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[SLACK ROLEPLAYING LOG] Survival Instinct #amwriting #storytelling

Acran, after pressing the call button to Huth Zorikavir’s office, scuttles in. /We may have a problem,/ he sends quickly, though he still takes the time to bow.

“Oh?” Zohi of Hatch Kavir responds. Her head tilts to the right as she considers the Mekke. “At ease. Tell me what you know.”

/Not a great deal,/ the Mekke sends back, /But … something from our commander. His mind … reaching out towards the Vanguard ship. I only sense such an intentional grasping in cases where the subject is actually attempting to make contact. Not with the mind, of course, but an attempt at communication always carries a trace of a telepathic push./

“We need more than that before we can act,” she says with a disappointed hiss.

/Yes,/ Acran replies, his mandibles clicking together, /Sadly, I have no access to sensor or communication logs that might give you more concrete proof./

The Nall gives a rough chortle. “Such trust must be earned. But I have access. Your intelligence may lead to actionable evidence. If it does, this may result in a clearance promotion.”

/Such access is not necessary in the scope of my function,/ Acran replies, dipping his head, /My people are not known for their ambitions. I do hope that you are able to acquire the information you need. Is there anything else I can do for you?/

She regards him with a cold, black stare. “You can tell me what you *do* want. I am less concerned about your *people*. More about *you* as an individual. Surely, you must strive for something.”

/I serve at the pleasure of the Vox,/ the insectoid replies, /If I and others of my race provide enough value to the Parallax, we survive. I want to survive./ His eyes are similarly cold, but expressionless.

“Survival without purpose?” Zohikavir opens her snout in amusement. “Even the smallest insect on Nalhom scurries about its existence with some sort of purpose beyond simple survival, even if that purpose is building shelter, caring for offspring, or protecting their queen.” Her head tilts. “You serve the Vox, then? You desire nothing beyond servitude?”

/Servitude is no novelty for the Mekke,/ the interrogator explains, /We each know from birth we must serve and protect the queen. If we do not serve the Nall, the Queen dies. We die./

The Nall officer dips her snout in concession of the point. “Very well. I will make note of your unflinching loyalty to the Vox in my next report to the homeworld. That is all for now, Acran.”

[SLACK ROLEPLAYING LOG] Moss #amwriting #storytelling

The Ekaterina’s Pride returns to the rendezvous point with the tanker Rucker, dropping out of FTL to find the fuel ship waiting as expected.

Sharpes calls up from engineering via intercom: “Hey, dogface. It occurs to me the Vannies might have some eggheads around to examine that moss. Maybe Captain Lee can get you in touch with the Zheng He.”

“That’s an interesting thought,” Vechkov replies, but he shrugs. “Our priority is making the claim on Mintaka. Then we can ask around about scientists to check out your pet moss.”

“Setting course for the Rucker then, for now,” the Pyracani says, entering the coordinates before sending ship into FTL and sits back, leaning back into the pilot’s seat after that’s done. “ETA is two hours. Any ideas on how you want to get a mining outfit out here?”

The Ungstiri ponders, scratching his right cheek. “I know some people.” A chuckle, then, “Maybe they’re tired of drilling on dead rock back home.”

“Guess so,” Sionnach replies with a thoughtful nod, “You think they’ll let you fuel up a mining bark at the Rucker?”

“Don’t know,” Prague says. “But I don’t see why not. Gotta talk it over with Captain Lee, I expect.”

“Would think so,” the Pyracani says with a quick nod. “Mind if I grab a quick power nap while I’m locked out of the helm?”

“Not at all,” Prague replies. “I’ll keep an eye on things.”

A couple hours later, the Pride is docked aboard the Rucker. Prague makes his way down to the airlock, where he finds Sharpers waiting. She says, “We’ve got a burnt out circuit in the generator matrix below the Faraday construct.”

Vechkov grunts, eyeing her from under the brim of his fedora. “Expensive to fix?”

Sharpers shrugs. “Depends on supply, demand, and human greed. I’ll see what Captain Lee’s got in stock.”

The Ungstiri nods, then says, “Thanks. Send me the bill.”

The engineer opens the airlock and descends the ramp toward the hangar bay.

Sionnach climbs down after the engineer has left. “Anything to do while we wait, boss?” he asks Veckov, pausing to lean on the ladder.

“You want to ask around about that moss sample?” Prague inquires.

“Couldn’t hurt,” the Pyracani replies with a quick nod, pulling open the storage compartment in which the sample was stored. “How much time we got?” he asks, rummaging in the bin.

The captain shrugs, plucking a cigarette from the crumpled pack in his trenchcoat pocket. “A while. I’m transmitting the Mintaka claim report to Earth now that we’re here. Once we’ve got clearance to proceed with resource development, we may head back to Ungstir to hire the right folks for the job of ramping up operations. So I’d say we’re here for at least a couple of days.”

“Fair enough,” the pilot says, pulling the sample jar out of the bin, “I’ll see what I can find. Don’t leave without me.” He grins as wide as a caninoid can before stepping through the airlock and onto the Rucker.

Captain Miranda Lee nods to Sionnach as he arrives. She says: “Welcome back. Productive trip, I hope.”

“Seems like it,” the Pyracani replies with a toothy smile, “I was wondering, though, if you have anyone who might like to look at a biological sample we picked up.”

The captain arches an eyebrow. “Sample. From your alien world? It’ll need to go through quarantine first. And your ship and crew are under lockdown until that sample is cleared.” She sighs. “Come on, I’ll take you to Fremont’s lab. Shouldn’t take more than a few minutes to figure out if you’ve killed us all.”

“Well, nothing has happened yet,” the Pyracani says with a sheepish grin, his flattened ears convincing no one. He does, however, follow the captain to wherever she leads.

A short while later, the duo arrives at an office adjacent to the docking bay, where the Rucker’s quartermaster – Alloy Fremont – reviews the latest incoming freight manifests. The captain informs him: “We’ve got an alien sample that needs a quarantine review. Priority, since, y’know, protocols.” She glances toward Sionnach and says, “So you know, you’re the first explorer to come back with something to show for it. Watch it be some kind of death spore from hell.”

Fremont, a white-haired skinny man, blanches at the captain’s lackadaisical attitude. “Don’t even joke,” he mutters. He slides a pair of white plastic gloves onto his hands and reaches out toward the Pyracani. “Let’s see it.”

The pilot almost considers tossing the container to Fremont, mostly to give the quartermaster a heart attack, but he thinks better of it, not entirely confident the man will make the catch. He instead hands the sample carefully over. “Let us hope it is nothing bad,” he says.

Fremont accepts the container, then carries it toward a hatch in the back of his chamber. The hatch bears a scary-looking red and yellow biohazard symbol. He sets the tube on a shelf beside the hatch. He climbs into a blue hazardous materials suit. Then he opens the hatch, takes the tube, steps inside, and closes the hatch with a THUNK.

Sionnach watches this operation with a certain level of fascination. “So anyone run into any trouble, yet?” he asks of the captain while waiting.

“Trouble?” The captain shakes her head. “A few refuel issues and mechanical failures that required rescue. Although there’s one ship, the Martinette, that’s late reporting back from Beta Ophiuchi. Vanguard should be checking that out.”

The hatch opens. Fremont emerges, yanking the mask off his suit, and offers the tube of moss back to Sionnach. “Non-hazardous. Mostly protein. In fact, it’s an excellent food source.” He looks toward Captain Lee. “If you want to supplement our rations, you could do a lot worse than this plant.”

Sionnach wrinkles his snout in disgust, shaking his head. “You folks want to hold onto it?” he asks, “I’ll have to ask the boss, but I don’t think he’ll mind overmuch.”

Fremont looks flabbergasted. Captain Lee chuckles at his dismay, then she says to Sionnach: “If there’s a lot of this material on the world you found, and if it’s a renewable resource, it may earn your boss a hell of a lot more than a mineral claim in the long run. You may have discovered a nutritional supplement useful to thousands, if not millions, of potential colonists.”

The Pyracani seems incredulous of this but he nods politely. “Alright, well… thanks. I better get back and tell him, then.” He takes the container, looking in at it as if it contained a deadly spider. He nods to the two officers once again and bids them farewell, heading back to the Ekaterina’s Pride.

“Next time, use a hazmat container,” the quartermaster complains at Sionnach’s back.

Captain Lee gives Fremont a cutting look. “Well, now they definitely won’t cut us in on their big payday.”

The pilot returns to the exploration ship, ducking into the airlock. “Still aboard, boss?” he calls out as he cycles the hatch closed.

“Yeah, sure,” Prague answers through the intercom. “Just heard back from my friends on Ungstir. They think it might be cost prohibitive to ramp up a mining facility for something as mundane as iron.”

“About that,” Sionnach replies, tossing the sample container in the air and catching it, “Apparently this stuff’s worth more than we thought.

“Really?” The captain grunts. “Come on in. Let’s talk next steps.”

The Pyracani steps into Prague’s cramped bunkroom and holds up the container, “Apparently, this is edible. Captain Lee thinks it might be worth a fortune if it can be farmed.”

The Ungstiri blinks in surprise. “I came all this way to make my fortune…and it’s gonna be farming moss?”

Sionnach tosses the container to Vechkov with a toothy grin. “You’re gonna need a bigger boat,” he says with a chuckle.

[OTHERVIEW Q&A] Dave Creek #amwriting #storytelling

Dave Creek, a former web producer, is a Kentucky native who lives in Louisville. He’s the author of numerous stories and novels set in the same shared sci-fi universe since 1994. Creek recently took the time to answer some questions:

Wes Platt: How did you get started as a writer?

Dave Creek: After several years of trying, I sold my first story to ANALOG in 1994.  I thought the floodgates were going to open.  I sold my next story six years later.  But since then, I’ve sold over twenty stories there and several others to APEX and various anthologies.

WP: What was your career? And were you able to transition easily to full-time writing or was it something that had to be more of a freelance hobby?

DC: I retired about three and a half years ago from WDRB-TV in Louisville. I was a web producer, writing stories for WDRB.com, and also produced newscasts. Most of my career I was a show producer, but at others times was an assignment editor, tape editor (back when you used tape), and other things.

WP: All your stories take place in a shared “future history”, correct? What made you decide to approach your work that way? And how do you keep it fresh and exciting for yourself as a storyteller?

DC: I’ve always enjoyed other writers’ future histories, such as the Isaac Asimov FOUNDATION series, Poul Anderson‘s stories of Dominic Flandry, and many others.  I keep it fresh and exciting by making a rule with myself that I have to learn something new about my characters and/or background with each story.  I can’t just recycle elements.

WP: Who do you count among your influences as a writer? What other authors captured your attention when you were younger and why?

DC: For me, the Big Four were Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, and Robert Heinlein. I have to go back and re-read some of those!
Other influences include Poul Anderson, Harlan Ellison, Ursula K. Le Guin, Robert Silverberg, Lois McMaster Bujold, C.J. Cherryh, many others.
WP: How do you define success as an author?
DC: Connecting with readers, having them tell me they enjoyed a story. Having a discussion about your characters or ideas is always great.

WP: What’s your process as a writer? Example: Lots of outlines and pre-planning or more freeform, seat-of-the-pants storytelling?

DC: The more I do this, the more detail I put into outlines. I’ve tried “pantsing” a couple of times and I end up going down into a wormhole. But I always keep in mind that the outline is not the story.  If I get a good idea along the way, I incorporate it into the outline or change the direction of the outline.

WP: What do you do for fun when you’re not writing?

DC: My wife and son and I are big music fans.  In the last few years, with either or both of them, I’ve seen The Who, Roger Waters, U2, Lake Street Dive, Paul McCartney, and Stevie Wonder.  My favorite of all time is Yes, which I’ve seen countless times.
WP: Do you prefer independent or corporate publishing? What do you find are the trade-offs of each?
DC: I haven’t been a part of “corporate” publishing, only small presses.  My current publisher, Hydra Publications here in Kentucky, is great to work with.  I have a lot of input into promotions, cover art, all the aspects of publishing.  I put out more than they can publish in a single year, so I self-publish novellas and short story collections and that kind of thing.  It’s satisfying, but I hate dealing with formatting. There’s a program called Vellum that’s supposed to be great that I hope to buy soon.

WP: What advice do you have for young writers – or older writers who just haven’t been published yet?

DC: Study the markets if you’re submitting short stories to magazines, whether print or online. See what markets might be best for your story and submit it to the market that pays the most. That will generally also be the one that gives you the most exposure. If you’re rejected at that first one, work your way back down. Don’t fall for editors/publishers who tell you how great the exposure will be in their publication, rather than money. If they don’t have a big enough audience to pay you, they won’t be giving you that much exposure.

As far as books, aim high again. See what traditional publisher might be interested in your work, then submit. You may have to wait as long as a year. If you get tired of waiting, or if your work isn’t commercial enough for the trad presses, go to the small presses. But if that’s what you decide to do, beware of outlets that promise a lot but don’t deliver. No one certifies publishers or editors. Some people who claim to be “publishers” are really printers. And you shouldn’t pay for ANYTHING. Not promotions, not printing, not editing, ANYTHING. Money flows toward the writer.
Or you can self-publish. Then you’re legitimately putting out your own money. You need to hire an editor, though if you have some great beta readers, that can work too. You have to learn how to format or hire someone to do it, and you have to pay for cover art. It’s a lot to do, but it can be satisfying.
No matter what you do, I always recommend checking out writerbeware.com. It’s maintained by the Science Fiction Writers of America, but anyone can check it out. Study the pitfalls other people have coped with, find out who some of the bad players are out there, and just make sure you’re informed.

WP: Name some modern authors whose work you enjoy and share why they appeal to you.

DC: I love Jason Sanford‘s use of language, N.K. Jemisin‘s fantasy worldbuilding and strong characters, Nnedi Okorafor‘s Binti stories for a progressive take on alien contacts and worldbuilding, and Rosemary Claire Smith‘s time travel stories featuring dinosaurs. There’ s lot of great stuff out there right now!
Thanks so much to Dave for sharing his thoughts and experiences! I’m always interested in hearing from other writers and their perspectives, so feel free to reach out to me via email at jointhesaga@gmail.com.