Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The new book

The snow is nearly gone. We're supposed to get a little bit of it back later this week, but for now, I can see grass in many places. Granted, it's dead brown ugly grass, but still... grass. Ground. No snow up to my hips as I try to get the trash out to the street. And even if the damned white stuff comes's mid February. It won't be here for long!

Soon I'll be out doing walks down to the river again. It's still a bit too chilly -- 43f today, and a brisk little cold breeze -- but as soon as we start getting closer to the 60's, I think I'm going to be heading down the bike trail again. It's been a long few months. I think the last time I was there was October. Winter hit too early and stayed too cold for me to go out. I don't do well in cold.

But... let's talk about writing instead of weather!

On January 1, I started a new novel. I always do. It's fun to have cleared everything else off and have the ability to start in on something new and exciting. Draw the Line has been a different sort of work for me. I have been limiting myself to about 500 (never over 600) words a day on it, and it is the first thing I work on each day. I'm now over 23,000 words into the story. I have a lot of worldbuilding notes that I had done over the last year, and a lot of scenes sketched out that I want to write, but I don't really have a nailed-down outline like I would usually work with in a case like this. I've printed off all my previous notes and I look them over whenever I come to the end of a segment. There are elements that have to occur, and I look for the next step when I need to move on. It's worked very well so far.
Writing at 500 words a day (at least on this project -- I do have others as well) is partly to see how a lower pace affects the book itself, and also to see if I can hold to this all the way through to The End. If the novel goes to about 120,000 words (a good length for this kind of sf novel) it should take me eight months to complete the first draft. That's not too bad at all, even if it is a lot longer than I normally would have taken for a first draft.
So here are the first few pages. Remember, this is a first draft!

Draw the Line

There hath gone up a cry from earth, a groaning for the fall

Of things of old renown and shapes majestical

Prometheus Bound, Aechylus

Chapter 1

Morgan Michael Doreet had prepared himself not to be impressed with the station. He'd read a lot about it and seen pictures and vids -- everything from the first few reports (when most of the news teams back on earth still dismissed it as an elaborate hoax) to the last reports sent by the science team based out here. The surprise of finding an abandoned alien space station had passed and even the general enthusiasm had given way to a sort of annoyed frustration by the people stationed at the site. The station remained, for the most part, closed to them. They lived in the outer areas, a band along the edge. The station kept its secrets.

In that narrow area, the station accommodated the humans -- and the Norishi , the Kasa and the Click, bringing four alien races together who normally would not live in such close proximity, even if they did share a close affinity in habitats. That they had all taken up residence here to study the station seemed far more noteworthy than the scanty reports on the makeup of the station's structure.

Morgan leaned forward as they came down off the slide path, waiting for the first glimpse of his new home. Just another station. Just another edge of exploration, where humans went to see what they could find, because curiosity was their worst -- and best -- trait.

The Blue Star came out of slide relatively close to the station. Morgan stood on the View Deck and nodded at the sight. Blocky -- not the shape a space station should be by human standards -- grayish-green, glowing slightly (self-rejuvenating phosphorescent bacteria in the walls, it seemed -- he read that in the reports), and altogether unpretentious.

Then he began to realize the size. Not just know it, in some abstract number terms -- more than three hundred square kilometers -- but to actually comprehend what that size meant. The small bubbles he only barely saw at this distance were the grow domes tethered to the larger station. Each one held one hundred acres of land, and they looked like peas set against the edge of the station.

While he tried to take it in, he noticed a shift off to the left and a huge block of the station rose, narrowed, turned... rebuilt itself in the area where humans, Norisha, Kasa and Click had not yet penetrated. The station had not let them into the interior, and the inhabitants lived in a narrow strip along the outer edge.

Seeing the station -- truly comprehending the size, power and alieness -- took his breath away. Xeno Station -- Xenation as the people here called it -- turned out to be far more impressive than he had expected: Frighteningly so for the man who came to take over the science section. He looked on something he could not even begin to comprehend.

One of the Blue Star crew stepped up beside him, stared for a moment, and then shook her head.

"It's made a lot of changes since the last time we were here, half a year ago," she said. "A lot more blocks out here toward the edge. Maybe that means it's going to open up more?"

"Maybe," he said, and wondered if he should hope for it. It would be an important coupe for him, taking over from Samplin, who had resigned to go back home. Samplin would be leaving with the Blue Star in about three days. It was going to be a quick change over, but that wasn't what worried him. "Have you seen it change often?"

"This is the second time I've seen it," she said, leaning a little closer to the screen -- it wasn't really a window, but they did a damned good job of making it look like one. "I've made six trips in the last four years. I don't know. Just looks like it's been more active. A lot more bulges, a lot more blocks. I don't know if I like it."

She gave one last shake of her head and headed away. He tried not to let her attitude worry him.

He stayed there and watched all through the rest of the approach. They moved quickly, heading inward and didn't slow until they reached the grow domes: bubble-topped, clear crowned so that the light from inside shown out making them look like little captured stars. They were tethered to the bulk of the station by long filaments of bonding cords, snaking their way through the dark, glittering now and then as light caught them. The clear covering on the domes allowed them to capture as much ambient energy as possible, and the domes became enclosed and self-sustaining eco-systems. As they went by, he had a close hand view of what looked like a wheat field, the stalks waving slightly in a created wind. A little farther on workers had begun putting together another dome to help support the expanding population. So far, the other three races seemed content to have all their food imported, but humans liked to be self-sufficient wherever they went.

Moving closer to Xenation made it seem less daunting now that he really couldn't see the whole of it. Besides, there were other, far more interesting things to see. He caught a glimpse of a Click ship leaping out from the station like a small round ball, and then darting into slide drive so quickly that his breath caught, expecting an explosion, disaster -- but instead he only saw a little flash of red as the ship disappeared onto the slide path.

And almost immediately, a long thin Norishi ship pulled out from a dock to the left and lower down. He watched as it moved past; dark, arrow-shaped, and without a show of any of the weapons for which the Norishi were so well known. He would have wished the Norishi hadn't made a base at Xenation, but it seemed the aliens were determined to make certain of their presence wherever humans and Kasa had settled.

Which, from all he could tell, was very odd since the Norishi apparently hated all races but their own. The Norishi had secrets, too. In all the contacts, both friendly and unfriendly, not a single male had been located, even though the females appeared to be very close to human females in appearance and in biology -- at least that was the rumor, since no one had admitted to doing a real examination of one of the dead.

Morgan would much rather not have them around. They complicated matters in ways that were already too unstable, and which included far too much politics, which he generally detested.
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