Moving through life, we all take decisions that lead us along paths that take us to new opportunities, new people. But the other side to this is that we move away from others. In hindsight, we sometimes wonder if we did the right thing, and how things may have worked out if we had made a different choice to the one we did. This story follows an individual who chooses to go back, to search out someone missing.
The story is set in the future, some time after 3200 CE, in the world of the computer game Elite. However, it won't require an understanding of that game in order to be enjoyed. I have put up this project in order now to take advantage of an offer made by the game developers on their own Kickstarter project, but I intend to meet a proportion of the cost myself.
Who am I? Why am I writing a book, and why should anyone be interested?
All good questions. I am a scientist by training, now teaching. I am a fan of fiction, and a fan of literature. Literature gives an opportunity on a basic level for escapism, letting the prose take the reader on a journey to another perspective. But good literature allows for a degree of introspection, not through a mirror image, but through the fact that human experiences have some bases in common. I love the setting of the galaxy in around 3200 CE, I think it offers a lot of interesting possibilities for writing, and I'd like to take advantage of these possibilities.
You should be interested for the same reason you should be interested in any literature; because of your curiosity, your desire to explore. After all, you hope to learn more about yourself and your place in the universe.
Here's the basic plot, there's a lot more to it already, but I don't want to give too much away at this stage;
Commander Chad Baxter is a man at ease. Having spent his life on the border between the Empire and the Federation, he has had to be able to look after himself to survive. Born the son of a fisherman on the ice moon of New Peckham, he has pulled himself up by the bootstraps via trade in his early life, and then as a famous ice yacht racer (on a moon with fierce winds, this is not quite as sedate as it sounds!)
Through such adventures, Baxter has accumulated wealth that has allowed him to establish his own space station orbiting his home, a world of both tremendous scientific interest as well as a healthy trade in aquatic pets and exotic sea food. The taxes levied on the tourists and the traders that flock to New Peckham are sufficient to provide Baxter with a life in which his main challenge is to keep himself amused. However, all this changes when news reaches Baxter regarding an old flame, the explorer Xania Singh, who is reported missing, presumed dead.
Baxter is unable to get this piece of news out of his mind. He sells his freighters and his moon-yachts, pulls strings with a contact in the Imperial Military, and obtains a state of the art stealth ship capable of taking him into the deep unknown, to grapple with whatever adventure awaits. Baxter makes first contact with a new civilisation who give him a lead to find Singh, which takes him to the heart of another titanic struggle where he must win the trust of both sides in order to get closer to Singh.
My hope is that you will see this project worthy of your backing in its own right.
Please read through my extract below. It's what I presently intend to be the opening paragraphs of the book. It needs polishing, but I hope it will whet your whistles.
A faint blue light scattered from the rock surface in front of the observer. The light was cast by a rich fabric of stars stretching across the sky, like the minute fragments of a broken glass spread across a stone floor of the deepest black. Here and there a cloud of light was formed by distant galaxies, stellar nurseries, globular clusters and a whole host of different types of nebulae. Had the observer been on the other side of the asteroid, and had it had any interest in looking, it would have seen the bright band formed by the rest of the galaxy stretched across the sky. From the observer’s current perspective, however, the brightest object was a blue supergiant several lightyears distant, that markedly outshone the star around which the asteroid lazily orbited.
Here and there, dark blotches were discernible, blocking out the light from distant stars as they passed in front of them; the constituent members of the asteroid belt. Had the observer been in possession of a poetic soul, it would have been stirred by the sight. However, had the observer possessed such a thing, it would have been alive, which it certainly was not. And even if it had it once been alive, it would certainly have been dead by now. The android had been working tirelessly in the asteroid belt now for several hundred years. The android was aware of the concept of beauty, it had to be. It had never met a living creature, but in the event that it did, it had to be able to make sense of any interaction that took place. Ironically, the android was better equipped to appreciate the stars than its living masters were, its stereoscopic vision being provided by cameras sensitive to light extending well beyond the visual range of the spectrum.
At this particular moment, the android was picking its way carefully across the surface of the asteroid from its transport, heading towards the entrance to the control room of a mining rig. A false move could send the android into a path that would, if not carry it hopelessly into the void, into an arced path well over the mining rig, eventually to be brought back to the surface of the asteroid by the feeble gravitational pull it exerted, like a rocket launching from a planet’s surface. The android was certainly not able to enjoy the comedy of such a situation when it did occur, as it occasionally did. The android had traversed the space between this asteroid and another in its transporter for a reason; to check out an Alert that Required Action.
The automated mining rigs that populated the asteroid field were for the most part self-sufficient. Wear and tear necessitated the replacement of parts that were carried to the rigs and installed by drones built for the purpose, dangerous flaws in the structure of the asteroid itself were regularly repaired by robots and logged in the rig’s records. Exhausted mines were dismantled and transported to a promising fresh seam on another asteroid by an army of itinerant drones designed, built and maintained precisely for this purpose. The not infrequent collisions between asteroids led to damage to external structures that were, for the most part, repaired in a short space of time by the same drones. In the rare event that an asteroid was obliterated in a collision, the pieces of the mine were painstakingly collected, repaired where necessary, and moved to a new project. Out here in the asteroid belt, resources and energy were scarce. Losses had to be kept to a bare minimum in order for a profit to be made on the project as a whole. An Alert Requiring Action was a rare thing indeed, and if the android had been subject to emotion, it may well have felt something akin to trepidation as it made its way to the control room to investigate.
The android reached the vicinity of the mining rig, and the data collected by the rig’s computer began to be transferred. The computer had to be over-ridden, since it had started to transfer not only the data that had triggered the alert in the first place, but the data related to the mine’s operations, which were clearly no cause for concern. The android stopped the flow of data transmission, composed a software patch to correct the computer’s fault, and moved through the door of the rig and towards the computer port to manually select the relevant data to analyse. The process took no more than a few seconds to complete once the android was inside the rig, but it became immediately apparent that the data would have to be sent further up the chain of command. The alert had been triggered by a spacecraft’s demise on the outskirts of the asteroid field operations. The spacecraft had disintegrated after sending out a stream of code which made no sense. One of three possibilities existed, either the code was encrypted, or it was corrupted by a fault in the computer that had sent the message, or, finally, and least likely of the three options, it was in a language not in the android’s database. Which of these scenarios was the case was of no concern to the android. It calculated that the ship had disintegrated while at a distance and velocity that would carry the fragments well away from where it would be economically viable to salvage them. The android sent a report outlining what it had ascertained to central command, and moved on to the next task to be completed in its list of priorities.
The report was received at the next highest level, where it still made no sense. It was added to a waiting list for a central computer that had access to a database and computing power that would determine whether the message was indeed purposely encrypted, or whether it had been hopelessly corrupted in the sequence of events that had led to the ship’s demise. This low priority task for the computer was not analysed for quite some time, but when the message was eventually run through a program to determine its nature, its priority level was increased several levels and sent to the next rung up the ladder.
The message, as it turned out, was in an exotic alien language held on the database, but the computer was unable to determine the meaning of the words in this context and in this order. The ship had lifted off from an asteroid, wheeled away, and then sent out the message ‘I’ll race you to the stars!’ before disintegrating violently. It was not a logical message. It would presumably take a creature with a ‘soul’ to make sense of it. Mere fractions of a second after turning its attention to this task, the computer sent on this data with its increased priority level, and turned to to its next task.
Timeline for production:
5th Jan. 2013: Draft outline of plot to be emailed to relevant backers.
24th Feb. 2013: Work-to-date (1/7) to be emailed to relevant backers.
14th Apr. 2013: Work-to-date (2/7) to be emailed to relevant backers.
2nd Jun. 2013: Work-to-date (3/7) to be emailed to relevant backers.
22nd Jul. 2013: Work-to-date (4/7) to be emailed to relevant backers.
1st Aug. 2013: Work-to-date (5/7) to be emailed to relevant backers.
31st Aug. 2013: Work-to-date (6/7) to be emailed to relevant backers.
3rd Nov. 2013: Work-to-date (7/7) to be emailed to relevant backers.
5th Jan. 2014: First draft of completed book emailed out to relevant backers.
22nd Feb. 2014: Final draft emailed out to relevant backers.
£4200 - Illustrations commissioned for the book!
£5200 - A small (1/10 scale) model of Commander Chad Baxter will be commissioned and placed in Greenwich Park.
£6200 - A slightly larger (2/15 scale) model of Commander Chad Baxter will be commissioned and buried in Hyde Park at night.
£7200 - I will write at least one of the chapters after having drunk a full bottle of wine. In Green Park.
£72,000 - I will retire from my job and write the entire novel while at the wheel of my new sports car via dictaphone.
Thank you so much for any support you can give!
Risks and challenges
Delays: I have a full time job that I have to prioritise. The main risk here is that I run over time on my schedule and miss the deadline of March 2014. In this event, I will still publish the book, but it may not be promoted as I hope by Frontier Developments. In this case, I will seek to publicise the book through attending Sci fi and gaming conventions, and through the science fiction magazine SFX.
To help prevent delay, I have set out my timeline above.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
Support this project
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