Now that “The Hunt for Count Gleichen’s Treasure” has been completed and released, I felt a bit like I had lost something in my life, that something of course being the joy of plugging away writing stories. I have several ideas in my mind for new stories, but one seemed particularly attractive, one that would be romantic, science fictional, and centered on a character’s development. I outlined the plot and started writing it, and a few days later I’m now 11,000 words in! That’s a quarter of the way to the generally accepted 40,000 word minimum length of a novel in science fiction (and apparently romance).
This story is set in the same universe as “The Hunt for Count Gleichen’s Treasure”, so it is an alternate history where man’s technology is decades ahead of where it is today. I have decided to set it around the present day (there’s an explicit mention of the 2020s in a context that seems to imply it’s the present decade), but the technology level is more like what’s usually considered “near future”. Thus this is once again a work of science fiction.
A new Story comes Together
Although the plot isn’t set in stone yet, the idea is that the main character, a young woman, wistfully dreams about getting a new life and a new identity, leaving her one one behind. Fortunately this world offers her such a chance to get a new start in life; the program she ends up enrolling in is called Chrysalis. The site of it is a a space habitat in low Earth orbit, a Stanford torus with a huge hangar in the low-gravity center of the structure.
It has such a huge hangar because it’s original purpose was to serve as a waystation enabling passengers to change from Earth-to-low-orbit spacecraft to interplanetary-grade spacecraft. It still serves this purpose and is thus very busy with many people from all over the solar system passing through. This traffic made it an ideal spot for space tourism, and this is why the original installation was replaced with the Stanford torus structure. The outer part of the torus, the habitat portion, is devoted to resorts, other tourist destinations, luxurious hotel accommodations for weary travelers waiting for their spacecraft to come in, and of course some accommodations for the workforce.
One of these resorts is the headquarters of the Chrysalis program, which is a year-long program akin to a finishing school or a charm school, though it goes much further in that charm schools don’t normally provide a whole new identity. For such a program a place that is halfway, in delta-v terms, between Earth and every other destination in the solar system the girls might want to start their new lives in, that is at once removed from Earth, that offers luxurious accommodations, and a huge number of people coming in and out all the time might be ideal, and that means this space habitat in low Earth orbit.
The objective of Chrysalis is to make the young women into refined, charming, feminine ladies. As part of the process of getting a new identity, the ladies get a makeover of their choice from the best makeup artists, a whole customized wardrobe of clothes and accessories to flatter them and bring to life the style they want, and access to the most advanced cosmetic procedures and surgeries this world offers.
Beautification of the Future
The latter are advanced indeed; with near-future-level technology culturing one’s own fat cells from a sample up to any quantity desired is technically and economically viable, especially for relatively wealthy people and organizations like Chrysalis. This means that breasts, buttocks, and more can be augmented or enhanced without implanting foreign objects and substances into the body. This is safer and healthier than today’s technologies, and also leads to a much more natural look for the augmented body parts. Indeed, when it becomes viable in real life it will likely be very popular and largely displace saline and silicone implants; such has already happened by the 2020s in this universe.
Combined with liposuction, the removal of fat, this means that women may attain a variety of figures for themselves. The main character is rather attractive to begin with but is skinny and doesn’t have a very curvy figure; she gets herself ample padding in her buttocks and especially her breasts to fill out her curves, creating a natural-looking voluptuous figure. She also wants to become softer and plumper across her whole body, and for this diet is used rather than surgery in the Chrysalis program. Exercise and fitness are emphasized for Chrysalis girls, but in this case balanced out by being well-fed. This is very common, since this universe never deviated much from pre-20th century standards of beautiful weight; what we call plus-size models are normal models in this universe. Exploring what timeless beauty would mean in a world with futuristic or even present-day technology is a very interesting prospect.
Some cosmetic enhancements, of course, are still done by traditional surgery. Our girl gets her nose slimmed down a bit, her eyes opened up, and her eyebrows lifted a bit by traditional surgery. Through fillers much like the ones we have today, she gets her lips plumped up to sensuous proportions, and makes her face look fuller and rounder all over. To top it all off she’ll be getting her hair, which of course will be styled sumptuously, extended in length. Already down to her hips, she always wanted it to be longer, but after some thought she wants to extend it enough so she can have a Gibson Girl bun twice the size of her head on top and still have a classic length mane cascading down from it.
This is a perennially popular style in this universe, where women usually wear their hair long and often don’t cut it back at all, but taking it to that extreme is rare, since it requires a heroic hair length to achieve, floor length at the very least, if not substantially beyond. Most women, including our main character, cannot even grow their own hair that long. Unlike our main character, most would not be willing to put in the work required to maintain the look, not to mention the effort required to get the hair extensions matching their natural hair the vast majority would need to look like that. I’m planning for our girl’s hair length and style to be the most striking characteristic of her look; between that, her voluptuous figure, and the custom-fitted lacy sheer dresses she’ll be wearing, she’ll undergo a major upgrade in sensual feminine beauty.
Another upgrade she’ll undergo is in her posture, her manners, and her deportment, as the charm school analogy would suggest. Her expressions and way of speaking will also be improved to fit her dreams. She will learn the art of conversation. A big portion of her program at Chrysalis will be cultivating feminine hobbies, interests, and talents, pleasant activities she can pursue, ideally ones that will also attract and entertain men. Visual arts, singing, gymnastics, dancing, and the playing of musical instruments, among others, will all be offered.
As part of the process of getting her new identity her entry into Chrysalis is anonymous, and she is, like all other Chrysalis girls who haven’t already chosen a new name, given the provisional name Galatea, after the character from Greek mythology, a statue who came to life after her creator fell in love with her. Chrysalis’s alumni association is called the Sisterhood of the Galateas for that reason. Though I’m still open to alternative possibilities, I’ve pretty much decided that our Galatea will take Imogen as her new name.
After a few months, she is prepared to undergo all of her cosmetic procedures, and does so. After her training is more advanced and she’s become accustomed to and poised in her new body, she will start meeting and going out with men, and this is where the romance starts to come in. Chrysalis matches its girls who wish to become wives someday, as Imogen does, with an abundant selection of the highest-quality men. Past this point this part of the story isn’t as well developed, but Imogen will end up loving a character who is, like Imogen herself was before Chrysalis, aimless in life, having become a flâneur of that space habitat, a connoisseur of the hangar and everyone in it, what in this universe is also referred to as a “hangarnik”.
Their background, their prejudices, and their suspicions will haunt both of them and their love for each other to the point of questioning their future together. I won’t spoil the conclusion. I wasn’t planning to include much in the way of action in this story, because nothing that seems appropriate and not shoehorned in comes to mind. If a more action-packed finale comes to mind, I’ll include it, but I expect it will be driven much more by the characters’ inner feelings.
An epistolary Novel
The whole story is almost like a diary of Imogen’s experience from when she first approaches the habitat. Indeed, I am making this book what is called an “epistolary novel”, a story that consists of letters. Imogen starts writing letters to herself, starting with “Dear future me”, when she approaches the space habitat and the Chrysalis program. I was originally planning on telling the story also from the point of view of her boyfriend after she meets him in his own letters both to himself and to Imogen, but I’m toying with the idea of having it all told from her point of view. Nevertheless, I’ll probably stick with the original plan.
11,000 words in, I’ve found the epistolary format to be very enjoyable to write in. Imogen’s letters are a real pleasure to write up. I almost regret not embracing the form sooner for “The Hunt for Count Gleichen’s Treasure”. I toyed with the idea of making it an epistolary novel but decided to do a more conventional third-person narrative. I’m very satisfied with how my first novel turned out, but I honestly think my writing comes off much better in an epistolary form.
As for the title, my working title is “Dear Future Me”, after who Imogen has addressed her letters to, but I’m still exploring other titles. For whatever reason I’ve had much more fun writing this story than “The Hunt for Count Gleichen’s Treasure”. It’s not that my first novel wasn’t fun too, but the words just pour out of my mind and onto the page in this second effort in a way they didn’t for my first one. Since it’s not as complicated or as research-intensive a story as my first novel, I expect it to end up considerably shorter. I am roughly a third of the way through my plot outline now at 11,000 words, but the later part of the story isn’t as well-developed, so I expect that it will weigh in at perhaps 40,000 words by the end, so it will amount to a novel, albeit a short one.
At the rate I’m going now, 11,000 words in 3 days, I could have it all finished in a couple of weeks, though it’s very possible my rate of progress will slow down going forward. Nevertheless, I am quite confident that “Dear Future Me” will be released sometime in October.