Just in time for Worldcon 2012, the second volume of Mirror Shards: Extending the Edges of Augmented Reality is now available from several major online retailers. The book includes my story, “An Apocalypse of Her Own, One Day,” along with new work by some of my favorite writers and fellow Writers of the Future forumites, including Annie Bellet, Marina J. Lotstetter, and editor Thomas K. Carpenter. There’s no technology more relevant than augmented reality, with exciting new platforms like Google’s Project Glass no longer a distant horizon. I find that any science fiction story lacking some form of AR will soon be made quaint by the rapidly evolving capital-f Future and the promise it holds for technology of all sorts. Enjoy!
Here’s my temporary writing office, also known to some as the kitchen.
Most importantly, there’s a stack of books I’ve been using as inspiration for my novel-in-progress, which I’m calling Whispering Light for now: Chindi by Jack McDevitt, The Case for Mars by Robert Zubrin, The Dark Horse Book of Monsters, and a book of artwork by H. R. Giger, who’s perhaps most famous for his work on Ridley Scott’s Alien. And on top, you’ll find my Oakley Minute 2.0 shades, which were a gift from the girlfriend about two years ago. She got me a pair of black-and-green Oakley Jupiters as a college graduation gift, but my dog, Sam, ate them for lunch. May they rest in piece.
To the left, that’s a 15″ Dell Inspiron laptop I’ve had for three years or so, which has taken a lot of abuse in the course of both my college and writing careers — a lot of papers have been hammered out on it.
You can tell somewhat from the picture that the “?” + “/” key is more or less broken — there’s a little white mechanism that the key itself rests on, and two tiny prongs that hold it in place. At least one of the prongs is apparently busted or worn down, because it no longer functions as intended . . . but it gets the job done, with a little added force.
Normally you’d see a coffee mug with a bold dark roast, steaming and giving off its heavenly coffee-shop scent, but since it was getting late I opted to try one of my girlfriend’s Nestle PureLife (devil-corporation!) with Lemon Splash bottled waters. Not bad, but I feel morally soiled for having drunk it. I’m also fond of Coke Zero, Diet Coke, and iced tea. And on occasion, a nice cold one — Dos Equis, Red Stripe, or Blue Moon.
Don’t mind the overflowing garbage. You wanna get any writing done, you have to sacrifice some things. Y’know, like chores, showering, and breakfast. Except today. Today I had coffee and an Entenmann’s chocolate-frosted doughnut.
Also, I should probably buy some new shoes. Those once-white Jordans are getting a little beat-up, and they ain’t as comfortable as they were when I bought ‘em, maybe two years ago.
Other books I’ve been reading, or have read recently, include Michio Kaku’s Physics of the Future, Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey, The Apocalypse Ocean by Tobias S. Buckell, Distrust That Particular Flavor by William Gibson, Year’s Best SF 17, eds. David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer, Amped by Daniel H. Wilson, Leviathans of Jupiter by Ben Bova, and probably some others I’m either forgetting or gave up on before finishing. For more aesthetic inspiration, when the Giger book fails to get the gears turning, I’ll probably also dig out my copy of Spectrum 17: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art.
I’m up to 4,245 words on the novel, which means I’m at roughly 5.3% completion, based on my initial target goal of 80,000 words for a very basic first draft. That makes for the beginning of a new prologue — which may end up being the first chapter; I’m not sure yet — three more or less “finished” chapters (1-3), and the beginning of a fourth chapter. So most of the scenes are pretty short at this point, which means I’ll be going back and expanding a lot of the dialogue and descriptions once the skeleton of the novel starts to reveal itself a bit more.
I’ve currently written chapters from three different viewpoint characters, and know at least one or two more viewpoint characters will comprise the finished narrative. Would share tidbits from my research and worldbuilding, or character names, but that’d be pretty premature at this point . . . Plus, I may very well decide to use an excerpt as my quarterly Writers of the Future contest entry at some point, so I’ll have to try and maintain some anonymity. And let’s be honest: Most of you probably don’t give a damn about my worldbuilding; you’d probably rather just hear that I finally succeeded in writing one of these long, long manuscripts.
No more talking. As Yoda said so well, Do, or do not; there is no try.
My daily word count goal is 500 words, give or take a hundred. Tonight I finished at 552, and tomorrow I’m hoping to hit 1,000. That used to be my daily goal, but whenever I failed to hit it, or decided I wouldn’t have enough time, I’d just avoid writing anything at all, so the 500-a-day target has proved much more efficient on a weekly basis. It’s been getting results, whereas before 1,000 words a day wouldn’t have. The only downside is, now it’s really hard to write more than the requisite five hundred. But I’ve always been a fairly slow writer, and I write with a fairly minimalistic style, so it won’t hurt me much in the long run — at least, I hope not.
Yes. For real this time.
While my last novel idea was exciting, it was half-formed and unoriginal. Less than half-formed. Like, a-quarter-formed. It’s never going to go anywhere until I develop the premise a lot further. That’s still in the back of my mind, of course, but something I’m saving for when I’m a more mature writer. More experienced.
This time, I’ve spent months researching, reading and rereading some of the best science fiction novels I could find, and giving my creative brain a chance to play around before getting into the nitty-gritty of the thing.
Now, I’ve got a first draft in progress, and a title. Let me know what you think:
Whispering Light, that’s what I’m calling it. For now.
Postcyberpunk with a dash of near-Earth space opera. And nanopunk. Hopefully a touch of mystery, adventure, and wonder, too. Guess we’ll see.
I’ve got about three or four chapters done, but I’m only at about 4% completion as of right now. Gotta get in at least 500 more words tonight. Should be a hell of a first draft if I can keep this slow but steady, regular pace going.
I’m finding that by writing a little bit every day, rather than being lazy during workdays and writing like mad one or two days a week — like I used to have to do — I’m getting a lot more done on a week-by-week basis. And I feel a lot better about the project as a result. I’m excited about my characters, and where I hope to take them. I’m writing the sort of thing I’d like to read. Something like The Apocalypse Ocean by Tobias S. Buckell or 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke.
Oh. And I sold another short story recently. Pretty exciting news, but I can’t share the details quite yet. Check back soon.
Quick projects update, to solidify the exciting months to come:
I have shelved the Doomster novel, regrettably. It won’t disappear or go forgotten, it’s just not my priority anymore. I want to tackle an SF novel or two before I go poking into weird, experimental territory. Plus, I don’t yet feel fully comfortable writing about a culture I’ve only just begun to understand.
So, first on the agenda are two books, one self-published nonfiction and one novel: Keep Dreaming: A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Science Fiction, which will be written in somewhat sporadic, serialized form here at www.alexjkane.com and then later revised and expanded into an ebook; and an as-yet-untitled Near-Earth, Post-Cyberpunk Space Opera Novel. Any short stories I write fresh from here on out will be either companion pieces to the SF novel and its universe, or chapters pulled directly from the novel’s outline (the former being more likely than the latter, as I don’t like double-dipping too much — although it worked out just fine for Orson Scott Card and countless others).
My other project in line, to be drafted either before or after I finish Doomster, will be a YA science fiction novel adapted from my still-unpublished short story, “Prospect of a World I Dream.” For now, I’m calling the novel version A World I Dream. Taste all right to you?
Anyway, the short story version is a piece I’ve gotten almost universally positive reactions to, but which keeps getting almost-but-not-quite rejections. It deals with one specific adolescent theme, but during the brainstorming process last summer, the thing in my head was much, much larger — a kind of homage to John Brown’s slave uprising at Harper’s Ferry (with hints of other slave narratives, like “Pearl Diving,” serving to inform the premise as well) set aboard a colony ship full of adolescents under the care of computerized human consciousnesses who have been in spaceflight for millennia in search of a new homeworld.
So that brings my “Current Projects” widget up to date for y’all. I haven’t decided how much I’m ready to disclose about the new SF novel I’m brainstorming yet, but suffice it to say that it will be a lot of fun, and will take place in the same universe as some of my previous SF stories, but on a much larger scale. Also: I will endeavor to stay within the confines of “mundane science fiction” while staying true to both the space opera spirit and post-cyberpunk aesthetic, if you can imagine that. So space travel/colonization will likely encompass only a small in-system portion of the cosmos, but not to the detriment of eventual technologies that will accommodate the militarization and exploitation of the rest of Earth’s solar system.
In preparation for this new (first) book, I’ve been reading Dick’s The Simulacra, Vernor Vinge’s A Fire Upon the Deep, and Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War. My hope is to craft a story that can stand alongside the some of the most mind-expanding SF works, like 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Fire Upon the Deep, while simultaneously keeping within the limits of probable scientific progress and what I personally believe makes for a compelling, believable story. Are there aliens in this story? I suppose I could tell you that . . . except I haven’t yet made up my mind. I don’t think so, but there’s always room for a surprise or two, right? One huge component to my research process is going to be digging into my trunk, and my published stories, and rereading them with fresh, critical eyes to determine the details of my new world. I’m excited as hell to get started, so May can’t come soon enough!