Okay, I’m going to try something a little different today.
This morning, I finally got around to taking a bunch of electronic gear down to the depot, which I feel very virtuous about and pleased at the empty spaces that have opened up in my apartment.
One was a Brother Word Processor – a somewhat queer device like an electronic typewriter with an LCD screen and a 3.5″ floppy disk drive. The drive would only work with drives that had been formatted with some proprietary format that no other 3.5″ disk drive could ever make sense of. It served me well from when my parents got it in 1992 or ’93, (so that I could actually do homework instead of distracting myself with games on the family PC,) all through my York University years, until I finally bought my first full laptop computer, the Windows 98 Compaq. But I haven’t really used it since. Nine or ten years ago I found out that the printing attachment no longer worked even after I procured a fresh new ink ribbon, so the only way to get anything from the floppy is by reading it off the screen.
Before I got rid of the Brother, I had to search around the floppy disk still in the drive to see if I wanted to keep it. There were four files full of indexes of home VHS tapes, which I scanned through and typed quite a lot of search terms into the Alphasmart, to see if I can find some of those movies or TV shows online, or on DVD. (I also took my broken VHS player down to the dump.) There was a personal note from a friend that I think he’ll get a kick out of hearing about again.
And there was this passage from a ‘Star Patrol’ file that I must have written sometime between 1996 and 1998, as a sort of coda tacked on to the end of the really old chapter 1. It involves a flashback where my four intrepid space cadets share their darkest secrets, including Melissa Dempsey’s bombshell about living a lie.
I read this off the screen into the Voice Recorder app on my LG Eclypse android, and then converted the .3gp file to MP3 format. There’s a few places where I stumble, or where I’m deliberately correcting a typo from the original text. I hope you enjoy listening.
Thanks for all of your comments last week. A mysterious passenger has just confronted Dara in the cockpit about their dangerous predicement…
“Good afternoon, Captain Klein,” he said. “I thought about asking to meet you earlier in the flight, but you looked as if you had enough on your mind. I’m Lieutenant Commander Simon Twain, Star Patrol.”
“Well, it’s very nice to meet you, Commander. But I’m sorry to say that I’ve got more on my mind than ever, so I don’t exactly think that this is the best time for the social niceties…”
“Then I’ll get straight to business,” Twain said, before she could finish the brush-off.
Any comments very gratefully appreciated! I’m actually working on revisions of ‘The Shuttle’ this weekend, to submit it for an in-depth critiquing at the CSSF workshop later this month.
Thanks very much for all your comments so far. I’m going to skip over some routine emergency procedures stuff and pick up where things start to go off procedure.
Dara kept busy asking for more information on the Rescue and Recovery timeline, checking on their orbital status and all the ship’s systems other than the main engine. She was taken by surprise when an unfamiliar figure signaled at the cockpit door. That tall, dark man wasn’t in the cabin crew, but he moved with some authority in free-fall.
Instead of pressing any panic buttons, Dara let the door slide open. “Can I help you, sir?”
Mister dark-skinned and handsome floated smoothly through the cockpit hatch.
Thanks so much for the comments so far! There’s just been an accident on a routine flight up to a commuter space station. The engines are dead and the ship is stranded in a slightly unstable orbit…
“When will Orbital Rescue get here?” a woman in an expensive designer dress demanded from one of the most comfortable seats.
“We haven’t been given exact ETA, but I’m expecting a rendezvous in approximately four and a half hours.”
“I’ll miss my connection,” an older man said, and others near him started to grumble.
Ronny, the Chief Purser, chimed in at this point. “On behalf of the company, I apologize for the delay and inconvenience. Southwest Orbital Transit and your next carriers will do everything that they can to get you on your way with a minimum of disruption.”
Thanks very much for any feedback you can give me!
Dara is the pilot on a routine space shuttle trip, which has just become less than routine:
Something must have leaked just enough heat into the fuel tank for one piece of Fracture to detonate early, and that set off a chain reaction.
Dara sighed and started the emergency procedures. This was not going to be an ordinary milk run.
“There is no need to be concerned,” Dara said to the passengers and the cabin crew over the shuttle’s video screens. “Our engines are down, except for the small docking jets which will not be enough to get us to a stable orbit. However, we have six hours before our orbit will decay significantly, and Orbital Rescue and Recovery has been notified.”
Again, any feedback would be much appreciated, and thanks!
I just set the scene so far – Dara is a somewhat bored space pilot on a shuttle run up to Astris station…
Ever since they’d discovered hyperspace travel, there was more and more shuttle travel from the surface up to Astris, the main way-station for travellers that would be going even further. But Dara had never even been to the moon…
Suddenly the cockpit shook, and several status panels on her screen went bright red. She pushed a few commands to find out more details about the problem, and ended up staring at an exterior view of the main fuel tank.
There was metallic debris floating away, wreckage from a large crater that had blasted out from inside the ship, and also milky translucent faceted rocks – her remaining fuel supply. Fracture was the most efficient propellant ever invented, but it was also unstable.
Again, thank you very much for any comments and feedback!
Okay, I’m starting a new short story as of this week, a science fiction drama piece.
Dara checked all the displays as the sky outside the window faded from blue towards black. Everything within tolerance, including the important graph of altitude versus time; she was exactly on pace with the company schedule. “Eleven o’clock milk run, San Diego to Astris station. At least I’m a good milk run pilot.”
Dara pressed a few buttons on the control board to bring up a telescope view of her destination. Astris looked the same as ever, an irregular cylinder with stumpy projections spinning in deep space as it rotated.
So, it’s the evening of November 29th. A little more than one day left for Nano-ers here in North America.
First off, I’d love to share this Wordle made from the 62,168 words that I’ve written so far. Wordles are word clouds that you can make out of a large sample of text – the more frequently a particular word is used in the sample, the larger the word is inside the graphic. I’m hoping to hit 65k at the Waffle-palooza write-in tomorrow evening!
And I’m happy to say that I’m still really having fun with this storyline, even though it wasn’t necessarily where I thought that Star Patrol would go. At this point, I’m unlikely to get out of Act 2 of ‘The Imperion Encounter’ during November, but that’s fine – it’s the second book in the series after all. And all kinds of really cool things are coming together.
We’ve got the human foil, Star Patrol Captain McBride, (named after a Nano ML that I met in San Francisco,) who dislikes the friendly aliens and distrusts humans who are friends with them or study their ways. And McBride was essential to actually getting my main characters where they needed to be – I had to throw him a very small idiot ball, but that’s okay for a foil character.
And then there’s the new romantic rival, Ensign Mason, (named for Fort Mason,) who’s another Star Patrol Academy graduate studying the aliens, and he likes Melissa. Brett and Melissa have been out on one date and they kissed, but she still hasn’t made a big dramatic choice or anything.
A lot of my characters are developing fairly well. Carla Jones is obviously the smart girl and is struggling a bit to do more than just be the source of helpful exposition whenever there’s something that needs to be explained. And Melissa Dempsey is opening up about her secretive past a little, and letting me flesh it out. All really fun stuff.
If you’re still short of 50k, then good writing to you. You can do it!
So, I’ve been working on my new book for just about two weeks now – and I have to say, it’s going pretty great. Having a lot of fun, discovering more about the Star Patrol universe than I thought I would considering all the years that I’ve lived with Brett Walker and Melissa Dempsey in the back of my head – but there are some things that you just don’t discover until you’re walking the walk.
My current word count is 36,534 at the moment. I’m hoping to get a few hundred more done this evening before I go to bed.
Some of the cool stuff about my book so far:
The mysterious character of Exec, the second-in-command of the ship, opened up and I found out more about her at the most unexpected times – though maybe I should have expected them. For instance, the Captain gives her a little pep talk on an open comm line about how he thinks that she’s the right woman for this mission – and since he’s her superior, he can speak to her in a familiar fashion, as the ensigns and even lieutenants under her can’t.
Even though I hardly plotted out any of the high fantasy sequence, it came out pretty well in true Nano fashion – not quite ‘whenever anything gets too boring have somebody burst through the window with a sword in his hand’ but close. 🙂
The stuff after the end of my original outline, though, which is the stuff I’ve been working on since Saturday, though, is possibly the most fun – after we’ve had first contact with the aliens and are trying to figure out the getting-to-know-you stage of human-Breian relations.
One of the coolest bits of this is that I know all of this weird stuff about Breian history and the Archon’s discipline of knowledge that my human characters don’t, yet – but I’ve also absorbed this intuitive sense of how to play out the secrets that I wouldn’t have had a clue about back in 1998. There’ll be time.
And I really like the little bits and snatches of Jody Quinton and Gary Peterson’s budding romance… so much so, in fact, that I’m almost wishing that they could be the main characters, instead of Brett and Melissa and all of their angst. Oh well…
How’s your nano going? Have you ever taken an opportunity to go back and work with an idea from many years ago and see how much you’ve learned as a writer since then?
This six is from later in the same scene as last week, after Brett’s spent a while observing the alien natives while Jody tries to communicate with them.
One of the natives suddenly spoke up with a rather long and enthusiastic speech, but he was facing one of his fellows, not Jody, and both of them broke out into renewed activity while the third stood near the cart and watched the new people. Jody let out a sigh that seemed to deflate her inside, leaving a very tired and very sick young woman standing before them.
“What’s wrong, Jody?” Colin asked, in a way that might have been encouraging if the question wasn’t so pitifully obvious.
“There’s not engaging with us in terms of real communication,” Melissa put in. She wasn’t a languages expert like Jody, but from her communications studies she must have picked up some of the theory. “The key to translating an unknown language isn’t just getting vocabulary – it’s getting context.”