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science fiction

The Evolution Of A City

science fiction cityWhen I first started outlining my thoughts for The Regulator one of my priorities was to get the setting right. Although it’s a space adventure most of the action is set on a single world. A world whose native population has been decimated by plague and whose principle city has now been taken over by a criminal network of smugglers and pirates.

I had a few criteria in my head right from the start. This would be an island city, linked to the mainland by a causeway. The founders of the city would be a bird like species and the motifs of the nest, the egg and the roost would play important roles in the development of the architecture.

As a result of my initial criteria, the image on the left was one of the first I collected. It made me think of a home built by the descendants of a nesting species with bowl like living spaces, arranged in an organic fashion, sympathetic to the landscape.

Another of the first images I collected for how the city would look was this one, but I was never really happy with it. It’s too compact and doesn’t offer the space I required for my story. I wanted distinct districts for domestic and commercial life. The architectural style is also wrong. My native species were not spacefarers and I had in mind a city and a culture that was in a more medieval stage of development.

Hunting through Pinterest for images with a more appropriate architectural style I was able to collect these two artistic concepts, and they really helped develop the infrastructure of my city further.

Now I didn’t have an island city, I had a city of islands, connected by elegant bridges and traversed by canals and waterways.

This put me in mind of the ancient Aztec city of Tenochtitlan, and I briefly turned away from the medieval old world and looked to the new world for inspiration. This gave me further ideas for the local geology and ecology, and my lake was transformed in to the flooded remains of an ancient caldera, where a mountainous crater rim reflected the all important nest motif of the local people. Now my city was not just the last remaining habitable environment on a plague ravaged planet, but a religious holy site, where the principal bird goddess of the native people had first made her home.

Finally, and completely coincidentally, as I was searching for a new look for my blog yesterday I stumbled on this image for a fantasy city.

Badr City

Now I’m back in the old world, a fantasy version of Venice it would seem. I still have the look for my domestic architecture, from the very first image I collected, but now I have a commercial and ceremonial district too, with clusters of domed civic buildings reflecting the egg motif of their builders, and open spaces showing the first signs of neglect as a result of dramatic population loss. This is Badr City, ancient religious capital of the planet Ierus, home of the bird worshipping Pavonians, and the biggest pirate stronghold on the Orion Spur.

Looking Back On 2018

Gaiman quoteIt’s been a frustrating year writing wise for me. At the start of the year I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue, which meant my writing went nowhere for six months, while I tried out various solutions that would help get me back on track.

By mid-year I was starting to feel better, but the project I had been working on for NaNoWriMo 2017? Well, I’d fallen out of love with that. I’d had a crisis of confidence, thanks to the fatigue. What did I know about writing science fiction? I would be crap at it. I don’t have the attention to detail required for world building. Blah blah blah.

So, I decided to go back to the one thing I do know about; folklore. I thought a modern fairy tale would be right up my street. Turns out I was wrong. Really wrong. But maybe I needed to spend a few months sweating bullets over a story that was going nowhere to realise that actually my first instinct, for science fiction, was the right one.

So for NaNoWriMo 2018 I decided to dust of my project from the year before and have another crack at it. So far it’s working. I also decided to put my reservations to one side and open a Wattpad account, where I could showcase finished pieces and get feedback on works in progress. It does become a time suck every now and again, but I’ve made some great contacts with other aspiring SF authors and established a pretty solid critique circle for SF writers. I’ve also signed up for a 300 Word A Day challenge which will hopefully keep me on track in the New Year.

Whatever your writing plans are for 2019 I hope you find the success you’re looking for.

My Main Character Finally Shows Up

For months I have been searching for an illustration or photograph that encapsulated the look of my main female character. I was painfully aware that my Pinterest board for the Regulator had plenty of source images for other characters, even the minor ones, but I still hadn’t found the perfect Commander Haas.

I had some pretty firm ideas for her look in my head. She’s an alien / human hybrid so that had to be expressed in some way, dark red hair, golden eyes and pale skin with some kind of mottling, freckles or tattoos that hinted at her alien ancestry.

Finally, whilst plundering the rabbit hole of special effects make up I found her, courtesy of make up artist Nichola Bendrey. In fact this look is so close to what I imagined for Commander Haas that it’s spooky. The hair colour, the skin mottles, the facial tattoo and alien bone structure are all there. The fishtail eyelashes won’t make it in to the Commander’s make up bag. She spends months in space chasing down bad guys. Elaborate mascara is probably not in her skill set or high on her list of priorities.

So, in order to celebrate my finally tracking Neylan down, I spent the morning procrastinating, by building a collage of all the main characters in The Regulator. My addiction to graphics programmes is one of the many reasons I’ll never complete NaNoWriMo.

NaNoWriMo 2018 – An Exercise In Accepting Failure.

I do it to myself every year. Every year I sign up for NaNoWriMo, knowing full well that I’ll fail. I write for a living. When I get home at night, wringing an extra 1667 words from my brain, when all I want to do is eat and sleep is just never going to happen.

But at least participating encourages me to sit down and write, even if it is only a few hundred words a day. This year it also encourages me to rediscover my love for my 2017 project – The Regulator.

I fell out of love with it after a major case of writer’s block, and ended up on an ultimately fruitless dive in to the realms of fairy tale and fantasy. Choosing a project for NaNoWriMo that would not leave me banging my head against the wall in frustration forced me to face the fact that I’m not cut out for fantasy writing. Space ships and big fucking guns are way more my style.

So, I got a new cover sorted out, dusted off the file in Dabble, mended a few plot holes, tweaked a few characters and set off for the the stars once more. So far, so good. Now, if I could just nail the look for my main female character. Despite hers being the principle point of view I’m still a little sketchy on her look. Perhaps that’s something I need to place in the hands of fate. If I find her I’ll know I’m on the right track.

Flash Fiction: The Gluemn In God’s Eye

For years I’ve been fascinated by the idea that life may exist under the icy crust of Jupiter’s moon, Europa. In particular I wondered how an intelligent species might mythologise their landscape when the limit of their universe is a miles thick ceiling of ice. This is a glimpse in to life beneath a frozen ocean.

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NaNoWriMo 2017: Finding My Voice

In order to prep for this year’s NaNoWriMo I have been working on my opening scene. A bit of a cheat as far as the word count goes, but it does mean I’m not faced with thee dreaded blank page on day one.

Reading back over my first efforts I was not entirely comfortable with it. I wanted to sound like a ‘serious writer’ dammit, and my writing was coming out stuffed full of snark!

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GoodReads Review: A Talent For War by Jack McDevitt

A Talent for War: Alex Benedict - Book 1A Talent for War: Alex Benedict – Book 1 by Jack McDevitt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I know some readers found this book boring. Perhaps they were coming at it as readers of the ‘blow stuff up, shoot anything that moves’ kind of sci-fi. Personally, I find that kind of thriller unsatisfying, whether it’s sci-fi or not.

I actually chose this book, not as a fan of sci-fi, but as a mystery junkie, and I loved it. Its a real slow burner, with a narrator who’s not some war-grizzled veteran, or retired gunslinger. Instead, Alex Benedict is an antiques dealer, whose mentor and uncle was an archaeologist and academic. Hence, this is sci-fi for history nerds, those of us who are familiar with long hours in dusty library stacks, pouring over the barely legible journals of the long dead. It’s one for those of us who know the crushing disappointment of excavating a promising archaeological site, only to get to the bottom of the hole and find absolutely nothing. It even has a little something for the English literature student, with a vital clue being hidden in a piece of heavily symbolic poetry.

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