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The Science Fiction Writer

PostPosted: Wed Sep 01, 2010 10:52 am
by Intranaut

Re: The Science Fiction Writer

PostPosted: Thu Sep 02, 2010 6:14 am
by Intranaut
OK I can't figure out how to delete this, there were some minor changes I wanted to make, Rick could you delete it?

Re: The Science Fiction Writer

PostPosted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 2:09 pm
by RickLewis
I'll take it down as you ask. However, I'm only halfway through reading it, and have been enjoying it - so I've taken a copy to finish reading later. Is that okay, or would you rather I waited for the final version?

Re: The Science Fiction Writer

PostPosted: Sat Sep 04, 2010 12:13 am
by Intranaut
No that's fine :)
It's basically the same, I only changed a few words and added a few details in the last part.

Re: The Science Fiction Writer

PostPosted: Sat Sep 04, 2010 12:26 am
by Intranaut
Here's the edited version. And in thinking about what I plan to do with this story, I think this here will end up being more like an extended prologue:
NB: Anything that is from first-person would ordinarily be in italics, but in copying and pasting the story from word into here they were lost and I'm not bothered enough to go through and italicise everything. But that's meant to be someone's thoughts when it's in first person. Enjoy!

Zeke stared at the ceiling. Then he stared out the window. And then he watched Star Trek: The Next Generation, made himself some lunch in the ad breaks, ate the lunch and then went back to staring at the ceiling.
Writing, he thought to himself, is harder than it reads.
It wasn’t that he didn’t have anything to write about, on the contrary, his mind was teeming with ideas, begging and pleading him to release them, to put his pen to the paper, or more accurately, his fingers to the keys and just let them flow through fingertips into a beautiful and well-formed masterpiece. But that wasn’t what he had in front of him. What he had in front of him was a mind-map and a drawing of a spaceship. It was a pretty neat spaceship too, he thought, it was streamlined and fast looking and, as far as he was concerned, pretty damn sexy. When he questioned himself later why a spaceship needed to be streamlined in a vacuum, he found he had no answer other than, “It looks cool.”
There would be no writing today.

I’ve got it! He ran to the computer and began to type before he realised that he hadn’t opened a word document yet. I’ve got it! I’ve got it! I’ve got it!
He had just come back from the beach, he’d gone at sunrise. Well, before sunrise. He’d gone to watch the sunrise before going for a surf. Though he didn’t end up surfing on account of the fact that he had had an epiphany. He was been lying on the sand, watching stars begin to set and disappear in the light of the dawn and playing with the grains of sand between his fingers, when he began to think. Not that this was an occurrence that was ordinarily worthy of not. Thoughts in Zeke’s mind were frequent, too frequent if anything, coming and going before he got to really think about them. But now he was, lying in a place where the land meets the sea and in a time when the night meets the day. He looked up at the dying stars. Though he couldn’t see them all in their multitudes at that hour, he knew they were there, in their vast numbers. In their vast numbers, beyond his own comprehension, like the grains of sand he was lying on now. And then one moved. It had always been moving, but it had only just moved into his field of view. A space station. Space stations had been up there in their own, growing numbers for decades and technically they were open to the public, provided you could afford to get up there, but for the most part they were shared by governments and research institutes. In reality it was a meteorological satellite, but nonetheless, his heart swelled as he looked on what he thought was one of the farthest outposts of man. Not very far out, he had to admit. If Earth were the dry land he was lying on now and space was the big blue, they were scarcely dipping their toes. But it was a start.
It was from here that Zeke’s mind began to wander and to wonder at what might lay out there, in the murky deep. Perhaps, he thought, if we can make it make it past the first hurdle, that is, being able to swim, the stars really will become like sand. But We’ll have to learn to wade first, and to take the waves as they come. Then the day will come. The day when we no longer need the bottom for support, but can keep our heads above the water. We’ll reach distant shores and we’ll make sandcastles. Sandcastles of the stars.

And now the idea took shape. The words flowed from his fingers and into the, just as he had hoped. His story would follow the life of a captain, he was a little bit like Captain Nemo, except that he captained a spaceship instead of a submarine. A spaceship that at this point, did not have a name. So he had a ship with no name captained by a man who was like Nemo, but wasn’t and didn’t actually have a name yet. OK, he admitted to himself, the details aren’t up to a publishable level, but with a bit of sitting down and thinking, I can come up with something. On the bright side, the story itself flows well! Except the bits where the names of the ship and it’s captain are needed. These spots were filled with “[protagonist]” and “[ship]”. It’s a work in progress, but progress has been made. And now, there’s work to be done…

‘It’s good’, Nathan said down the line.
‘You’re not putting me on here are you?’, Zeke was worried that the concept might have been a bit too close to Firefly.
‘No, really! I mean it! I enjoyed reading it!’
‘Now don’t just tell me that, you know that’ll do me no good when I try to get it published only to find out what I’ve written is…terrible.’
‘I’m not kidding! It’s beautiful, really. You capture the romance, you know? The beauty of the unknown. It’s quite literally “From the New World”. Like a western a bit, but without the Indians. Or if anything, the crew of the “[ship]” and good old Captain “[protagonist]”’, he paused, ‘you really need to come up with names, those terms were really jarring to read’, and continued, ‘ and the captain are the Indians, with the expanding empire as the cowboys. It’s like a sci-fi western!’
Oh God, it really was too close to Firefly, ‘Original enough, do you think?’, he asked hopefully.
‘Yeah, for sure.’, Nathan continued enthusiastically.
‘But seriously, think of some names. Call me back when you’ve got something!’, he hung up.
Yeah, I’ll think of something.

‘“Grains of Sand in the Hands of Children” by Zeke Adley’ Zeke began to read the review, ‘The dubious title follows the lives and adventures of the crew of the aptly named, if a little unimaginatively so-’
‘Boo! Hiss!’ his mum shouted and teased from the dining table where the family had gathered to celebrate his first published work.
He continued, ‘-unimaginatively so, Edge, a fantastical and futuristic spaceship captained by the heroic Erik Fernand in their unending dream of avoiding the spread of civilisation and industrialisation. While the novel at first comes across as borrowing themes from a number of stories in the attempt to create something original, it does however…’
He stopped to let the uproar at the table die down.
‘…it does however have it’s merits. As one buries themselves into the story, you begin to get a feeling for the crew, their lives and their interpersonal relations onboard. For this aspect, I commend it as a well-written and at times, tear-jerking, drama. But it is it’s other aspects that bring it to another kind of level. The book is more than just a story, it is an essay on what it is to be human and what our place in the cosmos is. At times you feel yourself burst with pride at being a member of this species and of the wondrous things we’re capable of and of what we could do, but at others you feel ashamed to be a member of the human race, with the atrocities we can commit not only on each other, but on the very concept of sentience itself. POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT! As an interesting side, the name derives its title from the ‘grains of sand’ that appear in the story as stars and we humans as the children that toy with them, building castles out of sand that we cannot hope to maintain with the changing tides of the universe. SPOILER ALERT OVER! I recommend this book to anybody who is out for a good romance, a good science-fiction or, and I give you this warning now, a novel that will make you question who you are the role you play in the universe. Read if you dare.’
He looked across the wildly cheering table. His grandma and grandad were beaming at him and clapping, his sister, Lily, grinned at him, immensely proud of her younger sibling who for so long had been such a nuisance, her arm around her husband, Nathan, who showed the affection of an older brother. Their child, his nephew Joshua, however, looked completely disinterested, far more interested in his toy truck. As he shifted his gaze to mum and dad, he saw tears in their eyes. His dad stood up and took his son by the hand and shaking it vigorously, he pulled him in and whispered in his ear, ‘You know, I was really worried about for a while there. But I want you to know, I’m so proud of you.’

‘What the hell are you doing with yourself?’, his father looked into eyes searching for an answer and accusing him at the same time, ‘You’ve got so much potential, but what are you doing? You’re 24, you’ve got a degree in goddamned astrophysics and you’re living with your parents and working at bloody Coles!’
‘I’m just between jobs, I’ve got a few things lined up!’, Zeke offered weakly. No I don’t.
‘You damn well better!’, his father said with a red face, ‘Your mother and I can’t keep supporting you, hell, we probably don’t have long left, less if we have to work our asses off for you!’
‘Don’t talk like that! You’ve got plenty of time!’ he hated hearing his father talk about his impending doom, he’d been doing it as long as Zeke could remember, he claimed to be realistic, but his father was as pessimistic as the worst of them.
‘We might, and we might not, but I want to spend the rest of whatever we’ve got left watching you doing something with your life!’
‘I will! Just you watch. I will!’
Zeke sat up. He must have woken himself, shouting in his sleep. It wasn’t a common occurrence, but it had happened a few times before. He looked at the alarm clock. 4:27 am, 3 minutes before he was supposed to get up. Well, I’m awake now, he thought to himself. Ordinarily he was a fairly early riser, so everyone told him, but this was early even for him. Rolling out of bed, he stood up, stretched and yawned. After a fresh shower he shaved, looked at the comb, then looked at his short, brown hair and then ignored he comb before heading into the kitchen for breakfast. He had a big morning ahead of him. This morning he had his first television interview.

Zeke pulled into the station at six and by seven he was waiting off-camera. He examined his surroundings; to the right were the two anchors chatting to the screen about some revolutionary new weight loss product. The extremes to which people would go to avoid healthy eating and exercise never ceased to amaze him. In his own mini-set was a coffee table with two low sofas to either side of it, so the cameras could look down the middle of them, and a set of book cases surrounded by modern décor. On the other sofa was a very nervous looking woman who appeared to be in her late thirties trying to get her excited, young son to quit chewing his shirt, which looked like she had starched it the day before or just bought it. Poor woman, he thought, the child had probably done something spectacular and when asked about it would probably respond with something about as detailed as, ‘It was really cool!’ He offered a supportive smile, she smiled back weakly as she struggled with the boy. Zeke opened his mouth to ask what she was here for when he noticed in the corner of his eye one of the camera crew signing to keep quiet. What the heck else am I supposed to do?, he wondered. Remembering he wasn’t on until about eight, he decided to go out and breathe in some morning air and maybe have a stretch. They’d asked him to be there by six, but he should have realised they wouldn’t have any guests on until at least eight and the woman would probably be on before him, so all the mothers across the country could watch and wish their child did the things her child did as they got theirs ready for school. He hoped for her sake that the kid would behave.

‘We’re here today with Zeke Adley, the author of the best-selling science fiction trilogy “Grains of Sand”. So Mr. Adley, how has the success of the series changed your life, exactly?’, Val Jennings, the female anchor with the long, blonde hair looked at him, feigning interest in his book. He wondered if she’d actually read it, or even knew what it was about.
‘Well not as much as you might think really. I mean, my name might be well known now, but it’s not like people recognise me on the street or anything. Life in that sense, is basically the same, except at the book signings of course! People recognise me there, at least! On another level though, the family is much more financially secure, so that’s a great change for us.’
Val nodded, her eyes wide but glazed over. The male anchor, Ed Hartman, while his hair didn’t look quite real up close, seemed to show a more genuine interest, ‘Now, I’m sure you’ve heard the announcement from the International Space Exploration Association on their plans to return to Mars and from what the commentators can discern, it looks like they’re planning a long-term base there this time. With this being potentially the first interplanetary colony, how likely do you think it is that we could be seeing the dawn of, say, an empire, like that in your book?’
Zeke chuckled, ‘Well, ISEA has been announcing trips to return to Mars since the American NASA first got a man there in 2043. But since NASA was disbanded in favour of the International entity we know as ISEA, I wonder if there’s enough economic incentive to go back. There’s no nationalist movement to prove, “I’m the best country around” when you’re an international and intercorporate union. If anything, the private sector of ISEA is likely to push further than Mars to the asteroid belt for possible mining operations.’
‘But surely you’d love to see a colony on Mars?’ Hartman looked disheartened, it was as though all his dreams now had an axe hanging over them.
‘Oh, for sure! That would be an absolute dream for me, to see an outpost of man extended from Low Earth Orbit to an alien world. It would be an incredible achievement. You never know, the bureaucrats in ISEA might, for once, see past the short-term profit and look at the big picture.’
The anchors laughed. For a while the talk centred around the finer points of his books before they turned to clarifying the seemingly paradoxical message of the series; the for need for a real colonialist attitude in space exploration without giving into capitalism.
‘What we need’, this was his basic plea throughout the discussion, ‘is not the representation of a single corporation, nation or religion. What we need is the unification of mankind under the banner of discovery. Now that may sound completely naïve and impractical right now, but I think we’ll find that once we get out there and see just how small we are, how little our differences mean, those men and women out there, the ones on the Edge and the ones in our real colonies, will band together and for the first time in history since our species’ birth in the savannah, we’ll be one tribe again.’
‘A beautiful dream indeed.’ Val said, wrapping-up his segment brightly, ‘We’ll be right back after this ad break with the mother who’s son has learnt pi up to 52 decimal places!’
Zeke watched her as she said this. She reminded him of a goldfish; everything he had said went in one ear and out the other, all the while she parted her lips and stared blankly. It’s people like her, he thought, that make me worry about the future. The only time her expression seemed genuine the whole morning had been when she listened to the reporter give the verdict on the new weight loss product. But he wasn’t about to lose his manners, he shook hands with her, or rather with her limp fingers, once the camera was off them. He then turned to Ed, whose hand was already stuck out, his handshake far more warm. Albeit, that wasn’t very hard.
‘Thanks for coming in this morning,’ Ed said to him, ‘really, I loved your books, I just hope to goodness you’re wrong about the colony!’
They both laughed.
‘It was my pleasure.’ Zeke said, and he meant it. If media men like Ed Hartman could show such a genuine interest in the affairs of science and exploration, there might yet be hope for the future.

‘Mr. Adley! Mr. Adley!’, a girl’s voice called out from somewhere distant. He turned from the path between the supermarket and his car, apparently not quick enough to stop the eager girl to from calling out again, ‘Mr. Adley! Zeke!’
He watched her move towards him in a gait that looked as though she was trying to walk and run at the same time. Her voice, it seemed, lied about her age, she seemed to be in about her early twenties and while she still looked younger, she was certainly well into womanhood. She’d have to be one of the few who recognises me, even after the morning show.
She caught up to him, panting, ‘I…I was wondering…’, she caught her breath, ‘I was wondering if I could talk to you over a coffee.’
‘Of course.’, he smiled.
‘My name’s Alanna Flynn.’, she continued, holding out her hand. He shook it.
‘I’m-’, he began before she cut him off, laughing, half-mockingly.
‘I know who you are!’
‘Oh, right, of course.’
‘I’ve got an offer for you.’

They walked in silence to the Gloria Jeans on the outside of the mall, Zeke still carrying his groceries. At one point she offered to help him with them. He declined, and the silence pervaded, growing on awkward. He risked a glance at her. She was trying to maintain a serious and professional face but there was definitely a smile creeping up on her mouth. Her hair was long and jet black except for a single, pink streak on her fringe. Her eyes too couldn’t stand simply fitting in with the rest of her pale face, not a sickly pale, mind you, but were a vivid green, flecked with brown. She was petite, not tiny, but enough that she had to move her legs a lot more than he did per stride. I wonder what she has to offer.

Alanna felt him looking at her, she had to admit it was a little flattering, he was trying to disguise it but he obviously checking her out. She too had looked him up and down a couple of times, though a little more stealthily. She didn’t want to seem star-struck. Zeke was taller than she had imagined, leaner too. And he had never worn those black, rimmed glasses in any of his photos or interviews before. He should, she thought, they look good, even if they do hide his eyes. For as much as she admired him and his features, his eyes were not spell-binding, a dull blue-grey. His nose too, was a little bit bigger than she’d expected. It’s not distractingly large. More…aquiline. She realised what she was doing and chastened herself, ‘You’re here for business. Now, I wonder if he’ll take the offer.

The two of them sat down at a table outside after ordering, a Chai latté for Zeke and a black coffee for Alanna. They were silent for a moment, waiting for the other to speak. And then they both opened their mouths and began talking before becoming silent again. ‘You first’, she offered. ‘Alright,’ he accepted, he wasn’t about to start a manner war of, you first, no you, no YOU, ‘What do you do?’
She smiled inwardly, ‘Well, that’s basically what I was going to say anyway. I’m a game designer, though for the past few years I’ve more been working on a new console for what is, right now, a little known company called Immerse. But we’ve got a lot of big people behind us who think we’re poised to knock out some of the guns of gaming as well as computing.’
‘And what makes them so sure?’, Zeke asked, a little uncertain as to what he had to do with all this.
‘Virtual reality gaming.’
He laughed, ‘You’re joking aren’t you? VR’s been around for over half a century, it’s been a gimmick the whole time, something at science fairs. What have you got on all the other models?’
‘Immersive capabilities. You’re right though, all the others are just gimmicks, all they’ve basically done is moved the screen closer to your face. We’re going to get rid of the screen entirely.’
‘OK’, he sat forward, ‘so how is this going to work?’
‘An implant.’
‘An implant.’
He looked around the café, his arm following him in a wide arc, ‘You think all these people, or enough of them, will pay for implants just so that they can play games?’
She smiled, outwardly this time, ‘Oh, there’ll be more than games. This implant is really going to change things. Imagine, you could run programs that excite every one of your senses and there is a potential, we’re still in the development stages for this, of sharing feelings. A little more distantly we could see complex concepts taken from say, a teacher, and have it run in the minds of students. If that works it could even be possible to communicate directly from implant to implant without the need for pre-programming. We considered hooking up to the internet, but decided there’s too much of a risk of hackers controlling someone’s feelings, but the point is; we’re talking telepath here!’
Zeke watched her. Her eyes were almost wild, she certainly seemed passionate about this thing. But still he didn’t understand, ‘Exactly where do I come into all this?’
‘We,’ she paused, she was in her business mode now, ‘want to use your series as the first example of what’s possible with our technology.’
“Our technology”, this was really beginning to push the boundary between science and science fiction, even for him.
She kept going, ‘Your series is perfect. The implant doesn’t just let people see what they would through the camera lens when they watch a film, but they can actually feel what the characters feel and your series carries such a broad range of feelings, complex feelings, more than simple love for “the good guys” and hate for “the bad guys”, there’s just so much more. Not to mention the settings on alien worlds and interstellar space would be simply spectacular to fully immerse oneself in. Essentially, the receiver would become the character until the program finished. Oh, and everyone knows your books. That helps.’
As crazy as it all sounded, he was intrigued. ‘I want a demonstration.’
She winked, clearly looking forward to the prospect of impressing one of her favourite authors with her own work, ‘You got it.’

Two days later Zeke was being given a private tour of Immerse’s research centre by, of course, Alanna. I never really thought about research for a games system. But then again, I suppose this is a lot more than just a games system.
‘So, what exactly do you do here, personally?’, he asked, she’d said she worked in game design but from what he could see now, she was constantly checking up with people dressed from lab coats to hoodies and jeans in the hall ways they passed through, she seemed to be running the whole project.
‘Well, as I told you the other day, typically my job is in game design, but lately I’ve been working with all the groups involved; the software engineers, bio-technicians and of course the real nerds in game design, among others, making sure that they’re all on the same track. If we’ve got hardware that isn’t capable of properly converting software into nervous impulses, you could mess up more than the silicon hardware and end up with someone’s sight centre of the brain dealing with sound and vice versa. Or other less severe forms of synesthesia. Now, here we are. This is the room where everything comes together, we’re in the last prototypes now before we’re ready to market.’
He hadn’t really been listening to a lot of what she had just said, he had been watching her as she spoke, hearing, but not listening. As he did, he decided there was something about her he liked. It wasn’t that she was immediately attractive, she wasn’t, in fact she would be quite plain if it wasn’t for her streaked hair and bright eyes. What is it about her?
‘Now, ordinarily’, she continued, ‘we’d have to give you an implant in your skull for the device to work, but…’
The words “implant in your skull” caught his attention, not that he wasn’t rapt beforehand, this girl is just too distracting, maybe it’s the way her face gets so animated when she speaks? Maybe. It didn’t matter right now, what mattered is that she had just mentioned a skull implant and as he looked around the room, he realised he was in the perfect place to perform such an operation. They were in a surgical theatre. I hate needles, let alone scalpels! On and in my skull!
Noticing the bewildered, even frightened, look on Zeke’s face as she said this, she reiterated, ‘If you were listening I said “but”. You won’t be going under the knife…yet. Today you are in for a more painless treat.’
Alanna walked over to a desk, returning with a small cylinder.
‘Hold out your arm.’, she said.
Zeke looked cautiously at the device, ‘I’m beginning to wonder how you got into organising a cutting-edge group of scientists, engineers and technicians at your age and how you got to be a qualified nurse at only…how old are you?’
‘I’m 24. Now quit talking and hold out your arm you big baby. This isn’t even a needle. It’ll blast nano-particles through your skin, hardly cutting edge, surely you’ve seen them?’
I don’t know what side of the town you’re from, he thought, but my GP still uses a needle.
‘I don’t even know what’s in there! You could be injecting arsenic laced particles for all I know!’
‘Or’, she said half-sarcastically, ‘I could be injecting nano-bots that will attach to a sensory neurone in your arm and route a program from this computer’, she pointed to a laptop on the desk where she had picked up the injection tube, ‘into your nervous system so that you can get a basic feel for what Immerse will be able to do.’
‘Oh. I see. Although I’m not sure nano-bots sound particularly safe, I mean they’re a pretty new technology, as far as actually being inside the body goes, I don’t really fancy the little critters going haywire and assimilating into the collective or something.’
She smiled, or maybe it’s her smile?, and attempted to reassure him once more, ‘Don’t worry, we can’t actually get them to last longer than an hour once activated. Now, do you want your demonstration or what?’
Hesitating for a moment, Zeke held out his arm. She held his elbow, her hands are very soft too, and pushed the tube onto his skin, pressing the button on the top. A puff of air and…nothing.
After waiting a moment he asked the awkward question, ‘Was something supposed to happen?’
‘Just wait.’ She smiled again, this time she seemed to know something he didn’t. That beguiling thing.
It began as a tingling sensation, not on his arm like he would have thought, but all over. Then it began to crescendo, tingling became stinging and stinging became burning, hotter and hotter, all over, it was as though he was cooking from the inside out. Then right when he was about to let a scream of agony it changed, into complete ecstasy. It felt like something he could hardly describe, all over his body his nerves scintillated bliss and the scream he was about to release changed to almost a moan. He felt light, like he could float away.
‘Wow. Wow. Woooow…’
He stood silent for a moment with stupid looking grin on his face before it faded and he looked up at her, ‘That was intense.’, he paused and corrected himself, ‘That was awesome.’
‘I’m glad you like it.’, she smiled and looked up at him. ‘Oh, and in answer to your question about how I got here,’ a look of embarrassment came across her face, ‘my dad may or may not own the company.’
Zeke had evidently not been listening to her and he widened his eyes, looking as though he’d just woken up, shaking the stupor off of him, ‘That’, he looked back at her, ‘was the best thing you can do standing up.’

‘Good morning and welcome back to Morning Sun, it’s 7.50 and boy have we got an announcement for you.’, Zeke’s television informed him.
Ed looks happy today, I wonder what he’s got to tell us now. As long as it’s not more corporate snake oil I’ll be pretty happy. Though I can’t blame him, he’s just reading off the teleprompter.
‘ISEA has announced plans for construction of the first working space elevator. It will be headed by Japan and while it won’t be ready in time to assist in the final touches on PAX 2, the American headed Martian colonial test mission, the elevator is expected to greatly relieve the economic pressure on further deep space missions by reducing the costs of getting building materials needed for the construction of larger craft into low earth orbit.’
The screen was then taken up by an animation which showed the elevator at work, lifting people, materials and equipment, when his focus was broken by a knock on the door. Almost running to the door, still in his pyjamas, a pair of track pants, he opened it to find Alanna greeting him from behind the screen, which he quickly opened.
‘Good morning!’ she said brightly, eying him up and down. His body was impressive, not very big muscularly, but toned and fit-looking.
‘Yes, yes, very good.’, he hurried her in, she was dressed in a t-shirt and form-fitting jeans. She was supposed to be here, they had planned to talk business over breakfast but at the moment he wanted to get back to the news, ‘Quickly, quickly! You’ve got to see the TV!’
Grabbing her by the wrist he let the screen door slam shut on its own and pulled her into the living room, his living room now, he had since moved out of his parent’s home. She was about to jokingly reprimand him for being so rough when she saw what was on. Realising that this was, after all, Zeke’s passion, she decided to keep her mouth shut and instead sat down next to him on the couch.
‘The elevator is expected to be completed by November 2061’, Ed Harding continued enthusiastically, ‘around the same time that PAX 2 is planned to be having it’s interior and living quarters completed. ISEA has received criticism for attempting to bring what has been, until now, a conceptual feat of engineering into reality. The closest thing to a space elevator used outside of science fiction and hypothetical-engineering challenges was almost 30 years ago when the asteroid Apophis passed close to the earth, giving astronauts a chance add to physical research samples from previous missions when they descended from their craft onto the surface via a carbon fibre tether. While it would have been disaster enough to have that elevator fail, potentially stranding the astronauts, failure in this case could mean the loss of lives, an entire space station and thousands of kilometres worth carbon nano-tube tether.’
It was here that that fake-blonde Val Jennings piped in, announcing the close of the report, ‘Who ever is paid to make such a long tether is bound to make a killing!’
‘Right you are.’
‘And now we go live to our Hollywood reporter with all the hot goss-’
Zeke switched off the television and turned to Alanna.
‘Do you realise what this means?’, it was now his eyes that were wild.
‘I can afford a trip to the Bigelow Space Station?’
‘Probably, but if this space elevator works, it could be possible to build a big enough spaceship to begin realistic colonisation efforts on Mars, and other worlds for that matter! Heck, it’s not out of the question that a Stanford Torus could be built within a couple of generations! Can you imagine it? We’ll finally be holding our heads above the water!’
‘A Stanford Torus?’, she got what he was talking about, but that term lost her.
‘Yeah, a big donut shaped station that spins so that you can create artificial gravity, they could be potential homes for thousands and could even be self-sufficient! All this is getting me feeling like I need to write! I don’t even know what about but I’ve got to do something!’
‘Well, you could always talk to me over breakfast about your ideas, we could include them in the demo.’
‘Alright, alright. That sounds nice.’, he looked down at her.
She smiled up at him. God I want to kiss you. He jumped up, ‘Come on, I make a mean omelette.’

Today was the day that all of her work culminated. Today she unveiled Immerse to the public, she’d be on Morning Sun, in the same section Zeke had been almost three years earlier. She was nervous. She squeezed his hand as they walked into the station. He’d been a good friend the past year, always supportive of her when ever some sort of snag was hit in the final development stages and the more recent marketing stages.
‘Thank you for coming in today.’, she said looking straight forward.
He smiled, ‘I’d have come if you hadn’t asked. And don’t worry, you’ll be fine.’, he told her, stroking her hand with his thumb.

‘And what makes you think people won’t hack using a nearby wireless controller? If you can implant feelings and ideas into people with this device, it could be possible to synthesise the right disposition of a user towards somebody to set up a murder with an ordinarily unwilling murderer.’ the woman demanded. Trudy Redford, a retired minister for health who now had a regular column in The Herald looked at Alanna Flynn accusingly through the camera lens. This was meant to just be a discussion, not a debate. They were set up with green screens so that Alanna looked like she was coming live from one of her dad’s companies laboratories and Mrs. Redford from a library. There were bookcases. Whether it was a library or not, Trudy was given the stance by the station of a kind old academic. Whatever this mad scientist, Alanna thought, has done to enrage such a character to this degree must have been bad. The whole is pitched against me. She held herself up, refusing to release the tears that were welling up, some of that old cow’s words had stung. Though, she had been able to show the woman’s fears about the device as unnecessary so far.
‘The external computer and wireless router that’s kept in the pocket will have a top-of-the-range firewall that is freely updatable at any retailer. In the case of the user feeling immediately different or simply suspicious of the device, it can be easily disconnected or turned off.’
Alanna turned around so that the side of her head was visible to the camera and revealed the small, skin-coloured circle on her scalp above her ear that would have normally been covered in hair had she not lifted it up. She pressed a tiny button on the side of the circle and it easily lifted off.
‘The piece that I hold here in my hand is a simple receiver for the device, directing the signal from the computer into the implant. It’s similar to the simple technology behind a cochlear implant, which has been used for decades now.’
‘Well,’ Mrs. Redford paused for a moment, stumped momentarily, ‘what about a possible addiction to the device? Your tests revealed that the device was capable of stimulating a psychological response similar to that seen during the use of LSD.’
She was right. She had to give her that. Alanna herself had been one of those test subjects.
‘While this is a possibility, it is in fact easier to purchase LSD illegally than it is to modify the device to perform such tasks.’
‘Oh? And I suppose you would know just how easy it is to do that?’
It’s remarks like that that are just unnecessary and humiliating, she thought.
‘Alright I think that’s all the time we have for this discussion today!’, Ed Harding cut in before conversation degraded to “Yo mama” jabs, ‘Now Immerse is giving away 150 free implants for those willing to be the first members of the public to have the devices, implantation process included, to the value of $3500 each to the first 150 callers! The number is below.’
Turning back to the two screens in which both women were pretending to come live from he dismissed them both, ‘Thank you both for your time today, we hope to see you again!’ But hopefully not at the same time, he added to himself.
‘Anytime, Ed.’, Trudy said before the screen switched off.
‘Goodbye and thanks Mr. Harding.’, Alanna followed.

‘Why did she hate me so much?’ She had waited to get outside before breaking down, ‘I don’t understand, the public polls indicated that the majority loved the concept. What if everybody hates them?’
Her tears began to drip down her cheeks, she felt like everything she and everybody at Immerse had worked so hard for was doomed to failure.
‘Hey,’, he put a hand on her shoulder and pushed up her chin with his other hand so that she looked up into his eyes, ‘there’s bound to be a few bitches out there, but just you wait and see, people are going to love it.’
He pulled her in close to him and she buried her face into his chest and wept. After about a minute she looked up at him with red eyes and wet cheeks and said, ‘Kiss me.’
‘You heard me.’, she said, getting her confidence back, wiping her cheeks dry with her sleeve.
‘Are you sure you really want me to-’, he continued, not sure if she meant it in this state.
‘Shutup.’, she said almost irritably and pulled herself up to his face planting her lips firmly on his.
He kissed her back.
I don’t care what it is that makes her attractive anymore, I love this woman.

‘How long has it been since you last did anything to support this house?’, Alanna Adley looked at her husband with her gloved hands on her hips and her hair tied back.
‘Huh?’, Zeke grunted from in front of the computer screen.
She pushed the screen down on his laptop and took him by the hand and knelt in front of him, as if to propose.
‘What is so important that you must distract my keeping updated on the PAX 2’s progress?’, he asked, half-jokingly. He did want to read it.
‘Will you, Zeke Adley, help me, your lawfully wedded wife to clean this home that you do absolutely nothing to support?’
‘Hey! Hey now I still bring in a steady stream of income into the home, yes, perhaps dwarfed by yours, but I don’t do so bad!’
She continued to look at him.
‘Oh, alright and I’ll help you clean the house!’
‘Yayy!’, she squealed with delight, leading him from his study, ‘You get the bathroom!’, and into the bathroom.
‘What? Damn it!’
‘Go on, here’s your gloves and cloth, I even filled up your bucket for you!’
‘Erm, thanks?’
She stuck out her tongue at him.
Looking at her then, he placed his bucket and gloves onto the tiled floor. He then took off both of her gloves, taking a moment to admire the ring on her finger. Standing up he announced rather proudly, ‘I want to spend the rest of my life with you.’
‘Yes, well, you sort of told me and both of our extended families that six months ago.’
‘I did, but what I didn’t say was this; let’s have a baby.’
‘Oh,’ he looked down, a little ashamed of himself for even suggesting it now, ‘we don’t have to, I mean it’s just a idea.’
‘What I meant,’ she said, putting her hands on his waist, ‘is that sounds like a fabulous idea. Shall I wait for you to surprise me after work with candles, rose petals and music?’
He laughed, ‘Heck no. Right now.’
She laughed, ‘That, sounds even more fabulous.’

I’m going to be a father.
I am going to be a father.
Zeke Adley is going to be a father.
No matter how many times he said it over in his head, it never sounded quite right. I’m not even sure whether it’s a girl or a boy. Or what we’re going to call it. His parents had offered some, in his opinion, awful names.
‘How about Jean-Luc? After The Next Generation!’ they had said. As much as he loved the Star Trek series, he was not about to name what could be his first-born son after a Starfleet Captain.
‘Mr. Adley?’
He looked up from twiddling his thumbs to the nurse who had just poked his head around the entrance, ‘Yes?’
‘You’re going to want to come in here.’
He followed the nurse’s suggestion and came in. And there she was, there was Alanna holding his child. I’m a daddy. She looked up from her child, she was deathly pale.
‘It’s a boy.’, she managed to say.
A tear came to his eye, ‘You look exhausted.’
‘Having a baby isn’t easy.’ She smiled weakly and attempted to laugh but began to cough. She motioned for the baby to be handed to him while she got over it. A nurse complied and handed Zeke his son. The tears in his eyes multiplied as he looked down on the tiny thing in his hands, barely able to open it’s eyes, the lights, it seemed, were too bright. ‘You’ll have to be able to handle more than that, my boy,’ he knelt down next to Alanna’s bedside, she had stopped coughing, ‘the future’s only going to get brighter for you.’
‘Zeke.’, Alanna managed to get out, ‘The doctors...’, she stopped for a moment to breathe, ‘The doctors said that having the baby was a bit too much for me.’
His expression dropped and he looked up from the baby, ‘What are you saying?’
‘They’re right. I…I don’t have much more in me. I’m going to die, Zeke.’
‘What? No, no, no. No, that can’t be right.’, a lump rose in his throat, ‘No, no, I need you. The baby needs you!’ He shifted the position of the newborn so that she could better see it. It had fallen asleep already. ‘No…’, he moaned, ‘no.’
‘Quiet you,’ she said, almost whispering, and yet managing a smile through her deathly pallor and cold sweat, ‘you’ll wake the baby.’
‘No, but I need you. I need you with me. I need you without the baby, let alone with it! How can I take care of a child on my own? I’m hopeless! I’m hopeless without you! NO!’, tears were a torrent down his face now.
Her face, however, was completely serene as she told him, ‘You’ll be fine, he’ll love you. And…don’t forget,’ she choked up now, ‘don’t forget to tell him I loved him. But right now, right now’, her voice was quieter than before, ‘shutup and kiss me.’
Zeke, his vision blurred by tears, looked down at his son in his arms and passed him to a nurse, turning back and pressing his lips against Alanna’s.

‘Dad,’ Alan looked up from Zeke’s lap, ‘is this the first time someone went to Mars?’
He looked down and smiled at his son, he was five years old now and had already disproved the theory that the amount of questions asked by a child peaked at four, ‘No, they landed there once almost twenty years ago.’
It was a big night for Alan, his usual bed-time of 8.30 had been extended for the landing of the Personnel Arean Explorer, or PAX 2 on the surface of Mars. The lander was just entering the atmosphere now, at 11.
‘Why didn’t they go back in all that time?’, he asked innocently.
Fair question, ‘Well it can cost a lot of money. And this is the first time so many people have gone to another world at the same time!’
‘How many’d they send last time?’
‘Well, last time it was just the four, but they were all Americans then. This time there are sixteen! Each one from a different country!’
‘Which countries?’
Zeke laughed, ‘You know, I can’t quite remember.’
‘Are there any Australians?’
‘Now that one I know! Yes, there’s, John Umbridge. He’s a molecular biologist’ Now he’ll want a definition of that too.
‘What’s that?’
‘It’s somebody who learns about all living things at the smallest level’, he rolled his head back and swung his arms overhead dramatically at the word ‘all’ and brought his index finger and thumb together, squinting his eyes as he said ‘smallest’.
‘Oh.’ The child was satisfied for now. That, or very tired.
‘Hey, look! They’re about to land!’, he shook his son, who’s eyes were already closed, ‘You won’t want to miss this!’
The boy sat up rigid, holding his eyelids open with his fingers.
A few minutes later the screen switched from the orbiter watching the landing to a camera on the outside of the lander, examining the landing site. In the top bottom right corner of the screen appeared the date, 21 July 2062. The ground below seemed to be solid rock, no chance of dust being swept out from beneath them. Luckily it seemed fairly still, only the odd gust bringing up a swirl of sand around the craft. The ground pulled closer and the tension mounted, though Zeke recalled that whatever he was seeing now had actually happened about ten minutes ago what with the speed of light and all, and then contact. The camera didn’t jolt as one might expect on earth, but simply stopped moving forward. The camera changed again, this time to one that showed a side-on view of the hatch, ladder and first steps of Martian soil. It must have been attached to one of the legs of the lander.
‘Look! Look!’, Alan pointed. Zeke, though, was already watching, as rapt as his son. The hatch had begun to shift, a few bumps and it swung open, revealing Raphaëlle Aucoin in her clunky pressure suit, who was to be the first woman on Mars. She descended the ladder and placed her right foot onto Martian soil. ‘That,’ she proclaimed in English, though her French origins were hard to hide, ‘is one uncomfortable trip for us, and one excellent feeling to be stretching out.’
Alan turned to Zeke with a near toothless grin. After learning about the Tooth Fairy’s gifts he had learnt to take wobbly teeth out as soon as possible. ‘Daddy, when do you think I could go to Mars?’, he asked, his expression turned serious.
‘When can I come along?’ Zeke asked in response, putting on the same ‘serious’ act.
‘As soon as I get there I’ll invite you out. And then, and then I’ll move onto a moon of Jupiter, and then you can follow me there. And then, and then Saturn!’ any faux seriousness evaporated, ‘I’ll go as far as I can, and you can come right behind me! I’ll make sure it’s safe for you.’
‘Well, that’s mighty kind of you.’
My son, he smiled, watching the boy chatter on about all the places he’d go and the things he’d do there, the conqueror of worlds. Who knows, maybe the stars will become like grains of sand in your hands.

Re: The Science Fiction Writer

PostPosted: Wed Sep 15, 2010 12:44 am
by RickLewis
I like it! Thanks for another enjoyable story.

Random comments:
1) It is quite a tricky thing to pull off, this approach where you focus on individual characters but at the same time tell a story covering or describing a broad sweep of future history. Asimov did that kind of thing, of course. The danger is that you only just have time to get interested in the characters before they are swept away into history, like poor Alanna! Still, I think you do a pretty good job so far as it is possible within these constraints.

2) I wanted to hear much more about the immersive technology - the most interesting sci-fi idea in this story, and a very sinister one too, imho. Presumably that is still to be written, if this is kind of an extended prologue as you say?

3) The meeting of Zeke and Alanna is very well done, I thought - the touches of awkwardness are good.

4) I didn't find Alanna's deathbed scene convincing. Too melodramatic in a 19th century kind of way. And surely there would be doctors rushing about trying to save her? I'd hope so, anyway!

Anyway, I do hope you'll post future installments here as well. Thanks again.

Re: The Science Fiction Writer

PostPosted: Wed Sep 15, 2010 4:01 am
by Intranaut
Thanks for the comments!
That's the sort of response I was hoping for! :D As in the criticisms I was hoping to hear. I might try and add in a bit more detail about her death and have doctors doing things in the background.
Thanks though!

Re: The Science Fiction Writer

PostPosted: Wed Sep 15, 2010 4:30 am
by Intranaut
It's probably just as melodramatic, but I tried to make it at least slightly more convincing!

I’m going to be a father.
I am going to be a father.
Zeke Adley is going to be a father.
No matter how many times he said it over in his head, it never sounded quite right. I’m not even sure whether it’s a girl or a boy. Or what we’re going to call it. His parents had offered some, in his opinion, awful names.
‘How about Jean-Luc? After The Next Generation!’ they had said. As much as he loved the Star Trek series, he was not about to name what could be his first-born son after a Starfleet Captain.
‘Mr. Adley?’
He looked up from twiddling his thumbs to the nurse who had just poked his head around the entrance, ‘Yes?’
‘You’re going to want to come in here.’
He followed the nurse’s suggestion and came in. And there she was, there was Alanna holding his child. I’m a daddy. She looked up from her baby, she was deathly pale.
‘It’s a boy.’, she managed to say.
A tear came to his eye, ‘You look exhausted.’
‘Having a baby isn’t easy.’ She smiled weakly and attempted to laugh but began to cough. She motioned for the baby to be handed to him while she got over it. A nurse complied and handed Zeke his son. The tears in his eyes multiplied as he looked down on the tiny thing in his hands, barely able to open it’s eyes, the lights, it seemed, were too bright. ‘You’ll have to be able to handle more than that, my boy,’ he knelt down next to Alanna’s bedside, she had stopped coughing, ‘the future’s only going to get brighter for you.’
‘Zeke.’, Alanna managed to get out, he looked up from the baby, ‘The doctors...’, she stopped for a moment to breathe, ‘The doctors said that having the baby was a bit too much for me.’
His expression dropped and he looked around the room, until then he had hardly taken notice of the doctors and nurses rushing about her bedside, fiddling with equipment, prepping something that looked intravenous and discussing the situation in hushed and grave voices, ‘What are you saying?’
‘They’re right. I don’t have much more in me… I’m going to die, Zeke.’
‘What? No, no, no. No, that can’t be right.’, a lump rose in his throat, ‘No, no, I need you. The baby needs you!’ He shifted the position of the newborn so that she could better see it. He’d had fallen asleep already. ‘No…’, he moaned, ‘no.’
‘Quiet you,’ she said, almost whispering, and yet managing a smile through her deathly pallor and cold sweat, ‘you’ll wake the baby.’
He felt a hand on his shoulder, it was the midwife, he ushered Zeke out of earshot, speaking softly, ‘We’re doing all that we can Mr. Adley, but she’s lost a lot of blood and frankly, she’s fading fast. I’m afraid there isn’t much more we can do for her.’
Zeke suppressed an urge to blurt out a profanity and strike the doctor for saying such a thing, instead turning away with the weakest of smiles.
‘Hang in there, you’re going to be fine,’ he tried to appear hopeful and more importantly right now, honest, ‘just stay strong. How could I take care of a child on my own anyway? I’m hopeless! I’m hopeless without you! NO!’, his façade broke down and a torrent of tears followed.
Her face, however, was completely serene as she told him, ‘You’ll be fine, he’ll love you. And don’t forget,’ she choked up now, ‘don’t forget to tell him I loved him. But right now’, she mustered her strength to produce a husky, ‘shut-up and kiss me.’
Zeke, his vision blurred by tears, looked down at his son in his arms and passed him to a nurse, before turning back and pressing his lips against Alanna’s.