As 2020 draws to a close I can be proud of having written and released three novels, all of them romantic science fiction stories. Recently I’ve been taking a break from writing and have instead been collecting my ideas for my next book; it’s still in progress but I have fleshed out the story and especially the characters enough to feel comfortable sharing it with the world!
My next novel will be another science fiction romance, and for a change I am setting it in our own solar system as opposed to Proxima Centauri, and I am also setting it completely in outer space, with all scenes set in space habitats and spaceships, not once touching a planetary surface.
Lessons from “Letters from the Airy Deep”
Although writing my last novel, “Letters from the Airy Deep”, was fun, I found the process a bit confining somehow, I think because every scene was set on one planet, Thalassa, with no part of it being in outer space. My first novel, “The Hunt for Count Gleichen’s Treasure”, moved rapidly between planets and outer space, and my second novel, “Dear Future Me”, was entirely set in outer space. I found that very fun to write, and I’m curious if that will carry over to another story set entirely in outer space.
The worldbuilding for “Letters from the Airy Deep” didn’t proceed as smoothly as it did for “Dear Future Me”, largely because for the latter I had all the elements ready to go long before I started writing it; only the details needed to be filled in. For “Letters from the Airy Deep” and “The Hunt for Count Gleichen’s Treasure” I had to think of essential elements as I wrote; not an unpleasant process, but it obviously does slow down my writing considerably.
Zero-G Sports to the Forefront
In my new novel I intend to flex some worldbuilding muscle related to zero-g sports, in particular dancing and acrobatics. I have written no less than three blog posts on this subject, “Aquamusicals in Space: Worldbuilding Zero-G Sports”, “Dancing in Space: Worldbuilding More Zero-G Sports”, and “Skiing and Space Diving on Other Worlds”.
This was touched upon in “The Hunt for Count Gleichen’s Treasure”, but it will play a much more central role in my next novel, which will center on a zero-g performing arts group. that tours the solar system giving performances on space stations and habitats.
These performances aren’t going to be extremely advanced or difficult, because the idea of this group is to provide training to beginners in the field so they can do performances “showy” enough to attract an audience, especially at venues that aren’t as prestigious, competitive, or expensive in their tastes or means.
I haven’t decided exactly what kind of zero-g performances they will be doing, but dancing and acrobatics will play a central role. I am also considering the use of water, as in aquamusicals, as well as the use of ice and ice skating. An idea I would love to use is to have a zero-g sports module, cylindrically shaped, be made of material transparent to the outside and also to have ice on its walls that is transparent, thus giving the illusion of skating on the stars or on a planet’s disc. It would be spectacular.
Our Boy Protagonist: Viggo
This is where our protagonist comes in. A young man named Viggo will have spent his childhood and the sliver of his young manhood up to this point living with his parents on an isolated “spacestead”, essentially a space habitat big enough for one household to live in, a homestead in space.
Attached to a small asteroid they mine resources from, they are self-sufficient in terms of survival, though they do considerably better than that by using their investment portfolio’s returns to purchase goods and services from others. Like the vast majority of the human population in my setting, they are capitalists, not wage laborers.
Among these luxuries they purchase is frequent family vacations across the solar system, which Viggo has become accustomed to. However, Viggo’s parents wish him to live at least for a time in the broader solar system on a permanent basis so as to not have such an isolated worldview. In other words, they want him to get an education, and much like aristocrats of old who sent their young men on “grand tours” of Europe to become educated, so they send Viggo on a grand tour of the solar system.
The method of doing so, though, is not ordinary traveling, but rather by Viggo applying to this performing arts program, and likely others as well. Viggo has long nurtured an interest in the performing arts, even taking classes, courses, and lessons while vacationing and whenever his family could find a teacher willing and able to pay him a house call. In the long stretches between those events, however, he has more or less taught himself.
His abilities remain somewhat underdeveloped, so any intensive or higher-level training would be a challenge for him. Like most young men, however, Viggo likes a challenge, especially in something he’s interested in, and it will give him something to do on his tour, something to bind him to the broader solar system, a structure that will deter him from getting stuck in a rut or running back home.
How this program works is that an audition in the various performing arts they do is required, and it demands a certain minimal level of proficiency and most importantly promise. Beyond that bar it is a lottery, a random selection; Viggo is one of the lucky winners for the season and off he goes to join his new group and embark on what could become a new life for him. This is where I think my next novel will begin.
Immersion in the Performing Arts
The training will be one-on-one and intensive, the equivalent of a full-time or even more-than-full-time job, but their minds and bodies will be taken care of very well by the program, in much the same way the Chrysalis program in “Dear Future Me” does, only in a sportier way.
Opinions and experiences differ, but my idea is to get them in good enough shape to be performing in a matter of weeks. For both dancing and ice skating a few hundred hours might be sufficient for the purposes of the program. 500 hours, to take a high-end figure for “a few hundred”, at 8 hours per day every day is 62 days, which seems to roughly match what I have in mind.
Admittedly this flouts the so-called “10,000 hour rule”, but keep in mind the 10,000 hour figure is not to be adequate for the job but rather to be a world-class expert, and even then there’s reason to believe 10,000 is a large overestimate.
Also keep in mind that after that first bout of training they will continue to perform and “up their game”. I wouldn’t be surprised if they start out at a very low level of performance early in their program and then gradually work their way up to higher and higher level venues as they progress.
I think I might also like to include previous seasons’ cohorts in the program, so that more experienced performers might serve as a core group for the more advanced performances in higher-level venues so they can pull them off effectively as well as teaching and mentoring the beginners.
This would also nearly explain the presence of more experienced and older participants in the same setting, which is vital to how my story unfolds as I envision it.
Our Girl Protagonist: Xyla
As Viggo enters his program and gets into the thick of it, he is of course not alone. Among his cohort is a girl who captures his eye from the moment he first sees her, a gorgeous green-eyed brunette named Xyla. Her eyes big and dreamy (in fact they’re striking and by far her most attractive feature), her hair a rich dark chestnut color, her skin a fair but still olive tone betraying some Mediterranean heritage, and her lips invitingly luscious, she is literally his dream girl. The kind of woman he always fantasized about marrying bears an uncanny resemblance to her, and thanks to his other interest in visual art and painting he has the pictures to prove it.
As an aside you might recognize the name Xyla from my post introducing “Letters from the Airy Deep”. In that post a name I considered for the male protagonist in that was Xylo, an ancient Greek word meaning forest, but I dropped it in favor of Ilmarinen. Xyla is the feminine variant, and suits a girl who might well have Greek heritage and who has brown hair and green eyes, both the colors of trees, very well.
Xyla will be an imaginative girl, warm and affectionate, very prone to being swept away by girlish fantasies, but not very bright in an academic sense; certainly she’s not very studious. She can hold an intelligent conversation with Viggo, but she isn’t nearly as well-read as he is nor is she particularly interested in becoming so. He thinks she’s very cute, though, and is swept up along with her, making him feel more alive than ever before; that feeling, in fact, is Viggo falling in love with her.
Mentors for both Xyla and Viggo
In romance he’ll have a mentor to call his own, his grandfather, who has maintained closer ties to the bright heartland of the solar system than his parents have, and thus can readily check in on him personally. This grandfather, who wouldn’t be out of place in a swashbuckler story, will have plenty of experience and interesting stories (even if untold on in this novel) to fall back on.
Originally from Alaska, he moved to outer space because Alaska became too civilized for his taste; his son, Viggo’s father, was made out of even wilder stuff, hence his lust to go out and become a spacesteader. The family’s ethnic background is Germanic, but from a region of Europe further east than Germany. I like the idea of them having Baltic German heritage, but I haven’t entirely decided yet.
Xyla, our heroine, will also have a mentor, in the form of another girl who is already married, a happy wife and mother of one small child, with another on the way soon, maybe giving birth during the story. Her name is Freya Camellia, always referred to by both of her names. Both Xyla and Freya Camellia are very feminine girls, but whereas Freya Camellia is a proper lady Xyla is a much more spirited lady.
Despite or perhaps because of their differences they become good friends, with Freya Camellia taking Xyla under her wing, to the point of making her over so her clothing, makeup, hairstyle, and general look is similar to her own.
I am thinking that both Freya Camellia and her husband might be in one of the more-experienced cohort of the program and thus might have a lot of contact with Viggo and Xyla as they start their new lives.
Our new Love Interest: Alura
It’s not all smooth sailing, however. Viggo has other interests, too; him being well-read and being somewhat frustrated that he can’t express that part of himself in his new life leads to him seeking out intellectual circles. When the arts program takes a long break, perhaps a two week break for the students to vacation after they complete the initial two-month stage of their training, Viggo goes out to another habitat and joins an intellectual circle there.
This habitat will be one that harbors a town-sized collection of Collegiate Gothic buildings, and will have all the forms of a university. The learning collective structure of the setting, however, means the actual institution might resemble a library or research center more than what we think of as a college, though this would be in many respects a reversion to the original form of universities.
While there, perhaps as part of an opportunity of some sorts to find new recruits, Viggo finds a new love interest, a blonde girl named Alura (seriously, it’s an old English name meaning godlike advisor, not alluring, though she is that!) who is much more well-read than Xyla and much more flirtacious with him; in fact, she’s studying history in her learning circle and has an ambition to write a historical treatise.
Viggo will practically be swept away by Alura, and a chance as he sees it to find a true companion of the mind. But she lacks the warmth, sensuality, and spontaneity of Xyla, and after a brief infatuation his relationship with Alura seems empty and a dead-end. Worse still, Xyla feels justifiably like she’s been forsaken and her overactive and girlish imagination has conjured up a fantasy of her beloved finding love in another woman’s arms. Will Viggo be able to win back the heart of his true love before she boards the first spaceship back home and deserts him in tears?
Well, you’ll have to wait until reading the story to know how that turns out!
Thoughts on this Novel’s Elements
But aside from the love triangle, the most prominent elements in the story are the young man improving himself as he finds his place in the larger world and finds love and romantic passion for the first time, paralleled by his beloved woman, and rotation of the various outer-space locations and settings in the solar system of the near future. Well, near-future technology anyway, since it’s set in an alternate history with a more advanced present; still, the basic idea does translate to real life.
Other prominent elements include the aesthetics of arts such as zero-g dance, ice skating, and acrobatics, and music both instrumental and vocal, as well as the lived environment and the beauty and fashions of its people, particularly its women. Like in all my stories to date, most prominently “Dear Future Me”, clothing, makeup, hairstyles, and accessories will be prominent.
I’m thinking that Freya Camellia might wear camellia flowers very often, and will have a hairstyle dominated by ringlets, eventually persuading Xyla to go for ringlets too. Like all the women in my stories (it must be the fashion in this world!) their hair is long, long enough to make tumbling cascades of ringlets that are at least waist length. Resting on their soft and supple bodies with their hourglass figures the tumbling ringlets would make for an irresistibly sensuous look.
Indeed, together with all those flowers, the bold yet girlish makeup, and the very soft, flattering, and feminine outfits she favors Freya Camellia is irresistibly sensuous to her husband and enjoys a passionate marriage. Her husband’s lust ensures she is well-pleasured, nurturing a glow of feminine happiness every day, and also gives her two children after just a couple years together.
Not wanting to limit their expressions of love for each other any day of the month and wanting to see more children that are just like their dearly beloved in the world has resulted in them, without even really making a conscious choice about it, rejecting even natural family planning. Freya Camellia is especially passionate about it; having always wanted to be a wife and mother, her passionate adoration of her husband makes rejecting or even doing anything other than joyfully embracing a “bundle of love” from him unthinkable for her.
She is a mentor to Xyla, but her downright obedient attitude toward her husband, her embrace of wifehood and childbearing as the greatest calling for a woman to the point of almost completely superseding any interest in the arts, and her preference for comfort over excitement spurs Xyla to search elsewhere for her answers much of the time. She wants to be a wife and mother too, but in a way that’s more free-spirited and fun-loving; in this she’s much more representative of this world’s mainstream than either proper lady Freya Camellia or academic achiever Alura.
So, you see my thoughts on the set-up for my next novel. I think there’s plenty of material to work with. Sensuality and the arts will be prominent in this story, as will the daily life and history of this world, both things that I’m looking forward to doing. There are other ideas, such as a visit to a spherical cargo ship, along the same lines as my blog post “The Shapes of Spaceships” (yes, I make use of everything I think of in due time), a library date, and a old-fashioned rowboat date, all things I’ve never done before.
I hope this whets your appetites for my latest novel, and keep an eye out for updates in coming weeks and months on my progress.