No, I’m not boiling a wicked brew for Macbeth, or for anyone else! You readers and your melodramatic imaginations. Tsk-tsk. Anyway, after the completion of my most recent short story, “A Trip to Starlit Spa”, I have several ideas for my next effort that I’m somewhat torn between, though I’m leaning toward one of them already.
The Abyss of Ariel
The first story, and the one I’m leaning toward doing next, is one where a group of girls go on a spectacular trip to Ariel, one of the moons of Uranus, which in this setting at least (it’s still uncertain in real life) has a subsurface ocean surrounding the core. As the ToughSF blog points out in a post about colonizing Uranus, the economics of mining material for space colonists out from Ariel, assuming there is a subsurface ocean surrounding the core that can be accessed through that icy exterior, are much more favorable for Uranians than asteroid or comet mining…at least until space travel across large distances becomes very cheap and rapid or until an interorbital kinetic energy exchange network is set up
At that point it would become much harder for the large corporate mining operations that dug out the place originally to break even, and so we could easily have a whole mining infrastructure along with all manner of watery tunnels and airy bubbles in the ice go abandoned mere decades after it was originally built.
My idea is that just this happened in my science fiction setting, and by around the present day (this is an alternate timeline) or into the mid 21st century it’s been abandoned for decades. With spaceflight technology as advanced as it is in my timeline, the Ariel mines were likely a very speculative and marginal venture to begin with, and likely were never profitable, the mining companies possibly keeping workers there for a while just to bring some revenue out of the place, until they become so uncompetitive they can’t even turn an operating profit anymore.
These abandoned tunnels, abandoned air bubbles in the ice, and dark ocean, possibly filled with local life, harboring abandoned submarines and abandoned drilling rigs on the seafloor piercing the core, would all make for a rather eerie environment. Into this environment would step in a group of girls after one of the solar system’s ultimate vacations, taking a submarine or perhaps appropriating one of the abandoned ones into the ocean, exploring the eerie environment and telling each other ghost stories.
The Flying Arielian
But the ghost stories become all too real when they start hearing distant pings and creepy sounds on the sonar, distant explosions, and things like cables dragging across their hull. Somehow (I’m not sure how at this stage) they discover that this is not the work of ghosts (the ghosts of Ariel are by this time legendary throughout the solar system) but rather a man who lives in one of the air bubbles and has made a very good life for himself as a hermit in a space-arctic monastic sort of setting, a man who was presumed dead as a youth after the rest of his immediate family perished in an accident during the evacuation.
Sensing an opportunity to do what he always wanted to do, disappear from mainstream society and be in perfect stealth, he adopted that way of life, his only companionship being machines and robots left behind as well as the interplanetary Internet, which he accesses anonymously via a transceiver on the surface he appropriated.
He meets the girls, including the leader and financier of the expedition, Ariel (named after the moon), a rich and very pretty girl. A real party girl, her only role in life is to have a good time with her friends, always on the hunt for sensations, delights, and pleasures, enjoying a hedonistic, even crazy, lifestyle. In fact she arranges frequent parties filled with heart-pumping music and dancing even in their submarine! She has much the same sensuality to her as the hostess character from “The Saga of Viggo and Xyla”.
Like girls in my stories tend to be, she might be a party girl but she’s also a good girl, being sober and quite chaste, because she’s very romantic, her distractible little head filled with girlish fantasies of her one true love, who she hopes to marry, have tons of fun with in every day, and have a lot of children with, her only real aspiration in life aside from having fun with her girlfriends.
As it turns out this ice-planet answer to Captain Nemo, or even more obviously Richard Wagner’s version of the Flying Dutchman, intrigues her to no end and she finds him very attractive, surprising even herself. Meanwhile, the Flying Arielian (don’t worry, that won’t be his name or the title of the book!) is gradually infected by her youthful, peppy, and enthusiastic personality and finds her irresistible. Will she succeed in coaxing him to (almost literally!) come out of his shell, or will she emerge from the icy deep still single? Well, I won’t spoil everything before I even write it!
Honestly, writing it out like this makes me want to write it even more! I think it’s a great story!
A Far Future Story
Another idea I have has similar themes, only it’s set in the far future, some time after “Warp Dawn”, after ship-portable wormhole travel becomes commonplace. Living in a ship all alone since she was orphaned is a girl who is completely alienated from her own culture, having passed well into adulthood without undergoing the rituals that initiate her into the erotic and hedonistic life that’s the norm for their women (and men, for that matter!), interacting with others only virtually over the wormhole-driven and far-future version of the Internet, the warp net.
Being of a very hedonistic, promiscuous, and erotic race, her body has filled out to be very soft and voluptuous, her proportions opulent, her every movement oozing sensuality, but with no one else to enjoy it with because she’s too scared, anxious, and intimidated by the outside world to come out, the only solace for her red-hot libido being a skin-tight computer-controlled pleasure suit.
If that sounds like a parallel to the NEETs and hikikomori of our time, not to mention the virtual-centered work-from-home lifestyle that’s prevailed under “lockdown”, that’s because it basically is; it’s not really intended to be a social commentary, rather I just found the general idea of a character like that too interesting in a far-future space context not to use.
Given that virtual reality exists by that time, roughly a thousand years from now, robots and computers are advanced enough to provide companionship, she has instant travel to anywhere in the cosmos, and she lives in a spaceship big enough to be a full-fledged space habitat, she has a much fuller life than any hikikomori of today, having seen all manner of cosmic wonders, just with scrupulously avoiding much contact with human or even alien society.
A Girl comes into the World
All that changes one time when she goes to the surface of a remote but very earth-like planet for a camping trip. By chance an alien spaceship enters orbit at around the same time, and their occupants are curious about her, a lone human on a planet she has all to herself. So they go down to her campsite on the planet, and greet her en masse.
This isn’t too intimidating for her, since these aliens are bioluminescent, glowing blue, flying creatures not that much bigger or bulkier than a butterfly who live in tight-knit colonies, always staying in large groups; so an alien who’s so solitary arouses their curiosity. At first she’s alarmed but then they make sure she understands they’re friendly, and establish communication.
Having rejected human society and having been essentially chosen by aliens, she establishes a real sense of friendship with them and they travel with her, forming a miniature space fleet. The experience socializing in person rekindles her confidence, and eventually, at the aliens’ behest, she starts traveling and socializing with humans in person, at first cautiously but then more boldly.
Eventually she takes up a lifestyle of roaming big space-habitat gathering places and people-watching. Despite her confidence socializing and reaching out to people she doesn’t find anyone she really likes, with the glowbug aliens being her only real friends.
Until she seeks out and meets a group of girls (a multiracial group, not a group of her own race) who are courtesans, or at least the 4th millennium equivalent, who are all fascinated by her, and she with them. The introduction she gets into their lifestyle is like the initiation she never had in her own culture, and it’s here that her confidence and consequently her popularity rise, with her unusual background being a big draw for men.
The arc of the story is more about her overcoming her own limitations, setbacks, and discouragements than a conflict between characters, and it isn’t exactly a romance either. She develops genuine feelings of love and tenderness for the men she sees, which, much like many courtesans of our history, is a very selective group, rendering her sex partner count surprisingly low for someone whose calling in life is providing companionship, up to and including sex, to multiple men at any given time, but not passionate love for a single person she wants to build a life with like in a typical romance story.
Building from “Warp Dawn”
This distinguishes her sharply from Emma of Atlas in “Warp Dawn” as well as the other girls of her race, who are all dreamy-eyed sweethearts designed to bond to and pleasure their first man, their wombs blissfully swelling with child after child after child, ’til death do they part, designed and raised to be the ultimate wife and mother.
This distinction is actually quite deliberate. It’s a diverse galaxy, after all, and there are bound to be racial lineages who seek to create not the ultimate wife and mother but rather the ultimate courtesan, not a soul mate for one man but rather a playmate for every man who strikes her fancy.
This story would also explore a question that has been in the back of my mind since I first worldbuilt Perun’s and Emma’s race for “Warp Dawn”: what if someone misses these societies’ initiations into the realm of erotic bliss and falls off the life track their forebears had in mind when they built their genes and their ancestral culture? What if circumstances don’t create a youth as fulfilling and wonderful as what Perun and Emma enjoyed?
A romantic Pirate Story
The third story, and one I’ve had on the back burner for months by now, is one where a Reinhardt heiress, Edelweiss Reinhardt, nicknamed Rapunzel Reinhardt because of her exceptionally long hair extensions, is inspired my her relative Menteith Reinhardt (he of “The Hunt for Count Gleichen’s Treasure” fame) and sets up a challenge in outer space to find a husband worthy of her affections, where she poses as a damsel in distress, with enough obstacles to weed out all but the most devoted, determined, and crafty men.
The twist happens when her hero, a sexy billionaire tech mogul, is about to rescue her and win the game, with the spherical web of automated defenses around them is hacked and turned against her, letting in a pirate who holds both of them for ransom, and who claims victory in the challenge or perhaps changes it, saying that any rescuers will now be given a real challenge.
A much older woman relative of hers, Emma Reinhardt, long-time CEO of the semiconductor company their ancestor, Otto Reinhardt, founded all the way back in the 1920s, assembles the combined power of her own wealth base, her women’s tech collectives, and mercenaries to stage a rescue.
As the pirate makes romantic overtures to her (but, luckily for her, he’s too chivalrous to rape her; I’m not writing a dark or gritty story here!), she instead falls in love with her fellow captive, the man who would have won the quest were it not for the pirate’s intervention, and together they attempt to escape not long before Emma’s troops arrive, putting the pirate, and possibly his captives too, in a very uncomfortable position.
I also have a fourth story idea that’s a short story about someone custom-ordering a spaceship in the early 21st century of my timeline, along the same lines as “A Trip to Starlit Spa”, sort of like someone custom-building a hot-rod dream car. I think it would be a very fun premise to write, but I’m not feeling like writing that particular story now.
Having written out and publicized the ideas for these four stories, I’m not much more decided than I was when I started, but I still find the first one, the Ariel story, to be most appealing. On the other hand, the second one, the far-future story, is also appealing. I’ll likely go for the Ariel story first, but I won’t entirely rule out pursuing the far-future story at this time. All four will likely be written by me at some point, though, so keep your eyes on this website.