Sketches

For a number of years, I have been concerned at the predictability of writing in SF and Fantasy. Typically, after the first few pages you feel you already know how the story will develop and end. This issue is entrenched in the thinking of the agent-publisher model and there are no easy fixes. New Wave SF in the 60s and 70s, despite its excesses, was an early attempt to fix this. The problem was: the resulting deconstructed form took precedence over content i.e. it rarely actually wrote about anything. Four decades on, much in the genre is still deeply unsatisfactory. The formulaic is a comfort zone. Who knows what a publisher might discover if he / she stepped outside?

My answer is a sketch, with, as a nod to literary theory, realism. Guide is a series of interlocking sketches. Since completing it I have worked on the form. Subsequent sketches have multiple storylines: there for the purpose of plot structure, characterisation and world creation. Each sketch contains the seeds of its own resolution – however these aren’t spelt out – and in fact, elements of the story may be obfuscated during editing. Those I’ve done come to around 20k words (novellete-novella sized). These are:

Lucky is also on Kindle and it is free to download on:
01/03/2015
31/03/2015
01/04/2015
30/04/2015
01/05/2015

In due course I will ‘finish’ them. In the meantime I’m developing more.

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DNA Can Survive Re-entry Into The Atmospere

“DNA can survive re-entry into the atmosphere, raising the possibility of extraterrestrial life molecules arriving on Earth from space, research has shown.
The discovery came as a total surprise to scientists”
The Daily Telegraph 27, November 2014

This was discovered by a mission launched from the European Space Centre at Esrange in Northern Sweden; the TEXUS 49 mission. A ‘total surprise’ is overcooking things. Still, events have conspired to prove / disprove the hypothesis and we have a result. Space Daily (your portal to space) is somewhat less sensational: DNA may survive suborbital spaceflight, re-entry according to a study published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Cora Thiel and Oliver Ullrich from University of Zurich and colleagues. See their article here.
The TEXUS 49 rocket mission was March 2011, nearly  four years back.
ref: 10.1371/journal.pone.0018754


The idea of outer space biological contamination has been in the SF domain for years and in one form or another, it continues to fascinate writers. James White’s Sector General series (a hospital lab in space dealing with human and non-human disease) anticipates the mechanics of managing this. James White wrote his 12 ‘Hospital in Space’ themed books between 1957 and 1999.

Hospital Station by James White
Hospital Station by James White (part of Sector General)

The very first SF book I read Invader from Space (1963) by Patrick Moore had alien microbes as a theme

Dust jacket to Patrick Moore: Invader from Space
as did Michael Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain (1969). In War of the Worlds (1897), H.G. Wells turns this on its head; alien invaders are defeated by Earthly bugs.

In Andre Norton’s works, plague space-ships are a must-avoid. Harry Harrison did Spaceship Medic (1970) – I confess to not having read it. The opening paragraphs of The Boosted Man (1974), see Tully Zetford’s anti-hero, Ryder Hook, escape a frenzied mob, desperate to flee a planet infected with alien disease. Tully Zetford was also know as Kenneth Bulner.

Hook: The Boosted Man by Tully Zetford (aka Ken Bulmer)
Hook The Boosted Man by Tully Zetford (aka Ken Bulmer)

At a macro level, this is what Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s The Mote in God’s Eye (1974) deals with – an alien race that expands aggressively to fit the available space, at a high level is similar to fungus in a petri-dish, growing on a damp slice of bread. We all did that experiment in school. There are other variations on this, for example the energy forms in Peter F Hamilton’s The Reality Dysfunction.


Alien bugs coming to Earth is one of the ideas I explored in Guide (plus mutations, energy forms…)