The Stone Soup Novelist

I have a great idea for a novel. You know what would make it even better?…

Category Archives: Novel Updates

Back to Life

After having gone dark for, I dunno, feels like a year, the Stone Soup Novelist is struggling back to life. Here’s what’s happened in the interim: I’ve mothballed my original, galaxy-spanning epic science fiction blockbuster. It turns out that creating your own universe, complete with civilizations, histories, and cultures across many planets, is a lot of work, and doing that while learning how to write a novel and hold down a full time job was just too much. So, I’ve dialed it back and decided to tackle something a little more familiar. The new idea is a mystery set in present-day North Carolina. The first chapter is here:  More to come later.

Serious Science Question: How do you blow up a space monster using 18th century technology?

So, in this scene from my novel, the heroes are attacked by a horrifying creature, and they’re limited to ~18th century levels of technology to deal with it. The monster floats in air by means of a hydrogen bladder; its metabolism breaks down water into hydrogen and oxygen. I’ve devised a spear that lets them pierce the creature’s skin and send a spark into its hydrogen bladder to blow it up. I figure there would be no oxygen inside the bladder though, so the weapon sends a spray of saltpeter (KNO3) to act as an oxidizer.

My question for any chemistry buffs out there: how far-fetched does this sound? Okay, okay, I realize the whole thing’s pretty-blinking far fetched, but I mean specifically the way I’m blowing up the monster? Is there some basic fact about the combustion of hydrogen that I don’t understand? Is there some easier way? If you have any ideas, please drop them in the Comments below. Thanks!

If I haven’t said it before, thanks to Michael P for the idea of deepstaria enigmatica as a model for an alien life-form, and to novelist Michael R Wilson for the image of a cloud bank stretching across the horizon like a wall.  Those two images together formed the nucleus of this scene.

Government Employees on Starships: What Will Their Benefits Package Look Like?

Thanks to Cat over at Cat’s Liminal Space for a gracious link and for the notion that Government officials who spend their entire journey across the galaxy in suspended animation will probably want a crew (which I’ve taken to calling Employees) who stay awake for the long trip in case of trouble.

The Light-Speed Barrier: It’s Hip

One of the first things that I decided when I sat down to write my own science fiction novel was that faster-than-light travel would be impossible. The book I’m writing isn’t “hard” science fiction, more planetary adventure, but the tropes used to get around the light speed barrier just seemed like magic wands to me, and I didn’t want to use them.

I became interested in having my characters traveling across the galaxy at near-light speed, and seeing civilizations rise and fall while they stayed more or less the same age (due to the time dilation effect). That gave rise to the notion of a galactic Government so vast that its bureaucrats take centuries to fly from one assignment to the next.

After a little thought and googling, however, I realized that even at ludicrous rates of acceleration – 5G, 10G – the subjective time for a trip across a significant portion of the galaxy could still take more than a human lifetime. More on this topic over at the World page.

So (here’s the funny part) I decided I would introduce some kind of suspended animation that allows the characters to “sleep” through the long journey in their starship. That is, of course, likely just as impossible as faster-than-light travel, for a whole host of reasons. It did not bother me one jot. I’m sure this says something about my psychology and nothing about science, but I’m glad to hear I’m not alone. Here’s an article on the trend toward obeying the light-speed barrier in SF.

Giant Man-Eating Jellyfish of the Air

Thanks to Michael P for the suggestion of deepstaria enigmatica as a real animal that should be an alien.  Over on the World page (choose The Story | World from the menu), it’s become a floating, carnivorous jellyfish that hides itself in clouds and attacks unwary air sailors. I’m picturing a desperate life-and-death struggle in the air somewhere in the third act.

(Note: I’ve come to the conclusion that my posts and post titles have been a little too understated up to now, so I’m unleashing my inner Stan Lee here.)

Novel Updates: Expanded the World Page Under “The Story”

Well, the three day weekend has been pretty productive. Most of my progress has been in notes and outlines that aren’t ready to be shared yet, but I did put up a decent description of the fictional universe where my novel is set on the World page. We’ve got airships, volcanoes, swamp creatures, alchemists, artificially intelligent million-year-old starships, giant jellyfish that float in the air rather than water.  It’s quite a show.

Many of the suggestions I’ve gotten from readers have gone into this page. Over the next few days I’ll post some more thoughts about where I am with the book and the contributions of readers.

A Scene from the Novel: The Alchemists’ Tower

The path on the right led to the mansion, with its stained glass windows like bird’s eyes. Above the lawn, glittering in the last rays of light, circled the moon moths. Not green on this world, but a luminous indigo, they bite with long fangs that bind their prey.

Clovis bowed his head and folded his arms. With one hand touching each shoulder, he closed his eyes and said “Nothing in this world is made, but of atoms and the void. I believe.”

He walked on and did not turn. Ahead, the Alchemists’ Tower rose black against the evening sky.

This short scene is for the Friday Fictioneers flash fiction meme.  Every Friday a bunch of online writers write 100 words on a given topic.  In this case, the picture above.  Then we link and comment on each others’ posts. Check it out here.  Links to other peoples’ fiction should start appearing in the Comments to this post as well.

Criticism is invited!  Tell me what you think of my prose.  How can it be tightened up? Are you hooked? This could be the opening of my novel (yet unnamed – The Alchemists’ tower is what I’m calling the scene, not the book; that was a little ambiguous in the post title).

I’d be grateful if you stick around and leave your comments in the other posts and pages as well.  The site’s called Stone Soup Novelist for a reason!

Novel Updates – Feedback needed!

I’ve added a few sub-tabs under “The Story.”

  • Characters: I’ve got descriptions of the major characters and some of the minor ones.
  • World: Still TBD.  This is where a description of my fictional world is going to go.  Many of the ideas suggested by readers so far will go here.  I’ve got  Iceland, Cloud Forests, a river with great green trees sprouting up like mushrooms, a solid fog bank that appears out of nowhere, and a swamp where people float on rafts, with weapons drawn for giant monsters.
  • Plot: I’ve added a paragraph-long summary of the story, from start to finish. This is step 2 of the snowflake, and it’s subject to heavy revision later. My initial idea of a galactic Government revealing itself to an isolated, and technologically backward world is still there, but has probably happened before the opening scene of the novel.

The reason I’m calling this blog “Stone Soup Novelist” is that I plan to write my book “Agile”-style.  My IT geek friends and coworkers know what this means: in software terms, you release in stages, starting as early as possible, getting feedback along the way. So, take a look at my synopsis, my nameless characters, and let me know what you like, what you hate, and what you wish was there that isn’t.  Whether you’re a friend, an acquaintance, or someone who stumbled in here from a Google search for ERIN ANDREWS PHOTOS (sorry, sorry, that was unethical), I’d love to hear from you. Thanks.