A Writing Waypoint

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One hundred thousand words! A milestone in drafting the manuscript for the Greatest Game.

A milestone without context to those reading this post? Certainly. From the outside looking in, one does not know whether my next novel, in terms of length, will be a tomelike epic or a taut thriller. A hundred thousand could be a drop in the bucket.

But to me, 100K does represent a significant waypoint. Since I’ve done a rough plot outline, I can safely say there’s less than a third to go. I’m fast approaching the climax – one definitely full of excitement and suspense.

Summer is not an ideal time to write a novel, what with the enticement of beautiful weather coupled with new trails and sites to explore. The great outdoors beckon, shouting at me to forgo the keyboard. I oblige often. Perseverance is the name of the game when writing amid the summer months. Slowly but surely I have toiled (enjoyably) at the growing manuscript. I believe the end results will confirm the effort was worthwhile.

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Building a world derived from our world

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One of the interesting parts in writing – or in this case preparing to write – a science fiction story set in the future involves all the setup work conducted to flesh out a fictional universe. When doing all that setup, an author setting their story in the future

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Written in 1989, Rama II depicted the Soviet Union lasting into the 22nd century

needs to decide where to branch off from real-world history. This aspect makes all futuristic science fiction a form of alternate history in the long run. How many science fiction classics from the 70s and 80s wrote about the Soviet Union enduring well into the 21st century?

For my upcoming novel The Greatest Game, I chose 2007-08 as the time to fork from real history. This offered me a couple benefits: enough time (a generation) to setup socioeconomic and geopolitical situations that coincide with technological advents, and time for such situations to develop those technologies and spread them among the public. In many ways, such preamble work is more taxing than actually writing the book. Timeline construction is but one of many studies I did to flesh out The Greatest Game.

Below is a sample of the timeline I designed for Greatest Game. It highlights differences in recent years from our collective history:

2008: USA federal election elects President Bill Richardson to office. Richardson’s benefactors happen to be heavily invested in information technology firms that dabble in artificial intelligence.

2009: Major US government investments in artificial intelligence research and associated offshoots begins. Throughout Richardson’s presidency, AI and quantum computing R&D becomes a microeconomy in the USA and ultimately the rest of the developed world.

2012: Elected to a second term, President Richardson and his cabinet launch another microeconomy based on revitalizing rail or equivalent transportation for local and regional travel. This leads to the economical development of the Siranx vacuum tube network.

2015: The Siranx pneumatic tube transit system is prototyped in California. Using freeway right-of-way, the network is initially established from Los Angeles and threads through Bakersfield, Fresno, Modesto, then onto San Jose & San Francisco.

2016: Rand Paul is elected President of the United States. His 8-year tenure is one punctuated by free-market economics, limited regulation, and isolationist foreign policy. Under Paul’s regime, AI and quantum computing research is less regulated and more based on corporate monetary and innovation aims.

2017: Green energy firms and their technologies (wind, solar, geothermal, hydro, tidal) start to slowly overtake the energy market in the United States after government subsidies for fossil fuel extraction & technologies (coal, natural gas, petroleum) are phased out under President Paul.

After the USA declares a new, insular foreign policy, Israel takes advantage in the Middle East, seizing full control of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Concerned about the viability of their economic prowess and democratic stability, most South American countries ratify the UNASUR treaty with additional conditions and powers, giving the continental organization more direct economic, military and political control.

2018: Advancements in photovoltaic technologies allow for successful intracontinental flights of smaller Airbus planes half-powered by solar energy. Photovoltaics also increasingly power Siranx tube transit networks.

Israel launches annexation campaigns in the Middle East. Their conquering aims are tacitly approved of by the USA and Russia. Within 4 years (2018-2022) they seize Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and Egypt. The Secular Kingdom of Israel and the Arabian Provinces (SKIAP) is thus formed.

The Patriot Act is dissolved by congress under President Paul. Subsequent increases in citizen privacy are still minimal, however, as other data collection programs that skirt legality exist. The external need for such domestic spying, however, decreases as Paul fosters the USA’s inward-focusing paradigm.

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Waves of Reprisal giveaway

WAVES OF REPRISAL BANNER

Tome Tender is hosting a giveaway of Waves of Reprisal. 3 eBook copies can be won by entrants interested in the post-apocalyptic adventure.

The giveaway ends March 14. Head over to the site to submit your details: http://tometender.blogspot.ca/2016/02/malcolm-littles-waves-of-reprisal-blitz.html

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Greatest Game underway

Ggame cropIt has been some time since adding to my writing blog. I have been abnormally busy over the last quarter, but that does not mean I completely neglected working on my next novel. It will be called The Greatest Game, and it’s the continuation of the prelude novella Playing the Greatest Game.

Over the last few months a lot of story building has gone into GGame. Story building – by my definition – involves detailed settings and character studies, and extensive world building via contextual outlines. Such outlines, which I consider important in constructing a quality science fiction narrative, include the technology context, the social context, the economic context, the environmental context, and the geopolitical context. Altogether they influence the construction of a timeline that branches off somewhere from actual history. In Greatest Game’s case, the fictional universe diverges in 2008 with the election of President Bill Richardson.

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Startram concept (© startram.com)

The biggest piece in all the preliminary work is arguably the plot outline. I do think my stories benefit from having a plot outline, yet with some caveats: the outline is an evolving entity, constantly altered by all the aforementioned studies, and subject to change during the drafting and revisions processes. The biggest challenge I expect to encounter when drafting the manuscript is to effectively balance the hard and soft science aspects. Doing so was important for Waves of Reprisal, and in many ways I did and did not succeed.

For the Greatest Game, there are certain hard-science concepts at all scales that I will be including: bottom-up Artificial Intelligence, quantum computing, augmented reality devices, laser-based satellites, micro machines, tokamak reactors, an O’Neill cylinder, and a Startram.

The soft science aspects will include: economic regionalism, automation’s relationship with unemployment, population control versus carrying capacity, state control, and genetic engineering.

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Not everything added in the preliminary studies will even make it to the final product. Sometimes the elements get nothing more than a passing mention. But they color a science fiction universe, and are there for potential sequels to develop into something exciting and new.

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Playing the Greatest Game novella released today

My first novella, titled Playing the Greatest Game, has just been released across the multitude of major ebook distribution sites. Playing the Greatest Game was a effort of love that germinated fast and furiously over the summer months. As with my other published story Waves of Reprisal, this one was an idea that brewed just under the surface of my consciousness for years. Now that I know I have what it takes to shape my concepts into finished stories, Playing the Greatest Game came to fruition with much greater ease. I am sure it was the same with many authors after successfully realizing their debut novel. I just hope I never endure substantial writer’s block.

The story within the pages of Playing the Greatest Game acts to set up a near future where the stakes are high, and the protagonists and antagonists are driven by differing flavors of idealism. It is a glimpse into a pivotal moment in the lives of a powerless young couple, who will come to be granted immense power by a transcendent, artificial creature. I intended for the narrative of the novella to be a taut thriller, filled with suspense that would whiten the knuckles of its readers; I believe I achieved that goal.

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Cover for PtGG (courtesy Diverse Pixel)

Thanks to those who supported me throughout the entire process. For PtGG, I engaged the services of a different group of freelancers: The editor, Kelly Hartigan of XterraWeb, graciously schooled me on my grammar mistakes (for some reason, I kept adding a possessive apostrophe to a certain character). Cover artist Yvonne Less of Diverse Pixel was extremely accommodating, constantly revising the cover image until I was happy. I thank them both and, as with my crew for Waves of Reprisal, highly recommend their freelance services to any and all authors.

Check out Playing the Greatest Game, including links to where it can be purchased, on its dedicated page at the top menu bar.

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Cover reveal for Playing The Greatest Game

Beyond my usual excessive hiking during the summer months, I am writing a prequel for my upcoming novel. The prequel novella, titled “Playing the Greatest Game”, should be completed before the end of summer. In the meantime, Yvonne Less over at Diverse Pixel designed a custom book cover for the novella:

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I highly recommend Yvonne’s services to fellow authors; she excels at blending whatever elements an author wants in their envisioned cover, whilst keeping constant communication going back and forth. I am really happy with the outcome, as it captures the essence of the environment and two critical actors within the story.

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WoR available on Amazon sites

As of today, June 9th, Waves of Reprisal is available for purchase at every Amazon site on the net. The Kindle edition will set you back $3.49 USD, which I biasedly think is a good deal for a professionally edited, 100K+ word novel. Samples are available at each Amazon site. Here is a selection of links to major English-speaking Amazon country portals:

If not a fan of Amazon, you can check out the other distributors of Waves of Reprisal in the Completed Works page.

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