Category: Personal


Pulse-stormwork_sm

Sketch for “Stormworks”
A Pulse class freight hauler unloads and undergoes routine maintenance, before inclement weather rolls in.

The last few weeks and months have been pretty crazy for me, so I’ve had to try and find creative outlets whenever, wherever, I can in between fits of depression, high anxiety and general aloofness. So what does that mean? Well, it means that I end up having “half an idea” and the need to do something with it.

So, what can you do with half an idea?

Before that, what the hell is “half an idea?”  To me, its defined as that idea that gets you really excited, but when you sit down to capitalize on it, you realize it was an only empty shell and work on it is stalled almost as soon as you put pen to paper.  In my imagination, ideas come thick and fast, but most of them are tenuous and useless. “Half an idea” is basically the minimum that can get you anywhere, but there’s a lot of work to do with it. Given time and effort, that idea can be transformed into something worth sharing, so long as you can get over the hump of impatience that awaits you.

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Turns out this is a bad week for SF fans. I owe a lot of my current fascination with space opera to Iain (M) Banks, and so the news of his condition was like a knife twisting in my gut. I’m glad he still has things to look forward to with his marriage and honeymoon, but he deserves much better.

At the time I had started reading Consider Phlebas, his first Culture novel, I hadn’t read SF for about six years, and actually reading very little. I was also separated from my wife at that time and generally in a demented mental state. Tough times. I took a chance on Consider Phlebas after seeing it many times at Bakka Books, seduced by its cover and the staff’s recommendations. The opening quotes and the first three pages hooked me as few novels do, and the rest of its pages jacked open my skull and dominated my brain for years to come.  The man is a living mountain of SFA few years later, I realized that he was the forefront of “the New Space Opera” and I feel he still is.

He is a blessing to science fiction, tearing down what was once a dismissed artform and reinvigorating it to such a degree that its audience has grown widespread and most importantly, the genre respected again.  Iain brought us hard science, compelling ideas, stunning creativity and scoops of the irreverence and thought provoking themes that make his work so damn likable and hard to put aside.

I tip my hat to his creative soul and wish him all the best in the face of this disturbing news.

Deepest regards,

–Ken

 

To Iain,

Thanks for creating something that turned my life around, and gave me something precious: a new horizon to explore.

— Ken

the-next-big-thing1Thanks to the kindly C.B. McCullough (still not sure if a distant relation!) Pan Spectrum Analyzer has been nominated for a blog-hop: The Next Big Thing.  I’m a bit too humble for my own good, so writing something like this feels rather weird to me, but here we go.

What is the title of your book?

And we’re off to the hard questions already.  It actually doesn’t have a name yet, so I’ve been forced to resort to “Pan Spectrum Analyzer” or just PSA to tag it.  Its not even really finished, but it is kinda. I have no idea what it might finally be called.

What is the genre of your book?

Considering the specification of what science fiction is, I’ll have to say Sci-Fi, as the novel itself isn’t based on a scientific notion. It is slathered with science-fiction tropes though, with nods of space opera through and through.

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Karyss_Prologue

Karyss aboard the Hegemony ship, Respondent.

I’ve posted a lot about my science fiction novel in progress. I’ve talked about the illustrations I’ve done for it and plastered them across this site. I’ve blabbed about the processes I’ve used to get my head in its reality. I’ve mentioned the spacecraft and its denizens, and blah blah blah…  but I’ve never actually shown anything from its pages.  I guess its about time, eh?

Like all things, there are reasons for that.  Creative types can be insecure about their work, especially their “favourite child.” But a protective father needs to let their sweetheart out of the house to live her own life, so here we go.


Pan Spectrum Analyzer (working title)

“We all aspire to take upon ourselves a Great Journey, but only a few of us ever do.”

Prologue

Mbali Sector, deep space, T + 65 days (Starship Sequential/Chronological Time)

“Collision imminent!”

Karyss was only dimly aware of the vacc-suit’s alarm klaxons insistently sounding off, somewhere deep under layers of her ragged, forced breathing. The shrieking rush of blood in her ears was far clearer than the proximity warnings and victimized screams leaping from the comms. Too much was happening, too fast to follow. Overwhelming. Soul crushing. She needed to focus and figure out what was important.

“Collision imminent!”

Deep breath, girl, deep breath. She clawed air into her lungs, bringing brief clarity. She shrugged around in the stiff vacc-suit, glancing around as much as she could, snatching glimpses that brought her situation into an even starker reality.

Incandescence surrounded her – the dying breaths of a hundred spacecraft exhaled as violent flowers of burning vapour miraculously blooming from their hulks: volatile gas spilled from shattered starships shocked to ignition by radiant, prismatic showers of sparks. They rapidly boiled away into the void, eerily silent, their passage illuminating skeletal wrecks, scattered bodies of crew, faint zig-zag plumes of lifeboat burn motors; the embers of a once proud navy.

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Karyss-shade3a-FX

Karyss, drawn in 2013

Karyss is the protagonist of “PSA”  the Science Fiction novel I’m currently writing for what seems like forever. Young and unassuming, she lives a life defined by the everyday, never questioning the world beyond that she sees, but a brave, yet foolish step toward her dreams casts her adrift amongst the stars, on a journey she could never imagine, let alone understand.

But my story of her is a little different than the novel’s.

Karyss entered my life back in 1997. She didn’t know it was going to happen and neither did I. I had logged onto an online text-based MUD (I was addicted to them at the time) and was spontaneously asked the odd question “Character Name?”   I knew this question was going to come up at some point while starting a new character on a new MUD, I just wasn’t ready for it then.  Really, without thinking, I typed the word “Caryss” and hit enter. I think I had thought of a strange version of “Chris,” then “future-ized” it. About 30 minutes later, I left that MUD never to return – but I took Caryss with me.

Caryss

Early version of Caryss from 1999.

Since then, she has bobbled to the surface of my imagination quite frequently. I found myself having to write glips and glops for this and that, and she kept stepping through the brain-idea barrier every time. Here, she is a bounty hunter, there an inadvertent terrorist, and over here, a co-pilot of a starship. These versions of Karyss were obvious nods to the pulpy SF I’ve absorbed and desired to write ever since I was six and seeing Star Wars that fateful summer. Then, she was lithe, sexy, full of attitude… In other words, a stereotype and not much else. She needed depth.

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