CULTURAL BONES

Over the period of time it took to write Version, I have come to wonder the importance or validity of certain chapters. Is three prologues that appear to have nothing to do with the pace and space time sensibility of the rest of the book able to keep an audience interested?

PROLOGUE 2 deconstruction.

So, this is a blurb about writing again and it’s just a bit about the thought processes regarding building a universe within fiction. Thus, you want the story to be tighter than a camels back side in a sandstorm and you have one or two ideas that everything else is leading to. You thought about an initial equilibrium, then a disruption, the adjustment and then the whatever it is at the end…oh yes a new equilibrium…yes that’s how story writers describe the beginning middle and end of um, a story. But there are things to think about here. You need to know who the players are and the motivation behind most things that go on, unless at times you just say, it is what it is, so just play along dammit! One of the things I would say works in telling a certain kind of, or for most stories is to add your own gripes about life and mutate them into some sort of shadowy figure that looms over everything. One of mine is aggressive capitalism. Now I might be inviting some sort of backlash here and some might start shouting socialist lefty or communist or whatever. But yes, the main cultural back drop in Version, the ambiguous boogie man in the shadows are the corporations and they are still, as with some movies from the 70’s and 80’s a reflection of our disgust at things that are going on today. Alien the movie with Weyland corp that considers the xenomorph to be more important than the crew on board the multi billion dollar mining ship. The Tyrell Corporation in the movie Bladerunner that exist in huge pyramid like buildings that tower over the dregs of society wondering around in the rain soaked streets below. Even in Bombastic fashion we get the original and superior rendition of the movie Robocop with the OCP logo, where even a boardroom mishap with the malfunctioning ED 209 killing an executive, warrants the hilarious response from the main director as he simply says ‘Dick, I am very disappointed’. Nothing quite as sociopathic as the entity that is the corporation…

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So, I wanted a hidden monster, the elusive tried and tested reflection of the most primitive, diabolically structured entity that seems to be dogging human kind even now, and will probably endure until the masses put down the hypnotising touchy feely communication devises known as tablets and phones and feel that there are better things to life, like maybe taking a walk in the forest or talking face to face at the dinner table. But before anyone yawns and says, but this has all been said before, just remember that newer generations are watching the new Robocop and missed Bladerunner or Alien and do not care that some major corporations are up to no good, as though a runaway beast that devours and destroys and gives nothing back, except poor wages and maybe faster broadband for more endless distractions. Let us not forget that even as we speak there is a building in China that has put up nets to catch jumpers who literally cannot live working for their corporate masters any-more. I won’t name or shame or go into slave labour territory to make people feel guilty about their phones and laptops and trainers and t- shirts and diamond rings and….Well you get the picture. Executives of a major soft drinks company having meetings with the CIA… Why? What the hell for? Hold on a moment, cripes I went off on a tangent, again!

Having explained in previous blogs about the book Version, I will eventually move onto other topics, but for the moment I’m going to be biased and hope someone fancies a read… . I said that there were three prologues and that I was banking on people getting past them in order to hit the main story in the mind-set that it would make it more feasible, and that they would know what was going on (or set things up for certain reveals later in the book to make sense). I will within this blog release the second chapter titled Launch, but first I will try to explain what the idea behind it was.

Launch is set at the beginning of everything and so it seemed only chronological to create some in-depth exposition regarding the culture or the pillars of reality within the universe as it were. There is nothing new in terms of ideas within Launch and tries to hook into the domain of movies created in the 70’s and 80’s regarding the hegemony that is the corporation (yes I know I just said that bit above, but I’m re-booting my brain!). Let me explain and I apologise to those who already have a well versed idea about the mistrust of big business in Science fiction.

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The prologue chapter Launch goes into some detail of factions or mighty corporations known as the IMC and later in the book its opposition, the GEA or GSA. So to make it clear and simple the IMC is basically China, the middle east, Russia, Pakistan, india etc who subsidises the IMC as a corporate entity that allows for progression on all fronts of technology and ecology. GEA or Global Earth alliance is Europe and North America, maybe some others like Australia… (that is correct, Global Earth Alliance is a propaganda type name to suggest that the West still believes that it is the world).

Note that this is never really mentioned in the book specifically,,,again not to bog down the exposition to the point of grid lock and falling asleep at the wheel. But the points I am trying to make here is that if you are going to write anything about anything, have a long hard think about what it means to you and what is it you actually know. Because if you know one million things about a topic you can pick and construct the most efficient sentences to describe the cultural bones of your book without going too far, and also with the added knowledge that experts or nit pickers have less chance to troll you into the depths of review hell. There is another point I am trying to point out too. I just wrote this to consider a) the value of having three prologues and b)  Is the use of corporations in Version a bit Cliched? Because in the end there aren’t a vast number of places to go when describing the backdrop of your story. For example, a murder mystery where a detective belongs to the police force, or alternatively as with the new age, some specialist unit of forensics or Navy forensics for crying out loud. Maybe its an independent civilian solver of murders where by the time they solved twenty crimes you wonder why the police aren’t suspicious of said private eye. Want to write a cop drama/murder mystery? Learn the hierarchy of the police force in said country, their procedures, the laws, the inside of a donkey’s hind leg. This leads to ideas as you write and you won’t be in danger of being heckled by a reader that knows! Then again you could write sci fi or sword and sorcery and just make it all up as you go.

I could go into many genres here so I’ll wrap that up shall I. But if you write a detective piece or a historical piece, a spy thriller etc etc. Devour a mass of information that educates you about the topic/genre you are thinking about and then decide what makes sense to draw upon in that world. After all, for one part of Version, I personally went to great lengths to learn about ecology and irrigation techniques and for all that said research, ended up with the miniature line ‘House of ecology’, realising that maybe no one wants a chapter all about crop rotations and how a sea water desalination plant works..but be sure that I know my stuff when it comes to the mineral content of soil for certain plants! That was partially a lie. There are some bits about ecology in Version, but hopefully not too dull.

Factions, Empires, kings, armies, hegemonies… there aren’t that many places to go I say again, unless you are a true genius which I firmly state that I am not…yet. But social and cultural i.e. conventional backdrops being mostly the same in books are there because such generics are what people understand and so adds lubricant to the cogs of the narrative engine so to speak. As I mentioned though, I will release Launch as the second prologue chapter so that you can judge for yourself. A quieter chapter about the fraught nature of space travel, the stupefying aspect of getting the resources together and the planning involved…not in great depth of course, just a hint. For me and being that it is the only surviving chapter from three years or so ago it seems in parts a little clumsy, but has its charms in that it needed to stay as it was for purposes of narrative clarity. The history of the IMC and how important and powerful they are. The blurb about what they build or what they started out in. We have an ambiguous set of principles from the off with them rising to power by creating technology within the energy industry =good, but they develop weapons for war which equals a double edged sword for protection and aggression, which, in itself insinuates that they are trying to do the right thing, but if need be, through the barrel of a gun. But this exposition or back story is for me at this stage perhaps a little too much in hindsight, a spewed infotainment paragraph trying to tell you that the governments of the world may no longer be the boss . That being said, you can’t just omit all the information as though you jut hadn’t given it any thought what so ever…a fine line to consider every step of the way.

Within the chapter we also get a character, one of the elite within this world, trying to understand or justify something. This entails the surreptitious IMC loading cargo of an unethical nature and where the main stem, the central bind of the whole story grows from. Corporations and technologies, throw away characters you never see again. A prologue that seeks to instil certain ideas before the curtain opens; these are aspects that make up two percent of what the book is about and yet the amount of thought put into them proves that unless you love a subject enough, you cannot research, consider and filter to make it appear as though it fits seamlessly into the narrative within dialogue and description. Why does everything happen within Version the way it does? Because of this chapter and the unforeseen consequences that elapse over a great range of time.

GetAttachment

Copyright © Craig Jenkins 2014

This book is copyright under the Berne Convention

No reproduction without permission

All rights reserved.

The right of Craig Jenkins to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead or events is entirely coincidental.

Cover Design by Gareth Hughes

Edited and Formatted by LionheART Publishing House

CHAPTER 2 of Version.

YEAR 2136

LAUNCH

The sun rose from behind Earth and across the desolate moon landscape, causing the digital glass to adjust within the safety parameters for human eyesight. Doctor Rajendra sat looking out of the small window at the front of her cabin and squinted.

She thought about the day ahead; the past twelve years; then her overall feelings as she headed for the finish line. She was, in essence, depressed. This surprised her as in the beginning there had been no doubts; or rather the doubts had been superseded by ambition, arrogance, even by the gamble of it all. Diane’s mind had always been consumed and now it was at a pinnacle, trying to hold her conviction for another twenty four hours until the deeds were done.

Diane Rajendra had become, at least for this moment in history, one of seven geniuses guiding an army of scientists, engineers and many other skilled technicians to develop and launch the frontier project. Such a project could never be achieved via any nation on Earth as the politics, along with the economics, would forever stay precarious. All governments, it seemed, were destined to be limited in such a regard for eternity. In the end it had taken the politics of business from one of the most powerful firms in existence to conquer deep space exploration or, should it be said, to gather the essentials together in order to attempt it.

Diane looked at her unfamiliar aged face staring back at her from one of the mirrors in her cubicle. Twelve years had slipped away only to be left with the pride that humankind could advance forward once again to a truly momentous time. Progression, not distraction.

She sat back down on her bed, thinking of her father; of how he’d been swept along, almost press-ganged into this project, and how the company had changed to push such an insane idea to its full conclusion. It hadn’t been so long ago that living in a moon base would have seemed improbable. The real change had come when Diane’s father accepted a job at the company’s aeronautical systems division to create space probes fast enough and with enough scope to find something worth further attention. That was the first time anyone, including any government from around the world, had taken a serious interest in space for over two hundred years. Astronomy, cosmology and the science had not died; the funding with which it had once survived, however, had been far from available. Eventually Diane’s father, as forecast by the company, had succeeded in discovering a planet possibly compatible with Earth’s own atmosphere. Fortune Symmetry’s small aeronautical division was about to begin the quest that would change human history forever.

Diane now worked for the IMC, which was the outcome of a merger of Fortune Symmetry and another powerful corporation: Misceri Plyologics.

Misceri had become the second most influential company on Earth in a very short time by producing advanced armour technologies. The innovative shielding had been devised by developing pliable metal-weave fibre plating to be installed on military vehicles. The technology was significant as it made all combat vehicles lighter by reducing the thickness of armour required for protection, while remaining robust enough to replace retrospective casts of bodywork. The fibre sheets were so malleable that the terrestrial military crafts’ computers could momentarily contract the toughened fibres when in combat to increase their deflective attributes.

The newly formed IMC was ambitious and impatient at times, and Diane felt that things had gone too far. She remembered the simplicity of being a journey calculations’ officer and how it had been complex but simple to work with the idea that Symmetry wanted to send a few ships carrying mechanical drones to record more data. That was the ethically sound part. When Diane had been promoted to Chief Operations Officer, the things she’d learned had unsettled her. Since the company merger Diane had grown suspicious of certain ship design alterations and was stunned when she’d found that the new terms of exploration would include sending a human cargo. The directors at Fortune had revealed these intentions when they’d appointed a new team to specifically work on living biological stasis development. Naturally the directors hadn’t informed her of what was to be placed in stasis, although she had a strong sense that the units wouldn’t be carrying monkeys. Diane eventually found a copy of the manifest for every one of the twelve crew members allocated to each vessel. One hundred and forty six people, both men and women, would be suspended for the thirty-five-year journey to the planet. As probabilities went she tried to reduce the risk for the sake of the equipment; yet to her, equipment was an acceptable loss. People were not. The company she worked for seemed to have the exact opposite set of values.

Diane pulled her thoughts together; it was now 8:00 a.m. set base time. She made the usual hundred-yard walk past the science post and to the main deck for launch preparations. Rick Bussey, the journey ships’ development commander and head engineer for ships’ construction, stood high up on a platform overlooking numerous monitor screens which had been erected along one of the control room’s concrete walls. Rick was busy and, as usual, shouted into his headset at the construction crew floating around the ships two miles above in the vacuum as they frantically worked to make final adjustments for the launch in twelve hours. Diane noted Rick’s ability to slip into a mode of stringing so many swear words together there were no orders or requests to be deciphered, only simple and continuous abuse at the people around him. It’s the pressure.

Rick looked up at Diane and nodded with a grin; he loved his job. He resumed his work and shouted even more aggressively than before. Diane looked at the same monitor as Rick to see what the fuss was about. One of the construction workers was frantically moving towards a welding rod that, if Diane wasn’t mistaken, was headed for an emergency fuel tank near ship three.

~

The crowd of thousands stood in the now urbanely decorated hanger which had initially been used to construct components seven and twelve of the ships’ hulls. The ship development centre, Kilo, had now become a rally point for the world’s ruling elite and anyone else who could afford the tickets to watch the launch spectacle. All eight hundred members of the project’s crew were also invited as it had become evident they’d been working indefatigably for over a decade now. They were ready for a real party, and many were already being shepherded away from sight due to being ‘intoxicated beyond company tolerance’.

The ship hanger was brimming with noise despite the hundred-foot-high ceiling and the sonic absorbent material installed along the hanger’s interior. All thirty IMC company directors were present and talking to crew members and other science officers about the project, while remote camera units buzzed around for maximum coverage of the event. Diane hoped they wouldn’t notice her as she was ushered to the VIP stand. She moved among the crowd looking to slip away when a sudden screech from the speakers mounted on the hanger walls curbed much of the noise in the room. Diane looked to a very tall digital lens at the front of the hanger as its blacked-out field exposed a grey landscape and a black horizon filled with stars. Further inspection of the view revealed twelve objects floating way above in the distance. They’re ready!

Everyone gazed at the frontier ships. The specifications for these ships to think, move and defend themselves against possible debris when they travelled through solar systems required a great deal of processing equipment, which in turn required capacity. The journey ships were three thousand metres long, two thousand metres in width, and five hundred metres in height. They were enormous in comparison to other contemporary forms of spacecraft, and larger than any of the military aircraft carriers dominating Earth’s oceans.

Diane thought about the passengers. They’d been given rooms to sleep in no larger than one of the nuclear weapon loading ports. This, however, wasn’t the real issue, for some secrets along with many lies had been woven into this whole endeavour whereby only certain people, including herself, knew an incredible truth. This truth would change reality and at the very least put to rest all criticism of the project’s shortcomings. Digital lenses, atomic reactors, enhanced ion engines, and solar winds would not be enough for these ships to go the distance. It seemed anyone involved in this industry could sense that something was up, or that if the journey were to be a success some form of sorcery had to be involved. Diane smirked at the thought of the magic the ships’ engines were using. It was so radical and had so many implications for humanity it seemed criminal to keep it a secret.

Diane hadn’t noticed the voice coming out of the speakers until her name was mentioned. Now she listened with relative interest as a full dialogue regarding the ships’ quest was orated, while overhead the ships’ protection sails were peeled off. They looked like giant guitar picks, wide at the back and narrow at the front. Diane had seen these ships on paper, on digital mapping, even bit by bit in the construction hangers. She’d also seen them in the vacuum; half built, in pieces. The finished fleet is something else, she thought. No windows to look out of – or into – and almost black from the heat-resistant panelling covering each entire ship; they’d become invisible to the human eye after a few hundred metres of drifting away towards their launch mark.

The ships gently glided from view towards a satellite which flashed brightly, hanging high above the grey desert of the lunar surface. A countdown from sixty seconds began and it seemed as though the whole crowd gathered in the hanger bay were petrified as they stared silently through the window. The ships were synchronised perfectly, and all hit the journey starting point simultaneously. As the timer finished, a huge flash erupted from the direction the spectators’ attention was fixed upon. The large digital window did its best to block out the violent light, yet still everyone flinched as though the whole fleet of ships had exploded into a nuclear fireball.

Diane felt numb as she mingled with the important guests. The ships were now well underway and they’d have to wait longer for ship status reports the further away they travelled. In a decade they’d have a three-year wait for a message, despite instant-link data pins being dropped en route every month. By the time they reached their destination, Diane knew she may not even be around to see the results. She would never know whether to despair or rejoice for the poor souls sent in their transparent caskets and buried alive in metal.

She would grieve now and for a while, just in case.

FINALLY

So to conclude, this chapter for me anyway, might seem a touch grey perhaps, as though the thing which misleads an audience to judge the rest of the book upon an over sensible way in which to describe the not so fantastic reality of space travel. We don’t have hyper drives yet, or warp engines or stargates to bypass into the realm of fast track travel fantasy. This chapter is basing itself on hard science…ish. Space travel is going to be a bitch and Einstein’s law of relativity needs to be bypassed at some point later on…when we get to the realm of the contrived in later chapters. But in terms of tone and entertainment, it appears that sometimes you have to take a risk on building the pillars of your universe, for until the forth chapter, some readers have already stated that the the book, the real adventure doesn’t truly begin.  In retrospect I might have sewn this kind of information into the main story as smatterings of dialogue or another form of exposition. However, I stood by it for it is a little story in itself and draws focus to the fact that humanity struggles with the realm of space and that we take risks as a species and sometimes leap before we look. No one out there is looking at Earth until we manage to leave our solar system…


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