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Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Writing out of genre

I write mostly science fiction, but every now and again I try to write something completely different. Why? Aside from the fun side, and the challenge, it improves my 'voice' in my SciFi work. Otherwise, I notice a kind of same-ness starts to creep in, particularly in dialogue. So, I just had published a short story about a secretary having a particularly bad day, with a particularly bad boss. Will she exact revenge? Check it out here.

For me what was interesting was to write from the narrator's point of view in a very different voice from my usual characters. What I am finding in my science fiction writing now is that the women have the most interesting, fresh lines. What's new, eh?

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Write like a film


One of the most frequent comments I get about my books are that they read like a film. My writing wasn’t always that way, though. I remember one of my writing teachers getting everyone in our writing group to draw a piece of equipment I’d described in a chapter. The drawings were completely different. Worse, none of them was what I’d intended.

Since then I worked on it a lot, and also read more SF authors to see how they described new worlds, ships, aliens, and artefacts. Scientists like to use precise measurements, but most readers don’t want to have to do algebra while relaxing with a good book. But basic geometric shapes can be used. Colours are important, but I avoid basic colours (red, green, etc.) and try to add texture. Names can be all-important to help the reader ‘bind’ the information into a conceptual whole, i.e. a picture. Here’s a description of a space ship:

The approaching ship was somewhere between an elongated cone and a javelin, the outer hull laced with metallic scarlet and purple shades rippling from the tip back to the aft section. Its texture reminded him of a moonlit lake, but its sleek lines suggested power, and above all, speed. It was hard to gauge the size, but as it approached Hannah filled them in.
            “It’s a Scintarelli Star-piercer, according to the onboard database, Level Eight design, about two hundred meters in length, minimal jump drive, built for inter-stellar non-Transpace flight. Crew complement two, registering as Mannekhi, a Level Five race.”
            Micah tore himself away from the screen to face her. ‘Two?’

Note that at the end I try to increase the ‘wonder’ factor by having Micah state the obvious question – why such a long ship for only two people?’ Having characters relate to the item being described (in this case the ship) brings the ship off the page, and avoids the description sounding like a tech-spec document. Note also that he had to tear himself from the screen. This is one cool ship…

Another approach is to give skeletal information and let the reader fill in the gaps. This can be made more interesting by adding suspense or mystery. In the next excerpt, three men are standing on a glass platform in a cave above an underground ocean. One of the men, Rashid, who is blind, can 'see' something in the ocean's depths via a sonar band he wears around his head, called a ‘dolphin’:

Blake had to ask. “So, what exactly is in the ocean?”
            Rashid spoke softly. “A ship, like no other we have ever encountered.”
            Blake turned to see where Rashid was staring, but only saw the dark sheen of the ocean reflecting from the domed cavern’s glow. “I don’t get it, Rashid – your sonar shouldn’t be able to detect a ship through glass, air and then water. The dolphin’s just not that good.”
            Dimitri spoke while turning on a small apparatus lying in the centre of the glass floor. “Yes, Rashid, I am also intrigued. I only found a signal when using the ultra-low frequency scanner.”
            “It is breathing,” he replied, “very slowly.”
            Blake stared first at him, and then glanced down again through the glass floor.
Dimitri focused instead on the screen illuminating his face in green. “Come, Commander, take a look.”
            Blake saw fuzz at first, then a figure emerged. He made out a triangular section like an arrowhead jutting out from a narrow neck, joined to the body of the ship, which was shaped like a semi-circle at the top, tapering down at the bottom. The ship resembled an elongated crossbow, pointing straight upwards out of the ocean.
            “Arjuna,” Rashid said quietly, gazing through the floor, since he could not observe two-dimensional displays. “The mythical archer from the Bhagavad Gita. This is a noble ship, if ever there was one to behold.”
            Blake read the scale on the scanner. The ship was ten kilometres long.

Arjuna is described as Blake sees it: first he picks out the geometric components, then he uses an allegory, in this case a crossbow. Again, in this case I use Rashid’s Indian heritage to add some mystique to the ship, to ‘bring it off the page’, and then add the scale at the very end to increase the impression.

‘Landfall’ is one of the parts of a Scifi story I always look forward to, when our heroes (or villains) approach a new planet or space station. Here’s one of mine from a chapter entitled ‘Gridfall’:

Grid Station 359 Alpha grew large in front of them on the viewscreen, reminding Micah of a giant sea urchin, hundreds, maybe thousands of electric blue spines stretching out into space, myriad ships docked at the ends. The central hub was lozenge-shaped. Every part of it – and his ‘resident’ told him it was forty kilometres long – glinted dark phosphorescent indigoes and blues. But the hub wasn’t the most impressive item on their viewscreen.

The space-port acted as a node on a ringway, a conduit of sliding colours. Micah recalled as a kid seeing a cuttlefish at the Monterey aquarium, how it changed colours fluently, different shades of browns and greys rippling up and down its surface. Yet this was on a more majestic scale, and wasn’t just about aesthetics. The light show was a side effect of the type of radiation his resident translated as Eosin harmonics, propelling ships around the Grid without the need for fuel. Occasionally a swathe of colour, like the aurora borealis, whip-lashed from the hub to the ringway’s horizon, indicating that another ship had just been catapulted into the Grid network. The ten kilometre diameter conduit lasered into space in both directions from the hub, cutting a bold line across the black tableau of space.

Here I’ve borrowed twice from undersea creatures (sea urchin & cuttlefish), and tried to give the impression of ‘vastness’, and used words like ‘majestic’, and ‘hundreds, maybe thousands’ – implying the viewer can’t count them all and is overwhelmed by how many there are, and the final touch of this huge conduit lasering into space towards infinity, giving the sense of space and distance we look for in ‘space opera’.

Vividness, and visual clarity, must also work on a small scale. Here for example is some ‘encounter gear’ called a ‘shrouder’, designed to protect the wearer and others from potentially lethal microbial infection.

The encounter gear was less cumbersome than he’d imagined, amounting to lightweight self-fitting copper-coloured suits, a matching metallic headband, and two pencil-width booms curving around from the ears to the chin, leaving a gap for the mouth. His resident confirmed the shrouder device was operating, neutralising microbes exiting the mouth and nose, and any foreign flora which might try to enter. Despite a glove-tight fit, he didn’t sweat inside the suit; again, something inside acted on his sweat immediately. So, aside from looking like some cheap, decked-out retro-punk rock band leader, he felt relaxed, at least until he exited the ship.
           
I’ve not over-complicated it, and left fine details up to the reader’s imagination (e.g. does the copper-coloured suit have a zip? Any emblems? Up to you...). The last part is mildly humorous, because none of us really ever enjoy wearing protective clothing (do we?).

Last for this blog, when describing aliens, I use a light touch, giving outline details, and usually at least part of the alien’s anatomy can be related to something familiar. In the last example below, the alien eels at the end are not intrinsically interesting, until our heroes see what they get up to…  

Before them stood a Christmas tree-like array of hemispheres, each about the size of a football stadium. Micah could see ten at any one time as the tree slowly rotated. The tree was in the centre of a vast honeycombed sphere, with thousands of bubbles – more like blisters from this viewpoint – like the one they stood in right now, encircling the tree. He couldn’t see inside any of the others, but the overall effect was a thousand insect eyes gazing on the tree Sandy had aptly christened Babel. Fine opal tubes snaked from the hemispheres to some of the blisters, reminding Micah of a sea anemone’s tendrils waving in the sea currents, hunting plankton.
            “Hey, boys, you’ll want to try this,” Sandy said, exuberant again. She had picked up a metal visor from several lying on a shelf, and was studying the habitats.
            Micah took one and held it to his eyes. At first nothing happened as he looked towards the tree. Then as he noticed a liquid environment he unconsciously tried to focus, and the image immediately zoomed in, spying various creatures, some like ancient marine dinosaurs on Earth, others squid-like, though none looked like actual fish.
            “Infini-vision,” Zack said, “every pilot’s dream! Mil-tech tried to develop this just before the War. It must senses eye muscle movements and amplify accordingly – but this is real smooth!”
            Micah found four basic environmental types – air-like, heavy gas, liquid, and dark. The dark ones were opaque to the visors, although Micah thought he saw shadows moving within the blackness.
            He focused on one of the air environments, finding a menagerie of alien life-forms, from grey mushroom-shaped creatures whose means of locomotion escaped him, to a quadruped beast with an upper body of a scarlet manta ray. Numerous lime-coloured, diamond-shaped organisms with four rings around them rolled around the alien food market like gyroscopes, the diamonds remaining upright. His resident produced names for the various aliens he saw, but he paid no attention, just feasted on the abundance of forms life had found according to planetary demands and environmental niches. Darwin could have worked here forever.      
            “Hey, check this out,” Sandy shouted, “fourth level down the tree, last habitat on the right, central section.”
            He pulled back from the visor, located the hemisphere, and then re-applied the optical device. At first he couldn’t make it out, but then he saw what she must be referring to. A black eel was lengthening itself impossibly into fractal patterns, in front of a white, straight eel. The white eel began to do the same thing, interlacing and meshing with the black eel. At first the fractal patterns made no sense, even though it was kaleidoscopic to watch, but then he realised that this dance was generating a black and white cube. A number of other alien life-forms had gathered to watch.
            Sandy laughed. “Shouldn’t they get a room?”
             
           
A few guidelines I use.

The first is that I need to be able to see it clearly in my head, rotate it, see it in light and shade, and see how it moves. It is too easy for me as a writer when writing first draft, to let the words drive the image, that is, to write down text that sounds cool, before I have the actual image. By second draft the image has to solidify and have words driven by the image, not vice versa. By third draft the image is clear and I have foreground and background.

Second, I test all my images with a pool of people, because only then do I find out if it is working. Sometimes people go ‘Huh?’ Then I have to rework it.

Third, I don’t overdo it. This is Scifi (same goes for fantasy), not conventional fiction like Thomas Hardy describing every loving detail of the English countryside. Scifi readers like to exercise their imaginations. I sketch enough visual details to give the reader a ‘handle’ on the image, and let their minds do the rest.

Fourth, I have my characters interact with the environment and relate to it. In today’s economically-obsessed society, I could say I leverage emotional engagement from characters to objects and settings. Or, to put it another way, and as Chekhov (the writer, not Sulu’s pal) might have said, you can describe the pulse pistol sitting on the table with as much detail as you like, but it only gets truly interesting when someone picks it up.


All the above extracts are from Eden's Trial, available on Amazon (currently free with Amazon Prime)
The first book, The Eden Paradox, is also highly visual, and is available from Amazon in ebook and paperback, and Waterstones, UK.
For battle scenes, check out my other blogs tagged 'battle'.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Will book signings become a thing of the past?

I had an interesting discussion with my publisher yesterday about book signings, and it made me wonder if they will become a thing of the past. I hope not. I did one back in October last year and I am doing another one in a couple of weeks, and I think they are a great way to meet readers, some who've come to buy the book, some who haven't but are maybe a little curious, and talk with them.

Of course book signings rarely make any money, after the posters, advertising, selling books with a narrow profit margin, etc. It's even hard to make an 'indirect' business case for them, for example by saying that they will generate new customers who will be more enthusiastic than just buying it off the shelf or from Amazon, and so help get a better base from which to spread the word about a book.

But if they don't make any money, why do them?

Well, many writers aren't actually doing it for money (and let's face it, it's very hard to make a living as a writer these days, unless you're a best-seller). I'm organizing this one in my home town, and my family will be there and they've been supportive throughout. I also plan to organize another one in Paris sometime later this year for the sequel, because I owe so much to the writing community in Paris itself. So, for me, it's about giving something back, and meeting some new people.

Another reason is that it is good for readers - I've been to a few myself and there's just something special about it, and if you have read something by the author, then it can be fascinating to see what the author is actually like. Of course you get a signature and maybe a dedication, which makes the book personal.

It's also good for bookshops, who are struggling to compete with online retailers. This is one thing bookshops can do, and can do well, that Amazon can't. It generates a buzz, and they can sell more books on the day, and not just those of the author present. It can become a social event - for example, mine is science fiction, so maybe some scifi people will come and meet other scifi readers.

Of course the long term threat is ebooks, currently occupying up to 30% of the sales market. I'm not against ebooks, as both my books are in electronic format too. But even as a science fiction author I find it difficult to imagine an electronic book signing event - or maybe I just don't want to.

I can imagine a future where there are no physical books, e.g. 100 years from now. Maybe someone will think of a smart alternative that will replace the book signing event. Until then I'm glad to be around now when an author can still meet readers, sign a book for them, shake their hands, and feel like he or she has done something useful.


The Eden Paradox A fast-paced Scifi thriller that starts with a murder and ends in a threat to Earth's survival. Available on Amazon in paperback and kindle, Barnes & Noble, and Waterstones, UK.
Eden's Trial The stunning sequel where humanity enters a hostile galaxy and will be judged on its fitness to survive. Ebook on Amazon, paperback late 2012. CURRENTLY FREE ON AMAZON PRIME.
Eden's Revenge - The trilogy's climax, where the fate of the galaxy will rest in one man's hands - available Ebook end 2012, paperback 2013.

A new brand of terrorism, or an old one?

Science fiction is often about predicting the future. When I watch the news these days, seeing the riots in Athens, for example, which sadden me tremendously (I love Greece and the Greeks), and how most of us are having to pay the price for mistakes we didn't make, I wonder where all this is headed. There is a saying that the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, but where will that end up?

In The Sapper, a free short story (read it here), the place is not Athens, but New Manhattan, several hundred years in the future, where the super-rich live separated from the rest. But one man rebels.

I grew up reading Robin Hood, who 'robbed from the rich and gave to the poor'. The recent film with Justin Timberlake 'In Time' had a similar theme, and although I thought the execution of the film wasn't that great, the premise was interesting. If Robin Hood were around today, would he be branded a terrorist?

The Sapper is a futuristic 'Whodunnit?' (more a 'who's going to do it?'), and is much grittier than Robin Hood or 'In Time'. It includes violence because I fear where we are headed. If the rich continue to cream off our money and then make us dig deeper for more, eventually the situation could become desperate. The terrorist in The Sapper is not some loon or religious fanatic, he's a middle class engineer who's had enough, and so he's more difficult to stop. So, this is a future I never want to see.

If you step back from the 'financial crisis', there are two points I'd like to make. First, the money went somewhere. No aliens came and took it off Earth. We still have plenty of resources, they are not distributed well. Second, the global economic 'business model' has become unstable, particularly in Europe, but elsewhere as well. An alien watching from afar might tell us we need another one, though I've personally no idea what it is. It might of course sort itself out. I hope so.



 

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Ten ingredients I look for in space opera…

What I enjoy about space opera are the possibilities of life, of surprises – which largely comes down to a ‘sense of wonder’. Something new, not easy in a trope as popular as Scifi. But good authors do it repeatedly, some of my favourites recently being Alastair Reynolds (Revelation Space), and Dan Simmons’ Hyperion, which I’ve just discovered.

Good space opera gives the reader the feeling that space is impossibly vast, or as Douglas Adams put it, it’s really, really big. This is often achieved by showing how long it takes to get anywhere even if travelling faster than the speed of light, whether the author incorporates Einstein’s relativity complications (like Greg Bear, as in the Anvil of Stars which I’m reading now), or not (I side-step them).

I hope to see new alien races and species that are very different from us (e.g. David Brin’s Uplift), yet still understandable, or at the very least understandably incomprehensible (Peter F Hamilton is very good at this, e.g. Timelike Infinity). If the galaxy is mainly full of us, then the society should have advanced sufficiently for this future ‘us’ to feel a little alien, a great example being Iain Banks’ culture novels.

Love interest can of course be there, but Scifi is not known for being overly romantic, much less bodice-ripping, so these aspects tend to be underplayed, with unrequited love (Banks; Reynolds) being my preference, or sex-without-lust (Bear; McDevitt) taking a back seat (pun unintentional).

A sense of history – that is, mega-history, with ancient races, mythological, often those credited with seeding current races or civilizations. Sometimes all that is left is an artefact which humanity discovers (Greg Bear’s Eon), or Larry Niven’s Ringworld, or even a planet as in Jack McDevitt’s Deepsix. Other times the ship wandering through our system is inhabited by inscrutable aliens (Arthur C Clarke’s Rama series). All of these things give us a sense of how small, but also how young and new we are, compared with how old and advanced or defunct the rest of the galaxy’s inhabitants could be.

Tech is usually obligatory for space opera, and often focuses on mode of communication, transportation, getting high, and avoiding old age. Good Scifi doesn’t dwell on it, though, and treats it as almost mundane, making it more acceptable. After all, this is reasonable – it hasn’t taken long for humanity to take I-Phones for granted.

Big battle-scenes don’t always feature in space opera, but for me they are a helluva bonus. Invariably they link with Tech, and deep plots… Jack Campbell does these really well (e.g Dauntless).

Deep plots and strategy: a galaxy is going to be like an unbelievably complex chessboard, so strategies and plots should be suitably involved, and at the least, not stereotyped.

Fantastic ships: these can either be very large and complex, or sleek and graceful, but they should be cool. Whilst I enjoyed watching the heaps of junk in Firefly lift off, they’re not what I want to read about (Babylon 5 had the coolest ships).

A sprinkling of physics can give you the feeling the writer has some scientific knowledge, though most of us don’t want to read a thesis. What can be interesting is to read about cutting edge science, e.g. dark matter, neutronium, yottawatts, things on the frontier of science.

In my first novel, The Eden Paradox, which was a scifi thriller more than space opera, I only had a few of the above. In the sequel, Eden's Trial, I had eight. So, I’m working on putting all ten into the finale, Eden's Revenge, but please let me know if I’ve missed anything major!

The Eden Paradox, ebook & paperback on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Waterstones.
Eden's Trial, ebook on Amazon
Eden's Revenge - coming end 2012

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Eden's Trial on Amazon Prime & Eden's Revenge Update

First - just to let people know that if any of you reading this have Amazon Prime, Eden's Trial (ebook) is now free for you for a month. It means you can download it for free from Amazon while the offer lasts.

Feedback so far is mixed on the two books: some prefer The Eden Paradox, some Eden's Trial, and the rest just ask me when Eden's Revenge will be coming out :-) Below is an update on progress.

So far I've penned six chapters of book 3 (Eden's Revenge), which is the climax of the trilogy. It's not easy,   as I've not yet determined the overall arc of the middle and end of the book, though I know the ending, and who will be left standing.

Part One of the book is called 'Petra', and concerns a new character, a genetically engineered young woman. For fans of The Eden Paradox, Gabriel is back (I had yet another fan ask me for this just today) - well, his son, at least. I am working on deepening the emotional aspect of the book, and also the scifi in terms of space battle scenes (because there is a war going on), but as always keeping it as visual as watching  film. I've been reading various authors for inspiration including Jack Campbell, who writes amazingly well on battles whilst keeping the reader interested in emotional subtext. All in all, Eden's Revenge is still not 'hard science fiction'. I want to keep it 'accessible'.

Also I'm developing the alien 'characters', particularly the Level 19 Kalarash, who it turns out have a dark sense of humor (similar to Iain Banks' 'minds' in his Culture novels), and some hostile environments including a malicious forest. But of particular interest are the spiders, whose role in the coming galactic war is hinted at in the closing pages of Eden's Trial. All will be revealed at the end of the book...

Anyway, here's a taster from Chapter 3:


Beneath a lapis sky, Kat dodged between the pine spears raining down on her, each one whistling on its fifty metre descent before puncturing the mossy ground with a dull ‘pfft’, spattering musky soil into the air all around her. Fucking trees! She managed to hurdle a root rising from the spongy undergrowth in front of her, then duck as a branch swung down to head height. Up ahead a clearing invited, but she knew better – the shards of pine, self-sharpening as they tipped off the trees like weighted arrows, would get her for sure if she were out in the open.
            Kat ran close to the broad, gnarled trunks; she could imagine snarling faces in the bark’s twisted patterns, but she knew these trees weren’t that intelligent, probably not even self-aware, just damned lethal. As she lingered next to one, trying to catch her breath, a vine curled up her leg. She pulled out her knife and rammed it hard into the tree that reminded her of a giant redwood with a seriously bad attitude. She doubted the trees felt pain, but she needed to make a statement. She yanked her leg out of the coil and worked out her next sprint path, squinting through the forest of branches and leaves descending around her, trying to cocoon her into a shallow grave. A jet engine flared somewhere overhead – another reason to stay under the canopy.
She bolted away from the malevolent fir, rolling on the mossy ground to avoid spiky wooden claws reaching down for her. Just as her head was lifting from the ground, a patch of violet daisies squirted pollen, catching the left side of her face. Pain lanced into her left eyeball. Staggering blind for a moment, a branch from behind connected with her head like a baseball bat and sent her sprawling.
            Thick vines lost no time in trapping her ankles. Struggling onto her knees, she fished for her knife and found its sheath empty, the glimmer of her blade out of reach, sinking into the undergrowth as if it was quicksand. She looked upwards: four massive pines loomed overhead, tilting, closing around her. She knew what was next. Considering her options, she decided she had none, other than becoming fertiliser. Sharp cracks above announced that a shower of spears was on its way. She kept her eyes open. Rather than pointlessly placing her hands over her head, she folded them, and held her breath.

to be continued...            

The Eden Paradox available in paperback and ebook from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Waterstones
Eden's Trial available in ebook from Amazon (free with Amazon Prime), paperback Autumn 2012
Eden's Revenge - due late 2012
See also 'Stories' on this website, for free published stories online.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Eden's Revenge - Prologue

I'm working on Book 3 of the Eden Trilogy, about six chapters in (out of thirty).  Below is the current opening section (Prologue). There are two types of Prologue - those that tell in straightforward exposition what has happened in previous books, and who the characters are; and those that bring the reader into the new book via a story in itself. The first is pure exposition and can be a bit boring (and maybe a bit lazy on the part of the author). The second is more challenging (risky), and so is more interesting for the reader and author alike. Here's an extract from the current version I'm working with, the first page or so:

In the darkness of the inter-galactic void, just outside the Hourglass Galaxy, a ruby gash opened in the fabric of space. The tear widened to a bloodshot eye, an obsidian pupil irising open at its centre. A ship emerged, shaped like an elongated crossbow, metallic hues of aquamarine and scarlet rippling back along its ten kilometre long shaft. The eye blinked and was gone. Space snapped closed as if the portal had never been there.


The ship and its four passengers hung outside the shimmering galactic barrier that billowed like a giant, translucent sail, buffeted by dark energy riptides trying to seep in. The three humans in the arrowhead fore-section stared in awe at the broiling tumble of stars speckled with violet nebulas, the galaxy’s tightening ‘waist’ visible as a brightness that hurt the eyes after nine years inside the trans-galactic shunt. The fourth occupant, Kalaran, was elsewhere and everywhere on the ship, his mind long since melded with its organic-metal physiology. He sent the access codes, but the barrier stayed up.

Kalaran fired the tiny black-hole syringe into the barrier, and it set to work, quiet and invisible for now. He’d designed it himself, and imagined it chewing its way through the barrier’s epidermis, numbing the galactic sheath as it bit deeper, to prevent alarms being raised. He checked that the hollow moon he had hauled all the way from the Silverback Galaxy – which humans called the ‘Milky Way’ – was intact, and remained masked in its null-entropy field. He hoped he wasn’t going to need it, but it was insurance; Kalaran hadn’t come this far for nothing. If he was going to stop the enemy, Qorall, whose troops had already overrun half the Silverback galaxy, he needed an ally, or at least another Kalarash ship, only seven of which existed in the known universe. But he was Level 19, unused to asking for anything, let alone saying “Please.” He was more comfortable with stealth. Yet he’d been contaminated by these humans’ morality, so just this once he would try.

After reaching the age of two and a half billion angts, Kalaran had hoped he was done with arguing. Within a few human days his former colleague arrived at the other side of the barrier, and the onslaught began. Kalaran had at least expected a ‘Hello’. Truth was, when there were only seven of your species left in the entire universe, each in its own adopted galaxy, and all of them leagues ahead of every other registered species, privacy became a premium, and irritability a honed reflex.

He didn’t stop Darkur’s thought-probe interrogating every facet of the ship, including downloading the entire thought structure of the three humans onboard. As if that wasn’t rude enough, Darkur refused to followed protocol and drop the barrier. The Kalarash species weren’t big on reunions, or hospitality. Evidently, a face-to-face meeting was not on the agenda. But Kalaran relaxed – Darkur’s scans failed to detect the moon, which now drifted a couple of hundred thousand kilometres away in the starless void. Darkur – your complacency will be your undoing.

 
So - how does this work as a Prologue? For the reader who hasn't read books 1 & 2, he or she knows that there is a War in our galaxy, that humans have a role to play, and that there are these superbeings who have pretty cool ships and can travel between the galaxies. The focus is on Kalaran, a 'Level 19' being - which raises the question of what level humans are at - who are probably far more intelligent than we are, but who still have recognisable character traits, despite being ancient. These traits are not unwholesome or aloof, however - we might even get to like this species. Incidentally, when writing this piece I had in mind Iain Banks' culture novels and his 'superminds'.
 
The new (to Eden) reader should also get an idea of the 'register' of science fiction in the book - not too 'hard' science fiction - most people know what a black hole is, and certainly what a syringe is, and can 'get' the combination when applied to a barrier, and it is very 'visual' writing. For 'hard SF' enthusiasts, there is also enough 'SF-tech' to be interesting, though they will be querying the existence of such a barrier, and the nature of a transgalactic shunt. But in both cases, and for both types of reader, there is enough material to enable the 'suspension of disbelief' for now, and the basic plot intrigue (galactic war) and a 'sympathetic' alien character should keep the reader wanting to read the next page.
 
For the reader who has read books 1 & 2, this should be an interesting opening, because the Kalarash as a species are an enigma in book 2, and suddenly in book 3's prologue we get to meet one properly. Readers of book 2 know who the three humans are, and will be waiting to see them get involved. But they will also be wondering what is happening to the other characters back in the 'Silverback' galaxy, especially since nine years have passed since the end of Eden's Trial.
 
As I said, this type of prologue isn't easy to write, but is surely more interesting than straight exposition. More challenging for this author, in any case! 
 
When I'm happy with it I'll post the whole of the Prologue on my website.
 
The Eden Paradox is available from Amazon in paperback and ebook; paperback also available from Waterstones in UK and WHSmith in Paris
Eden's Trial is available on ebook from Amazon (paperback later in the year)
Eden's Revenge will be out late 2012.
 
 
© Barry Kirwan | info@barrykirwan.com
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