I began reading science fiction when I was four. I used to sit on my father’s lap as he read, and learned to read along with him. If he was reading E. E. (Doc) Smith or L. Ron Hubbard, he’d change books and we’d read Asimov or Arthur C. Clarke instead. I’m not sure if he considered the content of Smith’s and Hubbard’s books unsuitable for a four year old or if he thought the language was too difficult for me to read. It could have been something as simple as the size of the type.
Either way, science fiction was my first love and, while I read other things, I always return to it. It’s my comfort zone, my safe place.
I’m currently writing a science fiction novel as I do Year of the Novel through QWC. One of the questions I have to answer this month is what comparable books/writers there are to my story. If this was a romance story, I could easily find an answer because romance follows the same tropes. While there are differences with each story, there are always similarities too. Finding a comparable book would be a simple as finding another author with a similar voice or style. Science fiction isn’t that easy.
I don’t write hard science fiction. I don’t have the depth of science background to do it justice so I don’t even try. I also like fantasy stories so my SF, as well as being soft SF, often has fantasy elements. I love space operas, so I often write entire stories where most of the action is aboard ship, with planetary landings being rare and brief. When you add in the romance as well, it’s difficult to find something comparable.
I don’t know of anything similar to my new story, Memory for Loan, and couldn’t find any that combine similar SF features with romance. Some Steampunk novels touch on similar aspects of Victorian England culture and pollution as seen on Tolifax but Memory for Loan isn’t steampunk. I couldn’t find a romantic space opera that had similar elements although the writing of some hard SF authors (Greg Bear, Ralph Kern, Elizabeth Moon) resonates even though the majority of their writing (that I’ve read) is set on-planet.
The inspiration for Memory for Loan came from The Martian (Andy Weir), mixed with Victorian England slums, a concern over global warming and pollution and their affects on the environment, an interest in the idea of terraforming dead planets to make them habitable, melded with a personal background of Star Trek, Dr Who, Isaac Asimov, E. E. (Doc) Smith and Arthur C. Clarke.
The premise of the series is that the planet, Tolifax, has been used as a dump for centuries. The powers on Earth have dumped everything unwanted there, including human beings (especially hardened criminals). The communities on Tolifax are finally beginning to work together and revolt but how can that be successful when the people have no power and the ecology of the planet has been all but destroyed? The rebels set up camp, stage left, taking chunks out of the Galactic Government, centre stage, which fights dirty and for keeps. Enter, stage right, the planet whisperers, and you have the set-up for Memory for Loan.
The Year of the Novel continues. I’m half way through the first month and should have 3000 words written by now. I have written about 1000. Not as much as I need, but better than I have been doing so I have to be happy with that.
I’m still struggling with where the story is going but I’ve decided I need to just write something and trust that, eventually, the story will sort itself out. I’ve done as much planning as I can without planning myself to death and never writing anything.
So that’s what I’ll focus on this week—getting words on paper, whether they’re good words or absolute rubbish. At least I’ll have something to work with.
As a teaser, I’ll give you the beginning of my new story, Memory for Loan. This is probably the fourth beginning, and probably won’t be the last one, but I think I’m getting closer to something I’m happy with.
Now to work on the second half of the first chapter. I want that finished before the end of next weekend, so I can move forward with the story.
One man hears the whisper
Lonnar pressed his hand against the sensor to open the lift door, pausing the action. He’d been on board the Augustus for six months, the captain in charge of nearly 3000 crew. It was his job, what he’d trained for since he was fifteen, yet it felt alien. Like he was living someone else’s life.
What else could he do though? This was what he’d always wanted. He pressed his fingertips against the pain that flared in his temples every time he thought about leaving his position. The pain was getting worse; sharp stabs behind his eyes, like pokers jabbing at him. He didn’t have a tumor; his last medical was only a few weeks ago and the pain had begun well before then.
Perhaps he should see a psych-med and… No. Any hint of mental illness with the captain would put the entire mission in jeopardy. Every order, every action, would be questioned and refuted. They’d come too far for that to happen.
And he was fine.
Lonnar took his hand away from his face, straightened his shoulders and punched the door release. The door slid open with a refined hiss and he stepped out, onto the bridge. The subdued murmur of ‘busy’ dulled his recent sensitivity, and the view of neverending stars washed over him like a balm.
Space. This was where he belonged.
“Report,” he said quietly.
His 3IC punched a few buttons on the arm control panel of the captain’s chair then stood. “All quiet, sir. The full report is now in your inbox. I’ll be in the rec room if you have any questions.” The Thrick always took over during Lonnar’s sleep period. His 2IC, the Tick, took over during Lonnar’s rest time.
“Thank you Thrick.” Lonnar sat, grimacing at the warmth of his seat. Shared. Not his. He opened the report from the previous session and began to read. The bridge was quiet, with only a few murmured comments or instructions between the crew. Lonnar liked the quiet, but it felt unnatural with twenty people around him.
The hours passed. Lonnar was superfluous.
“Captain, we’ve received a hail from the Caesar. Commander Milosovitz is ready to transfer to the Augustus.”
Lonnar didn’t both lifting his head to look at the comms officer. They wouldn’t be looking at him. “Notify receiving. Take the commander directly to his quarters. Inform me when he’s settled.” Lonnar continued reading the reports that continually landed in his feed. Through them he could monitor every activity onboard. Every few minutes he glanced at the pilot, his hands itching to take over the controls. That was flying.
“Professor Milosovitz is aboard and in his quarters, sir.” Lonnar tapped a button on his console that indicated he was still on duty but away from the bridge. He gazed around the bridge at his crew as he stood. They, just like the ‘sir’, were part of the package; part of the life that had become his after the completion of his last mission, and the promotion that followed his injury. A promotion and injury he didn’t remember. Maybe. Sometimes he thought he remembered it. His head buzzed with it every time he tried to get the facts straight, like a search array gone wrong. Stuck in a loop. Circling and circling for days until he thought he’d go mad with it. The medics thought it would always be like that, said it was normal in the face of trauma, said he would adjust to it soon. Lonnar wanted to believe them.
I love writing courses, especially face-to-face ones. I always meet such interesting people and am exposed to amazing minds and incredible ideas. It stretches my mind and forces me to try new things with my writing. I always come out writing better, writing happier.
Last week, I began The Year of the Novel with Venero Armanno. Week one was the overview. We touched on a lot of things such as writing habits, structure, and voice. We began looking at character, their background and conflicts.
We were given homework!
I don’t know if it makes me a nerd or not—I live on the edge of nerdness anyway (or perhaps not so much on the edge)—but I love homework. It’s a great way to see if I’ve understood the conversations during the day and to try it out on my own, and to find out how it works best for me. So far I haven't reached my set goal of 3000 a week. I'll need to write more than that to finish the book by my self-imposed deadline, but it's a good number to start with.
I’ll admit I’m still struggling with my story—so much so I can’t decide where to start it or what the first ten pages should show. In my head the idea is a good one, but every time I write a few thousand words, it reads like a stereotyped space opera. The uniqueness of the idea isn’t showing through.
I’ve thought about giving up a number of times. I’ve put this story away to think about, a number of times. This time, I want to get it written. I’m not giving up. I’ll find the way to make this story work.
I’ve spent the last few weeks getting ready for QWC’s Year of the Novel with Venero Armanno. I’m really excited about doing it even though I had a lot of trouble deciding which novel I want to write while doing the program and have decided to do two.
I’m going to write another book in the world of The Planet Whisperer, called Memory for Loan. I have about 20000 words of this novel written but got stuck when I couldn’t decide if it was going to be second or third in the series. That will influence how I write the characters from No Evil Star—what they’ve done and what they’ve yet to do. This book has significant links to No Evil Star (which is finished and waiting for major edits to be done) but no obvious links to The Planet Whisperer (it’s linked to No Evil Star too). It makes sense to put Memory for Loan second so that No Evil Star, with its links to both books, can tie up all the pieces of the over-arching plot.
I’m also going to write a novella set in an entirely different world. It’s full of wizards and levels of powers. The levels of powers and what skills a wizard had at each level was really fun to work out, but what I’ve written is really disjointed. I haven’t settled on one major character so it’s all over the place.
I’ve also spent some time going through Dragon God—again. I think it’s better now, and ready to be sent to a professional editor. I’ll find one I think I can trust over the next week or so, and also put some feelers out for a cover artist. I know what I want for the cover but I’m not skilled enough to achieve it. Everything I do looks amateurish… time to call a professional.
Once those things are done, I can move forward with publishing. Because this is my first attempt at self-publishing, I haven’t put a deadline on it, so I don’t know what sort of release date I’m looking at. I suspect once I have it edited and with a cover, everything will move very quickly. I still have to decide if I’m going to publish in print format as well. I’d like to—it’s easy enough even if it does take time to organise.
It might be time to find a marketing assistant too!
E E Montgomery
About writing, life, and random thoughts.
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