Claudia plunged deeper underwater, staring up at the flickering starlight and the moon shadows blinking under a veil of the cleansing water. She held her breath, her heart beating the only sound, moving her arms and legs in slow motion. The burn in her lungs began as a memory of her father, when she was four and he pushed her on the backyard swing, his tie loose at the collar, gray flannel pants billowing in the breeze she made as she flew past him. Then, when she closed her eyes, the sensation of movement made her feel like she was flying like Wendy through the clouds to Neverland.
The burn continued, more strenuous now, vying for attention. It grew into a dull, penetrating ache. She released some air and watched the bubbles float above her face, drifting toward the surface, merging with the dappled light like a Monet seascape. Deeper, and a little deeper yet. More bubbles rushed to the surface. The ache became an urgent scream in her brain, and just when she thought she would black out, in that thin space between consciousness and some other realm, she kicked hard and torpedoed up, breaching the surface in a midnight explosion of splashes and sloshes and eerie echoes and great inhalations.
Crickets still chirped in the background and there, across the bay, fireflies danced in the darkness of the marshes. As she swam quietly, calmly back to the shore, feeling the water caress her naked body, the decision that haunted her for the past week solidified in her mind. It was time.
Cold sand pinched between her toes. Claudia gathered her clothes and climbed the stone steps to the cabin. Everything made sense now. Everything so clear. On the porch surrounding the wooden structure, she stopped to gaze across the mirrored water. The moon’s reflection and winking stars rippled across time, across the lives of all her generations. She shivered as droplets of water fell from her skin. She touched her belly softly, dead fingers trembling. Then, swallowing a deep breath, she turned and stepped inside.
- from a writing exercise in one of the Ottawa Writing Workshop sessions.
March 1st, and this is the official release date of my new book, "Echoes in the Grey". It's the second book in the Ross 128 trilogy... the first trilogy I've tackled. As I write this, I'm sitting in my writing chair. The temperature is below zero in Ottawa where I live, and the sun is brilliant. I'm going outside for a bike ride later this afternoon despite the two feet of snow on the ground.
And here's the thing. I made this story available to beta readers in advance with a view of getting some feedback, some reviews, and so on. And today, I got the very first 1 star rating I've ever received (which probably tells you, I haven't written a ton of stories!), which is fine. My belief is that if I get a bad review or rating, it has more to do with a mis-match of that reader with this story. Hey, if King and Atwood can get 1 stars, then anyone can.
I don't want to spoil the plot for those of you who have read the first book "The Crying of Ross 128", but I can tell you that in this story, we actually meet an alien life form, and that meeting takes place on Luna. The regular cast of characters: Kate, Jim and Esther are here, and there are new ones too, like Clayton Carter, the ambitious CEO of Titanius Space Resources, and Mary Atteberry who has grown up a bit from the first book.
If You Like Star Trek...
One question my readers pose is: will I like this story? Short answer is: who knows? But I can tell you that my stories tend to focus on the human side of SF. I'm more interested in exploring aspects of the human condition rather than the technology. Sure, there's some real science in here to keep the science types happy, but this story is really about our own relationships, our curiosity, our sense of value and work and ethical behaviour.
I can also say that if you like commercial fiction like the Star Trek novel series, you will enjoy this trilogy. I have been influenced by Robert J. Sawyer, Neal Asher, Greg Cox, Jeff Mariotte, Ursula Le Guin, and Ted Dekker. I'm not saying these are all my favourite writers, but I like the way they construct scenes, characters, conflict and tension, and SF speculation. So I'm confident when I say that if you like any of those authors, you will probably find my stories likeable too.
Anyway, as always, if you do enjoy my stories, I would appreciate your rating/review on goodreads or amazon.
Until midnight Sunday, December 23, you can download your free kindle copy of The Crying of Ross 128, the first book in the Ross 128 first contact trilogy. If you enjoy your science fiction novels with a strong human element, you'll enjoy this sci fi thriller about a teacher who hears a cry for help from space... an event that sets in motion a race to prepare for an alien encounter.
Please download your free kindle book today and, if you enjoy the book, I'd really appreciate if you could leave a review on Amazon.
Happy Holidays, and all the best for 2019!
So back in the day, actually in the late 1960s, when Star Trek The Original Series struggled with non-existent budgets, grief from the studio, and a plethora of other obstacles, Gene Roddenberry et al did come up with some pretty cool aliens for the time. Sure, most of them were guys dressed up in costumes, but never mind, they were still okay. Well, some were more okay than others.
Here's a collection of aliens from Star Trek The ORiginal Series that I love... my top 6 collection, in no particular order. Oh, and I'll be adding more once I have some more time, because there's lots of 'em!
episode: The Arena
Okay, this really is nothing more than a guy dressed up in a lizard suit, but I remember watching this episode as a youngster and being totally creeped out by Lizard Boy. And who among us could ever forget that epic battle between Kirk and the Gorn when the Metrons first place them on the planet. Kirk's two-handed judo chop... the Gorn in super slo-mo, taking a swipe at the good captain. And so on and so forth.
episode: Devil in the Dark
Oh, those crazy horta, burrowing through rock, depositing their silicon eggs everywhere... these were an interesting life-form because they survived by extracting minerals from rock itself. Turns out, this became a boon to the miners, but not until they'd blasted a bunch, injured the Queen Horta that McCoy had to fix with concrete (I'm a doctor, not a brick layer!), and the famous Spockian mind-meld. Still, for me this was one of the more interesting creatures because it didn't look like a guy dressed up in a suit or have some weird eyebrows or something. Set me on a course to become a geologist!
It’s ridiculously difficult to limit this list to only ten books, and to limit the quotes to opening lines only, and for sure this is about as subjective a topic as you can get, but still, let’s have some fun with it and be sure to add your favourite lines in the comments section below.
Here, in no particular order are my top 10 opening lines to science fiction books.
“If the stars should appear one time in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore, and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God?” - Issac Asimov, Nightfall
This is actually from the short story by Asimov, featuring the planet Lagash and its configuration of six suns such that the people there never experience night time except for once every 2000 years or so. Rumours abound about these “stars” that appear and make you go crazy and, indeed, like Yeats’ historical gyres, the lagashian civilization destroys itself when the overwhelming night eventually arrives. By far, this is one of my favourite Asimov tales.
“The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.” —William Gibson, Neuromancer
What can you say about Canadian author William Gibson’s famous cyberpunk opening line that hasn’t already been said? This sums up the mood of the story perfectly. As Stan Lee would say ‘Nuff said!
“I had reached the age of six hundred and fifty miles.” — Christopher Priest, Inverted World.
For me, it’s the kind of opening line that is at once intriguing and mysterious and non-sensical, perhaps a bit like 1984 that way. The use of distance to measure age suggests time manipulation of some kind, but let’s read the story and find out. Oh, and not to be confused with Han Solo’s use of “parsec” – a measure of distance – as a measure of time in A New Hope.
“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking 13.”
George Orwell, 1984
For the longest time, the writers in my workshops and I focused on the contrast between the normal world (first part of the line) and the dystopian, I mean, how on Earth could clocks be striking 13? Yet, in military time, 13 hundred hours is one o’clock and this gives us a hint as to what’s happening in the story. At the same time, clocks don’t normally strike 13, do they, even if it is in a military context. So this opening line has so much going on, it almost forces the reader to keep going.
“It was a pleasure to burn.” Ray Bradbury, Farenheit 451
I love Bradbury’s stories, especially his short stories, and this opening line is another one of those odd, intriguing set ups. How could burning something be a pleasure, unless you’re a pyromaniac? In this case, it’s about a man whose job it is to destroy books, and like any hard-working man, he takes pride in it. But there’s also a hint of something more here. It’s the burn of passion, not just for the man who torches books, but for all of us and all of our passions for life.
“There was a wall. It did not look important.” – Ursula Le Guin, The Dispossessed
This was the first Le Guin novel I read and I found it fascinating, especially the degree of world building in it. But never mind that: it’s the opening two lines that hooked me. Simple, matter of fact. A wall. But after considering the wall, the narrator determines that the wall did not look important, and that’s what I found so interesting. It speaks to a certain aloofness, perhaps, but that wall, even though it did not look important, carried with it a powerful message.
“Avalon outlink station lay on the border of the Polity, that expanding political dominion ruled by artificial intelligences and, to those who resented unhuman rule, the supreme autocrat: Earth Central.”
Neal Asher, Prador Moon
Chronologically, this is the first story in Asher’s Polity world and the opening line sets it up perfectly showing the contrast between the two bodies, the sheer size of it in space, and the fact that humans are a nuisance in a world of AIs.
“It had been a bad night, and when he tried to drive home, he had a terrible argument with his car.”
Philip K. Dick, The Game Players of Titan
Who among us has not talked to our cars, especially when they don’t start in the morning. In this case, the car talks back and sets up the kind of futuristic story where man and machine are interconnected.
“All this happened, more or less.
Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Slaughter-house Five
Not everyone considers S-5 to be science fiction. In my own local bookstore, it’s in the fiction section, but if I look at it from a SF lens, it ticks off a lot of the genre points. Time travel? Check. Aliens? Check. So let us consider this one of those stories that is so good, it’s considered classic fiction as well as science fiction. No matter, the opening line sets the stage for a story that the reader could begin at any chapter and understand it (if you haven’t tried reading S-5 starting at any random chapter and reading around, try it!). The ambiguity of the first line is what draws us and creates a fog around all of the “war bits” and meetings with Tralfamadorians.
“I was staring out the classroom window and daydreaming of adventure when I spotted the flying saucer.” -Ernest Cline, Armada
Cline’s opening line here is simple and yet intriguing because of the (wait, what?!?) flying saucer. One cannot help but keep reading here to find out how, when, where, what, who and why.
What are your favourite opening lines? Comment below!
Hi, I'm David. I'm a science fiction writer, lover of Star Trek, fascinated by alien contact, galactic space battles, and near future dystopia. Want to know the darker details? Click here.
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