I’ve just gotten the proofreading galleys for my new Hub story “Make Hub, Not War” from Analog, and they indicate that the story will be included in the November 2013 issue. I checked with the folks at Analog and they confirmed it. Now, the current issue is July/August, and apparently came out earlier this month, which would suggest that the November issue will be out in maybe 4 months, around September, give or take. Which happens to be around the same time Only Superhuman comes out in paperback! So that’ll be a big month (give or take) for my original fiction.
In other news, I’ve just updated my website with some preliminary discussion of Star Trek: Enterprise — Rise of the Federation: A Choice of Futures, though there’s little there that I haven’t already said here on the blog.
It’s been a long time coming, but I’m pleased to announce that Analog Science Fiction and Fact will be publishing the third installment of my “Hub” series of novelettes, following “The Hub of the Matter” from the March 2010 issue and “Home is Where the Hub Is” from the December 2010 issue. The story is titled “Make Hub, Not War”, and will examine the question of how the existence of the Hub — the only known means of faster-than-light transportation and thus the one point that all interstellar travel must pass through — affects the nature and opportunities for warfare. It will also feature the first look at Earth in the Hub era and flesh out the background of the series’ human leads. All in all, it’s my most ambitious story yet in the series.
Which is part of why it took me so long to finish, I suppose. Once I realized the story I was telling would take me to Earth, that made things more complex, since I had to figure out both the state of things on Earth and the backgrounds of David and Nashira, and figure out how to balance those things with the rest of the story. It took a while to work out the best way to proceed. Plus I’ve been kept busy the past couple of years with Only Superhuman and my Star Trek work, so “Make Hub, Not War” often had to take a back seat.
I’m relieved this story sold, to be honest, because during the gap between stories, Analog‘s editor Stanley Schmidt, who gave me my start in this business, retired, and I wasn’t sure his successor Trevor Quachri would have tastes compatible with the Hub stories. Since it’s the third in a series, I wasn’t sure what my options would’ve been if Analog hadn’t bought it. Although Trevor tells me he thinks the story stands well on its own. Anyway, I’m glad the run of the Hub stories in Analog is continuing, and I hope it won’t be for the last time. (So many Hub-related title puns left to make…)
There’s no scheduled publication date yet, but I’d expect it to be sometime around the start of 2014 or, with luck, the end of this year. I’ll announce the date once it’s settled.
I just heard the sad news that Stanley Schmidt is stepping down as editor of Analog Science Fiction and Fact after 34 years, a tenure matching that of the magazine’s most famous and longest-running editor, John W. Campbell, Jr. The press release was posted on Locus Online. Stan is quoted as saying:
“I have now been editor of Analog for 34 years, tying or (depending on how you count) slightly exceeding the previous longest-tenure record of John W. Campbell. I still enjoy it thoroughly, but am leaving to pursue a wide range of other interests. Two of the most important of these are doing more of my own writing, and reading Analog purely for the enjoyment of it, which I expect to remain at a high level under Trevor Quachri’s direction.”
I owe my career largely to Stanley Schmidt. When I was submitting my early stories to editors and getting them rejected, Stan saw something in my work that was worth cultivating and began sending me personalized rejection letters with advice that helped me raise my game and improve my work. He wasn’t the only editor who did that for me, but he did it the most, and ultimately he was the one who bought my first published story, “Aggravated Vehicular Genocide,” in March 1998, and then published it in the November ’98 issue. (By a startling coincidence, io9 illustrated its article on Stan’s retirement with the cover art from my debut issue, although the art represents a different story, of course.) The following year, he rejected an indirect sequel, “Among the Wild Cybers of Cybele,” but his letter pointed out the story’s flaws and invited me to resubmit it if I fixed them. I didn’t listen at first, and sent it to a couple of other magazines, but finally I realized that he’d been right and I figured out how I could greatly improve the story. For the first time I was actually hoping a story would get rejected, and it was, so I was able to rewrite it and send it to Stan, who bought it and published it in 2000.
I didn’t have much luck selling my work for the next few years, and then my Star Trek writing career began in 2003 and kept me pretty busy from then on. But I committed myself to writing short fiction again in 2009-10, and two of the four sales I made in that period were to Stan, my humor stories “The Hub of the Matter” and “Home is Where the Hub Is.” I’ve been working on a third Hub story for well over a year now, and I’m disappointed that I didn’t get it finished in time to send it to Stan before he retired (though I’ll certainly be sending it to his successor, Trevor Quachri, who’s been the managing editor for some time).
I think Stan took an interest in me because of the things we have in common. We’re both hard-SF-oriented people, enjoying SF that focuses on the science and technology and big ideas. We both appreciate humor in our SF; I’ve been told that Stan was always eager for more humor stories in Analog, which may have helped me sell my Hub pieces. And we’re both from Cincinnati; in fact, I currently live on the same street as his old house. I’m sure that wouldn’t have gotten me into Analog if my work hadn’t been good enough, but maybe it helped get his attention at the start there. Whatever the reason, I doubt I’d be where I am today if not for him. Thanks, Stan.
As I remarked the other day, I recently got back to work on a Hub-universe story that I’d been stuck on for, oh, maybe 15 months or more; I still have a to-do list pinned on my door that dates from April 2011 and had finishing this story penciled in for May, then crossed off and put in October. I didn’t know how to proceed for a long time, since the story was starting to go in a direction that didn’t mesh with the plot and the theme of the tale. It was only a few months ago that I had an idea that would let me integrate the story’s elements better and give me an angle for how to proceed, and it was only recently that I was finally able to buckle down and get back to work on it. It’s been slow going since then, dribbling out a little at a time. I think part of the problem was that I really only had the beginning and end of the story outlined and was stumped on the middle. But this morning I finally got to the point where it was time to begin paying things off, and the final two and a half scenes came rather quickly. I was finally able to write “END” just a little while ago.
Of course, the story probably still needs a fair amount of revision. I’m not entirely sure it all works (in fact, I just now thought of a change I should probably make to set up a key reveal better), and writing humor requires particular care with the word choice, timing, and so forth. But at least I finally, finally have a completed first draft. And that means that, once I do some polishing, I can set it aside and move onto the next thing.
I’ve finally been getting back to work on the third story in my Hub universe, and in reviewing the first two, I’ve discovered I made a really major continuity error that I somehow managed to overlook. In “The Hub of the Matter,” I referred to the character of Mokak Vekredi as a member of the Zeghryk species — yet in “Home is Where the Hub Is,” I called him a Verzhik instead! Worse, Verzhik is a name I’d already used three years earlier for an alien species referenced (but not seen) in Star Trek: Mere Anarchy: The Darkness Drops Again.
I have no idea how this happened. I mean, the names are similar enough that I can certainly see how I might’ve gotten them confused… but I know I re-read the first story repeatedly to refresh my memory for writing the second. And the correct name for the species is right there in my series notes too. Maybe the problem is that I reviewed THotM and the notes before writing HiWtHI and not so much during or after.
Now the question is, what do I do about it? I’m tempted to come up with a rationalization in the third story that explains away the two different names. After all, how many dozens of different names in different languages do we have for humans? But given that I already used the name “Verzhik” elsewhere — and in work I don’t own, no less — I should probably avoid using the name again in the Hubverse. I should probably just go back to using “Zeghryk” and pretend it was always that way, and fix the error should I ever get HIWTHI reprinted.
Oh, well. These are the pitfalls of series writing. Heck, Dr. Watson’s war wound location and marital status were famously variable in the Sherlock Holmes canon. And Stan Lee forgot some of his iconic characters’ names in early Marvel Comics issues — Bruce Banner was sometimes called Bob Banner (hence the “Robert Bruce Banner” fix), and Peter Parker was Peter Palmer once or twice. Still, it’s embarrassing, and I apologize for the error.
I just completed writing the epilogue of my spec novel. After doing the last scene of the climactic chapter yesterday, I wrote the last two chapters (counting the epilogue) today. I don’t know how many words that was, but it was a lot for a single day’s work. Things tend to go faster when I’m wrapping a story up.
All in all, I’m fairly pleased with how it turned out. It still needs some refinement, probably some streamlining of the first two parts, but I’m pretty satisfied with the climactic third “act” and the ideas and worldbuilding I got to develop, not to mention the characterizations (and this book has a pretty large cast of characters that was a challenge to keep track of and serve adequately; I needed to keep extensive notes). For a while I didn’t think it would ever come together cohesively, and I had my doubts about the revised premise, but right now it feels like it works. Which, of course, is not definitive, not so long as it’s purely my opinion. I’ve gotten a lot of rejection letters for stories that felt to me like they worked.
But at least I have a complete manuscript, a story with a beginning, middle, and end. So I can look at it as a whole, revise it, and eventually shop it around. If nothing else, I’ve finally reached a completion point after being stalled for a couple of years, and I can move on to new goals.
Which is good, because it’s the start of development season for 2013′s Star Trek novels, and I need to come up with a proposal. Plus I need to get back to that Hub story in progress. Still, I’ll probably do a full revision pass or two on the spec novel first. And I’d like to cut it down some. It came out to a whopping 138,600 words, which I think is a record for me. Hopefully I can trim off a fair amount of chaff.
This past month I’ve resumed work on the spec novel I’ve been struggling with on and off for a few years now — the one where I had to stop and rethink pretty much the whole second half of the book because the story had gone off the rails. I’ve had the new outline ready to go for some time (although I had some new ideas that I just recently added to it), but other projects and stuff kept me from focusing on it until recently. However, it’s been rough going. Revising the first half(ish?) wasn’t too hard, since I just needed to weave some new ideas and lines into the material I already had. But then I got to the part where I had to start making some major changes. And not just writing new scenes, but restructuring what I had, presenting a lot of the same ideas in a different context and order so that they served different purposes in some cases. Basically I had to take some pieces out of the old version, mix them with some new pieces, and put together the puzzle in a new way.
And I had a very hard time figuring out how to do that. I don’t know what it was, but I got really, really blocked and couldn’t think my way to a solution. I had all these tenuous thoughts floating around in my head, drifting in and out of my awareness, and there was nothing I could grab onto and go, “Yes, this is how to start the scene, and the rest falls into place like that and that.” My mind just couldn’t hold focus on it. It got so frustrating that I was starting to fear I’d lost my talent. (Because it wasn’t just this book; I’ve been equally stumped on a Hub story in progress for months.) Although in retrospect I think lack of sleep may have been a factor.
So I did what I’ve done in the past when I had trouble focusing: I took my laptop over to the campus library so I could work there without the distractions of the Internet, the TV, the kitchen, etc. — and just so I could get a change of scenery to stimulate the little gray cells. Though it helped a lot that the night before, I’d finally thought of a hook to get me into the first reworked scene. I reminded myself — and it shows how far off my game I was that I forgot about this — that the key was to find a character angle, a way to give an emotional hook and viewpoint to the scene so it wasn’t just exposition. Once I understood what the scene would be about on a character level, I was able to work it out. And once I had that starting point, plus the quiet of the library, I was able to succeed at reassembling that chapter in its new form.
And in the couple of days since then, I’ve been continuing to make steady progress, a mix of writing new scenes and plugging in or revising old scenes that still fit. Maybe I’m cheating a bit; there are some important story revelations that my revised outline had suggested approaching in a new way, but I fell back on just a slight variation on the old way so that I could reuse a lot of old text and make some headway. But I’m not sure I’ll keep it; this is an early draft, after all, and I’ll have plenty of opportunity to refine it. Right now I just want to get the basic story structure put together, and then I can go back and polish the details.
Anyway, I’m now to the point where I have to come up with some major new scenes, though there’s probably a certain amount of dialogue from the old scenes that I can fold into them. Basically, the core plotline of this part of the novel is much the same, but the key character who comes in at this point and sets the protagonists on the path toward the climax has been replaced with a different character who serves a different and more interesting agenda — besides being a member of a species already established in the novel so that she has closer ties to an existing character, and so I don’t have to add in two further species and all their respective culture and history and psychology and all that extraneous stuff that was cluttering up the novel before and sending me off course. That lets me tell this part of the story in a more focused and compact way. But since most of what comes next is new material with a new character, I have some thinking to do before I can get into it. I’ve been reviewing all the stuff I’ve written over the years about this character’s species, both background notes and an unsold story about them, to refresh my memory and help me get into the right mindset. Although there’s not as much of it as I’d like. (I wonder just how many good ideas I’ve had in years past that I’ve forgotten now because I didn’t keep detailed enough notes.)
So I need to write maybe two major scenes and one minor scene mostly from scratch now, and after (and between) those are a half-dozen more scenes from the old version that I can plug in with minor changes… and then I’ll get to the point where I stopped work on the old version and it’ll be all new material the rest of the way (basically the climactic action and the denouement). I’m finally making real progress, and I hope I can keep up the momentum.
Luckily, something that I was afraid would derail my burgeoning momentum didn’t happen. According to the production schedule my Star Trek editor sent me a while back, I was due to get second-pass galleys on DTI: Forgotten History sent to me for review, with less than a week before the deadline. So I was expecting to have to spend much of this week poring over galley pages again. But as it turned out, I simply got an e-mail from my editor containing a mere five proofreader queries which I was able to fire back answers to in less than an hour, and that was that.
I’ve been mulling over another subject that was suggested by the recent NOVA miniseries “The Fabric of the Cosmos,” hosted by physicist Brian Greene based on his book of the same name. I felt some of the ideas it put across were too fanciful, putting sensationalism over plausibility or clarity, and one of them was the topic of its concluding episode, “Universe or Multiverse?”
The premise of that episode was that, if the Big Bang happened as the result of localized symmetry-breaking in an ever-inflating realm of spacetime, then our universe could be just one “bubble” in a perpetually expanding cosmic foam, with other universes being separate “bubbles” with their own distinct physics and conditions, forever out of reach because the space (how many dimensions?) between us and them is forever expanding. Now, that’s okay as far as it goes. It’s a somewhat plausible, if untestable, notion given what we currently know. But what Greene chose to focus on was a rather outre ramification of this: the idea that if the multiverse is infinite, if there’s an infinite number of other universes alongside ours, then probability demands that some of them will be exact duplicates of our universe, just happening by random chance to have the exact same combination of particles and thus producing the same galaxies, stars, planets, species, inviduals, etc. — kinda like how the famous infinite number of monkeys banging on an infinite number of typewriters will inevitably produce all great literature by chance. Thus, so the claim went, there could be other universes out there that are essentially parallels to our own with duplicates of ourselves, except maybe for some minor variations. (Or maybe universes where duplicate Earths and humans exist in different galaxies, or where a duplicate Milky Way coexists with a different configuration of galaxies, or all of the above.)
Note that this is entirely different from the concept of parallel timelines, the usual way of generating alternate Earths in science fiction. Parallel timelines aren’t separate universes, despite the erroneous tendency of SF to use the terms interchangeably. They’re coexisting quantum states of our own universe. The idea is that just as a single particle can exist in two or more quantum states at the same time, so can the entire universe. These alternate histories would branch off from a common origin, and thus it’s perfectly reasonable that they’d have their own Earths and human beings and the same individuals, at least if they diverged after those individuals were born. And there’s at least the remote possibility of communication or travel between them if nonlinear quantum mechanics could exist. What we’re talking about here is something else altogether, literal other universes that just happen by random chance to duplicate ours because it’s inevitable if there’s an infinite number of universes. While parallel timelines would be facets of the same physical universe we occupy, and would thus essentially be overlapping each other in the same place, these duplicate universes would be unreachably far away, except maybe by some kind of FTL or wormhole technology if such a thing could ever exist. And they might predate or postdate our own universe by billions of years.
But I think it was a flawed conceit to dwell on that aspect of the multiverse idea, and I have my problems with the reasoning employed. For one thing, it’s purely an ad hoc assumption that the multiverse is infinite rather than finite. If it’s finite, then there’s no guarantee that there would be other universes that exactly duplicate ours. Certainly there could be ones with compatible physical laws, with their own stars and galaxies and planets and life forms, but odds are they’d be different planets, different species, different individuals. No duplicate Earth, no duplicate Lincoln or Kennedy or Jet Li.
And if the multiverse is infinite, then sure, you could argue that with an infinite number of tries, it’s inevitable that our universe would be exactly duplicated somewhere. But the flip side to that argument is that if there’s an infinite number of universes, then the odds that any given universe would duplicate ours would be n divided by infinity, or effectively zero. In practical terms, if we found a way to visit other universes via wormholes or something, then we could search for an infinite amount of time before finding one that had its own Earth and human race and history duplicating ours except for having more goatees or whatever. Thus, by any realistic standard, such duplicates would be effectively nonexistent. (This is the problem with infinity as a concept in science — it tends to lead to absurdities and singularities. Physicists generally try to avoid infinities.) So while that result (the existence of duplicate universes) might be a logically sound consequence of the premise of an infinite multiverse, it’s also a trivial result, one that has no practical meaning and can’t be proven or falsified. So it’s not science, just sophistry. It’s angels dancing on the head of a pin. And that makes it a waste of time to focus on in a program that’s supposed to be about science.
Besides, it’s boring. The show presented us with the prospect that there could be an infinite number of possible forms for universes to take, whole other sets of physical laws, an unlimited range of possibilities… and all they wanted to talk about was duplicates of the world we already know? What a staggering failure of imagination — or what a staggering triumph of self-absorption. I would’ve been far more interested in hearing about the endless variety of universes that weren’t just like ours. Why not dazzle the viewers with some discussion about what physics would be like in a universe with more than three spatial dimensions? Or one with a higher or lower speed of light? That would’ve been so much cooler and more enlightening than the silly, dumbed-down examples they gave, like Earth with a ring around it or Brian Greene with four arms.
I suppose the one appeal of the infinite-monkeys premise is metafictional: You can use it to argue that if every remotely possible combination or interaction of particles is inevitable, then every fictional universe really happens somewhere. So, for instance, I could claim that my various fictional universes — my default/Only Superhuman universe, the Hub universe, the “No Dominion” universe, whatever else I might eventually get published — all coexist in the greater multiverse, and their different physical rules, different principles of FTL and whatever, could be explained by subtle variations in the laws of physics of their distinct universes (and yet somehow don’t prevent the fundamental interactions, dark energy, and so forth from having the exact same values so that stars and planets and life can form the same way). And it’s handy for fans who want to believe that, say, a crossover between Star Trek and Transformers, or Star Wars and Firefly, or whatever might be possible despite the huge differences in those universes’ histories and physics. But I’m not sure I find it desirable. To me, if there’s some planet in some unreachably distant universe that exactly duplicates Earth’s evolution and history, and has a duplicate of myself who’s writing this post at this equivalent point in his Earth’s orbit (which might be billions of years in the past or future relative to my “now,” if such a thing could even be meaningfully measured), I wouldn’t really think of him as me, or his Earth as being my Earth. So it wouldn’t really feel to me that those other fictional universes connected to my world’s history, and that would make them less meaningful.
Or would it? I mean, just going in, I know these fictional universes don’t have the same physical laws as our universe, that the specific characters or alien races or whatever that exist in them don’t exist in our world. So I know going in that they’re already separate realities from my own. Their versions of Earth and its history may correspond almost exactly to ours, yet they’re still separate entities. So maybe it’s no worse to think of my various written worlds (blog name drop!) as coexisting realms in an infinite multiverse than it is to think of them simply as independent fictional constructs.
And sure, sometimes I think it would be nice to have some sort of grand unified theory linking my universes together. I already tend to think of “No Dominion” as being in a parallel quantum timeline of my Default universe, because it has no visible discrepancies in physics or cosmology and has a lot of similar technological and social developments; it’s just that some technologies develop decades too early to be compatible with my published or soon-to-be-published Default-universe fiction. That won’t work for something like the Hub, though, since it has distinct differences in physical law. And yeah, I admit I’ve tried to think of a way to fit my universes together into a unified multiverse, at least in passing. I suppose the “infinite monkeys” idea could give me a means to do that.
But I don’t think I find it appealing, because it just multiplies the variables to such an insane degree. If these universes are just infinitely separated samples of an infinitely expanding metacosmos, then that doesn’t really unify them in any way, does it? They’re so far apart, so mutually unreachable, that the “connection” doesn’t really count as a connection at all. (After all, given the underlying physical premise, there’s no realistic chance of any kind of wormhole link or inter-universe crossover anyway.) It’s a trivial and useless result fictionally for the same reasons it is physically. And if they’re specks in an infinite sea of universes, it makes them all feel kind of irrelevant anyway. So why even bother? It’s simpler just to treat them as distinct fictional constructs and not bother trying to unify them. Besides, even if I know intellectually that the humanity and Earth and Milky Way of my fictional universes aren’t the same as my own, it’s more satisfying to pretend they are, to construct a satisfying illusion for the readers that they’re reading about an outgrowth of our own reality, than to pretend that they’re some totally separate duplicates in universes unreachably distant from ours. No point going out of my way to create a premise that alienates me and my audience from the universes they’re reading about. Granted, judging from some conversations I’ve had in the past, there are some people out there who wouldn’t have a problem with that. But it doesn’t really work for me.
Well, the Russian SF magazine ESLI has reprinted my second Hub story, “Home is Where the Hub Is,” in its March 2011 issue:
This time I didn’t get my name on the cover, it seems, but at least my copy arrived intact in the mail.
The Russian version of the story is titled ТОЧКА ВЫХОДА, which apparently transliterates as Tochka Vihoda and means “Point of Exit.” I guess a literal translation of the title wouldn’t have meant much in Russian; maybe they don’t have that saying over there? Still, it seems a bit… prosaic. And the illustration (by a different artist this time) doesn’t capture the characters as well as the first one did, though it is more comical in tone.
I’ve just gotten a copy of the December ’10 issue of the Russian SF magazine Esli (If), which contains a translated version of “The Hub of the Matter.” Unfortunately, it was rather badly damaged in transit:
But there’s my name on the cover, transliterated as “Kristofer Bennet.” I don’t think that’s a typo, since it’s repeated within the magazine, yet they spelled my last name right in the copyright credit at the end of the story. Maybe Russian doesn’t allow for names ending in double letters.
Ooh, and there’s a very Starfleet-ish crashed spaceship below my name there.
What’s really cool, though, is the title page for my story:
The Cyrillic title, “в гуще событий”, transliterates as “V GUSHCHE SOBYTIY”. I searched for pages with that phrase and with its individual words and used Google Translate on them, and apparently it means “In the Thick of Things” (or more literally, “In the Thick of Events”). Which isn’t quite an exact translation and doesn’t preserve the pun, but I guess it’s a similar idea.
But isn’t that a cool illustration? The credit beside the artwork says “Illyustratsya Vladimira BONDARYA,” and that first word clearly means “Illustrator” or “Illustrated by.” It’s a very nice interpretation of the characters. Not quite how I pictured them, of course, but it captures their personalities quite nicely. David is starry-eyed and gesturing dramatically, Nashira is giving him a surly, skeptical look, and the elaborately attired Rynyan is standing over them looking smug and self-satisfied. It’s a terrific portrait of the main cast, and I think it’s just about the nicest illustration one of my original stories has ever gotten (and it makes up for the fact that “The Hub of the Matter” is my only Analog story without an illustration in that magazine).
As for the story itself, let alone the rest of the magazine, I have no hope of reading it without help from someone who knows Russian. But I notice it has rather extensive footnotes which, as far as I can tell, seem to be providing scientific explanations for various terms and ideas in the story. Also, apparently Russians don’t use quotation marks for dialogue. They use dashes to set it off instead.
Esli has bought “Home is Where the Hub Is” too. I look forward to seeing its illustration.
Esli‘s website is here, for anyone who can read Russian: http://esli.ru/
Yay! The editor to whom I sent the sample and outline for my spec novel likes it enough to want to read the whole thing! I’m not getting my hopes up too much yet, but it’s a step in the right direction. At least it means what I’ve written isn’t totally lame.
So now I need to print out the remaining 350 pages of the thing, which means I’ll need to go out tomorrow morning and buy more paper and ink. I’m printing some of it out right now to get a headstart.
Meanwhile, this morning I finished a spec proposal for a Star Trek novel project and sent it to the Trek editor. So that’s good, though I have no idea if it’ll bear fruit. At least it frees me up to focus on other projects. I was hoping to do some more work on my Hub story today after I turned that in, but I had to run an errand and do laundry and work on a magazine assignment and start printing out my spec novel, so I never got around to it. Hopefully tomorrow.
UPDATE: Actually I had a little more time free tonight than I expected, and managed to get that Hub writing done. As for the manuscript printing, I got out 96 pages before the printer ran out of ink. These HP cartridges don’t seem to last very long. I’ve had this printer five months and used up two black cartridges already. I think that’s a record.
…but it’s 9 degrees Fahrenheit outside with a predicted high of 18 F. Yeegh. Plus we had some moderately heavy snowfall yesterday. So I’m pretty much stuck in my little apartment. Which is making it hard for me to focus on my writing, since it’s too easy to waste time browsing the Web. I can think better when I can get outside, away from distractions. Plus it helps to be physically active and to get a change of scenery.
But it’s not a total loss. I’ve actually started to make some significant progress on a new Star Trek idea I’m planning to pitch soon. It’s still pretty tenuous, but the ideas are starting to come more rapidly and I’ve got enough of a conceptual framework to help me build further. Though that means the new Hub story I started recently is stalled for now. The last work I did on that was actually un-writing; I added a scene that I subsequently decided was unnecessary to this story, so I lifted it out and set it aside for possible future use.
I did go out for a bit yesterday, since I had library materials due and also needed to stop by the post office to renew my PO box. I was hoping I could walk, but that was when the snow was coming down pretty heavily, and it was still fairly loose and slippery on the sidewalks. Also, it’s a 2-mile round trip, and being out in that kind of cold for any length of time is enervating. If I’d walked the whole way, I would’ve been useless for the rest of the day. Heck, it was rough enough just brushing off the car and driving through the falling snow. No snow falling now, but… 9 degrees F.
Anyway, when I got back, I was a bit concerned about the slipperiness of the steep sidewalk I’d have to negotiate to get down to my apartment building’s front door, something that’s given me trouble in past winters. But I had an idea — I could just walk from the parking lot to the entrance of the building that houses the office, then go downstairs to its lower level and out its rear door, which (due to the vagaries of the complex’s construction) is just a short walk from the front door to my building. And that way, all my outdoors walking is on level ground (except for the stairs up to my building’s front door), no slippery slopes to worry about. It worked superbly, and I realized it would work just as well in the other direction.
And what gets me is that I’ve lived here over seven years now and I’ve only just figured that out.
Okay, granted, I’ve only had a car, and thus a reason to go to the parking lot, for just under three years. Still, I’ve gone that route often enough to get to the office, and I should’ve realized that it works as an alternative way to get up to/down from normal street level. If I’d thought of it years sooner, I could’ve avoided a lot of icy sidewalks.
Beginnings are important. I’ve been planning to get started on a third Hub story, but I haven’t managed to focus on it, being distracted by other things. I had a general idea of how I wanted the opening scene to go, but it was lingering in potentia rather than solidifying in my mind.
Then, this morning, I thought of what the first sentence should be. That gave me the viewpoint character and his state of mind, and from that foundation, the dialogue started writing itself in my head. I didn’t immediately sit down and start writing, because I was making lunch at the time, but after lunch, I remembered that I had this scene in my head ready to be written, so I sat down with my laptop and wrote it. And I worked in not only the dialogue that came to me at lunchtime, but the other bits of plot and business I’d contemplated, fragments that had formerly lacked a solid starting point to let me lock them in. All but one. There’s one bit of dialogue I was hoping to work in, something which is at once a joke and a bit of exposition I’ve overlooked, and in fact my choice of setting and situation for the opening scene is largely to set up that joke. But I reached a point where I realized I had no good way of segueing into the necessary topic, and then I realized the scene was essentially over anyway. Besides, it will feel less contrived if I include the gag later, not so close to the thing that sets it up. I’m not sure where I will use it instead, but hopefully I’ll find something.
And that’s the thing… although I now have the first scene, my ideas for the rest of the story are still pretty tentative. I know how I want to end it, and I know what I want to happen to lead to that ending, but the specifics aren’t there yet. Hopefully now that I’ve gotten started, the rest will begin to come.