish Reading List and Review Them:
Yeah, my reading list is, as always glutted and filled with stuff I was supposed to have finished a long time ago. It seemed to take me forever to finish reading World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, by Max Brooks. And now that that’s finished, I am hoping to finish the last three books that I have started but not finished, and then move on to the many other novels on my nightstand.

These books include Accelerando by Charles Stross, a story about this century that is required reading for anyone trying to write about the Technological Singularity; We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, the quintessential dystopian tale about social engineering, failed utopias, and the inspiration behind such classics as 1984 and (arguably) Brave New World. And last, but certainly not least, The Quiet Game: Five Tales To Chill Your Bones by Rami Ungar.

we_zamyatinAnd when I’m done all those books, which I’ve been reading simultaneously and in bursts, I can move on to Ready Player One, The Giver, and Back To The Front, an account of one man’s walking tour of the battlefields of World War I. Hey, I don’t just deal in science fiction, you know!

And with all that done and put away with, maybe the wife and I can finally find a bigger place, which is something we’ve been working on for some time. And of course, there will be the walking tour that we will be doing with my family this coming April. I need to do some research to prepare for that, and you can bet your bottom dollar you’ll be hearing about it too!

So yeah, 2014 is shaping up to be an eventful year. I hope it proves to be as productive and enjoyable as I hope, and that you all get what you want from it as well. Take care and Happy New Year!

New Anthology Sample: Arrivals!

Yuva_coverIt’s been awhile since I posted anything from my group’s upcoming Yuva anthology. But of course, there’s a reason for that. With time constraints and other commitments competing for our attention, my group and I have had little time for this ongoing project. But now that I’ve finished editing the preliminary draft of Papa Zulu, I’ve had some time on my hands and decided to rededicate it where its needed.

Below is the latest sample from my story Arrivals, the opening story for Part III of our anthology. As you may know, this story involves the colonists of Yuva, over a century after they first arrived, getting news that a Second Wave is on its way. In the last sample, the Planetary Council was discussing what to do, and a joint mission was proposed between the Ministry of Defense and Planetary Research to fly out and meet the ships while they were still in transit.

In this sample, another revelation is made, and it’s not very pleasant one! Read on to learn more…

*                     *                    *

Padda examined the design specs before her, the latest in a series of proposals from the joint task force charged with creating their diplomatic transports. It was now late afternoon and the sun was filtering in through the dome at a slight angle, lending a lovely glow to the arboretum’s generous supply of native specimens.

And in the cumulative radiance of the room, sunlight intermixed with neon-green and purples, the organic light of her Tab’s display glowed and showed her the Ministry’s latest design specs. As expected, the engineers had taken all possibilities to heart, and were producing endless iterations to ensure that the fleet that met the Flotilla would be prepared for any eventuality.

Well, almost any eventuality…

As Padda scanned through image after 3-D image of shuttles with double-hulls, upgraded thrusters, and upgraded acceleration cushions for its crew, she wondered if any amount of planning could prepare them for what they would be encountering soon. In her mind’s eye, she had run several scenarios, some practical and others fantastic. But all of them retained the same mix of awe and terror.

And in that, she knew she wasn’t alone. All over the planet, the spec and interact films were running sims that were based on the impending mission to meet the Second Wave. Word on the QIN had it that most of the simulations were nightmarish, finding an entire crew of dead colonists inside, the work of a hostile organism or a terrible disease. Others had it that the ships were a Trojan horse preceding an invasion, containing some kind of biological or nanotechnological scourge. People always loved to fantasize, and somehow, disaster scenarios remained a powerful draw.

And yet, the paranoid fantasies were not entirely unfounded. Three ships, coming from an Earth that had progressed a full century since Padda’s own ancestors had departed. And every indication they had told them that they were of greater sophistication than the ones that taken part in the First Wave. They had yet to meet them, and already one of their greatest concerns had been confirmed. Those that were on the way would be more advanced than those they were coming to meet.

Yes, despite their virtually identical genetic makeup, there was little doubt that the people they would be encountering on the other side of that airlock would seem very… alien to them. It was a thought that had crept up countless times in the past few months. And each time, she could not help but experience a slight shiver.

Finishing with her perusal of the latest draft plans, she gestured across the surface of her Tab to minimize these and call up the list of her latest messages. At the top of her Inbox, amidst countless requests, referrals, and questions regarding the latest in a million bureaucratic matters, was a message from Motlke. She called it up and looked directly head, preparing for her contacts to broadcast the video directly into her visual field.

She was surprised to see only a small text message appear as soon as it cued up.

My office, 1300 hours. Come alone.

Delete this message upon reading.

The directness and unmistakably clandestine nature of the message surprised her. Waving her hand across the screen, she quickly close and deleted the message, as instructed. Discreetly, she reattached her Tab to her suit, allowing the cells to draw power from her clothes, and left the arboretum.

___

“What are you talking about?” Padda asked, her face suddenly turning cold.

“I assure you, the information is legitimate,” Moltke replied. “My source in Defense says he’s seen all the schematics, even had the chance to peruse some documents on the stated purpose of the design. His exact words were ‘contingency situation’. That leaves very little doubt in my mind as to what it’s for.”

Padda placed her hands in front of her face in prayer fashion and took a deep breath. Though she knew Moltke well enough to give him the benefit of the doubt, her mind simply couldn’t accept what it was being told. She knew the people at Defense were in the habit of expecting and preparing for the worst. But this?

The sheer audacity and clandestine nature of it all, not to mention the severity…

“And he specifically said it was a weapon? There was no confusion on that point?”

“He was very clear,” Moltke said with a nod. Gently, he glided around to the other side of his desk, moving to the dispenser at the wall and requesting some refreshment. “Not only did the plans call for an unmanned craft, my source emphasized that a specific section was designated as ‘payload’. In the parlance of military planners, that means much the same as warhead.”

Padda took another deep breath and placed her hands on her lap. The dispenser began to buzz quietly and pour steaming tea into an awaiting pot, while another began to carefully print out biscuits onto a sheet. The noise suddenly made her realize that she had not eaten in hours and she was in fact quite hungry.

“And did he specify what nature the weapon would take?”

Moltke shrugged and then removed the teapot and biscuits from the dispenser, placing them all a small tray and bringing them over to his desk. He got to the next part as he poured the tea into two cups and handed her one.

“He could not be specific on that point. But, I did some additional checking, on a hunch, and I think I might have found out what Defense might be up to.”

Padda hummed receptively and smelled the tea. He had anticipated her desire correctly by ordering the Darjeeling. After blowing on it a few times, she took a tentative sip.

“And what did you find?”

Moltke took a sip himself and then exhaled hotly.

“Well, as you know, our high-energy labs have been working hard to produce all the antimatter we put in for. And that’s quite understandable, given the quantities that we stressed we would need. However, I placed a call to the labs to see if they had received any additional requests for fuel. As it turns out, the quantity they are now working towards is forty percent higher than what our initial projections called for. Obviously, this was no accident. I had to call in a few favors in order to get the details, but it seems a certain Councilor contacted them and put in for a greater requisition.”

“Let me guess…” Padda placed the cup down and folded her hands on her lap again. “Astrakhan?”

Moltke took another sip, chuckling to himself. “The order was not signed, but it was official and came directly from the Ministry. So between this requisition order, and the blueprints my source witnessed, I’d say it’s pretty obvious what they have planned.”

Padda shook her head. Yes, it was indeed obvious what they were up to. From all outward indications, they were prepping an antimatter warhead, something that could take out the entire Second Wave before it reached Yuva. Eliminate the potential threat before it had a chance to become a real one. But then again, Moltke’s source had used the words “contingency situation”. Was it possible Astrakhan and his colleagues would be giving them a chance to fail first? That seemed like the far more likely situation, and far less audacious. Her mind quickly began to embrace this more appealing of the two options…

“Is there any chance Defense could be planning to use this weapon as a ‘first strike’ option?”

“Possible,” Moltke conceded. “But if that is the case, he and his associates would have much to answer for once the dust settled on the whole affair. Mass murder is not something our people would look kindly upon, no matter how much he and his associates could stress that they did it to protect us.”

Padda accepted that. Granted, Astrakhan would not be the first man in history that was willing to sacrifice his career, even his life, in the name of protecting his people. But somehow, the Councilor just didn’t seem like the type to martyr himself, not when the danger was still so potential and nebulous.

No, she admitted to herself. There’s still time to do things our way.

“Assuming you’re right,” she said at last. “How do we proceed?”

Moltke shrugged again, draining the last of his tea. “I’m really not sure. Knowing doesn’t exactly change the nature of our situation right now, does it?”

Padda shook her head. “No, I guess it doesn’t. If we confront Astrakhan now, he’ll just deny it. I mean, we have nothing solid to charge with him. And if we tip our hand now, he and his people will no doubt just find a more clandestine way to prepare a ‘contingency’ weapon.”

Moltke raised his finger to her in pedagogical fashion. “Not to mention that it will let him know that I have sources within his Ministry. No, in the end, I’m afraid all we can do is… proceed with the plan we have and hope everything works out.”

“And by that you mean that we proceed with the rendezvous, and pray that our exploration teams don’t find something aboard those ships that will convince Defense that they need to blow them all to hell.”

Moltke chuckled. “Yes, that’s about right.” He looked to the biscuits sitting between them, noting that she hadn’t touched a one. “Now eat something, Anuja. You look absolutely famished.”

700th Post!

fireworks1Yes, I know its a bit of an odd number. But I was still pleased and kind of blown away to find out that I was nearing this landmark recently. And I thought, what better excuse for a little retrospective and a chance to say thanks for the support? My my, where to begin? Well, how about the beginning? Since just the other day I was looking back at the first posts I’d made with this site, I think I’ll start there. Seems as good a place as any…

The very first thing I ever wrote on this site was a simple Hello World message. Nothing too flamboyant or special about that one, just the obligatory “how do you do?” It was my second post where I said the things that I wanted to say and really took the time to state what my mission was:

sci_fi“I love science fiction, always have, always will.  But it’s the kind of science fiction that I love which I think is an important distinction. I’ve always subscribed to the idea that sci-fi comes in two varieties: classic and commercial.  The classical kind is the traditional variety that people take seriously… Commercial sci-fi, by contrast, is your basic stuff that owes much to the original masters but really didn’t follow in their footsteps.”

That’s still true of me. I still subscribe to the idea that the real science fiction is the kind that really makes you think and chooses to appeal to the highest possible standard. Might sound elitist, but given the sheer amount of pulp out there that does little more than entertain, I’d say I’m more of a hopeful optimist. I think people are capable of great genius when you give them a chance, and would like nothing better than to create something myself that appeals to the best in us – be it intellectual, moral, or metaphysical.

My first few reviews were really quite simple. I spoke of Frank Herbert – arguably my biggest inspiration – William Gibson, 1984 and Brave New World. I spoke of my own writing and posted some podcasts of Source’s earliest chapters (no longer available), and pasted some reviews my work had received. However, I was nowhere near as prolific as I am today. It was actually quite surprising to see that the first year of my site being operational could be summed up in just over a dozen posts. Especially when I am now at 700 and just over two and a half years into it!

In any case, I began doing movie reviews shortly thereafter, tackling such sci-fi greats as Blade Runner and the Alien franchise, and such guilty pleasures like Independence Day and Starship Troopers. This went on for some time, with me going back and forth between reviewing movies and great books, and once in a while dropping something in about a favorite miniseries, TV show, or something I happened to find inspiring.

brazil53And then something happened. Something which, I gotta admit, I didn’t even know was possible until it happened to me. I got freshly pressed. At the time, I was minding my own business, doing a post about Dystopian Literature, in honor of the fact that I just joined Writer’s Worth and our first project was an anthology of original, dystopian narratives. Feeling inspired by the fact that I was getting a chance to write within my favorite genre, I compiled a list of the most historically relevant and renowned examples I could think of.

That opened the floodgates! Having never exceeded a few dozen views in one day, you can imagine my surprised when I came home for lunch that day and discovered my views numbered in the high hundreds! I checked back as the afternoon progressed, only to see that it had reached into the thousands. By afternoon the following day, the torrent stopped and I was able to take stock of all that had happened. Roughly half my subscribership began following me in that one twenty-four hour period. I got more comments than I knew what to do with and more likes in that one day than the previous year! It felt nice, and I certainly learned something about how this thing called WordPress works!

Since that time, I won’t lie, I’ve been hoping to snag a second FP! No luck yet, but what can you do? Once was nice enough, and since it’s led to my current circulation amongst my fellow bloggers and the general internet-surfing public, I really can’t complain! Besides, several milestones have happened since then, so I shall not linger on this one event. Suffice it to say, as the days and weeks continued to pass, I found my traffic had increased exponentially from my pre-FP days. Not to the point of thousands, but higher than a hundred. That too was nice…

After finishing up the series of Dystopian posts, mainly to address examples other people poitned out and to cover examples of dystopic movies, I began to move onto other ideas. For instance, I had decided it was time to tackle themed-posts, like Cool Guns, Cool Ships, Giant Robots, and the like. These were mighty fun to do and provided endless suggestions from people who knew and liked the same franchises I did, and also saw these lists as an opportunity to stroll down memory lane.

apocalypse-04I also got into serial novel work, as attested to by Crashlands over at Story Time, and posts dealing with futuristic concepts and news. I guess I’d grown a bit tired just talking concepts, books and movies at this point and really wanted to delve into the everday stuff that drives science fiction and the creative imagination that guides people’s writing. At the same time, I continued to pimp any and all work that I was doing with Writer’s Worth, which at this point had morphed into its current group name of Grim5Next, in honor of our first project!

Then came two significant developments, back to back. In June of 2012, I began working with a select group of members from Grim5Next on a new project idea. With the passing of Ray Bradbury and Venus’ transit in front of the sun, it seemed that some of us were bit by the inspiration bug. I can still remember how it all began, in the form of a conversation between my friend and fellow writer, Khaalidah, and myself:

Khaalidah: Four nerds verging on geeks live in my house, of which I am one. One of our nerdiest but fun conversations centered around the question “Would you rather go to space or the bottom of the ocean?” Hands down the answer was space.
I once dreamed that my son, now 21, would one day go to space and walk on Mars. He is no longer a child who dreams of space, although it still intrigues, and space seems a distant childhood dream of his. But even for myself, at the ripe old age of 41, the idea of going to space is a bright hope, even though I know it is unattainable and unrealistic. But, given the chance, I would go.
This post reminds me of the awesomeness of our great universe, of the chaotic randomness, of the beauty of this world and the things we have to be grateful for, and of how utterly minuscule we people really are in the grand scheme of things

Me: Okay, you need to write this down. I foresee you doing a story where a family does go into space. Ho boy, I smell another anthology here!

Khaalidah: An anthology about space, going to space or anything related sounds awesome. I vote for you to be the editor. What do we need to do to get started?”

Yuva_coverThat was the beginning of Yuva. In the days that followed, we two enlisted the help of many people: Goran, Jenna, William, and Melanie. Through much conversation, back and forth and debate, we determined the location of our story (Gliese 581g), the tone, the structure, and even began producing the first few installments. As time progressed, we were joined by more writers – Charles, Danielle and Cara – who wanted to contribute and began scooping up the later installments in the series.

The second development was the rash of face-eating and zombie-like behavior which seemed to break out throughout that summer. Feeling compelled to comment on the sort of hysteria which had set in, I wrote a post called “Bath Salts and the Zombie Apocalypse”. Much like my post on Dystopia, that one earned me quite a few views, thought it was not Freshly Pressed. I am thankful it wasn’t, as I began to feel a bit iffy about getting lots of traffic over a series of rather sick and tragic events. But I knew I had to comment since it was a relevant issue and I had something to say about it. I also swore I’d never publicize the names of the psychos responsible ever again, since I didn’t want to contribute to the buzz that so often surrounds twisted criminals.

Since that times, its been more of the same. Every day, I do my best to maintain the pace I’ve now set for myself, and am happy when plenty of people come by to see what I’ve written and tell me they are thankful that I post what I do. Naturally, I often complain that I should be getting paid to do this, but that’s just talk. No, this is something I’d gladly do for free, though ideally I would love it if it was a source of income so I could write indefinitely and not have to worry about money. My hope is one day that all of this culminates and I can write something truly meaninful and influential. That way, this site will represent a beginning to something truly big, and I’ll be able to share that with everyone who’s been here from the beginning.

Okay, that got a little mushy there towards the end. Suffice it to say, I’m very thankful for all that I’ve been able to do with this site thus far, and for being able to connect with all the people that I have. I hope very much to be able to write as many or more posts before I use up my allotted memory and either have to pay for an upgrade or move to another web address. Hopefully, the whole “getting paid to do this” thing will work itself out before then so I have the option of throwing money at the problem 😉

Rest assured, I aint going nowhere anytime soon. So expect to see plenty of me around these parts. Peace out, and thanks to everyone for stopping by, then and now. Bless you all!

fireworks

Crashland Chapter 14, Now Appearing at Story Time

Wow, it’s been awhile since I updated this story last. And I believe it was even longer before I updated it before that. But as I’m sure I’ve said, I’ve taken on some other writing responsibilities of late and it seems I’ve finally reached my creative limit. That’s what you get for constantly pushing your boundaries I guess.

Still, today I managed to tear myself away from my other writing and editing commitments and dedicate some much needed attention to Story Time and this unfolding serial novel. And I’m sure you’ll agree, this one’s also a doozy! Much like the last one, the choice is once again a matter of life and death.

Last time, William found himself trapped in a collapsing subway tube and slowly dying from internal injuries. Slipping into unconsciousness, he once again experienced an intense dream that seemed to be speaking to him, almost as if someone else were inside his head and using his memories to give him instructions.

He then woke to find Jacobs standing over him and urging him to follow him out. Though he practically had to be carried, William and Jacobs managed to struggle their way out of the collapsing tube just as the last of it came crashing down. Unfortunately, Jacobs appeared to be mortally wounded, and the people tending to William mentioned that one other person in their party had died as a result of the cave in. Readers were asked to decide which person that would be.

The choice was a tough one. Would it be Simon, the cybernetically enhanced post-human that all their efforts depended on? Would it be Molya, the team’s gunman who never seems to stray far? Or would it be Jorka, the team’s medic and the only woman William had set eyes on since the Crash began. As it turned out, audiences decided on Jorka, the female medic who was intrinsic in saving William’s life. Thus, chapter 14 opens with the revelation that not only was she killed, but that Jacobs was mortally wounded while attempting to save William’s life.

The story is on the move once more. So come on by and check it out, and as usual, stick around to vote on what happens next! It’s all happening over at Story Time.me.

My Personal Writing Tips, or “How to Avoid Rookie Mistakes”

Proofreading and editing can be such a chore, I tell ya! Thought I’ve never been very good at proofreading and criticizing other peoples work, I find that it is when I am called upon to edit and evaluate their work that I most want to retreat into my shell. I feel selfish when this happens, mainly because of all the people I have asked to review my own work and give me their opinions. You’d think I’d be better at this aspect of it!

But of course, I know that part of the reason I hate editing the work of others is because I hate editing my own. I’ve noticed this about most people who enjoy writing, composing, and anything else that requires active revision and corrections. By the time the work is done, they want to put it down and forget about it, to let others handle the business of finding the flaws and pointing out the necessary corrections.

Alas, I’ve had to check most of that baggage ever since I started to become a member of several writing communities. In fact, I’ve even volunteered to act as a contributing editor for two major projects, one of which is the “Yuva Anthology” (begun by Khaalidah and myself), the other being the “Worlds Undone” Anthology. The latter one people might remember from a few months ago, when I was doing mock ups for a cover and happened to find some primo artwork to feature in it. Thanks again to cazzyae at deviantArt for her talent and generosity of spirit for that one! Thanks to her, Createspace’s easy interface, and the suggestions of many people at G5N, here’s how the cover came out:

Unfortunately, that has opened up a different can of worms for me. While I’ve definitely managed to overcome some of my reservations about reading other people’s work, I find that my pet peeves, or what I consider to be the marks of weak writing, keep rearing their ugly head. After reading many stories, I began to think that a tutorial might be in order to help some of the newbies avoid some rookie mistakes, ones which I have committed at least a half dozen times. Each!

I should also take this opportunity to thank Kristen Lamb, who’s impressive article “4 Writing Crutches that Insult the Reader’s Intelligence” reminded me of this idea. After seeing the title in my Inbox, I immediately zoomed over to her site to see if we shared the same pet peeves and sensibilities. Upon reading it, I could tell she was much more versed in this whole writing thing than I am! Still, I happen to share her appraisal of some bad writing habits, especially item number four in her list, “telling instead of showing”.

So, to take a page from her book (no pun!) and to make good on something I’ve been planning to do for some time now, I present you with the list of rookie writing mistakes it is best to avoid. All are the result of what I myself have done repeatedly, and have managed to weed out (for the most part) after many years of practice:

  1. Avoid Infodumping: Never start a story with a long, drawn out passage telling the reader what they need to know in order to set up the plot. For that matter, never let your story digress into such exposition either. A story is by definition a journey, with information, details, twist, and revelations provided bit by bit over time. Even if it’s a short story, never, ever simply announce what’s happening or what the significance of it is. Such actions turn what is supposed to be a tale into a description and is boring to read.
  2. Less is More: When it comes to explanations and descriptions, avoid excessive detailing. You don’t need to tell the reader everything about what’s going on, moment for moment, nor do you need to describe the scene in perfect detail. A simple, straightforward description of the scene and the interactions taking place is enough, let the reader’s imagination fill in the rest. Think of it like telling a crafty lie: if you want someone to believe it, don’t tell them a long story loaded with details, keep it simple, straightforward, and plausible. (Editor’s note: lying is wrong!)
  3. It’s called Background for a reason: One of the best tips I ever got as a writer was to “leave the background in the background.” This kind of overlaps with points one and two, but I keep it separate because of how often I see it and how it has factored into my own work. Much like explaining a scene or dumping info into a chapter, going to great lengths to establish the wider context in which the story takes place (i.e. “universe building”) is a bad idea. Stick to the story, only include that which is absolutely necessary, and let the universe build itself. In time, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get a chance to write follow-up pieces which will allow you to delve into different aspects of your fictitious world in more detail.
  4. “No one talks like this!”: If there’s one thing I learned from the Star Wars prequels and the Dune spinoffs, it’s that wooden dialogue can totally ruin a story. When drafting scenes that call for verbal interaction between characters, always keep in mind that this is supposed to sound like a conversation between actual people. Do not allow yourself to be swayed by duty to the story or the need to establish character elements. Those things that need to be conveyed are best when done with fine strokes and subtlety, and never, ever let your characters fall into expository passages where they simply say what’s goings on. Or to quote the Robot Devil from Futurama: “You’re characters lack subtlety. You can’t have people just announce their feelings! That makes me so angry!”
  5. Referencing: When writing a story that is meant to have allegorical similarities to today, or is meant to make a point about a specific issue, avoid referencing them too closely. Never say, “this was just like that thing that happened back then” or “it’s this all over again”. Let the reader infer what you are referring to with your carefully crafted, fictitious comparison. In Foundation, Asimov never directly compared the Galactic Empire to Rome, nor did Frank Herbert ever mention oil in relation to the spice in Dune. Once again, trust in the reader to make the appropriate conclusions and avoid telling them anything outright. Otherwise, you risk turning an “ah-ha” moment into an unimpressed “oh.”

That’s all I got. Suffice it to say, I am still learning and still looking for ways to perfect my craft. That’s never going to happen, of course, but it’s the goal which provides endless opportunity for improvement. Speaking of which, more samples will be forthcoming soon as I work my way deeper into “Winston Agonistes”, “Crashland”, “Frontera”, and “Fortress”. And most importantly of all, Data Miners will finally be ready for distribution by August long weekend! Yes, after roughly six months of delays, the editing of that story is finally coming to an end. But more on that in a bit.

In the meantime, keep hammering those keys, keep working on those manuscripts, and keep reaching for the brass ring of artistic perfection. And while you’re at it, feel free to share with me some lessons that you’ve learned along the way and feel obliged to share with the newbies in your field. There’s no shortage of lessons, as there are no shortages of mistakes 😉

An Interior Look at Yuva’s Spaceships

Rama16wikiI might have mentioned that things are coming together for my colleagues and I over at Grim5Next. After a few weeks, our story is really coming together. First drafts are coming in, ideas are germinating and being shared, and visuals are being made! Which brings me to the latest installments in the Anthology news cycle, after much time spent with my Windows Paint application, I have finally been able to prepare some cross sections of the ships in our story.

As already noted, we decided that for the purposes of our story, we wanted ships that could provide for crews during a long, sub-light journey through outer space. At the same time, they needed extensive cryo-facilities to ensure that thousands of colonists could be kept alive and preserved for the day when they would arrive at a new world. So basically, it would have to be a cross between a sleeper ship and a generation ship. This is what we came up with for a profile shot:

Note the segmented layout and extended middle section. This layout places the control module at the front with the bridge, navigation and whatnot, while the engine compartment, storage and shuttle bays are located at the rear. The middle section, which is an O’Neil Cylinder, is the habitation module, which rotates to provide artificial gravity. Here is where the crew sleep, eat, enjoy their leisure time, and ensure that they don’t suffer from the effects of muscular atrophy or osteoporosis.

And now, for the first time, here’s a peek at what it looks like inside. Each section was done separately to give it a maximum level of detail and ignite our collective imaginations. When complete, I hope to include them in the book to help our reader’s visualize what the interior layout of the ships would look like. Thus far, I’ve finished work on the aft and habitation sections, with the front end to follow soon. I was hoping to have them all done for today’s little unveiling, but man these things take time to generate!

CS_RearCS_Front

Updated Anthology Map!

Hey all. As you may know, my writing and I are busy at work producing an anthology about space travel and colonization. We have our location picked out, the star system Gliese 581. We have a planet, known as Gliese 581 g. We still need more writers, I was hoping for a dozen or so people to contribute to our short story collection. So if you’re a writer and enjoy classic sci-fi, space travel, exoplanets, weird aliens, androids, terraforming, sub-orbital colonies, space elevators, terradome and so forth, let me know and I’ll set you up with a project!

In the meantime, I’ve updated our map of the Gliese 581 to more accurately reflect the planets and the names they will be assigned in our story. Have a gander:

Another Anthology Sample!

Gliese 581 g, aka. “Yuva”

Hello all again! Recently, my colleague and collaborator on the upcoming anthology about space and colonization – Mr. Goran Zidar – sent me a draft of his story. Dealing with Terraformers, the story tells the tale of the people who went on ahead of the main colonization force to alter the climate of Gliese 581 g (aka. Yuva) to meet the needs of the coming settlers.

As all fans of sci-fi know, terraforming is a very labor-intensive process that takes decades, if not centuries, and requires some pretty top of the line equipment and hard science. So you can imagine how excited I was to see Mr. Zidar’s take on the whole thing. Well, the text of his draft is posted below, the first installment on what will be a full-length short story, and certainly impressed the hell out of me. Read it for yourselves, you’ll see what I mean.

Terraformers:
“Don’t you just love it?” Kirana said. She leaned back against the stones and let the reddish light of the sun bathe her face. The warmth from the small red dwarf star felt good through her oxygen mask, and she closed her eyes to let it wash over her.

“It’s just a sunset, Kira,” her brother, Justin, pointed out. “We see them every day.”

“Dad says that in ten years we’ll be able go outside without masks. I can’t wait.”

“Ten years? That’s ages.”

“It’s not that long when you think about it.”

“What do you mean?” Her brother looked at her, his brows furrowed.

“The machine’s been running for more than thirty years already. Ten years isn’t much compared to that.”

“It is when you’re only eleven.”

“I suppose, but it’s still incredible.” She sighed wistfully. “I’ve lived here my whole life, but it’s like I know we don’t belong here.”

“You’re a weirdo, you know that?” He gave his sister a playful shove.

“You know that Earth’s sun is about three times bigger than here?”

“Now that’s incredible,” Justin said. “Imagine it. Must be like summer all year round.”

“Now you’re the weirdo.” She shoved him back.

“Kira. Justin. Where are you?” Her father’s voice came over the intercom.

She looked across to her brother who rolled his eyes. “On the ridge, Father,” she said, keying the mic for broadcast. “What’s up?”

“I need you both back here. We’ve been summoned. There’s a shuttle arriving to collect us in three minutes.”

“Okay, Dad. We’re on our way.”

“Yippee!” Justin said, clapping his hands together. “I’m going on a shuttle.”

Kira raised an eyebrow. “There must be something big happening for them to send one of those.”

“Let’s hurry.” Justin rose and disappeared between the rocks. “We don’t want to miss it.”

Kira laughed as she chased after her brother. “Slow down, Justin. They won’t leave without us.”

The pair reached the small research station just as the shuttle was touching down. Dust flew everywhere as the landing thrusters engaged to bring the small transport to a gentle stop.

Their father waved them over as he waited for the dust to settle. Kira could tell by the stiffness in his stance that he wasn’t happy. She knew he hated interruptions and a summons from on high would definitely not sit well with him. She slid her hand in his and squeezed it slightly. He relaxed immediately; she always knew how to read his moods.

“What about the ATV?” she said.

“I’m sure they brought someone to drive it back.”

This station was located about 1500 kilometres from the space elevator. The three of them had spent the last few days trekking across the planet’s surface to survey the damaged research stations closest to the space elevator. Most of the data could be collected remotely, but father hated the politics topside and these malfunctioning stations were the perfect excuse for him to get away.

The hatch on the shuttle cracked open, and Daric stepped out. As soon as Justin saw it was him he ran up to the pilot. Daric opened his arms and the pair embraced fondly. Justin dreamed of one being a pilot, and Daric was something of his hero. It’s a good thing he was such a nice guy because Justin can be annoying from time to time.

“Hey there, Daric,” her father said he drew nearer.

“Good evening, Sir.”

Kira felt her dad stiffen. Formality didn’t sit well with him, especially not when it came from Daric.

“What’s up?” he said.

Daric shrugged. “No idea, I’m just the taxi service. Whatever it is, it’s above my pay grade.”

Her father sighed loudly. “Let’s get this over with.”

They all climbed into the shuttle, Justin claiming a seat in the cockpit next to Daric while Kira and her father sat in back. She found her father looking out the window. Dust billowed as the shuttle’s engines started, obscuring the view outside. By the time they’d cleared the dust, they saw that ATV had already begun its long trek back to the Needle, as the space elevator was called.

The trip up to the station perched atop the Needle took less than fifteen minutes. Kira sat in silence while Justin chatted incessantly to Daric. She was constantly amazed at the young pilot’s patience when it came to dealing with her brother. With a smile, she looked out the window at the station that loomed before them.

The station was a reminder of where they came from, the only really tangible thing they had that spoke of Earth. It was built over a hundred and fifty years ago, originally serving as the ship that brought the reconnaissance team here. It was huge, large enough to accommodate some humanity’s best minds and their families.

Doctors, scientists, engineers, mechanics, and teachers, the best and brightest with all the skills needed to shape an entire world to their will. An entire generation had lived and died on that trip. Cryogenic storage techniques were deemed too experimental to risk on this journey. The crew all knew that even with the best life extension therapies available to them, most of those who’d left earth would never live to see their arrival.

Gliese 581 is twenty light-years from Earth. It was a long way to travel, and the journey lasted more than a century. Kira’s father was born in that inky void, a true child of the stars, but she and her brother had been born here. Everything they knew of Earth came from their studies. To her, the human home-world was nothing more than a collection of images and words, equal parts beautiful and terrible. The poisoned ball of rock beneath her was more a home to her than Earth ever would be.

When the colonists first entered the system, their ship was placed into a low geo-stationary orbit around the star’s fourth planet, and their work began. It stopped being a ship, and became the crucible for their hopes and dreams. After all these years it may no longer be capable of interstellar flight, but it remained their home.

She thought of everything they’d managed to accomplish since their arrival. All the lives lost, the risks, the sacrifice, all of it so that when the next waves of humans arrived, they’d have a world to live on. Some part of her wondered if these newcomers would be worthy of it. From what she understood of human nature, she doubted that they would be.

The shuttle docked with the station, and the three of them disembarked, leaving Daric to complete his post flight checks. Their father took them aside and hugged them tightly. It was a long hug, and based on Justin’s fidgeting, not something he was entirely comfortable with.

“What was that for?” Kira said when he finally released them.

Her father smiled. “Does a father need a reason to hug his kids? I just wanted to show you I loved you.”

 “Dad,” Justin pushed their father back a step. “We already know that.”

“You’re going to a council meeting, aren’t you?” He always got clingy before one of those. The nest of vipers he called them. Kira hadn’t ever really seen a viper, but she understood the reference well enough.

He nodded. “Now go home, both of you. We’ve been roughing it for a while so I’m sure you’ll enjoy being free of these damned suits. For a little while I’ll be there just as soon as I can.”

“Yes, father.” Kira sighed.

“Oh, and Kira.”

“I know, I know, keep an eye on Justin.” She turned and ushered her little brother into the station.

“I’ll see you in a little bit.” Her dad called out after them.

Kira rolled her eyes, and give her father a dismissive wave as she turned the corner. Walking through the corridors of the station made her feel uncomfortable. She imagined that the steel walls were closing in on her. It was always like this after coming back from the planet’s surface. Down there she felt like she could go anywhere, do anything, but up here, everything was so constrained, so… regimented.

Things had to be done according to a predefined schedule, and there was never any room for compromise. Of course she understood exactly why such routine was important; their very survival depended on it, but it always took some getting used to after being planet side for a few days. 

See what I mean? Sub-orbital stations, space elevators, atv’s, shuttles and sleeper ships. I’d say this stuff practically writes itself, but it doesn’t! People like Mr. Zidar, Mrs. Muhammed-Ali, Mr. Joel, and myself do! Ah, I’m just kidding, we aint divas and we definitely don’t think our hips weight a tonne. Then again, if this book goes mainstream and makes us famous… all bets are off 😉

Space Anthology!

My apologies to all those expecting a post about zombies or post-apocalyptic stories. You see, my group and I are busy designing an entire world for our new anthology and we needed some mock-ups to help speed our imaginations to their goal. That’s been my obsession these last few days, that and visiting family. But alas, I have no idea how to post a PDF file to a Shaw Photo Share account, so I came here to do it instead. Behold… Our new Colony Ship!

The overall design is built around the concepts of a generation ship and a sleeper-ship, with the habitation module and the cryo-stasis bays in the center with the engine and shuttle bays at the rear and the command module at the front. And of course, for the people in the center area, the concept of an O’Neil Cylinder comes into play – a ship that utilizes a rotating section to generate gravity. And I think a long spine connecting it all together, which requires a cart since the gravity is at its lowest in the center, would also be cool.

Oh, and I should mention that we’ve selected a location for our story and done some additional mapping to give the setting a truly realistic feel. As already noted, the star system in question is Gliese 581, and the planet is 581 g, a real exoplanet that scientists believe could host life. And here is what it looks like, for our purposes anyway:

It’s called Yuva, a Turkish word which translates to “Home”. All the continents are named in honor of the scientists who helped discover Gliese 581’s planetary system. The rest, well, that’s all us baby! The polar continent, named New Gondwana, is named after the super-continent of Earth’s Precambrian period. And the vast stretches of sea are just tentative names that I thought seemed appropriate, given their position between the major landmasses. Note the color, which denotes levels of fertility, green being lush, grey being glacial, and yellow and light green being desert of savanna land.