By the way, if anybody’s actually reading these little serials, I’d love to hear what you think. Pretty please with candy-canes on top, leave a comment? Thanks!
By popular demand – Now you can find all my blogisodes over here!
My Academy paper, ‘On the thought process of extraterrestrial intelligence’ had started off as a goof. I’d been reviewing the notes on our Xeno-studies unit with Vic and Gary, trying to come up with ideas for the mandatory essay assignment, and complaining that all of the exo-sociology stuff was made up anyway, because we didn’t have any alien cultures as a reference point yet. I distinctly remember Gary suggesting that I should do my paper in that area, then, because they couldn’t grade me down for being wrong either. Gary says that I came up with the idea before he did.
So I picked a topic that was a little ways to the side of what we’d been ‘taught’ in exo-sociology, because contradicting anything caught in class probably wouldn’t go over too well, but nobody had fed us speculations on the psychology of individual aliens. And as I got into the piece – well, it still wasn’t incredibly academically rigorous, but I guess I got sucked in a little and tried to do a decent job, particularly when it came to tackling the problem in terms of what we know about evolutionary psychology on Earth and what sort of evolutionary pressures might shape species in the environments of different planets.
But as exciting an opportunity as getting to go on a landing party was, I wasn’t that eager to go and put my little theories to the test, in front of the Exec officer, Melissa, Colin Archer – and Gary and Jody. But from the look on Gary’s face, I didn’t really have much of a choice.
For her part, Jody looked ecstatic about an opportunity to spend so much time with Gary. And so it goes.
I sighed. “How long do we have to get ready before that pinnace of yours leaves?” The ship that Gary had mentioned, ‘Gaia’s Hope’, is the pinnace, or the captain’s yacht as some people refer to them, though the captain almost never actually travels in it. It’s larger than any of our usual orbital shuttles, with enough propellant to cross a medium-sized stellar system, and a drive that can push nearly 3g of acceleration. (Unfortunately, the little gravity adjuster on the pinnace won’t be enough to keep us from feeling it.)
“Launch is scheduled for 1230 hours, Walker,” Gary shot back. “Better get your kit together.”
That left me about two hours, and most of it was indeed spent packing enough of my personal effects for an assignment of indeterminate duration, and getting outfitted with other gear from Ship’s stores. I did get a chance to drop into Sick Bay to check on Vic again, and saw that Nat and Carla were sitting by his bedside. “Hey, Brett,” Vic said, smiling and waving a little when he saw me. Carla’s face set into a slight frown as she turned to look in my direction.
Carla Jones was late joining the first Academy class, but the powers that be rushed her through catching up with the rest of us. Like Jody, she had a very special qualification, but instead of languages, hers was hyperspace. Carla made a presentation about the mathematics of hyperspacial travel to her high-school science fair, and most of the judges graded her down for latching onto a trendy topic without even having a practical demonstration. But her physics teacher called someone at the Pyron institute, knowing that if she wasn’t just repeating some rote equations that she’d found, they’d be overjoyed to find somebody else who could actually understand what they were talking about.
It turns out that Star Patrol was even more eager to get their hands on a young, healthy hyperspacial theoretician who could go on exploratory missions and observe the transit device in action.
Carla started flirting with me as soon as we met, and I flirted back because she was cute and I liked being around someone who paid attention to me like that – like Melissa didn’t. I was a bit surprised when I realized that we were perceived as a couple by everybody who knew us, but decided to throw myself into it. I didn’t love Carla the way I felt for Melissa, but maybe I could get there in time.
After we were assigned to the Discovery mission, on our way to Achernar – about half an hour after the stopover at Alpha Centauri to pick up the rest of the crew complement, Carla broke up with me.
To be continued…
Well, simply because you invited feedback, I waited to comment on this one until I read the entire series. Don’t feel you have to respond to each of my comments on the episodes individually – I doubt I’ll go back to look. And I don’t NORMALLY leave such long, indepth, critique type comments. But just b/c you ask, doesn’t mean you have accept the feedback. I’m an opinionated little gargoyle, and overstep boundaries frequently. Feel free to be offended . .
Now that I’ve read them all, this episode – and the first – do make sense. The clarification I wanted on the first episode has been answered.
I like how you revisit the “unrequieted love” theme from a couple episodes ago with “For her part, Jody looked ecstatic about an opportunity to spend so much time with Gary. And so it goes.” It keeps Brett’s character consistent.
The background on Carla – starting witht he science project – feels like author intrusive info dump. It is interesting character development for Carla, but 1) I’m not sure it moves the story along, and 2) it reads like omni pov (not first, hense the author intrusion comment). If you could tell this type info from more of a memory flashback – say Brett recalling a conversation in which Carla disclosed the info, or some news article or bio he read on her – then it would lose the AI/info dump feel.
I’d still like to see some type of illness progression in Vic, and possibly some of the others. But this is really flowing along. I like how you’re portioning out character and plot movement.
I enjoyed reading all these episodes, and am looking forward to more. A suggestion: it was time consuming to find all the other episodes – though I did get to know you through your blog posts 🙂 – perhaps you could make a link to the other episodes so others can catch up as well. It is an intriguing story concept. I’m almost sad to be caught up b/c now I have to wait a whole week for the next episode . .
Thanks SO much for all the feedback, Donna!
This particular serial is based on an idea that I wrote bits and pieces of back in University, and haven’t revisited in approximately ten years. There’s an awful lot of ideas that I came up with for ‘The Star Patrol Universe’ back in those days, and I do rather like the way some of them are finally coming together now.
I’m intrigued by your characterization of the ship as a graduate school, as I wouldn’t have thought of it that way, but in a way it really is, for Brett and his friends at least. The original concept was that Star Patrol is sort of the way Starfleet might really have begun if humans from the 21st/22nd century came up with it themselves, without having to go through ‘The Vulcan Nanny state’ first.
Human beings have hyperdrive, and there’s a certain amount of support behind the idea of taking a look and seeing what’s out there, so the United Nations founded the Star Patrol – it’s run along authoritarian lines like the millitary, and trained to defend Earth and the human colonies, but intended to be more exploratory than warlike. Brett and the other young officers have been through classroom training at an elite academy, and now they’re serving as interns, essentially – learning by doing under the supervision of those who already have a little bit of interstellar exploration experience. Mostly those senior officers were people who had interplanetary space experience at the time the hyperspace drive was invented, either millitary, exploratory, or commercial.
And the ship is out there to search for intelligent life, or specifically to check out this one solar system to see if there’s civilization there. A telescope back on Earth was able to make out Earth-like cloud patterns on the one planet and suspiciously regular shapes in space, so they have a good indication that intelligent life might be here.
I’m not sure if I understand what you mean by the first episode being written in the present, by the way – it’s an immediate style, but still past tense as I understand it, from “Lieutenant X glared at his staff…” to “My head started to ache as we mapped out the star system…”
At least one of the items you mention in terms of the world-building, the coffee bulb, was almost certainly not part of my original noodling around the Star Patrol idea – that’s straight out of the Larry Niven known space books. It does make sense for an environment where artificial gravity might fail. “Good writers borrow from others – great ones steal outright.” For the record, though, if I get to the point where I start describing how hyperspace conduits connect stars according to how bright they are, I insist I did NOT rip that off from “The Mote in God’s Eye,” I really did come up with it independently!
And thanks for the tip about Carla’s backstory being too much of an info dump. I’m not planning on revising this while I’m posting it in serial format, but all of these notes will be helpful when I take what I’ve got and try to turn it into a more polished story. The original version started with the ship actually setting out from Earth, with plenty of flashbacks into the Academy days, but I felt that jumping into the thick of the action was really a better way to get started.
Does it make sense why Vic is being kept in sick bay, now that you know how serious “The hyperspace sickness” actually is? I also think that some of the bits you didn’t understand, (why Brett was getting back to work despite the pain, why Vic didn’t seem to be in pain in Sick Bay,) are partly due to the millitary discipline that I was assuming and hadn’t made clear – they’re not on board to complain, they’ve got jobs to do, and if Vic couldn’t do his job he should lie where he was put and try not to make a nuisance of himself.
Once again, thanks for reading and commenting! I think that WordPress doesn’t have the followers system, 😦 but there are ways to subscribe and get notified about updates. Let me know if you have problems figuring it out.