I have a short story out for consideration with Asimov’s at the moment and another waiting in the wings to be written for someone else. But mostly right now, I’m feeling the loss of HoC as a regular, long project to work on. So I’ve been doing planning work on a new project–Figurehead. It’ll be a hair longer than HoC was and this one is sci-fi. Space opera, in fact. And with the return of regular work, I need a return to regular posting here. So I’m going to make an effort to post regular tidbits about this project, particularly because I won’t be having any free fiction here for a bit. So:
A maintenance slave and her ship’s renegade AI must track down the cartographer captain they mutinied against when his successor plunges the rest of the crew into pirates’ prison.
(As a note, I’m going through Holly Lisle’s How to Think Sideways course again to do the planning on this project. The sentence above is, in fact, The Sentence for Figurehead. The Sentence is one of the first and best tools in the course and learning how it works has been the difference between flailing around with only a vague sense of what I was writing about and having a clear, usable definition of what the story was and where it was headed. See the affiliate link in the sidebar if you’d like to know more about this fantastic course.)
Today, I finished the first rough sketches of the four characters mentioned in The Sentence.
The Victoria Jefferson is an AI system used to run complex military space ships and her personal goal is to expand her knowledge base as far as she can. From the character outline: “I believe that learning is the highest goal of any creature intelligent enough to have self-awareness. It elevates, it improves, it makes all things possible. Learning must be the individual’s first priority. Without learning, even survival becomes a matter of nothing more than chance. Learning allows us to direct our own lives.”
Mally is a mechanical prodigy who grew up as a messenger slave on a massive space station and no payday yet has made her feel like she’s free. “Born number six and that’s seven kids too many, sold off to the first messenger keeper what comes calling, stuck at that for fifteen cold, hard years before someone hijacks the transport I’m on, and all a sudden I’m not going home again. I got metal in my head and metal in my blood. I ain’t high-class folk and I ain’t too nice. I keep my mouth shut and my head down. And if that keeps me alive, it don’t mean I like it.”
Captain Benjamin Oryana, M.C. is a master cartographer, plotting “footfalls” used by faster-than-light ships to traverse space in short jumps, and he uses his well-paying official job to finance his real passion: “Apart from letting me make a damn good living if I choose to, getting my cartographer’s license gave me the means and the excuse to go poking around the very edges of the world we know and to sometimes go careening into the parts we don’t know at all. I can make money collecting stories, so long as I use those stories to find footfalls. I never have to be bored. Boredom is the only sin I believe in and the only torture I can’t bear.”
Cresley Turner is a middle-aged gunner still trying to make his fortune so he can go back home to the girl he left behind. He blames life in space, on the edges of the civilized universe, for his personal failures: “People don’t belong in space. It ain’t right. It’s just something you’ve got to pass through to get to places worth going. But spend too much time up there, and you forget what it means to be a person. To be human. You just get caught up in that mass of weirdness out there. People have got to spend as much time around other humans as they can if they want to survive it. Don’t keep too much with aliens and don’t stay on the ship when you make port.”
The next step is to work out the details of my conflict. Then I’ve got a bit of time to spend on world building–dicking around with the rules of time and space, for one–and finally I get to start planning scenes. That should get me through July, with actual fiction starting in August, if all goes well.