This lonely road I’m on – Progress Report – 1/4/13

Sometimes we must walk alone. . .

Sometimes we must walk alone. . .

Another busy week – which sort of makes it just a regular week as every weeks seems to be busy.  There is a draft to write, a newsletter to polish, a podcast to either polish and release, or write and do post production on.  Then there is the updates to the website.  It never ends.  And really I don’t think I would have it any other way.

The title of the post refers to the Protagonist and where he is in his journey at the moment. Roads diverge and converge, parting ways for some time before joining up again. Right now, the protagonist is going solo. Kind of not by choice, but he thinks it is what he wants. What happens next? Well wouldn’t you like to know?

 

Word Count for the week: 10,060 words. Yeah, ok.  Some days were bang on the minimum (such as last night when it took me two hours to book flights for a family trip later in the year and I started writing at 11pm at night) and one or two days were the kind of days every writer dreams of, when the words just stream straight from the brain to the finger in a logical and coordinated fashion and the word count rises like an inexorable tsunami (without the destruction. . . well some fictional destruction).

Total Word Count: 75,010.  The Chapters are getting smaller now as the action gets more intense.  There is less explanation and more accomplishment.  The protagonist is hitting his low point, when his demons come to the fore and ruin everything.

 

A Review of the Plan:

The third quarter of the book is becoming a lot larger than I thought it was.  The same things are happening that I planned for but they have taken more words to write than I expected.  This quarter needs to be balanced with the other three quarters of the book, it can’t stay lopsided in the final version of the book, but this is the draft we’re talking about.  Things have to be roughly right at this stage but its far better to have too many words and remove some later than not have enough words and have to fabricate extra later.

The first two quarters have been pretty bang on.  The first quarter landed around 18% of the proposed 100,000 words and the second quarter landed at pretty much exactly 50% of the 100,000 words, but this third quarter is going to land around 80% of the 100,000 words.  It’s all going to need some fine tuning but right now I’m making a decision:  My new goal for the first draft is 105,000 words.  Thus my word count progress bar has been updated and is below:

 

75,050 / 105,000 (71.4%)

 

This means that I have 30,000 words left to write and 30 days to write them if I am to stick to my original timeframe of the draft being completed by 1st May.  This means I will have to write 1,000 words per day.  What do you know? Two months through the first draft and I’m bang on target. Based on experience I know that I will definitely be finishing the draft before the end of April. This is getting really exciting!

From day one I set myself a goal of 1,000 words.  I knew this was achievable because I can write 1,000 words an hour, or in a lunchbreak.  I knew that if I dedicated my lunchbreak to the novel I could meet my goal and then have my late evenings (with the family asleep) to write extra words, or as has been the case lately, work on related side projects.

So nothing changes. I’ll be working to the same goal.  I’ve released my second podcast this week, which took up a bit of time.  With that out of the way that gives me a bit of evening time to work on the novel again before getting back into podcast # 3.

Quote du jour:
“Robert!” the voice boomed from across the dock, loud, long and deep, an urgent vein of pure hatred running through it.

Commander’s Log Podcast

The cover art for the Commander's Log podcast

The cover art for the Commander’s Log podcast

Just a reminder here that Podcast # 2 is out. All episodes are available on this website for direct download or through an RSS feed. I also have them on itunes and youtube, in case thats works better for you. No flashy videos to go with them sorry. My time is better spent writing the story.

I hope all the listeners out there are enjoying the series so far. In the next episode I’ll be taking the Cobra Mk III to another ‘Old World’ and one that will be familiar with everyone. It’s a place that quite enjoys all the edible delicacies that Lave has to offer. I’ll be there to find a member of the Elite community and catch up with him about the last few months.

If anyone else would like to me drop by in the course of the Commander’s Log podcast then email me at john_at_andherethewheel.co.nz and we can organise a visit.

Writers Forum

It’s been a tad busy this last week. I’ve had a few questions for Frontier, along with some of the other writers.

The two main question I have had are:
1) “How do clothes react in a zero-gee environment?”
2) “What are the actual flight mechanics of ships?”

I’ve asked these specific questions because they have become quite important in the current part of the draft. Question 1 is pretty important because the hero is running around his spaceship in a kilt with a sporran around his hips. I don’t think I need to draw a picture here.

Now a bit of background before we go on. Before Elite:Dangerous came along it was implied, and reinforced by fan fiction, that artificial-gravity was a standard technology. People could run around their ships and do all the normal stuff they could on a planet because their decks had simulated gravity.

Well it turns out that this is not the case. Ships do not have simulated gravity. They have an up and down, a ceiling and a floor, but that is because they are intended to spend most of their time docked on a space station (simulated gravity) or a planet (real gravity) In the game the travelling component of time will be quite small, unless you jump into Reidquat and get hammered by pirates.

So how do we get around writing these scenes without it sounding like antics from the International Space Station? Well the easiest answer is that everyone will have magnetic boots. Think the deflector dish scene in Star Trek TNG: First Contact. When you pull the boot upwards the magnetism releases, allowing you to step, and then when you push down the magnetism engages. This provides a suitable analogue for gravity.

But it does not control your clothes, which leads me back to my question. What happens to a kilt in zero gee? Bad things! So I posed the question to Frontier Developments. One possible answer is meta-materials. They know the shape they are suposed to maintain and do so, whether gravity is pulling on them or not. This kind of reminds me of one of my daughter’s Barbie dolls. It has a long ball dress with wire running through it so the dress can be raised or lowered by the twist of a knob (so she can change from Sophisticated ball attendee to Bad-ass party girl raring to go to town – seriously Mattel? Is that appropriate?). But anyway, whether the kilt is laced with wire or something else to make it a meta-material the kilt will be staying where it needs to be and that’s what counts.

Does anyone have any ideas for clothing, bags, etc for zero-gee environments? I’ll take these to the writers forum if there are any good ones.

The importance of the second question should be pretty obvious. This is a novel about a space sim. Ship maneouvres are going to be pretty important to any Elite:Dangerous fiction.

Suprisingly i’m around 70% of the way through the story and I’ve only just had my first proper space melee and even then it was pretty short. Alot of action has been on the ground or in space stations or capital ships. The hero isn’t a pilot. He is a gunner by trade. He is good at shooting people, not flying ships, so naturally the story tends to focus on this. But fear not because his sidekick is the best pilot this side of Andromeda.

This first space battle was written from the protagonist’s Point of View (or POV), not the pilot’s POV. I think this is pretty interesting, as the space combat is quite immediate, yet you are one step removed from the pulling of levers and firing of triggers and so forth. The POV can report on how the pilot is operating, behaving, how they are acting, looking, etc and report on the movements the ships make, when lasers go off etc, but while a pilot may feel a bit more relaxed in the sense that they have some form of control over their destiny, a passenger has no control and this can be a pretty scary thing.

But back to the question. I haven’t got my answer yet, but I’m not waiting around. The novel needs writing. Despite many voices to the contrary I’m actually a big supporter of the Frontier style of space travel. I love it because its real. The laws of physics are the laws of physics. Newton said that ‘Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.’ Normally that external force is gravity or friction from atmospheric drag. In space there is no external force. So to stop going in one direction you have to apply a force in another direction and this is not an instantaeous event. You have to overcome your inertia to change direction.

Relative to your frame or reference. If two ships are in the same frame or reference (i.e hurtling towards Earth at 10,000 metres per second) then they can have motion relative to each other. And once this was understood, this was what made combat in Frontier, for me, quite exciting.

So I wrote the scene they way I would want it to play out, Frontier styles. Its important to note here that I’m not asking Frontier what the game play will be like. We already know this. But I’m asking what the underlying physics are like. There is a difference, and this is important.

What is everyone’s opinions on this? Is there anyone out there like me or is everyone a die hard fan of Elite style dogfighting?

Its live and ready to read.

Its live and ready to read.

Newsletter

This was emailed out tonight (New Zealand Time). I hope you all enjoy it. Please send me your feedback on which version your preferred: PDF or ebook. If you haven’t received the newsletter and you should have please also get in touch.

—–

Ok, that will do for this weeks update. Thanks for sticking around and talk to you next week.

Cheers,

John

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4 responses to “This lonely road I’m on – Progress Report – 1/4/13

  1. I find the clothing question quite interesting, since before seeing the ’emergency vacuum masks’ update I sort of assumed everyone would be pragmatic and be wearing pressure suits whenever going out doing any serious space traveling, especially since being ambushed and forced into a combat situation is an ever-present and real possibility.

    It should go without saying that when a hull breach occurs and the ship’s atmosphere is escaping, you would want to be as close to a state of ‘fully suited up’ as possible, as there won’t be a lot of time to react. As I recall, according to NASA, a person can survive for about ten seconds in vacuum before losing consciousness. Just about enough time to grab a helmet and put it on. In real life, donning a full spacesuit would take hours. This is why astronauts usually wear a type of pressure suit during launches and re-entries.

    Of course, Frontier knows this, but their solution to the problem seems to be different than what I had in mind – their sci-fi masks would allow characters to wear ‘normal’ clothing while on their spaceships, which is probably why they’re going for that direction. It gives more customiseability options for avatars than some bulky spacesuit that looks identical for everyone. My problem it is in believability. Just covering the face is not going to protect the entire body from the effects of depressurisation – let alone radiation and the extreme temperatures of space.

    But does a spacesuit need to be bulky? Turns out there is something called ‘mechanical counter-pressure suits’:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_activity_suit

    These are suits that instead of surrounding the wearer with an atmosphere like the balloony, cumbersome suits used by astronauts today, simply ‘hug’ the person wearing it and apply mechanical pressure on the skin to produce the same effect – while being considerably slimmer and easier to manoeuvre.

    Futuristic MCP suits based on some exotic meta-material could conceivably be so thin they could be worn under other clothing like underwear!

    Perhaps with some smart use of meta-materials the suit could be even used to simulate gravity to some degree, by ‘pulling’ the wearer’s body towards the contact point between the floor and a magnetic boot.

    Of course, your question was more about zero gravity and its effects on clothing. It seems that in space, skirts would not be a very popular form of clothing, among the ladies at least. Capes and robes wouldn’t be very practical either, neither would longer jackets like trench coats and the like. I don’t think most types of hats would see much use either. Hair would either be kept short for most people, or worn in buns of some fashion. Or maybe people just use a lot of gel…

    Your character is of course a special case as the kilt is apparently important to his identity. I suppose he could have come up with some novel solution. Otherwise, he would have to, I don’t know, *gasp* take it off for spaceflight?

    • Hi Captain N.

      Thanks for your post. I like your ideas.

      I had actually done a bit of research of vacuum exposure for some of my other fiction and it is pretty interesting what NASA research showed happened to a body under a zero pressure situation.

      I agree that the remlock type face mask isn’t going to be the complete solution, in fact in some ways it could be a mistake – if your lungs are full of air, then the air gets trapped in side by the mask and you go out into a vaccuum, what is going to happen to your lungs? The same thing that happens to a balloon in low pressure. BANG!

      I love the concept of a pressure suit but I would like to think that by the 34th Century this kind of thing could be an under garment, allowing you to wear whatever clothes you like on top. This would be especially important to people from the Federation, but less so for the Alliance who may customise these pressure suits to be their outer clothing.

      The protagonist won’t be wearing the kilt all the time and isn’t his ‘normal’ clothing. But when things hit the fan and he wants to kill him some people Braveheart style then he puts it on, hoping to channel some of his forebearers.

      I like your thoughts about hair and hats. Have you read Arthur C Clarks 3001? That has an interesting (although unrelated to a degree) approach to it. I think it is going to depend on your cultural background. Corporates would likely have your hair shaved low, or even have your hair folicles removed as this is the cheapest way to control it. the Alliance would go for the crew cut but the Imperials would be extravagant in their hair shapes and sizes. The Federation would be style oriented too, less flashy though, but still following the trends of the day.

      Cheers,

      John

      • No, I haven’t read 3001. Clarke is one author I’ve been meaning to get into for a long time, but have somehow managed to avoid. I don’t have as much time to read as I would like to!

        Currently ploughing through Asimov’s Foundation…

      • Good on you. I got about two pages into Foundations before stopping. I have my mothers original copy lying around and one day I will read it.

        I’ve only really dabbled in Clark myself, read the odyssey series. I think book 3 (2063) was the best.

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