Monday, February 4, 2008

Plot teaser

Working on "first murder's" outline. Here's a plot teaser I came up just now on IRC:

23:23 <ibid> there's two young men who rivalled over a young woman,
one of them made her husband and subsequently killed
her. the rejected one becomes an amateur
detective/prosecutor against the killer, while the
killer believes the rejected one really caused her death
23:24 <ibid> also about exploring the local judicial system
23:24 <ibid> and generally about establishing a new colony

Monday, December 31, 2007

New start

Starbirds got stalled long enough that I've lost track where I was with it and would have to start again.

Instead, I started to write ­– on my new Nokia E90 communicator – a short story in a similar, but not identical, setting. The working title is Beethoven's first murder.

"You fucking necrophile! Stop! I will kill you!" Boris shouted. Kimi was not inclined to comply. He biked down the Xxx fixme street, made a fast turn to the right with his heart in his throat and proceeded along the Yyy fixme street to his house. He looked backward and saw Boris race a couple of seconds behind. He left his bike on the street and ran fast inside the house. Once he got the door closed, he breathed deeply. Almost immediately Boris started pounding on the door and scream obscenities. It would not take long for Boris to realize that the windows would be a fast and simple way in. Kimi ran to his computer and plugged the camera in.

Today's wordcount: 793 (and I'm not done yet)

Sunday, October 7, 2007


Been reading N. M. Browne's Warriors of Alavna and Warriors of Camlann. I've read a small snippet of how the third book might open in rasfc, and I'm now terrified of reaching the end of Camlann.

In other news:

I have figured the ship out. It's a nearly 500 meters high cylinder with a radius of seven meters. Most of the middle of the ship contains relatively small water containers, too many to count. In total, at launch, the water masses at nearly 11 million kilograms.

The ship contains an unobtainium drive that converts water to energy (in the Einsteinian E=mc² sense) at 50 % efficiency (the other half is emitted in netrinos). The drive manages, in some fey fashion, to direct that energy as electromagnetic radiation mostly in one direction, providing thrust. The drive provides a sustainable (ship-observed) acceleration of 9,81 m/s², and there is enough fuel (water) to sustain that acceleration for two years. Thus, the ship accelerates for one ship-year, reaching the peak speed of 0.77c (that is, 77 hundreths of the speed of light), coasts for decades and then takes another ship-year to decelerate back to rest near the destination. The acceleration creates an Earth-like gravity with "down" being toward the engines. While coasting, the ship rotates in such a way that up and down are (roughly) perpendicular to the height of the ship, with "down" being either toward or away from the enines, depending on where on the ship one is located. In the exact middle, there would be a zero-gravity zone, while at both ends of the ship, gravity would be the familar one gee.

I still need to figure out what happened on Earth between today and the 2050's. Obviously, someone invented that unobtainium drive, but I need details.

(And no, I'm not asking people to supply possibilities.)

I wrote a small vignette about the ship. Probably can't use it. It's still the only narrative verbiage I've produced.

Ah! It is good of you to have come!

This star here is relatively cool and relatively dim, as stars go, although I agree with you that it is plenty hot and plenty bright, as biologics measure such things.

Never mind the planets that are orbiting that star. We'll get to them eventually, but they're not what is interesting about this star at this particular time. Zoom in on this particular point, billions of kilometers away from the star. See that small stick hurtling toward the star? Good. It's actually not that small, as you'll notice if you zoom in much further. It is actually almost half a kilometer long... what?

Ah, you notice it is a nearly perfect cylinder in shape? Do you think it is artificial? Good, you have a sharp wit. What do you think it is? A spaceship? A good guess, and accurate. Notice how it is slowly turning? I've measured it, it's turning a full circle in one minute. There must be quite a gravity in both ends of the ship, thanks to the rotation.

I feel like crap. I think I need to get out more.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Brief note

I haven't forgotten this project, though I haven't reported in in days. I've been working on the ship. No narrative words added, and it is possible I'll have to scrap the current narrative and start again.

Sunday, September 30, 2007


Week 2: 1355 words
Project: 2718 words

I should have guessed that a bout of easy writing would be followed by hard times. It wasn't such a good thing after all that I managed to write more than the weekly quota on the first day I wrote this week. I haven't touched the writerly keyboard since until today. Today, I have written 190 words of narrative and 62 words of an abortive character study on the medtech Richard.

I know what needs to be accomplished next. I just have no idea how they're going to do that. Must figure out how the ship actually works.

I also notice that Minea is my only real character thus far, and she has no human opposition. To create that opposition and interesting character moments, I'll have to go back to their past, and figure out why anyone would volunteer to crew a hibernation ship (it's a lifetime post, they can't have a middle-life crisis or the ship gets in danger, and they'll be ready to go to an old folks' home when they arrive at the destination, while their passangers wake up all full of their youth), and related to that, what actually happened on Earth between today and roughly the 2060's when the hibernation ship launches, that makes the ships practical, economically viable and attractive for colonists. I had hoped I could just handwave these things, as the story happens Far Away A Lifetime Later, but it obviously affects the characters.

Damn. I had a whole week to develop this stuff with no narrative wordcount pressure and I wasted it.


It's bedtime now. I'll do better tomorrow evening, I'm sure.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Wrote 1165 easy words in the last three hours. Wow. That's enough for the whole week. If I continue averaging this much each writing day, I'll have to up the target rate!

Week 1: total 1363 words
Week 2: currently at 2528 words (project cumulative total).


They found a board in Engineering. The first thing Minea did was to check bow sensors. There werent't very many left, as the same catastrophe, whatever it had been, had taken out most of the forward section. She did have a short-range radar platform and a visible-spectrum telescope. Neither showed any big rocks in their immediate way.

She called up the flight plan and started matching it up with observed constellations to figure out where they were in relation to where they were supposed to be. She let the navcomp work on the problem on its own, but the answer it came to her was clearly impossible. She then did the proper observations on the telescopes, selected a number of reference stars, five to be on the safe side, laboriously matched by hand their star images with the corresponding stars on file and plotted their angular positions on the sky. She then pulled an earlier set of manual observations from the file, and noted that they had been made by the Captain herself a couple of moths earlier. She hoped they were accurate, but she didn't think she had months herself to wait for the ship to have moved far enough from its present position for her to be able to obtain a set of fresh observations. She compensated the redshift difference between the two sets caused by the ship's deceleration and calculated the parallaxes of her reference stars. Finally, she used these numbers to determine her location.

The computer had been right. They were light-seconds off course. The navcomp suggested a corrective maneuver. With considerable tredipation she accessed the propulsion system controls and noted the amount of deltavee she had on hand. It turned out to be just a bit too low.

She deflated on her wheelchair with a resigned sigh.

"Something wrong, Lieutenant?" Richard asked from her side. He had appropriated for himself the duty engineer's chair.

Minea turned her head to look at him. "You've spent decades on this ship and you can't read a piloting board?"

"Erya..." he said, referring to his late wife and the ship's deceased first mate, "Erya tried to talk me into learning. I was never interested."

"Oh," she said, feeling a bit guilty for having made him think of his too recent loss. She inhaled audibly, to gather strength. "Okay. We can't achieve orbit of the Neval moon."


An idea occurred. Maybe they could bleed enough speed by aerobraking on the Neval atmosphere. She put the question to the navcomp, which promptly gave a solution. She started to cheer, but then she remembered to check the resulting hull temperatures. Even with maximum deflector strength, the hull would breach and her remaining fuel would explode. So much for that idea.

She then asked the navcomp to run scenarios based on gravity assists on the six other planets on the system.

"What's happening?" Stress was clearly audible in Richard's voice.

She looked him in the eyes. "The computer is computing."

The sat in silence for an eternity. Finally the display changed. "No luck there," she said.

"We're not going to make it?"

"It looks like it." When she turned to look at Richard, she saw his face deformed by pain and wetted by tears.

"Last year," he said. "Last year, when we hadn't been killed yet by space, I figured that we'd be all right. That Erya and I could retire on that life-abundant rock. It has life, you know. We had suspected it when we launched, but we've actually been able to see that much on the telescope for the last decade."

She didn't know what else to do but reach for him and hold him, and let him cry his anguish. She herself didn't feel anything, and she wondered what that said of her.

They remained in that position, him crying on her shoulder, for what seemed like hours.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

On NaNoWriMo

Today's total narrative word count is 1363, meaning that I wrote 713 words today. I'm glad.

I got recently mail from NaNoWriMo. They're preparing to start accepting registrations for this year's November. I've participated since 2003, and I won in 2005, but I'm not going to do it this year. There are two reasons: this "Starbirds" project is the only one far enough along that I could actually contemplate writing it in November, but I've already started the narrative and so it is disgualified from NaNoWriMo; and NaNoWriMo is too tight a deadline. I have, on occasion, written more than 1666 words a day, but I can't sustain it and still get anything resembling fictitious narrative on the file. I've dropped out each year after two weeks, at the point where I would have collapsed had I continued, and taken my health with me. The year I won I did it by a bit of a cheat. That story will never see the light of day.

This "Starbirds" project is sort of my own NaNoWriMo project, with the difference that I'm setting myself much more modest goals. My goal is to have at least 1000 words more in the total narrative at the end of a week than I had at the beginning of the same week. This allows me to set a realistic pace of 400–600 words a day while allowing several off-days each week. It gives me time to pursue my life at the same time without breaking me. Still, the 1000 words a week is enough that I actually have to work on the project often enough.

The "Starbirds" concept actually grew out of my last year's NaNo work. In the summer I started playing with the space colonisation concept I had in that project, and ended up with a (totally different) idea of humans on an alien planet who went there to colonise but found too much bad luck that they regressed to the stone age. Then, unrelated to this, I started playing with the concept of sapient birds. Put these two concepts on the same planet (or moon, in this case), and you have the world concept of "Starbirds".

"Starbirds", actually, is set a few hundred years prior to my original story. We start with the colonists on approach. We're (hopefully) going to see them crash and then find the birds. What happens then? I'll tell you when we get there.

Snippet (actually, today's verbiage)

Richard guided her to a wheelchair. The idea of being hauled around by someone three times her age didn't sit very well by her, but her gooey legs left her no choice. She sat down.

"The emergency?"

Richard did not answer. Instead, he moved behind the chair and started pushing. They exited the infirmiary to a long and narrow corridor, and turned right. The corridor curved upward rather fast, giving Minea a bit claustrophobic feeling. As they moved forward, the point where the floor seemed to hit the ceiling moved forward as well. This was all familiar to Minea, of course, as she had lived most of her adult life offplanet, and she had seen the corridors on launch day, as they were freezing the passengers, her included.

Richard didn't slow down a bit at the intersections with straight corridors but kept moving on. Their trek across the diameter of the ship seemed to take ages, but finally Richard slowed at another intersection, and turned, again, to the right. The corridor they entered was straight and had no curvature, thank God. The view at the
far far end, just barely at the edge of her visual acuity, was scary.

"What happened?"

Richard made no answer, just kept going keeping a brisk pace. As they slowly came closer, the details became gradually visible. There were scorch marks on the walls. What she had taken as the far end of the corridor turned out to actually be a blast door. It had deformed visibly.

"My God. What's in there?"

Richard stopped her chair a meter or so short of the blast door. "The bridge," he said in a toneless, fragile voice. "All officers were in there, in conference at the time."

"All dead?"

"All dead," Richard said. Minea could hear him at the brink of his tears.

"I'm sorry." It occurred her that she did not know if his marriage to the first mate had actually lasted, but it seemed such a rotten time to ask. So, time to go back to the problem. "Is there any immediate danger?"

"It's been sixteen hours since the accident. It took that long to get you thawed and awake. Nothing's happened since, but there is no-one on the staff who can tell if we're about to collide with an asteroid or something."

"So you woke me to pilot for you?"

"No, we woke you to take command."

Command? "Ah, so that's what the Lieutenant business was about. News for you, Medtech, I'm not a Lieutenant."

"You are."

"I was court-martialed, found quilty and cashiered."

"From the Terran forces. We are not in the Sol system anymore."

"Who cares?"

"The Captain did. You are a Lieutenant, and ranking officer on board, not counting the dead, but counting the frozen."

"The Captain gave me a warrant? What for?"

"The Captain commissioned you. He gave warrants for a dozen others with piloting training or experience. As to why..." Richard turned her chair around and started pushing it away from the lamented bridge compartment. "It was a long voyage, and we had lots of time to make contingency plans."

"Fine contingency planning from the Captain then, to have all her officers in the same room."

"Well, nobody really expected anything to happen."

"But you planned for it anyway?"

"Yes. In fact, one of the contingencies considered was the total destruction of the original officer corps. The Captain said ..." Pause. "You'd better read the log book yourself."

Minea sighed. It felt a bit like Richard was an angel bearing an order from God. You coudn't argue with God, and you couldn't argue with a dead Captain. Still, she felt it was a bad plan. She to take command? She, who had been broken by the brass, not just in a legal sense but emotionally. She could not trust her own judgment. It boggled her to think the Captain had trusted her with the ship and passengers.

It was useless trying to make a decision now, but she could pilot. "Richard, please find me a piloting console."