The Stars Came Back -056a- Recap and open thread

Slightly different today. I’m near one of those holes in the story I told you about, AND it’s nearly spring break, and the family is going to the coast. I don’t want to leave you hanging in the middle of a mission mid-explosion or anything, so I will give a quick recap and summary, then an open thread for you to talk about what you like, don’t like, expect, how you see the characters so far, favorites, what sort of things you might see coming up, how you interpret some minor things that might be connected, etc., etc., etc., while I patch holes and take a break with the kids.Also, if this WERE an e-book, such as for the Kindle, what would YOU be willing to pay for what you have seen so far? What do you think it would normally be priced at?

I’d like to make sure that at LEAST the next full job is nailed down tight before I start posting it, even if there are a few details to take care of. I’m about 85% done with the next block, and should be posting again in a week or so, possibly sooner, depending on inspiration, disruptions, kids, etc. It also might be a good time to re-read the whole thing again, now that you know (more about) where it’s going, and see if you see any Easter eggs or foreshadowing that you missed earlier because of the time between events. If you do, post the comments about them here, please, because I’m not looking back through 50+ posts to find them.

Quick recap – Helton’s normal life is disrupted when he goes for a quick trip to visit / help family, whereupon he gets totally screwed in security and loses nearly everything, then hit by pirates and dumped in a desert, he fights his way free and saves the day with the help of Harbin (while also finding a mysterious book), wins a spaceship in a card game, finds out it is a rather quirky derelict with people already living on board, gets in a tangle with local criminals, gets the ship working and gets a crew, and after a series of seemingly small events has Tajemnica working well enough for her first job, hauling injured soldiers to a transfer station, during which they accidentally take a government ship.

*whew!*

The rest of the mission was relatively uneventful, and they have returned successfully to Adelaide to look for another job.

I have at least four major jobs / missions currently sketched out, with a lot fleshed out, but also a few holes that are bugging the bejezuz out of me. So, I could take what I have and post it in smaller hunks to stretch it out a bit (which would be a bit disjointed in the next six blocks, which work fine as six discrete blocks, but not so well as a dozen half-sized blocks), or I can take a few days off, and start back up again. I’d like to keep logical blocks together.

As a reminder, the main characters on the ship are

Helton, Allonia, Bipasha, Kwon, Sar, Quinn

Col Lag, 1SG Harbin Reel, SGT Kaushik, CPL Kaminski, Lt Kat, recruit Horkle

Monks, Tajemnica, Seymore & Seeless

Writing a long AND coherent AND interesting story is a lot of work. I knew that before, but now I KNOW it.

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23 thoughts on “The Stars Came Back -056a- Recap and open thread

  1. The biggest plot issue for me is:

    How the heck do you open an airlock on a space-ship quickly enough to surprise the crew inside with a grenade and rifle attack?
    Horkel/Horkle says he “opened the hatch just like in the drill” when attacking the ICE ship – but HOW.
    Our current technology uses a multi-stage process – open outer hatch, enter, close outer hatch, compress, open inner hatch – and surely the crew would be alerted to the outer hatch opening unexpectedly.
    Blow both doors open, and the crew suffers explosive decompression; grenade and rifle unnecessary.
    Dilemma.

    • I considered that, actually. I figured that Kaminski would have toys like an airlock security system over-ride, open the outside hatch unnoticed, get in, close it, it pressurizes automatically (while the ICE guys are stacked up and messing with the other one trying to get onto Tajemnica), then pop the inside hatch for the action. Also, as becomes more apparent later, Tajemnica sometimes messes with the electronics and computers of those they are facing, making life considerably easier for the crew. That sort of thing is both a “useful device” and very much “in character” for Tajemnica.

      • Please be careful with how much “messing” is done.

        For me, being able to remotely mess with electronics that are hardened and shielded against cosmic radiation and high intensity drive fields is one way to take a story from science FICTION to science FANTASY – and I don’t read fantasy.

        While I accept the adage that “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”, this ship operates with intelligent (and maybe novel) application of old implementations of currently understood principles – too much “… and then magic happens” would ruin the story for me.

        • Noted, and agreed with. It’s more like “occasional useful hacking” when dealing with people who leave their systems improperly secured.

          • Also be careful with introducing too much “save the day” tech (or magic) into your story….nothing ruins a good tale, for me anyway, by having the hero “miraculously” stumble upon that magic sword that has been lost for eons and yet is the “only” thing that will kill Nasty Bad Guy. Or the novice spell-chucker who happens to pick up Recently Deceased Archmage’s Tome of UberSpells (2nd Edition) and happens to be able to cast level 4bajillion spell at aforementioned Nasty Bad Guy. And it happens in sci-fi, too….mystery ship can hack other ships, knows things, does things that it shouldn’t. Or alien technology that doesn’t end up turning our sun supernova and brings life-giving air to Mars. Sorry, but those just seem to be cop-outs to me. Let the protagonist figure out how to defeat Nasty Bad Guy, or work with his subcharacters to do so (ie, in this instance, Horkle and Co. open a hatch on the OTHER side of the ship, after a little hankypanky with the “OMG Hatch Is Open” switch (maybe a skill picked up in a misspent youth?), then tanks the crew from behind? Nothing fancy, nothing “mystical/magical”, and something that could conceivably happen in the present world.

            Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there’s been any of that so far (I’m still on the “curious” side of finding out Taj‘s secrets…but the lure is there. Be strong! Resist the Dark Side! (their cookies suck)

          • I have the same dislike of “magical save the day” sorts of things, too. There is one sort of planned, but it’s more a philosophical side-story sort of thing rather than a major central point, and has a part to do with Tajemnica’s development, the meaning of life, and all that. Part of the reason for the combat technologies level, and other similar things, is that I’m trying to have a more creative “how do you solve THIS problem when you only have THAT tool?” and presenting problems where the “magical” solution of “nuke ’em from orbit, just to be sure” might solve one problem, but presents some other ugly ones, and in doing so presents a harsh choice.
            At least, that’s sort of how it plays out right now, but one things I’ve noticed in my writing is that sometimes adding a few words sort of casually has resulted in major new developments in my mind and the story.
            For example, in their first mission, they are getting boarded, and they have no guns or missiles, and have to make due with what they have – recruits, injured guys, and a handful of competent able-bodied men. Green crew, marginal engines, facing the unknown. As Harbin would say, “asses you strengths, keep your cool, keep it simple, do what you can, work as many angles at once as you can. OODA. Noth’n fancy, just kill em.” But this mission grew out of the thought that Allonia was the sort that wants to help people – she’s a very caring sort. A mission to help injured men is one she couldn’t resist. The fact that “pirates” were government agents grew out of a news story about a botched no-knock raid (acronym is purely coincidental, don’t ch’a know). The big picture hasn’t changed – MANY of the details evolved considerably. The entire next mission grew out of a casual throw-away line Vera mentioned early on that just sort of typed itself.
            So, yes, I’ll be trying to avoid magic, though coincidence is nearly unavoidable.

          • Awesome! Yeah, I loved how Harbin set up the ambu….er….”welcoming committee” for the pirates, utilizing available resources. That’s the sort of thing I like to read! Now, if Kaminski has a “troubled past”, that’s fine, and opens all sorts of doors for “grey areas” that the Letters of Marque would cover…if looked at in dim lighting….but don’t wait until those skills are actually needed to spring that on the reader. That smacks too much of “I couldn’t figure out how to get out of this situation, was too lazy to rewrite a better scenario, and just wanted a Magic Sword to fix it all”. That’s what I was trying to say earlier (hey, I’ve got some of that coughing crud going around…I was going good to get the right fingers on the right keyboard keys!). Mention it during the earlier phases, the character development….perhaps when they’re doing that demonstration for the recruits, and he launches through the upstairs window, maybe Lan can look at Harbin and say something about a “checkered past, we don’t ask”.

          • “Checkerd past.” Now THERE’S a line that covers a lot of stuff. Actually, I was thinking that Horkle isn’t really the volunteering type, and it was the magistrate that gave him a choice – the cops frown on that sort of activity (borrowing spaceships with his friends), even if he DID return them when they were done (joyriding) with them… But having Kaminski having a somewhat colorful background too would also help a few spots… definitely have to add a few lines about that earlier.

    • Was working on another scene, with ship-to-ship action, and I was cutting back and forth between the various views (bridge, interceptor cockpit, space, enemy cruiser bridge, engineering, etc) and I realized that the “uninvited guests” episode would be a good place to use the same thing – injured crewmen, Harbin and co, Kaminski & Horkle, the uniformed boarding party, Helton & co) cutting back and forth between them to show what’s going on simultaneously, so it’s like a race, and you are not sure if Kaminski will get behind the bad guys first, or if the bad guys get in through Tajemnica’s airlock first and run into Harbin & co. Leave the uniform’s ID ambiguous until the Kat & Helton get called aboard. Hmmm… That could work. Perhaps quite well. Higher drama, Ubu gets her violence fix, explain the action so it doesn’t leave any apparent plot holes such as you pointed out. I’ll have to look at that closely for the final e-book version. Thanks for the inspiration…. Great…. MORE work. 🙂

  2. Regarding the ebook issue (I’m assuming this would be a first novel?), I’d say price it at $1.99. Authors with a few books under their belt tend to be $2.99 – $3.99. Make sure to have an editor (I’ll volunteer if you don’t have someone) to catch typos, etc. The most common complaints with the indie authors are typos, grammar, punctuation, etc. If those problems are rampant, it’ll be made known in the reviews, and sales will be lost.

    Thanks for all the fun so far, and enjoy the spring break!

    • Yes, it is my first novel / screenplay / long story that is going to be fully written out; go big or go home, and all that :-). Always more rattling inside my brain-case. As for editing, I understand your point. You guys are catching some things, and thankfully there doesn’t seem to be a lot of stupid errors (which is a good sign, I think), but having it done “properly” would be a good idea – I know how distracting even small errors can be if there are many of them.

  3. I’m finding this very entertaining, but could you sell an e-book of the *screenplay*? Otherwise I foresee a huge amount of work turning it into a prose novel.

    • I don’t see why not. YOU guys seem to find it interesting enough. Maybe I’m wrong, but why change it if it’s working? No, it’s not a traditional format, but I honestly don’t know if that’s a plus or minus, big, small, or non issue.

  4. OK, good point. On the other hand, we are reading for the low, low price of FREE!

    Plus there’s that added cliffhanger inducement of dribbling it out episode by episode.

    But heck, forget the book idea: I want to see this made into a film.

    • I’d love to see it made too, even aside from the monetary aspect – I’d just like to be able to go to a movie and not walk away thinking “well, THAT sucked.”
      But if you like the daily “cliff-hanger” aspect, then that would, I’d think, translate into a “page-turner” pretty well.
      But “free” doesn’t mean “no value,” and if it was a bad story then I’d expect a hunk of readers at first trying to see what’s what, dribbling away to nothing as people realize it’s drivel, and stop clicking through. But that’s not happening – it’s pretty steady to slowly climbing.

      • One thing to keep in mind in turning a story into a screenplay. The best story in a screenplay or any “one-shot” involves – with few exceptions – a climax that is the most impactful/exciting/crucial/dangerous/near-death experience of the primary character’s life. Look back at the original Raiders of the Lost Ark or Ghostbusters or Dambusters or The Great Escape for good examples. In all of these films, there is the gradual ramping up or mini-peaks of suspense/danger to the ultimate story payoff. Be careful in the use of your ramping or mini-peaks. We’ve seen several powerful peaks already (abduction and dumping, getting hit with a grenade shielded by a book, the desert aerial chase and escape, the ICE attack…). Don’t let the mini-peaks take away from your payoff, in other words.

        • Good advice, and something I’ve tried to follow. Ordinary guy with an ordinary life, then totally derailed via security then dumped to the depths with the pirates. Then digging his way out, aiming for freedom and independent action, but with unexpected and increasing action time goes on, the ship gets more repairs and as they makes more enemies and meets more people.
          The main effects of the security and pirate episodes are that they change his outlook on life in subtle ways. As Kat said, “not so much OUR guys as GOVERNMENT guys.” Helton would not have agreed prior to the security incident. The pirates hardened him against low-life and scum, like Seymore, so his first instinct it to oppose and fight back, not accommodate, or take the easy path; he knows evil must be OPPOSED, not just ignored or sidestepped.
          I’ve sketched out a couple of different endings, from very dark (which while very appropriately Greek-tragic, you guys likely wouldn’t like) to much less so where the universe is wide open to them, to middle-ground where they “win” but it’s still not a “they all lived happily ever after”. Not sure which I’ll officially go with. Might post them all.

  5. Give me your paypal, and I’ll send you five bucks for what I’ve received to date.

    I’d pay nine or ten bucks total-this sort of thing is right up my alley, format and all. It’s a gripping story.
    I’m dying to read about what lurks in the ship and how it gets resolved (or not).

    • Glad you are enjoying it. Near the end of the next job you get a look at one of Tajemnica‘s avatars when it appears on a screen on someone else’s ship, and it should give you a MUCH better idea of what’s buried there in the AI. Glad to hear someone use the word “gripping” to describe my story – means I must be on the right track.
      I guess maybe I should set up for PayPal, then. Haven’t trusted it for a while, since the first time I used it (MANY years ago) I got phished on the info two hours later. Apparently it’s gotten better. I could go the Radiohead “Pay me what you think it’s worth” sort of model. Then I wouldn’t need to worry about cover-art. Though, come to think of it, that avatar I mentioned above might make a decent image. Or the action where it shows up. Then I just need an artist.

        • Nope. The Armadillo AI was explicitly designed to work WITH a crew (as will be discussed in more detail later), as well as some of the pluses and minuses of that setup.

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