Friday, 18 April 2014

SFFSat 19 - 4 - 14 Black Ice -1

This is my snippet this week for SFFSat. SFFSat is a place where a number of authors post snippets from their written works, and give the opportunity for comments, support and encouragement. Please also explore the other blogs that are part of this set - you can find the information here. 


This time, I'm starting the second Anton deGama story, Black Ice.

The harpoon slammed into the sliding permafrost, getting no grip at all, and doing absolutely nothing to stop the crawler's descent. The craft lurched sideways again, methane mist snarling around the racing tracks. Anton keyed in to haul back the harpoon, and eased off on the throttle, hoping that slowing the engine might regain control of the sliding ground-craft. According to the manual, VauxHall-Douglas claimed the duranium-alloy heated tracks could maintain a secure grip whatever the surface, whatever the gradient, within reason. Presumably, Anton murmured to himself, VHD did not consider 30 degrees to be within reason.

The ammonia permafrost beneath the crawler was sliding faster, sending more mist and debris up around the cockpit, reducing visibility further. The vehicle had already slipped 80 metres down the hillside, and was gaining speed. More worryingly, according to the chart Titan-B had provided, there was a drop-off only a thousand metres below him. Anton had a shrewd suspicion that VHD's guarantee of the durability of the crawler would be invalidated by a 30 kilometre fall into one of Titan's justly-feared trenches.


 I can't claim responsibility for the image, which is stolen from somewhere on the internet and photoshopped to fit the story - if the copyright holder objects, I will remove it again, and there is no intent to challenge the copyright holder's rights to the image.

Comments welcomed.

Friday, 11 April 2014

SFFSat 12/04/2014

This is my snippet this week for SFFSat. SFFSat is a place where a number of authors post snippets from their written works, and give the opportunity for comments, support and encouragement. Please also explore the other blogs that are part of this set - you can find the information here. 


This time, I'm putting up a new snippet from chapter three of Sorrel in Silver, the third volume in Sorrel's saga. Sorrel has been in the pub too long...



Berindyl turned at my expiration of breath, and glowered at me. 'You have a better idea?'
I glared back at her. The cider was not helping my skill at diplomacy. All right, so most people will tell you – rightly – that I am about as diplomatic as the average toddler, but with the amount of alcohol I had consumed my skill in that direction was approximately non-existent. My fists were clenching - I was spoiling for a fight.
Wrack's hand rested heavily on my shoulder, pressing me down into the soft fabric of the chair. 'Enough stupidity' he growled. 'Need to think more clearly in the morning.'
He looked at me levelly, daring me to disagree with him.
Which was more than enough to make me do just that.
'Volg off, Wrack! If she wants a fight, she can have one!'
'Sorrel assumes that she can solve everything with violence' Berindyl said caustically.
I was on my feet, about to fling the remnants of my cider into her face, before I realised that doing so would prove her right.


As always, comments welcomed!


Friday, 4 April 2014

SFFSat 5/4/14

This is my snippet this week for SFFSat. SFFSat is a place where a number of authors post snippets from their written works, and give the opportunity for comments, support and encouragement. Please also explore the other blogs that are part of this set - you can find the information here. 


This time, I'm putting up a snippet from Sorrel in Silver, the third volume in Sorrel's saga. Sorrel is in an aerial duel with an acid-spitting snarq. She ducked into a column of smoke, just as the brute's spittle connected.



I hauled back on the stick. An unwise inhalation of smoke made my lungs burn. Beside me, over the roar of the engines, I could just hear Kelhene coughing, too. The Cygnet was climbing, and the cockpit was suddenly awash with light again from the nearest lantern tree. I stared round us wildly, trying to spot any of the snarqs – or Wrack.
Four of the acid-spitting brutes had soared into the air as we neared the burning ruins of Telzanrik. Wrack had peeled off instantly and dived towards the first of the blue horrors. I'd barbecued a second with a blast of fire from the magerealm moments later – no way I was letting Wrack have all the credit for the kills – before the third one had swung around behind us. The smoke from the inferno below us was coating the wings with soot; but the canvass on the upper right wing was a nasty shade of yellow, the doped cloth disintegrating as I watched. If the acid went on eating into the aeroplane we were in real trouble.


  As always, comments welcomed!

Friday, 28 March 2014

SFFSat 29/03/2014

This is my snippet this week for SFFSat. SFFSat is a place where a number of authors post snippets from their written works, and give the opportunity for comments, support and encouragement. Please also explore the other blogs that are part of this set - you can find the information here. 

This time, I'm putting up a snippet from Sorrel in Silver, the third volume in Sorrel's saga. These are the first lines of the book - starting in the middle of the action.




Whoever said two heads are better than one hasn't had to fight snarqs. Kelhene, in the co-pilot's seat, was shouting about the brute being right behind us. Not the most helpful thing to tell me – I was only too well aware that a two-headed, acid-spitting, bat-winged serpent was tight on my tail. I flung the Cygnet into a dive, shoving the joystick forward and sideways to get the biplane out of the line of fire. The snarq opened both mouths and spat, and two gobbets of acid hissed through the air towards us. A moment later the world went black.
I felt the airframe shudder. One – or if we were really unlucky, both – of the acid spittles had hit us. I could see absolutely nothing – we had flown into one of the columns of thick, black smoke rising from the burning city below us. It meant the snarq couldn't see us – I hoped. It also meant that if there was anything in my path I had no way of evading a collision.


  As always, comments welcomed!



Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Influences: Andre Norton

1971. A boy, no more than eight, went into Carnegie Library's junior section. He hadn't been in here more than once or twice before. He chooses two books – both science fiction, chosen for the intriguing covers. One is a story of a meeting with aliens by the crew of a space rocket – First Contact, by Hugh Walters. And the other is bright green, with a robot being watched from concealment by an elfin figure. Victory on Janus, by Andre Norton.

 
I hadn't read anything by Andre Norton before then. Actually, I hadn't read a great deal at all. Victory on Janus was the second part of a two-book sequence (trust me to jump in half way through). It was far stranger, more alien, than the straightforward space adventure I had picked up alongside it. And it intrigued me. I don't think I really understood it, but there was enough action, adventure and tension to capture my attention.

 
Over the next three years I devoured books. Andre Norton wasn't the only author I loved, but she was among the top half dozen authors, and probably, looking back after forty years, one of the most influential. Star Rangers, The X-Factor, Catseye, Star Guard, Night of Masks, The Beast Master, Lord of Thunder, Sargasso of Space and Postmarked – The Stars. I read and re-read these from the library. And others, too, but that little list of books were critical. Books that told me how a story should be written.



 
The stories were intended for young adults (so I, still thoroughly pre-teen, was perhaps too young for them – but that never troubled me) – but their heroes were adults. These were not stories about children. But I felt an affinity for Norton's heroes. They were typically outsiders – often almost friendless, feeling alien in the settings they found themselves in. Growing and developing, gaining strength and confidence. Classic coming-of-age stories, but they resonated with me. 





 
They also involved non-humans alongside the humans, ex-tees (a Norton term for extra-terrestrials that felt natural and real) who weren't automatically the enemy. Often the aliens were the most sympathetic characters for the hero.

Of course, what I notice now as I re-read these is how few female characters appeared. Some novels had no women at all. At the time, that didn't trouble me. Now, it feels wrong, but Norton was writing these books for her market in the fifties and sixties.


  

As I grew up, I discovered new novels. Dark Piper scared me – the first apocalyptic novel I had read that had any impact on me. Moon of Three Rings was the first that jumped from narrator to narrator, confusing me greatly until I worked out what I was reading. The Zero Stone. Ice Crown. Uncharted Stars. Names to conjure with – but the core stories for me were the ones I read when I was very young. The Solar Queen stories – Sargasso of Space and Postmarked – The Stars were books I read time and again. It wasn't until I was in my late teens I learned there were two other books in the sequence, Plague Ship and Voodoo Planet, which I grabbed urgently. And the Dipple stories – Catseye and Night of Masks. These were books set in the far future, not anywhere akin to Earth, but in worlds that felt real and complete.
 
In my late teens and early twenties I discovered much more she had written – Witch World, particularly. But it is still those early novels, which I read almost exclusively in the Gollancz hardbacks pictured here, which have stayed with me... and editions of which still grace my shelves now, and which I still re-read with great fondness.



















The cover illustrations are all shamelessly stolen from the website of Andre-Norton-Books.com with grateful thanks - I would add that Night of Masks and Sargasso of Space are my copies, scanned and sent to the site to add to their collection of covers.

Friday, 21 March 2014

SFFSat 22/3/2014

This is my snippet this week for SFFSat. SFFSat is a place where a number of authors post snippets from their written works, and give the opportunity for comments, support and encouragement. Please also explore the other blogs that are part of this set - you can find the information here. 



Poisoned Ice   part 7

This is the final part of a science fiction short story.  The first six segments are earlier in this blog.  Anton deGama's spacecraft in the rings of Saturn had been poisoned. He used the bio-engineered plants to signal for help, and is now talking to his friend Kellerman. He has grimly confirmed his ship is dead...

 
"What are you going to do?"
"I get the reward money and the majority of my harvest - it'll pay enough to get me back to Marsport." Anton's voice was dangerously level and emotionless.
Kellerman leaned over and put her hand over his. "Wouldn't you rather buy a new singleship and stay out here, Anton?"
He shrugged, not meeting her eye. "I haven't enough cash; and Ringcredit say I haven't enough security." He heard his own voice tremble slightly, with anger or despair.
Kellerman, incredibly, grinned - his anger flared at her callousness, but she raised her hand to silence his outburst. "You know I work for DSTV in my spare time?" Anton nodded blankly. "DSTV want a wire of your story for syndicating on Earth. I can make sure the story pays you enough for a new ship."
Anton raised his glass, and haltingly smiled across at Kellerman, hope rising within him again. Emerald was dead, and he would mourn for her: but he would be staying in the rings.

As always, comments welcomed.

Friday, 14 March 2014

SFFSat 15/3/2014

This is my snippet this week for SFFSat. SFFSat is a place where a number of authors post snippets from their written works, and give the opportunity for comments, support and encouragement. Please also explore the other blogs that are part of this set - you can find the information here. 


Poisoned Ice   part 6

This is the penultimate part of a science fiction short story.  The earlier segments are earlier in this blog.  Anton deGama's spacecraft in the rings of Saturn had been poisoned, leaving him stranded in the rings, with apparently no prospect of signalling for help. He realised that the harvest of bio-engineered space-growing plants around him responded to his comms laser, changing attitude to line up with the laser, and began to think he had a chance...

    Kellerman sat in Titan-D's tiny, cramped bar, her blue eyes looking over her synthbeer at Anton's space-darkened face. "You've caused something of a stir, deGama - you're the first person to write 'HELP' on the surface of a ring."
    Anton smiled wanly. "It worked. What would you have done?"
    "If someone had murdered Polestar I'd have used my suit tanks to build a missile to blow them out of the ring."
    "The thought never occurred to me."
    She raised her glass to him. "You're too much the nice guy, deGama. How's Emerald?"
    Anton shrugged, and concentrated on his glass. "Nothing the bio-team could do for her. The emergency flight from Titan-B were too late for that."
    She leaned forward and took his hand. "Oh, Anton, I'm sorry."
   

 What hope for Anton's future? The conclusion next week. As always, comments welcomed.