The Space Cantina – Things and Stuff

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So it’s been a while hasn’t it? No, I haven’t stopped writing or dropped off the face of the Earth or anything like that. This new job has really crunched my time, first with launch of our game and now with an upcoming move to consoles, I doubt it’ll lessen anytime soon. The free time I do have I spend on my novel, penning adventures for my tabletop RPG group, or simply decompressing in front of my computer with a good, fun video game.

When I started this blog, I wanted to give myself a schedule. I wanted to challenge myself to write to it all the time, build an audience and get myself out there. I’m not sure I really succeeded but it really taught me a few things about time management. It also taught me my limits. It gave me some great stories though, and I met lots of cool people.

So what is this message? No, I’m not walking away from this blog. I’m actually considering starting up a new story in the same vein as Icarus. By that I mean, journal-entry type stories that are short and post regularly. I have a rough idea for a story but no title yet. I’ll let you know when I do.

In other news, my novella 36 Hours is currently at a publisher, though no word on its progress. I also have a SciFi short story that’s out with Analog right now, though no word from them either. Hopefully one of them might be good news, but I’m more waiting for them to come back rejected so I can send them out again. The life of a writer eh?

I hope everyone’s been great. Thank you for reading my little blog over these past few years. I’ll try and give you more reasons to come back, and soon.

Thanks everyone,

Mike.

The Space Cantina – A reflection on Icarus, a brief interlude and a steampunked 36 Hours

So Icarus has come to an end. The story was much longer in execution than I’d originally thought it would be. This wasn’t a “story that grew in the telling” exactly. It was the author still feeling his way through this new media, trying to figure out a formula for posting 3 times a week in short, but whole chunks. After a time I ended up with a 3-post arc for each week. They are hard to see but I knew I wanted to accomplish 1 thing each week and split it into a rising action, climax and aftermath, or variations thereof. I also wanted to weave two complete stories into one, though I doubt it was obvious.

This is not me claiming that I’m some super genius and no one can possibly understand the webs I weave. Please. I can hardly understand what I think up. I wanted to tell a story where you are left with your own interpretations of events, but also a pretty clear understanding of what was going to happen in the future based on those interpretations. I’ve foreshadowed quite a bit but this form, posting 3 times a week over a great period of time, does not allow a reader the luxury of absorbing it all at once. You read the foreshadowed event 5 weeks ago, only to have the event come to fruition when you’ve already forgotten it.

Small problem. I will have to think on how to avoid this in the future.

Anyway, I’m rambling. For those who read this story, I’d love to hear what you thought of it and what you imagine would happen in the future of this world. What did you get out of it? Did you like the format? Did you even like the story? If not, really, that’s okay. I’ve got plenty of strange tales yet to tell.

In other news, I just wanted to let you all know that I’m going to be taking a week off. My brother, sister-in-law and my two young nephews are visiting and I rarely see them. We live states upon states apart. I plan to come back with a re-telling of my “36 Hours” story, this time set in my own steampunked Civil War. The premise of this being an age-old theory of what might happen had Lee won Gettysburg. Historically, Lee was to march on Washington and sue for peace and recognition from the Union. Well in 36 Hours, that didn’t go so well. Washington is now in Confederate hands and Baltimore is besieged.

Here’s a little work-in-progress for its “pitch.”

When Thomas Adkin signed up to go to war, he never imagined the horrors awaiting him.

The Confederate Army has captured Washington and have pushed further into Maryland, desperate to capture the port of Baltimore. It is here that the remnants of the Army of the Potomac makes its last stand below the Dixie Line. Below the battered walls of the city lay miles of blood-soaked trenches where Thomas and his four closest friends must withstand unfathomable barrages by enemy artillery, unceasing advances made by an enemy resupplied by England and the slow, unending toll of death and shell shock. Confederate President Jefferson Davis has sued for peace, and while the Union government deliberates over the next 36 Hours, they will stop at nothing to capture this last city and push the negotiations evermore in the South’s favor.

36 Hours is a steampunk alternate history novella inspired by the works of Erich Maria Remarque’s gut-wrenching novel “All Quiet on the Western Front.” It examines the question of friendship and loyalty during a time of utter madness and certain death. Its author is a long time history buff that is both fascinated and horrified by what mankind has done to itself over the last two hundred years.

Icarus: Epilogue – August 9th, 2143 Subjective/August 9th, 2145 Objective

August 9th, 2143 Subjective/August 9th, 2145 Objective

AFTER ACTION REPORT #452
SYSTEM REPORTING: ALPHA CENTAURI; PRIMARY ALPHA
COMMAND: CSS PERSHING, 4TH FLEET
CO: 06 CPT KILLIAN, JAMES

The wreck discovered orbiting Alpha Centauri’s dwarf planet EISIN B is confirmed to be the North American Expeditionary Science Vessel Icarus. Presumed lost over fifty years ago, rediscovering the wreck will shed some light on the NAEF’s Time-Vortex technology. Following the Collapse, much of it was lost.

It appears that the ship collided with an asteroid approximately the size of a human fist at roughly one-third the speed of light. A good chunk of the forward hull was ripped away by the force of the collision. My tech officer also reports that the ship was outfitted with a type of ablative armor, though most of it seems to have been burned away.

Three crew members were recovered from the wreck, all three remarkably well preserved. They all appeared to have died of exposure, though tests will be run once we return to Earth. We simply do not have the facilities aboard the Pershing to examine them here. In the meantime they’ll be put in cryo freeze for the return trip.

We also recovered a portable computer terminal. It was found on one of the less preserved bodies and exposure has all but destroyed it. Perhaps something will be recoverable, though the technology is rather ancient. Our IT department will have a field day with it I’m sure.

For now the Pershing will be returning to Earth immediately. Once she hears about this, we’ll be made to come straight home anyway. I hope they can discover what made the Icarus operation such a failure. From what I hear, they fell off the grid the moment they went into the Vortex. Poor bastards.

Well, at least now their families might get some closure after all these years. Most have forgotten perhaps but if I know Sarah… well she won’t. Fifty years and she finally convinced the Council to send a ship here.

I’d love to hear her story some day. Seventy and can still boss around a Confed Council, no wonder she never married.

THE END

Icarus – May 1st, 2099

May 1st, 2099

How do you say goodbye to life? As it turns out, you do it as quickly as possible. My computer’s power is all but gone and I have just enough to seal away one last entry. It will be encoded and preserved as best I can, though it won’t matter. This is for me, for both of us for there are two of us: the man I was and the creature I will be.

I am hours away from the radiation kill zone around Alpha Centauri’s primary star. There is a technical name for it but I don’t remember what it is. Once the Icarus crosses that line, I will die. The ablative armor on the ship’s hull will burn away like paper thrust into a bonfire. There is the possibility of being struck by a meteorite, there’s a couple million out there, circling the planets. I didn’t aim the ship to avoid them.

Five minutes. Jesus this isn’t even going to be read. Mom, dad, you won’t even know what happened to me. Sarah? Christ you haven’t talked to me in years, a decade. It’s been a decade since I left Earth, it just doesn’t feel that way.

I came out here to get away from everything, to leave all my pain and my regrets behind. They were beasts, raging at the doors of my sanity. Out here, I thought I’d change. I was too afraid to be happy, to be the man I wanted to be so desperately. Sarah wanted me to be that man, helped and urged me to change but I wouldn’t listen.

I hear her voice, calling me. Finally. I’ve waited so long to come back. It’s the madness, the creature inside me that’s talking but I don’t care. I see a door ahead of me and it leads back to our old apartment. Inside, she’s waiting for me, looking young and beautiful. She’s beckoning and sunlight is turning her short hair to gold and white. Oh, God, if you could only see what I see.

Icarus – April 30th, 2099

April 30th, 2099

What have I done? Sarah will not come to me! She stands on the other side of the sealed doors and turns her back on me! Sarah, oh Sarah, why? I… what have I done to the controls? Why are they broken? What have I done?

The colors are all wrong in here. I must write it down, that’s it. If I write it down, it will be right again. It must be why there are so many locked entries before this. Why are they locked? Why can’t I read my own entries?

She’s looking at me, frowning, pointing. Why? What is she so upset? No! No… please, no…

Icarus – April 29th, 2099

April 29th, 2099

There is nothing brave about me. You need only look back at my previous entries to understand that, but there is something inside me besides fear. These past few days I’ve been living in a dream, following Sarah down this rabbit hole to my destruction. I loved her, more than I ever knew. She urged me to leave my desk job behind, to follow my dream and write my book. I was too scared then.

But now, in this I’ve found a kind of a strength. Here, at the end of everything, beyond the reach of mankind, I’ve found the courage to do one last thing. Sarah showed me how to steer the ship, to turn it toward the Time-Vortex Tunnel. She wants me to come home, but I’m following another dream.

All of the infected bodies and all of my crewmates are still aboard, waiting for me. They will wait until I come out and join them. Together we are poised to return to Earth and spread. I won’t allow that to happen.

We’re going to visit Alpha Centauri’s primary star. I’ve set it to hard burn and locked myself out, destroyed the panels with a wrench. It’s too late to be scared or feel sorry for myself. We’re all going to burn, flying so close to the star that we incinerate into flecks of dust.

Now I can close my eyes and let her come to me and I will accept her with open arms.

Icarus – April 28th, 2099

April 28th, 2099

The lights on the Icarus have all gone out. I float in the darkness of the engine rooms, slowly feeling a chill creep into me. The Song is my only company since the screaming stopped. I don’t hear them anymore. They neither bang on the doors nor scratch at the grating. They aren’t gone though, they’re just waiting.

Waiting for me to come to them.

Why has it taken so much longer for me? Why did it take the others so swiftly and leave me alone to wrestle with it for days? It is the sickness, I can’t deny it anymore. Soon I will be one of them. I can feel it inside me, wrenching at my muscles, tearing into my mind. It’s the Song, a kind of hive-mind. It sings to you, telling you just one thing: spread. That is the melody by which they live, a melody I am powerless to stop.

I’ve decided to be clinical about this, to describe it as best I can before I can no longer write. The fever robs you of sleep, makes you see things. For me it has been Sarah. In these waking moments I read over what I’d written before and it’s so obvious. She is the illness made manifest, coaxing me on to do its bidding. Early on, you aren’t unconscious, your mind dissolved and replaced. You are simply tricked into a delusional dream-state.

I’m no scientists as I’ve said before, but I believe it comes in the form of your greatest desire or greatest regret. It pulls on strong memories, attaches itself there and moves you toward it. Eventually even that will be gone and the tumors I’d seen will control your basest of instincts, fight and kill and feed.