“The Saga of Viggo and Xyla: A Romance of Dancers in Outer Space”, my fourth novel, is now published on Amazon! Click here to purchase the paperback version, or click here to purchase the ebook version.
This was one of my more fun novels to complete; at 75,000 words, it’s my longest yet, but it took only about 5 weeks to write it. I only announced it on December 28 of last year! It was refreshing and freeing to write a novel set entirely in outer space, as “The Saga of Viggo and Xyla” is, not nearly as confining as an effort set on a single planet like “Letters from the Airy Deep” was, as satisfying as writing that novel was.
Like “Dear Future Me” before it, not a single scene in “The Saga of Viggo and Xyla” is set on a planet, instead all of it is set on space habitats, space stations, and spaceships. I also found the straightforward romantic plot enjoyable and fast to write. I’ll try to keep all this in mind for the future: more sensuality, more romance, and more spacefaring seems to be the direction I will find most enjoyable.
A Romance of Dancers in Outer Space
What is “The Saga of Viggo and Xyla”? Well, as the blurb I wrote for my Amazon listing puts it:
In a world where man reached for the stars sooner than our own, the solar system of the early 21st century is filled with space habitats and colonies. Viggo, a young man raised nearly in isolation with his family on a space homestead, deep in the remoteness of the ever-expanding frontier, decides to take the plunge and make his own way in the larger universe, by enrolling in an intensive training program to join the Black Sky Dragons, a company of zero-g dancers and performing artists. At their home base of Dragon’s Tail Station, he will find not only a new level of artistry but also his first love, an adorable young woman with big green eyes who captures his imagination, a woman by the name of Xyla, a fellow aspiring Black Sky Dragon dancer, who is also making her own way in the universe for the first time. Through all the cute adventures, little challenges, and big decisions life sends their way, they will answer the question on both their minds: are they the true love of each other’s lives? Follow their journey in this, their diary entries and letters, the Saga of Viggo and Xyla.
Parts of their journey together include a date stargazing together on Viggo’s ship, a date on a cargo ship, called the Dragon’s Egg, a date where Xyla gets a makeover, and a voyage on a “party ship”, where most of it is given over to a dance floor where they dance the trip away, to a Bernal-sphere-type space habitat dedicated to winter sports and higher learning, whole towns built in Collegiate Gothic architecture nestled in its snow-and-ice-covered central valley.
There a rival girl to Xyla, a cool blonde intellectual type by the name of Alura (an old English name meaning “god-like advisor”, not “alluring”, though she is that!), lying in wait to tempt Viggo at the spherical college-and-ski-town space habitat.
Xyla, who is madly in love with Viggo by this point and has been trying for some time to get him to propose marriage to her, is heartbroken by Viggo concentrating on more intellectual interests of his, which bore her but represent a refreshing change of pace to Viggo, and on Alura, seemingly at her expense. She takes action to resolve the situation, which I won’t give away here in the interest of not spoiling the story too much!
Toward a loving Boy and a silly Girl
Viggo during the story learns to be an independent grown young man making his way in the wider cosmos, and Xyla learns to appreciate, embrace, and eventually even revel in the qualities that make her a silly fun-loving girl, something she’s hitherto always struggled with.
Her makeover, suggested by her friend Freya Camellia, is designed to give her a sillier and more girlish appearance to go with the traits she’s trying to cultivate at the suggestion of Viggo. Freya Camellia strikes a contrast with Xyla, because while both of them are very feminine, Freya Camellia is much less independent, impulsive, and inattentive than Xyla, being a very traditionally feminine and submissive wife and mother. Xyla is girlish, silly, and fun-loving, and does like it when her man takes charge, but is otherwise not submissive-minded and has very physical interests like skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, and, of course, dancing.
Freya Camellia is an instructor together with her husband, Otto, and has a small daughter, Sif, and another baby on the way. Before Viggo and Xyla’s eight-week intensive training course, the first stage of their journey to becoming zero-g dancers and performing artists, is completed she will give birth to another daughter. Her experience stokes Xyla’s romantic imagination and inspires Xyla to dream of when she’ll have children herself with Viggo.
Boy meets Dream Girl
Viggo is dreaming as well, and has a hobby in the form of visual art: painting and sketching, especially painting and sketching his “dream girl”, the type he’s always been the most attracted to and fantasized about taking as a lover. It turns out that Xyla is a close match both in appearance and personality to his fantasy woman, except Xyla has green eyes instead of blue eyes.
Those eyes are striking; being big doe eyes that sparkle in a variety of colors when light hits them, veins of rich deep green color dominating their visage. Xyla doesn’t have a monopoly on embodying his dream girl; Alura, in particular, embodies other aspects, but as the title gives away Xyla is the favorite in that contest!
There be Dragons
The station they’re on is called Dragon’s Tail Station because it is shaped like a bola, two modules tethered to each other spinning around a central axis. A big glass elevator connects the two modules; one module is dedicated to dancing, performing, learning, and living, and the other module is dedicated to a hangar for spaceships to dock with and storing supplies, and cargo for transshipment. The two modules spinning around evokes, at least in the mind of the owner, two dragons chasing each other or a dragon chasing its own tail.
I decided to make dragons something of a theme. The cargo ship that pays Dragon’s Tail Station a visit is called the Dragon’s Egg. This is because it is spherical in shape, as my post “The Shapes of Spaceships” said would be best and most common for cargo ships, and also because its captain embraces a dragon theme. The ship’s equator, that spins around and gives that section artificial gravity (leaving the axis of rotation in zero-g, much like a Bernal sphere), has an image of a dragon and a fenghuang (a Chinese phoenix) chasing each other.
This same image pervades the ship and the emblems its crew wear on their outfits. The interior of the ship is also filled with Chinese and Mongolian calligraphy, with art from East Asia being sprinkled in the crew’s living space. The captain is Chinese and the crew are predominately East Asian, but I leave their exact affiliation deliberately vague.
The owner of the zero-g performing arts company, the Black Sky Dragons (which also goes with the dragon symbolism), is also East Asian, in his case Japanese, but most of the students and instructors, and apparently the instruction, are supposed to have a much more Western background.
Last but not least, our male protagonist, Viggo, has a grandfather who he corresponds with and meets two times over the course of the novel, the second time he also meets Xyla, and is very taken with her. The grandfather is more active in the denser parts of the solar system than Viggo’s parents are, who presumably stay on their remote asteroid homestead the whole time off the page.
The novel is epistolary, told in the form of letters and diary entries, and I find that format quite enjoyable to write. It also seems to serve my stories well. So, this is my fourth novel overall and the third in a row I’ve told in epistolary format. “The Hunt for Count Gleichen’s Treasure”, my first novel, is the odd man out for being told in third-person point of view, without resort to letters and diaries.
Finding the Cover
I’d like to take this opportunity to talk about the cover. The artwork I used is a portrait painting “Corisande de Gramont, Countess of Tankerville”, by Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun. This portrait is from the late 18th or early 19th centuries, the same period and the same artist as the portrait I used for one of my previous novels, “Dear Future Me”.
This portrait encapsulated better than any other public-domain work of art (or any artwork I could make with my own skills, though I have some interest in improving upon that weakness!) the essence of Xyla as a character. Corisande is a gorgeous girl, fair just like Xyla is, a soft, opulent figure and face, a cute luscious mouth that looks as expressive as it is kissable, and most of all cute, big, girlish eyes that dominate her visage.
She also has a delightfully rich, dark, shiny, and attractive brunette hair, piled up on the back of her head with locks dangling behind her. The net effect is a very cute, feminine, and playful look, just like Xyla is supposed to be! An adorable body with an adorable soul shining through, brightening up the days of her darling man and everyone she meets.
Cute Corisande isn’t a perfect representation of Xyla. Xyla’s hair is supposed to be a lighter brunette than Corisande’s, her skin has more of an olive tone to it even if it is as fair as Corisande’s, and her eyes are blue instead of green. I love blue eyes, to the point of them being my favorite color, but for a change of pace I gave Xyla green eyes, so I had to correct that! Fortunately in this case turning Corisande’s eyes green was rather easy.
Corisande looks good with green eyes, but I confess that I felt a sense of loss changing them. The darling looks so much more wonderful with her natural blue eyes. They’re such a rich and dreamy color! Her clothes and the background in the painting also of course are designed to complement her bright baby-blue eyes. So in the interest of preserving Corisande’s true beauty for all time, here’s the real girl!
Toward the next Adventure
I think my next story, first explored in this post, which will be a radical departure in some ways, set a thousand years in the future, will also be epistolary. In yet more ways it might also be familiar, being a romantic story set in outer space, taking place in space habitats, colonies, and ships, possibly also on a variety of planets too.
In other ways it won’t be familiar. Cultural divergence across hundreds of light-years, genetic engineering, organic technology, antimatter power, and wormholes will all be widespread.
Wormholes by that point will have been refined over the past few centuries, from small non-orientable wormholes to produce antimatter, to communications links, and finally to massive “warp gate” installations enabling even the largest space habitats to travel. These links are large and centralized, and only connect the more important colonies to each other. Aside from possibly a few links to universally interesting destinations such as the galactic core true freedom of cosmic navigation remains elusive.
A young man, joined over the course of the story by a loving young woman, will seek to change that, by inventing an economical and ship-portable warp gate generator, freeing all mankind to roam the cosmos at will. Together they will face adversity and go on a quest to not only perfect this final stage of wormhole technology, but also to disseminate it into too many hands for the centralized warp gate interests to control, and to use it to its full potential to explore the universe together.
That will be a nice adventure. The greater amount of worldbuilding required might make it a somewhat slower book to write than “The Saga of Viggo and Xyla”, but I think it will be well worth it. If I like it enough I might even revisit this stage of my setting, possibly even the same characters down the road.