Monday, December 8, 2008

Sets Engaged, Questions in Focus

I've got five very interesting pieces in front of me, and since I'm waiting to hear back from the writers about sharing their work, I'm going to start by talking about initial impressions and the expectations that are set up for me in each piece.

From K Richardson we have a high-technology world with shielded vehicles and telephones (ComBuds), microphones and surveillance. It's not earth, though, because it everyone is expected to be psychic and have "linked affect." My sense is that the two are not linked in this universe at all (tell me if I'm wrong!), and that familiar technologies on this world are not related in any way to their analogues on our own world. I'm seeing politics, with the Presidi; I'm seeing higher power, with the Collective. I'm seeing something like police, with the Corpa. As yet these terms are used unquestioningly, as terms known to the protagonist, Lison. This is consistent with an insider point of view, but I would expect to learn more going onward. I'm curious, though, as to what the structure of dwellings is - this will tell me some things about how people organize themselves and what expectations of privacy are. In a world of psychics, this seems highly relevant.

From Ryan Anderson we have a lower-technology world, where goods are carried up mountains on llama-back, and people travel on foot or on large birds called pharu. The presence of the pharu points me toward identifying this as a fantasy world (tell me if I'm wrong!). The protagonist, Curo, appears to be heading into a political plot with the Choque, who may be invaders or may simply have annexed Curo's native territory. We have terrace agriculture carried out by peasants, and the Emperor's tower, so a good view of the social structure in the infrastructure. Another view out to the Flatlands is less clear in its significance. I'm curious as to what Curo's social position is precisely, and what exactly his goals are relative to the Emperor. The names and places suggest an Andes-analogue location. As yet I see no indication of belief in a greater power. I'm curious about about what the people are wearing, which might show climate and also hint their social status.

From Bill Moonroe we have an earth future, as indicated clearly in the first paragraph with a reference to Armstrong's "one giant leap for mankind." This has some advantages, as the technology set is generally well-known. Elements of this technology can be anticipated, and they're also expected to have advanced - so we see images on the face-plates of the space suits that can fade in and out, and suits that are light enough to accentuate a woman's figure. These particular people are landing oan Mars. There is much reference to light gravity and to red dust. The characters refer to the Second Space Age, and to someone called Squyreston, who perhaps has been there before and less successfully. The protagonist, Perry, tries to protect his female colleague from falling but doesn't want to offend her dignity. I'm curious as to what happened in the First Space Age and how that might resonate in the goals of this crew; also as to how much time has passed, and how that might have affected gender relationships like those demonstrated by Perry.

From Kerry Thompson we have a world with islands and travel by ship, clearly indicated by the word "astern" in the first sentence. I conclude that it is a fantasy world based on the combination of unfamiliar place names like "Falibar" and "Splangliborn" co-occurring with very English-sounding personal names like "Morrow," "Shepherd," and "Miss Emma." I'm assuming this juxtaposition is intentional (tell me if I'm wrong!). This appears to be an English, possibly Victorian, cultural set which brings an array of expectations with it for behavior, belief systems, etc. although divorced from the typical geographical considerations. I'm curious where the story starts, because it was hard for me to tease apart the shipboard location and the grain-merchant's office location (a switch indicated only by tense change with "had" instead of plain past tense). I'm also curious about Shepherd's background. He could always have worked as a sailor and that may have influenced his worldview; or it could be that everyone in this world sails from an early age and so he has an entirely different source of income and a much easier life story. There's little indication here of politics on a larger scale, though some is hinted in the tension between the sailor and the grain merchant.

Finally from David Marshall we have a non-human protagonist with a head and shoulders but "anemone gills" and "hearts," who lives in a watery place where a veil lies between her home in the Great Reef and a place called the "Lesser Void." This one comes with an submarine climate set, implying certain types of ocean inhabitants - these include "bloodrays," "kraken," and "sandlurkers." I'm curious about the general physiology of the arcati race, particularly in the tail end. Coughing implies lungs, and I'm not sure whether she has both lungs and gills or not. There's a belief system here, in the form of a tentacled Eater of all Life who eats the Sun every night. I'm curious whether this entity is merely legendary or at least partly real; this could be an issue in the story. I'm also curious about the nature of the veil and the precise relationship between the livable water world, the veil, the Lesser Void, and the sun. I'm also curious about why our protagonist would be interested in peeking into the unlivable water on the other side of the veil.

I'm enjoying all of these, and we've got some great stuff to work with and explore. Again, please ping me to tell me "okay" or "not okay" on posting the content of your piece (I'd probably do it in the comments area). These are my first impressions; feel free to comment or ask me any questions you have about what I've said here. Seeing these has got me thinking about knowledge sets: above we've already got some climate sets, technology sets, and cultural sets.

More soon...


  1. Hi Juliette,

    So, you selected the sailing segment rather than the spacecraft segment. Fair enough. Sure, post it.

    Someone else, on reading Chapter 1, also got the idea of a Victorian milue(sp?) *Scratches head* Don't quite know how to disspell this notion. It is true that in this world, Nova Britannia, sailing is fairly common. But then, it's fairly common in Twenty-first C Earth too.

    You're instinct is right that Charlie Shepherd is somewhat rough around the edges, though not what one might call lower class. He is a trader and sailor, a man who works for his living, and thus is looked down upon to some extent by Morrow, who employs him. Still, in the younger generation, Charlie's generation, there is little or no class consciousness. This point is not one I have thought about explicitly... Perhaps it's something I need to work out.

  2. Oops, didn't touch on all your points. It's an SF setting actually, a planet in an extra solar star system, though with some fantastical elements.

    The story opens with Charlie on his sailing craft, the Silver Star. The scene with Morrow is remembered - a flashback - by Charlie as he approaches the end of his second day out from Raklebad. Not quite sure how best to arrange elements here...

  3. Mine's okay to post! And your initial impressions are all very accurate!

    Also, Bill Moonroe, I like the name of your Mars explorer "Squyreston". Couldn't have anything to do with the lead scientist of the MER rovers could it? ;) I'm a grad student at Cornell studying Mars, so if you need info on the Red Planet, you know who to ask...

  4. I'm happy for you to post mine if it will be of use. :) I love the variety of worlds you've brought together here.

    I'm not sure how much detail to respond in- if I'm to refrain from giving info beyond the scenelette or not. Overall, your impressions and insights are very accurate and I think you've picked out the most salient aspects. I might quibble with your gloss for Corpa, but let's see where you go.

    Earth does exist in this universe, although there's no way you could know that from this selection. In any case, this world's technology is not derived from Earth's.

    I'm eager to read more from everyone!

  5. Juliette,
    Mine's okay to post.

    Ryan, absolutely...actually Squyreston is the name of the modular habitat rather than an explorer, and the whole story has one of its roots in Sqyres' comment about bootprints in the rover tracks from his "Roving Mars" book.