by wjw on December 29, 2018

I’m well into the as-yet-untitled second volume of the second series of Praxis novels— now that would make a poor title— and I’ve come to realize that I’m really missing having at least some of the action set on a planet, where there are things like wind and plants and pretty scenery.

Every scene is either on a starship or on some kind of station, and that means decks and corridors and machinery.  Each setting is artificial, and there are only so many ways I can describe it.

Fortunately the Praxis universe is heavy on ornament, so that’s an option.  Still, I’m going to get really sick of describing corridors by the time this is over.

Etaoin Shrdlu December 29, 2018 at 10:54 am

Insert some vignettes of Terza at home, Peers having a masque (make it Poe-ish and have them get some bad news), maybe shore leave in a Star Wars cantina with green-skinned dancing slavegirls?

Or — plot twist!!! — you could have interdimensional cis-hetero pan-galactic gargle-blasting aliens show up and unite all the races in a desperate battle of survival against an inimical foe! Here’s your cover for it:

pixlaw December 29, 2018 at 11:16 am

I personally think (there’s an oxymoron for you, or for me, I guess) that since the bad guys/gals are semi-decadent aristo types, you should add lots of pointless ornament, bleeping things and blinking lights in their corridors. Lots and lots of possibilities for description right there. And if you over-do it, it’ll warm your editor’s heart by giving him/her lots of stuff to cross out. Win-win.

Or, over-describe the various weaponries available as well as the technical histories thereof. Long tradition of that in space opera, and it still seems to sell quite well.

Kurushiyama December 29, 2018 at 6:35 pm

I was deeply influenced by Hardwired and equally deeply impressed by the Praxis series, so it is not for me to criticize you. However, here are my thoughts. We are following persons and their stories. And yes, in the first Praxis trilogy, there were good reasons to be both planetside and in space. However, the scenery was less important than the reaction of the protagonists and other actors to the circumstances and the resulting interaction. If their stories “just” take them on ships or stations – so be it. Maybe you could see it as a challenge as a writer to not rely on the setting. Ehhhmm… Sir. 😉

Etaoin Shrdlu December 30, 2018 at 10:01 am

One word: cats.

John Wilson January 1, 2019 at 3:37 am

Good morning and Happy New Year, Mr. Williams and everyone else here.

I received Investments, Impersonations, and Accidental War for Christmas. I finished Accidental War the day before yesterday, and I’m now gnashing my teeth realizing I’m going to have to wait for volumes 2 and 3. Somehow it escaped me that this is part of a trilogy. Sigh. Time to go hunt down a copy of City on Fire.

Anyway, I was going to make a comment about your corridor problem, and I thought it was a pretty good suggestion. In my hubris it occurred to me that you might think so too – forgive me, but I guess you’re not the only science fiction author on the forum…

Anyway, I thought that if you did think it was useful, it would put you in a position of using an idea someone else gave you (or, of using an idea that had independently occurred to both you and someone writing in this forum).

I’m not sure what your personal policy would be on that, to say nothing of any legal implications (I would have relinquished any right and claim to the scenario – otherwise what’s the point of making the suggestion?).

So I’m going to refrain. But out of curiosity, what would you do if someone made a suggestion that appealed to you? Would you seek permission to use it? Would it bother you to have even an insignificant part of your work “spoiled” in the comments section of your website? Or, would you feel that you could not – must not – use it, and so feel compelled to write something completely different?


wjw January 1, 2019 at 2:29 pm

I have added cats to the scene I’m working on. For these purposes, they fall under the category of “ornament.”

wjw January 2, 2019 at 12:14 am

John, if someone offered me a suggestion I liked, I would use it. If people don’t want me to use their suggestions, they shouldn’t make them.

I might also offer an acknowledgement, if it really helped.

bookworm1398 January 2, 2019 at 2:56 pm

Perhaps the decor could have political significance? Most prominent flag/portrait would provide clues to political opinions on the ship. And could change over time.

John Wilson January 5, 2019 at 7:05 pm

Thanks for the reply. About what I would have expected – if the suggestion is actually good, make use of it. In my case, I would be thrilled to see some idea of mine in print in someone’s book.

Since you’re an accommodating person, here are my suggestions with respect to corridors. First the technical one – create a couple of macros such that all you need to do is press (for example) Alt-C and a boilerplate description of a corridor appears; Alt-B for a canned description of a ship’s bridge, and so on. That’ll save some mental wear and tear.

Then, make a virtue of the necessity of describing the corridors and bridges the same way, by having it introduce a creeping sense of unreality into Sula and/or Martinez. You could have a situation where they’ve been at high g’s so long, on different ships, that they begin to lose track of which ship they’re on, or even what system they’re in. Michi could appoint Sula to command Jeremy Foote’s squadron, and she would naturally choose his ship as her flag, since he has the only light cruiser in a squadron of frigates. Later, she has to transfer to a frigate and orders the Weapons Officer to load antimatter in Battery 3, and the Weapons Officer replies, “We don’t have a Battery 3”.

wjw January 8, 2019 at 12:36 am

All the suggestions on offer are good ones, though perhaps not for this particular novel.

One problem with writing a long series is that you can box yourself in. Certain things just aren’t going to happen, because three or four novels ago you made it impossible. Certain observations aren’t going to occur to certain characters, because that’s how the characters developed. Foote will never like Martinez, and he won’t be able to see an empty corridor without thinking, “We need dark wood paneling, gold sconces, and some portraits of my utterly distinguished ancestors.”

Further thoughts on setting in an essay I plan to write any minute now.

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