Tag Archives: science-fiction

Nano2018 – when a Pantster just has to Plot

In a previous post I waxed lyrical about how I’d worked out what made Bountiful so deadly. Flushed with euphoria, I thought I was home and hosed, and that the writing would now flow. Not so much…

Since then, I’ve had to acknowledge that the core of my Nano story this year is actually three-fold:

  1. What made Bountiful so deadly?
  2. How did Beaumont cover it up?
  3. How did James Milgrove, aka the Burning Man, discover the Beaumont cover up?

I thought I had the answer to no. 2, but I soon realised that if I went with that particular solution, no. 3 would be almost impossible to achieve. I say ‘almost’ because I could have fudged the solution. ‘Oh  look, I just found a memo that proves Beaumont were culpable. How lucky is that?’

Just writing those two sentences raises the hackles on the back of my neck because it’s such a cheap trick, and so patently unrealistic. I mean really, with billions of dollars at stake, readers are supposed to believe that Beaumont cares enough to send an assassin to Innerscape, but not enough to burn the evidence?

Fortuitous events do happen, sometimes. Most of the time, however, big events are the result of a cascade of tiny, seemingly unrelated events, and the decisions taken over each one.  And that’s where plotting becomes a necessity.

Although I call myself a pantster, the truth is that I’m a hybrid who does a lot of research and a lot of plotting to make the base mechanics of the story work. In the case of P7698, that core revolves around the pseudo-science of Bountiful. In the Innerscape trilogy, the core centred on the constraints of the digital world itself. In Vokhtah, it was the whole world vs the biology, culture and history of the Vokh and iVokh.

Science fiction may demand more, in terms of these core mechanics, than some other genres, but I know that the best fantasy results from the same, fastidious attention to detail. Characters have to react to believable events and circumstances or their actions will come across as ‘fake’, and none of us want that. So here I am, a little bit stuck on points 2. and 3. 😦

I gave up the idea of winning Nano almost a week ago, and I can live with that; the element of competition was just a little added extra to keep me going. But getting this stuck is seriously depressing as I know I’m going to have writer’s block until I find solutions that feel real.

Anyone else having this problem?

Meeks


How NOT to do NaNoWriMo

I’ve just completed a 5-page, 1700 word document that I can’t add to my nano wordcount. But guess what? I’m almost popping with joy. 🙂

The 5-page document is full of URLs and direct quotes copied during my research today. As I didn’t actually write any of it, I can’t claim it for nano, but the information I’ve found has finally answered the monster question that’s been plaguing me since November 1 – how did Bountiful go so very wrong?

For those who’ve never heard of Bountiful, it’s the name I gave to a synthetic food base fed to Refugees in the Innerscape trilogy. It caused terrible cancers and ultimately death before the cause was finally found. It’s also the reason Miira is in Innerscape, and the reason the assassin wants to kill Alex Tang.

I skirted the edges of Bountiful without going into a huge amount of detail about how it did what it did. I figured that information should come out in P7698. Unfortunately, I didn’t really have all those pesky details figured out when I started P7698 for nano. -sigh- Sometimes you really do have to jump in and hope for the best.

Unraveling Bountiful turned out to be a lot harder than expected because I am not a geneticist, not even a teeny bit close. Despite my extreme amateur status, however, I think I’ve finally got it, a possible explanation for why Bountiful was so deadly. It involves a gene called PTEN-L, genetic engineering and lateral gene transfer. And it’s awesome!

I have no idea how much of my research will actually end up in the book, probably very little, but at least what does go in will be possible, even if it’s not likely.

cheers

Meeks

 


Yes! New music for writing

Nano took a back seat this morning as I’ve been searching for the ‘right’, writing music. I listened to new music by old favourites, but nothing really matched how I feel about this new story. So in desperation I went to SoundCloud and there, thanks to SoundClouds great recommendation engine, I found…

Jon Altino

This is the playlist I just put together. It’s a bit rough as I just grabbed songs as I heard them, but the very first one – A World Asleep – is glorious and should give you some idea of the kind of music I need this year.

Jon Altino? If you’re reading this, I wanted to buy the album, but iTunes only offered Superhero. Please, please put a new album up there!

Well, time to put this lovely music to the test and fire up StoryBox.  I have this feeling P7698 is going to flow a whole lot better today than yesterday.

cheers

Meeks


Vokhtah – cover reveal and an excerpt

First and foremost, the cover!

The blurb on the back cover hasn’t scaled properly, but that’s okay as the image used for the actual print cover will be the right size. The width of the spine will be adjusted as well, once I’ve got the trim size/page count finalised. Other than those small changes, the cover is done. 🙂

Oddly enough, the thing that gave me the most trouble with the cover was the red dwarf sun. Even as a binary, it will never look that big, but I had to take liberties with the size in order to make the image tell a graphical ‘story’. Getting the colour and ‘haze’ to look okay was hard too. Overall though, I am really, really pleased. I wanted something that looked more obviously sci-fi, and I think I got it. I also wanted the figure to be ‘brooding’ without giving too much away. The one thing I will say is that the figure is not wearing a cloak. 😀

And now for that excerpt. I rarely post excerpts because they rarely work well divorced from their context, but…well, I really like this scene. -shrug- To provide a little bit of context, the Yellow is the most powerful Healer in the Guild of Healers, and it’s also one of the bad guys. 🙂

The Yellow

“Forgiveness Honoured,” the young healer said as it skidded to a halt a respectful distance from the Yellow Councillor. “Traders confirming Messenger looking like Blue leaving with last caravan two circuits ago.”

The stocky, powerfully built iVokh standing over by the table continued studying the deep blue gem in its hand for a moment longer before turning to face the young healer.

“And Junior of Needlepoint?”

The question sounded casual, almost to the point of disinterest, however the young healer knew its master too well to ever mistake self-control for indifference.

“Junior being too… mmm…sick to leave with caravan,” it said carefully. “Triad estimating not being fit to travel for five, maybe six more circuits.”

* * *

The Yellow’s expression did not change, however there was a slight jerkiness to its movements as it dropped the gem, and its chain, into a pouch. It pulled the drawstring tight with a vicious snap of its wrists.

It had known the Master’s ridiculous story had to be true from the moment it had seen the Blue’s gem, lying abandoned on the table. But still, it had hoped. Now that hope was gone.

The Blue had made fools of them all by doing the unthinkable, and by now it had a two day head start. However it would soon discover that it was not the only one capable of doing the unexpected.

Turning towards the Master Timekeeper, who stood silently wringing its hands by the wall, the Yellow flicked its fingers in dismissal and waited in stony silence as the Master shuffled out backwards. The fool would have to be given a suitable reward for its incompetence, but for now it could wait; there were more pressing matters to deal with.

Throwing the pouch at the feet of the young healer, the Yellow said, “Taking that to Blue faction and then returning to Traders. Informing Quartermaster that Council needing special escort for Junior. Caravan must leaving at first-light on the morrow.”

“But Honoured—” the young healer began. Its cilia locked shut a moment after the words were out, but of course by then the damage was done.

“S’so?” the Yellow asked, its voice deceptively mild.

“N-nothing, Honoured…”

“Perhaps thinking needing authorisation, mmm?” the Yellow asked, knowing full well that was not what its assistant had been thinking at all.

The young healer blanched, making the finger-length scar beneath its left eye stand out even more. Nevertheless, its shoulders remained straight as it gave a silent nod.

The Yellow narrowed its eyes as it dropped a small yellow shard onto the sand at its feet. Authorisation. And a lesson in humility.

The young healer bent and slowly reached for the gem. The tips of its fingers were just curling around the shard when the Yellow’s foot descended on its hand.

“Being grateful for reminder,” the Yellow said in a genial tone as it ground the healer’s hand into the sand.

* * *

Crouched at the Yellow’s feet, the young healer knew better than to move, or make a sound, however it could not stop the sheen of sweat that suddenly broke out all over its body.

Only after the Yellow finally raised its foot and strode from the cavern, did the young healer release the keen of pain it had been holding back.

As it rose, cradling its bruised fingers against its chest, it spat on the ground where the Yellow’s feet had been. Then it fumbled the gem shard into the tiny bag it wore around its neck, gathered up the pouch and left at a quick trot.

On a different, but related note, you might be interested in this amazing article about Iron Age jewellery:

http://www.blog.poppyporter.co.uk/wordpress/2018/05/08/the-celtic-torc-how-iconic-iron-age-treasure-is-beginning-to-weave-its-magic-into-my-jewellery/

[My thanks to Dawn of Dawn Gill Designs for the link to that amazing article]

Even if you don’t have time to read the whole article, have a look at this:

Electrum torc with ornamented terminals. The torc is made from just over a kilogram of gold mixed with silver. It is made from sixty-four threads. Each thread is 1.9mm wide. Eight threads were twisted together at a time to make 8 separate ropes of metal. These were then twisted around each to make the final torc. The ends of the torc were cast in moulds. The hollow ends were then welded onto the ropes. The terminals are ornamented with embossed ridges, contrasting with areas filled by chased 'basket-work'.

That, my friends, is the Snettisham Great Torc, and it was made about 2000 years ago! Just goes to show what so-called primitive people can achieve. It also confirms that it would be possible for the iVokh, despite their low level of technology, to craft the kind of jewellery I’ve written into the story.

That may sound like nit-picking, but I believe that authenticity in the little things makes the big things easier to believe. And let’s face, I’m asking people to believe in flying, psychopathic aliens that happen to be hermaphrodites! lol I need all the help I can get. 😀

cheers

Meeks


Ursula K. LeGuin, 1929 – 2018

To say that Ursula K. LeGuin has been an influence in my writing life would be a woeful understatement. Her Hugo award winning novel ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’ opened my eyes to what could be done. By women. With courage.

The world has changed a great deal since LeGuin finally found a publisher for Left Hand of Darkness, but the book still stands as a beacon to all writers: stay true to yourself, be brave, sometimes merit is recognized.

This is a screenshot of LeGuin’s author page on Amazon:

Such wonderful books, and now there’ll never be another.

Never being forgotten,

Meeks

 

 


Is this the precursor to Innerscape?

I know you’re not supposed to blow your own trumpet but read this:

“…a private company called Paradromics is developing a cortical interface that uses arrays of microwire electrodes to record and stimulate clusters of neurons…”

“..A Columbia University team aims to develop a non-penetrating bioelectric interface that can transmit stimuli directly into the visual cortex…”

Those are just two projects being funded by DARPA which stands for ‘The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’. DARPA is an …’agency of the United States Department of Defense responsible for the development of emerging technologies for use by the military’.

‘DARPA-funded projects have provided significant technologies that influenced many non-military fields, such as computer networking and the basis for the modern Internet, and graphical user interfaces in information technology.’

Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DARPA

You can read the complete article on New Atlas here:

https://newatlas.com/darpa-brain-computer-interface-investment/50445/

No one’s come up with Kenneth’s ’embalming fluid’ interface yet, so for once I’m ahead of the game. God I love science fiction!

cheers

Meeks


They. Have. Arrived….

Not ten minutes ago, the doorbell rang, the animals scarpered, and I took possession of a small cardboard box with my name on it. I knew what it must be, but…it was almost a week early!

And there they were, the print proofs of the Innerscape books. Real at last:

Sorry for the poor quality of the pics. I took them with my mobile phone so you can’t see the rich deep colour or the way the light reflects off the gloss covers. What you can see, however, is that the Godsend cover didn’t work. This is a close-up:

The bit inside the red rectangle is the background image that’s meant to represent the Innerscape containment units. Instead of being a subtle hint, the image is as good as invisible. 😦

I know I’m not a professional cover designer, so I have to learn from my mistakes, but I feel as if I should have expected this one. You see in the print preview of the Godsend cover, the image did appear much darker than the image I was working on. But…I assumed it was just something to do with the print preview function. Wrong.

The Godsend cover won’t be hard to fix, but I’ll have to ‘guess’ at the finished product because I won’t be able to request a second proof [not because CreateSpace won’t allow it, but because the postage is so ridiculously expensive].

Another thing I’m going to have to guess at is the width of the Miira spine. For some reason, the actual spine is wider that the dimension I was working with in Corel. But this is both an annoying thing and a very, very good thing because I was worried ‘Miira’ would end up being ridiculously ‘thin’. Instead, it looks and feels like a normal, albeit ‘slim’ book so I’m thrilled by that. I’m also thrilled by the back covers. They look great, they’re very readable and they are beautifully consistent throughout the three books. I’m giving myself a pat on the back for that. 🙂

The Offspring and I are going to celebrate tonight with a tender Rack of Lamb, roast potatoes and a salad of homegrown lettuce, followed by a movie. I hope your weekend starts as well as mine. 🙂

cheers

Meeks

 


3 hours to enter a great sci-fi competition

I don’t normally enter competitions because I never win anything. No, seriously. Nevertheless, the thought of winning a new Kindle as well as a stack of new books made me change my mind.

 

Click the link below to go to the competition page being promoted by Andy McKell, one of the sci-fi authors participating in the competition:

https://booksweeps.com/enter-win-space-opera-science-fiction-novels-july-17/

Best of luck everyone!

Meeks


Sometimes I surprise even myself…

Apologies if I’ve been less visible of late, but I’ve started writing again, and that tends to give me tunnel vision. The story I’m writing is the long delayed, next chapter of the Vokhtah saga.

The story of my psychopathic hermaphrodites languished for four years while I wrote Innerscape, but now they’re back, and I’ve had to re-acquaint myself with their world all over again. Part of that process was to do a backwards outline of the original story, and that’s where this post comes in. I’d actually forgotten that I wrote this preface to the Vokhtan to English dictionary:

Due to the radical differences between Vokh and human physiology, this sound guide is an approximation only. Where humans speak by forcing air past their vocal chords and then shape the resultant sound in the mouth, the Vokh and iVokh use their mouths for eating only. Their lungs are located in their wings, and they inhale and exhale through hundreds of small cilia on the leading edges of their wings, by-passing the mouth entirely. Thus the sounds they produce are akin to the multiple sounds produced by a pipe organ. Even pure sounds have a resonance human speakers cannot match.

Adding to the difficulty of accurately representing the Vokhtan language is the native speakers’ habit of deliberately distorting their speech with ‘chords’, in order to convey tone and inflection. Harmonious ‘chords’ – like the major 5th in human music – denote agreement, pleasure, delight etc. Discords, on the other hand, can imply a range of emotions from disbelief to contempt. Yet despite the musical quality of Vokhtan, neither the Vokh nor the iVokh have ever developed the concept of music.

Vokhtan for human speakers is further complicated by the fact that the spoken language also includes an array of scent cues produced in glands at the base of each cilia. These scent cues are aspirated with certain audible sounds to form a combined sound/scent amalgam. For example, in the word ‘Vokh’ the ‘h’ at the end represents both the sound of the aspiration, and the scent denoting respect or admiration, something humans are incapable of reproducing.

Please keep these difficulties in mind when attempting to speak Vokhtan.

lol – I really did spend a lot of time thinking about the Vokh and the iVokh. From 2004 to 2012 to be exact. There was so much to discover about them. I mean, they all have sharp claws, right, even the much smaller, less aggressive iVokh. But sharp, pointed claws tend to get in the way when you’re not killing something, so how were the iVokh supposed to craft anything?

The ladies reading this post will immediately recognize the problem of nails that stick out half an inch past the end of your fingers. So how did the iVokh manage? By doing what we do, of course. They squared off the tips of their claws. But wait…how would they have cut their claws? Clearly they would need tools of some kind. Not scissors, no, but something like a small nail file perhaps. Except that nail files don’t grow on bushes. The iVokh would need Smiths to make the nail files, and the Smiths would need metal of some sort…

And so it went. Every idea came with its own baggage of pre-requisites, and each day of writing revealed some new discovery. It was an exciting time, but that was then. Now, I have to relearn all these tiny, yet important details so I don’t make any horrible mistakes, like saying that one iVokh punched another.

The iVokh certainly fight, but not with a clenched fist. Why? Two physiological reasons:

  1. Even with their claws blunted, striking with a clenched fist would drive the claws into their own palms, and
  2. Both iVokh and Vokh hands are quite weak in comparison to the rest of their bodies. They do have opposable thumbs, but they only have two fingers, and those fingers are long and spindly. A punch would probably break the whole hand.

And these are the little things that I have to learn all over again. If anyone’s interested, I’ve been trying to do a graphic of the hand. Still very much a work-in-progress, but here it is:

cheers

Meeks

 


Spotlight on #Indie, Chris James

Six months ago I published Repulse: Europe at War 2062-2064, and those of you who know me well, also know what I saw when I looked at that word “Repulse” on the cover, and therefore why its modest success is just a mite ironic. Altogether, this little book has managed to get itself over 3,000 […]

via Repulse: Six months of #Gratitude — Chris James’s blog

Chris James is an Indies Unlimited buddy from way back, and he’s also a very good sci-fi writer, but that isn’t the reason I reblogged his post today. I did it to give the rest of us a good news story with a dash of hope.

Self-publishing can lead to success, Chris is proof of that, but it rarely happens ‘overnight’. Behind every ‘Repulse’, you will find years of patient effort during which the only thing that keeps you going is pig-headed obstinacy.

The moral of ‘Repulse’ is that success is possible, if you have the intestinable fortitude to keep slogging away at it. Please read Chris’ post and take heart.

much love,

Meeks


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