Published Jan 13, 2008

It’s enjoyable enough to write essay-style stuff here, but I do miss when I used to actually write fiction. So, in a new feature here, I’m going to write monthly entries on a continuing story. Now, this isn’t quite the way I usually write: no outlines, no character studies; in fact, I really know virtually nothing about this story other than what I’ve written already. So, you’ll learn it at the same time I do. Also, I’m not spending much time on editing, so quality may be, let’s say variable. So, without further ado: a bit of ongoing storytelling, in the sci-fi genre.

The road’s white cut stretched to the horizon in both directions, flat and straight as if to defy any curve the packed sun-browned soil might throw up. But the road’s gentle left-hand turn had been enough to spread this glittering metal in a cone, a wheel here, a wheel there, in a sharp triangle from the black scorch of the rover’s impact. Midafternoon sun in the cloudless blue sky made the debris too bright to look at, or all but the dark bits of the tires and console and bodies. The one in light blue-gray overalls pulled his cap’s bill down to cover his squint.

“That’s a mess.” said the one in light brown that almost disappeared into the endless terrain. His cap was already down to touch his ears, and dust caked in the sweat on his arms below his rolled-up sleeves made him even more a match for the terrain.

“Yep.” said the one in light blue-gray, holding out his hand for the water bottle. “And what’s that track running from right to left there?” The outstretched hand pointed to the track as he spoke.

“Well, that was here when we got here, Lieutenant. So we don’t figure they hit anything going along it, you know what I mean?” The one in blue nodded; he knew, or as much as anyone else. The young mining colony, and young mining colonists, were untroubled by the ancient tracks that ran across most of the mapped surface of the planet, zig-zagging every klick or less to dodge some long-absent obstacle.

“When I was an Ensign on Owen’s World, you know what we had? These little pyramids of rock all over. About waist-high, stacked ever so perfect, and a metal rod in the middle of each one. The damndest thing. And you know what they were?” asked the Lieutenant in blue-gray.

“Guess I don’t, sir.” Replied the one in brown, wiping his brow with the arm that held the water bottle, as the Lieutenant had brought his hands to his waist to talk.

“Absolutely nothing. Never did anything, not in a hundred and fifty years. They were just there.”

“Ain’t that something.”

“Ain’t it.” This time he took the water bottle.

“I figure these tracks are the same. Don’t go nowhere. Not anymore, anyway. Anyway, I’m sorry to bother you about this, but the Prefect said to call you, so I did. It’s just too fast, and the bump, and that’s it.”

“Spread his load of ore all over the horizon, didn’t he.”

“Yes he did.”

“Gonna be an empty seat at Ruby’s tonight, won’t there.”
“Yes indeed.”

“Wife? Kids?”

“No, ain’t but the three families that came here last year, and of course old Mrs. Hawkshaw, still says her husband and son’ll be back any day, if you want to count that. And that ain’t him.”

“Kim, esquire, deceased.”

“That’s about it.”

“So there’s no-one to tell.”

“Not except for someone waiting to upgrade their claim. If his was any good. Can’t say I remember.”

“Well, thanks, Elon. Tell the Prefect I’ll mention the lost rover in my next report. Maybe the late-year supply ship will bring a replacement.”

“Much obliged.” It could’ve been for the rover, or because the Lieutenant handed him back the water bottle. They walked back to the Lieutenant’s shuttle. As they climbed, the packed-dirt road became nothing but a too-straight white line in the brown soil, cutting to the horizon, then splitting into a Y and beyond that a grid, as first one and then two lakes emerged as the horizon grew. And the line of the ancient track juked willy-nilly except to miss the foothills on the left; to the right, five such lines came together, a star radiating out in some forgotten intersection. Beyond were the mesas, steep peaks cut off at the top; and finally the mountains, topped with a sparse snow.

(Next)

7 Comments

Beautiful descriptions, writer. You urge me to comment. You have a gift for describing in utter detail. I love the details! I am so fortunate that you share your talent on this blog and you are inspired. Intrigued to read more, looking forward to reading your book someday, as long as it’s on a subject that I like

Well, the point of being a good writer is to get people interested in the subjects I like.

A ha. Hence, you’re a good writer. You lured me in to your story. Because of your descriptions, the picture you painted for me through words, you struck me. As I read more, you began to intrigue me and fuel my curiousity… What the hell is going on? I want to know. What is this about? What’s next? I want to know more. You lured me into this something that I usually never read or watch about. Guess what?.. I had a flash back the night that I read your story! I went back in time and I was a little girl. The camera showed me a beautiful woman’s dead, open eyes. She washed upon a shore and a man discovered tiny pieces of paper forced into and wedged underneath her fingernails. He carefully pulled each one out with a tweezer and found they had single letters typed on them.. I began watching the strange, intriguing series, Twin Peaks. For some creative reason when I woke up in morning, I associated your personality with Jim Henson, one of my favorite producers. It occurred to me that you have a creative genius force similar to him!

You asked for constructive criticisms, and so: I think that you got a bit mired in small details, such as the water bottle hand off, and neglected the meat of the story. While others may say that this fuels their curiousity [sic], it kind of made me want to give up. I understand that, particularly in sci-fi, you want to maintain a shroud of mystery. However, I think you need to choose at least one set point and define it. If you give your readers one solid thing to hold on to, that can go a long way in carrying them through a story. Choose the action line, character(s), setting (but then it needs to be more active and illustrative of whats going on, not just dry and neglected), or whatever you like, but make it tangible.

Also, if you want to be sparse in exposition and interior monologue, do so! But, when you give those up, you might want to consider using your dialogue to let readers get to know your characters.

Congrats on the first installment of your new work of fiction Im very excited to see what it turns into!

Interesting. This is good criticism. It’s beneficial for you to have this perspective from someone like Courtmack, who is knowledgeable and educated on this subject and writing. Way to make us all read your story over and over smarty pants! And get it somewhat edited, proof read, analyzed and criticized while you run your company and errands!. Because of Courtmack’s comment I was inspired to read it over and catch the parts I inherently understood but couldn’t explain. I wanted to read it over and know what and why [hence having others perspectives is inspiring!]. I was intrigued by the story and wanted to understand and figure out what you were creating for me with your massive, visual, energetic, creative style! You are displaying and learning your style and I am too. Keep up creating you’re style, writer. I have an inherent understanding of what you’re trying to tell me visually through words but I want to understand, explain, and know what you’re doing with the details. Remembering the bright sun description from the beginning, the water bottle detail gave me a sense of the men’s utter, profuse parchment, adding mood, creating an intense dry, hot atmosphere, and creating a super hot, dry climate and season in which they live. I got that feeling. Later, the second bottle detail was not part of the mystery, but was meant to show the intense feeling of parchment to the lieutenant. Yet the lieutenant’s passion, inspiring him to tell his story, made him resist any water. I felt it. I had a hard time understanding why the last two water bottle details were there because I, as a reader, couldn’t think of anything else the water bottles could do. With a little proof reading, analyzing, and editing I realized that maybe the last two water bottle details were not meant to be typed in and read in a book but used as a visual script, a movement for that character in a movie. There’s another thing I’d like to tell you i noticed but I’ll tell you later, I’m out of time!

I find that I want to correct my last comment. Where I said, “It’s beneficial for you to have this perspective..”, I meant it’s powerful for you to have this perspective. Ok I have time now, I’ll tell you another thing I noticed about your story so you can help me understand. I noticed that you used the word, “they” and “bodies” in the beginning when you described the accident scene. At the end you seemed to describe one person as deceased. Is there something I missed? Is there more than one person involved? I was confused.

One of the challenges of writing unedited: when I decided to change from several to one dead mid-scene, I didn’t go back and update that part.

Good catch on both your parts that it’s not clear what happened. I may need to add some interior monologue. Or, make my main character talk to himself. After all, that strategy works for me!