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Something New (please read)

I've been diligently plucking away on my novel. I've reread what was written in November during NaNoWriMo, and I've at least edited spelling/wrong word choice, if not done an actual revision. I'm just trying to get a bit further at this point. The story I am telling is technically the backstory to the tale I really want to tell, so I'm trying to get characters & culture established first. I have a lot of ideas I've been working on, but haven't yet picked the writing portion back up. Artist's Way is helping me with this a bit.

I've decided to start doing something new, if there's enough interest. I'd like to institute “WonderSaga Wednesday”, where I share an excerpt, a character bio, or a backstory vignette each week. I'd really like feedback. Not editing-type stuff, but just hearing if any part is actually interesting, whether the setting comes across clearly, which characters people like or dislike, etc.

I've shared an excerpt of part of Chapter 1 before, but I think that most people's eyes tend to glaze over in November at the mention of NaNoWriMo. I didn't get much feedback, and I think that probably not too many people read it. That's cool, if it didn't catch anyone's interest, but I'm thinking not too many people even clicked the cut. I figured there would be slightly more interest, since so many people volunteered to be in the book. I'd especially like to show all those awesome volunteers how their names have been (or will be) worked into the book.

Tomorrow, I'll start WonderSaga Wednesday by posting a simple character list. If you volunteered your name for my creative purposes, you should be able to see who “your” character is and what role they have on the ship. Some of these have bios, and some do not yet. If anyone is interested in seeing “their” character bios, I'll fulfill those requests in subsequent WonderSaga Wednesdays. Or if anyone is interested in seeing other random character bios. If I don't have a bio written, this will give me a good prompt for the upcoming week!

I hope that some of you find this exercise intriguing! Before starting out, I figured I would re-post the (slightly edited) excerpt that I've posted before. This is the passage that describes the ship from a newcomer's POV, so I think it's an important passage for people to read if they're interested in following along at all. I'm hoping it makes some sense to those who don't have my maps to look at.

Thanks again!

Tabby King gripped her seat as the shuttle began its descent to Akupara. Looking into space made her gut drop, but she leaned forward as much as she could to see around her husband. They approached the generation ship for landing, and somehow it seemed to her that they were coming in upside down. She gasped and closed her eyes, reoriented, and tried to look again.

The ship itself was a giant torus that circled around a central hub to provide artificial gravity in the torus' living quarters. To Tabby, it looked like a giant metal bicycle wheel spinning slowly in space. It looked huge even from afar, although she knew that as a ship meant to leave the solar system, it was much smaller than the original Lagrange Colony. She almost wished she'd been able to see that first wonder of New Earth, but it's not like they were the usual space tourists. To be honest, Tabby had never truly believed that their family would be chosen for the Akupara project. Her husband was a carpenter – a good carpenter, but in no way affiliated with ISACC. None of them had even been to space before.

ISACC, the International Space And Colonization Coalition, had opened up the generation ship project to a limited number of laborers, tourists, dignitaries, and refugees after their initial crew had been filled. Noah had always yearned to see the space habitats, where Earth was being reborn in her true glory. Tabby had hoped his dream would be realized, but the application process was so stringent that she felt they were really only going through the motions. They were beyond lucky to have been chosen. Now the King family found themselves seated on a space shuttle with people like former Senator Andrew Lange and Princess Jacqueline March, King James' granddaughter. That was just as surreal as flying through space.

The kids squealed excitedly as Akupara grew larger before them, and Eli's face was beaming so brightly that it helped calm her own fears down. As they neared the hub, they could see through the inner windows that formed the ceiling of the habitat. It was an awesome sight, looking down into a great forest bisected by a river. There were even little mountains that bloomed with bright tropical flowers. The window was tinted against the sunlight that reflected from Akupara's giant solar mirror, but she could still see the vibrancy in the life growing below. It looked nothing like any part of Earth she'd seen.

“Daddy, look!” Eli cried. Misty leaned back so her father could peer up out of the window.

Noah stared for several moments before leaning back in his seat with a grin and a great, contented sigh. “You can see the opposite side of the torus far above. It's...” He shook his head.

“Do I want to see?”

“No.” Noah grinned. “There's a giant lake up there. Might be the Salt Sea. It looks like it's just hanging there, upside-down.” He squeezed her hand.

“It's pretty cool, mom,” Misty said.

“No, thank you.” Tabby didn't try to look out of the window again after that.

“Ladies and gentleman, this is Captain Harrold. We are coming into Akupara. It's 8:13 am local time, and the start of what promises to be a bright and sunny day. May it also be the start of a bright and sunny future for you. We here at ISACC AIR thank you for flying with us, and we thank you for your service to humanity. May the Lord God bless and keep you.”

The landing went without incident. The pilot was smooth, and they didn't even feel a bump until the landing gear grabbed hold of the shuttle. The attendants unbuckled first and floated out, which was met with a round of happy applause. They reviewed the rules for disembarking and reminded everyone not to push off too hard when coming to the front. Tabby was glad they were near the back, so she could watch how to do it. They'd had simulations during training, but it didn't seem quite the same.

The first row unbuckled first, most disembarking in pairs. Up front was where the dignitaries sat. There was Princess Jacqueline – or Countess, or something – and another Lord of the British royal family. He was extended family of Jacqueline's, she knew, though she wasn't sure how. Senator Lange and his wife were seated next to a Mexican diplomat and his wife. The rest of passengers were auxiliary crew like she and Noah, or wealthy retirees who bought condos to retire among the stars. Misty and Eli were the only children on the shuttle. Crew had been brought to the ship in waves over the years, and Tabby knew there were some kids already living on board. A few would also be coming on the last shuttle, but that was for the tribal refugees, and they'd not had a chance to meet them yet. With only two hundred twenty three colonists, she wasn't sure how many were children. She hoped there were some boys Eli's age.

Disembarking took a bit longer than she expected. Each row took between ten and fifteen minutes, unstrapping both themselves and their carry ons before floating to the front to exit up through the ceiling. Inevitably, someone would push off either too hard and go flying or too softly and not make it. It had almost been an hour when it was finally their turn. Tabby erred on the side of pushing off too softly, since there were other seats for her to push from up ahead. At thirteen, Misty made it up easily without help. Noah followed, helping five year old Eli.

One attendant took her bag and passed it up to the other attendant before doing the same thing with Tabby herself. Tabby floated up into the entry hub of Akupara. The other flight attendant waited, one foot hooked through floor railing that kept her in place. She pulled Tabby up and helped her find a wall railing to hold onto. “Thank you,” Tabby said as she took her bag. She pulled herself along the rail and out of the way of the door before looking around.

About two dozen people were already in the room. Most held on to railings, some clinging carefully like Tabby and others with a foot or leg cocked through a rail, like the attendant. A few intrepid souls pushed off the walls and spun through the air, while one grinning woman hung bat-like from a rail along the ceiling. Tabby felt a wave of relief when Noah and Eli reached her, and Noah kept Misty from joining the woman on the ceiling.

“Welcome aboard!” A woman in uniform floated up on her right, offering a hand to shake. Tabby recognized her as General Audrey Mills, the captain of Akupara.

“Thank you, Captain,” Tabby said, then also shook the hand of the man who floated up behind her. She knew from pictures that this was the Captain's husband and Second-in-Command, Jackson Mills. They hadn't met any Akuparan officials before, but they'd learned about them all in orientation.

“It's good to have you guys aboard,” Captain Mills said, smiling at Eli as he solemnly shook her hand. “We'll do our best to have you settled in as quickly as possible.”

The captain's word was good. She gave a very brief welcome speech before escorting them out of the landing room. Like the flight attendants, Captain Mills reminded them how to safely exit the hub and move to the rotation corridor. They were in a small room that was only a tiny portion of the hub itself. As the stationary portion of the ship, the hub was huge and also housed areas for null-G research and recreation. A large hallway rotated around the hub, with eight elevator entries that led down into different sections of the torus. Since that portion was always rotating, there were special doors that opened up into it. It was a bit like an elevator. They pushed a button and waited for a green crossing light, which came on as the opening slots circled around. Long rectangular doors pulled back, and as many people as possible pushed through before the warning light came on, signaling that the slot was about to end. The slots were about a dozen meters long and spaced out every dozen meters. It took two slot passes for everyone to make it through.

“All right,” Captain Mills said once they were gathered in the rotation hall. “Please remember that children are not permitted in null gravity areas without a supervising adult. Anyone else is welcome to use the facilities at any time. We'll take you down to your respective sections and see you settled in. Your belongings have all been delivered to your homes or dorms. I know space lag can be a doozy, so we'll have the official launch party the day after tomorrow. Until then, if you're up to it, feel free to take the river tour or explore on your own.” She looked around the group and smiled. “Now, everyone stationed in NW-N or N-NE, follow me. Everyone in the southern sections will accompany Colonel Mills.”

There were about fifteen people, including the Kings, who followed the Captain to the northern sections. Tabby's family would start off living in the NW-N section, which was where the administration and main city were located. As a carpenter, Noah would eventually be allowed to build their own home. Until then, they would live in the dorms in Ellis City.

“It's easiest for all of us to go down in the North elevator,” Captain Mills explained. There were no actual directions in the torus, since it was just a giant hoop, except those created by the divisions of the elevators. The place where each elevator met the ground was designated as a directional node. Eight elevators subdivided the torus and symbolized either a cardinal or intermediate direction, so the North elevator essentially marked Akupara's north pole.

They entered a huge freight elevator, and Tabby was surprised to find herself staring at enormous red letters warning, “DOWN!” She found the nearest handrail and oriented herself so that her feet faced that direction. There was some shuffling and giggling before everyone was settled properly and the captain started the elevator. A print reader assured that children would not venture into this off-limits area.

It was a very long trip down, and everyone slowly began to bob a bit lower in the air. It was an odd feeling, the feeling of gravity slowly returning to one's body. Her feet were hovering about a foot and a half above the floor when Tabby's ears gave a mighty pop. A moment later, the elevator shaft opened up into clear plexiglass, allowing breathtaking views of the habitat below. The elevator connected at North Node Island, which sat within a fork of the great river. On one side, mountains rose on either side of the river, which forked again farther off in the distance. The mountains were full of thick, lush trees and topped with vibrant flora, looking like an exotic wilderness. Tabby took a deep breath and pushed off the wall, bobbing across for a view out the far window. On that side, she could see an orchard on one side of the river fork, and the bustling Ellis City below on the other.

She looked around in wonder until her feet were firmly on the elevator floor and the doors opened up into the second of humanity's New Earths. As she stepped out, she took a deep breath. The air didn't smell stagnant or recycled. It smelled like soil and flowers, with a musky undercurrent that spoke of sweat, dung, and life. Even though Earth's biospheres had finally started coming down twenty years earlier, Real Earth was nothing compared to this New Earth. It didn't smell like this. Somehow, ISACC had created an Eden that would allow both humans and animals to thrive. Tabby was not the only one who cried as she stepped out into her new life.


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 16th, 2010 07:31 pm (UTC)
Fabulous idea to do a weekly share! I might just "borrow" your idea come summer when I have more free time. P.
Feb. 16th, 2010 07:57 pm (UTC)
Feel free! I actually borrowed it from the next commenter, only I couldn't remember who I borrowed it from. I'll link tomorrow. Thanks for reading it!
Feb. 16th, 2010 07:56 pm (UTC)
I think one of the reasons you didn't get comments before is length. This is a 2000 word excerpt, which is a lot for a blog post. Probably better to keep them around 500 words. Makes for easier reading, and gives a challenge to find a self-contained excerpt that can still hook. Just an opinion from someone with a lot of blogs to read. Sometimes if I see a long one, I plan to get back to it but don't always remember to.

As for the excerpt itself, I love how it's a family. Don't see enough families in Sci-Fi. Nice, clean writing. Good characterization and emotion. Love the reactions at their first arrival. I'm picky with my sci-fi, but I like this. :-)
Feb. 16th, 2010 07:59 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much! I'm really glad to hear your reactions. It is fairly long, but since I created the whole world, I felt it was important to give an intro post that covered the setting.

I'm not actually a comment-hog. I just realize that a lot of people ignore my NaNo posts during November, no matter how short. LOL
Feb. 16th, 2010 08:23 pm (UTC)
I fully admit to glossing over NaNo posts. So many people on my flist do NaNo, and November was smack in the middle of my most in-depth work on my CulmEx project for my Master's (I was writing nearly enough to do NaNo myself, plus constantly reading through 30+ sources) so I just knew I'd never be able to keep up on anyone's NaNo work. I'd be happy to read through now though (since the degree's done, and my flist reading isn't so saturated). And if you really don't mind criticism, I've always been complimented on my editing skills. :-)
Feb. 17th, 2010 12:31 am (UTC)
I totally get it! It's much the way my eyes usually glaze over at LJ Idol posts now that I'm not in it anymore. I still truck away at it all year though, and I was just hoping that I might hook folks a bit better off-season. If it interests you at all, please feel free to crit! I'm always glad for feedback. Just don't feel compelled if it bores the snot out of you. :)
Feb. 17th, 2010 12:55 am (UTC)
I like it. I do have a request, though. Being *exceptionally* visually oriented, I did have a little bit of trouble visualizing the details of the ship. Like, i get that it's like a giant wheel, and the living areas are on the inside of the spilling wheel to make gravity. So it's essentially like the Babylon5 station, except that looked like a cement mixer. But as far as where the hub and the different types of elevators fit in--is that like where the axel and spokes of the wheel would be, respectfully?

I'm also curious how the rivers work. Is this artificial bike-wheel-world large enough to have it's own weather systems? If so, how? I'm assuming there's high and low areas from which the water flows (and flows into, respectfully). But how does it get up there to start with? Or else does the momentum of the artificial gravity just sort of spin the water round and round the loop? Also, what keeps the atmosphere in, if that inner track of the giant spinning wheel is open? It seemed that way, seeing as you can look "down" and see all the rivers and seas and cities from the passenger ship and the hub.

I'm sure you probably got into this in a different section, but I'm curious now. You know how I am, it drives me crazy if all the little details don't add together perfectly like that. :P lol.
Feb. 17th, 2010 01:29 am (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it. You ask some really awesome questions, and it makes me so glad that you're interested in it! I do kind of answer some of those questions in other sections, but I don't mind filling you in.

But as far as where the hub and the different types of elevators fit in--is that like where the axel and spokes of the wheel would be, respectfully?

Yup. Basically the hub is the axle, and that is the no-gravity area. The eight elevators are like the 'spokes' of the wheel, and they also serve as a 'directional node'. North Node comes down in the center of the ship where the main city is (technically on an island in the river, since it's in the center), but some of the other elevators come down on either the 'inner' or 'outer' wall. (They don't all come straight to the middle of the river, if that makes sense.)

I'm also curious how the rivers work. Is this artificial bike-wheel-world large enough to have it's own weather systems? If so, how? I'm assuming there's high and low areas from which the water flows (and flows into, respectfully). But how does it get up there to start with? Or else does the momentum of the artificial gravity just sort of spin the water round and round the loop?

Kind of both. There is one main river that bisects the torus length-wise, and the spinning is basically what determines which direction the water flows (it flows N -> W). It is large enough for its own weather system, but that is still evolving somewhat. It was artificially created at first (with booms in the ceiling infrastructure. So there are some water lines, and, to an extent, the water treatment plant can redirect water to certain areas if needed). But when the river, Salt Sea, and much of the plant life was established, it began to create its own weather. There are also smaller creeks and rivers that formed from the rain runoff on mountains. Some of them may flow the 'wrong' way because of this.

The inner ceiling isn't actually open, but "hyperglass". It's like ultra-strong windows. When the ship is in orbit, sunlight reflects in from the adjustable solar mirrors. When they leave, some light will be supplied by the solar mirrors/solar sail, but there are also lights that grid the ceiling (imagine a large scale window pane) to provide artificial sun from stored battery power &/or self-charging generators. Metal shades can also be drawn so that the ceiling's windows are 'closed' if they want.

I hope that makes sense! If you're having trouble visualizing it, check out Wiki's Stanford Torus entry. Mine isn't exactly like that, but it gives the closest idea and has some really great artwork.
Feb. 19th, 2010 03:24 pm (UTC)
yup, that helped quite a bit. (especially the picture). I had it pictured right in my head, I just wanted to be sure. :)
Feb. 17th, 2010 04:26 am (UTC)
This is a different version than the one I read before (you added the kids and changed the names I think.) I'm interested to see what happens next. :)
Feb. 17th, 2010 04:35 am (UTC)
Really? Now I wonder what version you read, because my excerpt from Nov. has the kids. lol Although, if you've been following the WonderSaga for a while, this may be a different beginning than the one I originally started with back in 07 or 08. I'm glad you read it again anyway - and found it interesting, to boot! Thank you! I was really afraid it was duller than I thought, so I'm really glad to get some good feedback from folks.
Feb. 19th, 2010 02:07 am (UTC)
What is Artist's Way?
Feb. 19th, 2010 05:32 pm (UTC)
If you check out my first post about it here, I discuss it in a bit more depth. The quick answer is that The Artist's Way is a book/12 week program by Julia Cameron, aimed at rediscovering/healing one's creativity. I have two LJ friends who are doing it with me, so if you're interested in joining in, let me know!
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )


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