Tales from the Gossamer Relic



I actually wrote this a couple of months ago, probably sometime in late summer but I’m not entirely sure when, and then just left it kicking around as a backup story for a slow day. Today is definitively a slow day. Or at least it’s a day where I don’t really want to expend any more energy doing something complex. Thus, rather than leave it drifting around even longer to maybe eventually fiddle with it later, I figure I might as well post this one!

People come from all across the galaxy to explore the relic. Trained and untrained, rich and poor, prepared and clueless, they come, they land, and many of them never leave. They call it a relic, but really, no-one even knows if that’s the appropriate word for it at all.

Seen from several AU away, it looks like a glowing thistledown, ephemeral and fragile. A ship closing in at sublight speeds could watch it grow, slowly, the initially fluffy appearance growing ever more complex. At its furthest extents it’s more than 2 AU across, filling and overspilling a volume of space similar to that enclosed by the orbit of the Earth, and it’s lit all through with the light of the star at its heart. Close up, it begins to look almost fractal, with delicate detail on every scale.

Another ship lands, and more explorers disembark. They come every day, to seek and to study. Some enter the many and varied training programs that have sprung up around the landing sites. Others shoulder their packs, pick up their cases, and begin to walk.

The areas surrounding the landing sites are well-mapped, and even so, now and again an explorer will find a new surprise. But it’s further out that the real finds lie, strange and true. Some have still never been seen by human eyes. Some may be worth vast amounts — but most explorers of the gossamer relic aren’t in it for the money.

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Campfire Stories


We lay our whispers softly
in the branches of the trees
paths criss-cross recrossing
as we tell our victories
they whisper slow and softly
as the night brings in the black
but the stars that shine in darkness
they reflect our glory back
the first grey light of breaking day
born of the rising sun
like wisps of mist the fallen
ghost the first grey light of dawn
and you tell your secrets safely
to the branches of the trees
their lines trace out the patterns
of their whispered mysteries
a thousand tales of heroes gone
still waiting to be told
are whispered in the hazy light
as dawn’s gold rays unfold

I was tidying up some weeks back and it’s a rather boring job, so I grabbed a piece of paper and scribbled down a quick line every time I walked past the table. The end result then got forgotten in my living room for a while until I noticed it cluttering up the table and thought I should really digitise it and get rid of the random paper. And I actually quite like this one (particularly since it got complimented!).

Based on a True Story



I larp. It’s awesome. I am not particularly remarkable as a larper and do not, to my knowledge, receive special favours over other players. (Well, I don’t think I am, anyway.) In fact my death record is terrible: I have never before had a primary character live long enough to achieve anything. I play a death-heavy system where dying is easy and living is hard, and I’ve mourned several good characters. Oddly enough, despite how much each loss hurts, I like it that way.

Here follows the story of Why I Lost NaNoWriMo 2016 — and why I have no regrets whatsoever.

(Names and locations altered/avoided to protect the guilty. Needless to say, some variant of this is already a book in prep. Detail lost towards the end because (a) if I start filling it in this post will end up being the book, and (b) I’m not normally possessive but this is a special story dammit, only those who were there get to be the first to tell it properly. Or in other words, I’m not doing my normal Creative Commons thing until it’s actually complete.)

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Defeated by Awesome


So I didn’t make NaNo. (I know it’s technically not over, but even at my maximum recorded speed of around 55wpm, it’s not physically possible for me to type 16,000 words in what little is left of today.)

And you know what? Despite how determined I am to always give the things I do 100%, and the fact that NaNo is easy for me and even with a full PhD timetable there’s no way I can lose unless something major happens, I’m okay with that.

Reason being, I stopped writing about halfway through the month for almost a week due to an Awesomeness Overload occurring. And that is a damn good reason to stop doing anything, because I would absolutely trade a NaNo success for it any day. The book will still get written, other things will still get done, and I got a boatload of awesome that I now get to keep for ever and ever.  ❤

The Giant Hairball Update*


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*Disclaimer: author does not have a giant hairball.

In order to get back ahead of the curve after Tuesday didn’t overly happen, I packed in an awful lot of writing yesterday — Scrivener makes it 3,956 words — around my various chores, tasks, and assorted bits of RP prep. And now I’m back on track!

As far as Instability goes, assorted slightly disjointed things have happened as I jumped around between “things I need to write but that are tough” and “things I don’t need to write that are easy”. “Hex” has been lying low lately due to not having enough money to easily escape Venus should they be found, while Dayna, still in the guise of Leslie Jones the cargo hauler, is hanging out online and trying to work out which of the many ever-changing handles belong to her target. She’s picked out one user going by “theginthem”, which a lot of people thought was alcoholic, but Dayna, after a while, started wondering if perhaps the real spacing was “the g in the m” — which would fit with some of the previous known aliases.

And then there needed to be people things and other such nonsense, so Dayna went to some bar to bet on sports. Unfortunately, the only bar I really like to frequent tends to be punctuated by stabbings, magical explosions, the occasional demon, and a lot of shouting — oh, and no drinks since the building admins went insane years ago.

Also Mars came through the roof one time and we still can’t decide whether Forcible Bar Repair is legal.

Taking all of that into account, you can see how watching sports at a bar isn’t exactly my strong point. Even if the sport in question did end up being zero-g flightdisk because who doesn’t want an anti-gravity frisbee? However, Dayna did briefly meet “Hex” (under the name of Annie), and has got her as one of the shortlist of suspects. She’s getting closer…

And before all of that, we had a brief introduction to why Dayna being in space is a terrible idea, and if she ever let on she’d lose her job. It hypnotises her, captivates her; if she ever lost control, she could just drift and stare into the blackness until her air ran out…

And after all of that, we had “Hex” disguised as a maintenance tech and people-hacking her way into an office block by pretending she’d left her ID card inside yesterday and got locked out and was already so late for her shift and really didn’t want to be in trouble after she only just got transferred here and I’m sure I know there’s only about three places it could be, I’ll find it right away… and then, having got in, picked up a tech support request as an excuse to go fiddle with someone’s computer. Which is going to give her so many really dumb computer problems to deal with…

A Busy Time, A Big Update


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Well, I’ve been busy! But not so busy that I haven’t been able to make quota, even if only barely yesterday. I’m now on a bright and shiny 10,688 words so far, and haven’t written anything at all yet today!

And that makes it high time I caught you all up on where things have got to again! Because there have certainly been a few happenings, even if some of them do partially consist of me getting distracted and rambling about space. This seems to have become a permanent feature of “things that happen when I write sci-fi”, which I suppose is the price I pay for it also being my actual subject, or something. Though that never used to happen so much…

So, Dayna’s made it to Venus, or more specifically to Amethyst Station, the most remote of the orbital stations and the one that is essentially just a big Solar Police outpost: it’s the local headquarters for everything within Venus’ orbit, Mercury included. There’s not much at Mercury yet, so it doesn’t warrant a full station of its own. The station, like most stations, has a zero-g docking hub in the centre and then generates “gravity” by spinning the outer ring, where all the habitation areas are, so there’s a slightly odd lift ride where everything gets “heavier” the lower the lift drops.

She gets a nice rationed shower and then I was too tired to do too much talking, so I skipped the part where she’s actually told about her cover identity and went straight to her having a cover identity: Leslie Jones, slightly-in-debt cargo hauler. The standard Solar Police freighter (basically a cube with rounded edges) with a standard Solar Police crew undocked from the station and headed out along a trajectory as if to Earth — but actually didn’t go all that far, reverting to normal flight outside easy detection range and stopping to be transformed into a company freighter with a company crew. (The company hasn’t been named yet. But they are real and have an agreement with the Solar Police that, on occasion, permits this.) Dayna, as Leslie, is about to go spacewalking to change some hull plating and paintwork to back that up… and this, because Dayna is just a little special, is not the best of ideas, but she isn’t going to say anything. If she did, she’d lose her Epic Job.

Also the space-folding drive that bends space to make ships travel across the Solar System faster is still currently called the Bender or Bending Drive (for Dumb Reasons), and this and all the resulting terminology is still amusing me, even if it is just a placeholder.

Finally, and on a totally unrelated subject, if any of you readers are interested in tabletop RPGs, check out this Humble Bundle! They have Mistborn!



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Getting slowly further ahead, I am! Talk like small green Jedi, I must. Possibly slightly too tired I am.

We’ve seen Dayna off to Venus now, where she’ll shortly be going undercover to try and track down “Hex” the mystery hacker. Hex’s online identities include a couple of minor “historical” cultural references that Dayna hasn’t yet figured out, but which make me smile. Possibly I’m just easily amused. (All right, definitely. Easily amused is the best way to be.)

We’ve also been introduced to the more common means of interplanetary travel: the Bender, a space-folding drive that warps space around the ship (and the ship itself), rather than what the still-almost-experimental “interstitial” drive does, which is drop the ship out of normal space altogether. While much faster, there’s only one fully functional and crewed ship utilising this interstitial drive, whereas the Bender has been in use for over a century at this point. It does have its downsides, most notably that bent space has just enough of an effect on the behaviour of matter that humans feel permanently slightly subconsciously uneasy within it. But that’s something space travellers just have to learn to live with…



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Or even 5,207! Not a bad little number. That was, of course, yesterday’s count – I was too wiped out yesterday to do a coherent little post.

So, what happened? Well, Dayna got briefed on her new assignment, the mystery hacker or hackers nicknamed “Hex” (for Hexadecimal, if you’re wondering). It’s been five months since First Contact, and the aliens were nice enough to give us a little probe to park somewhere in the Solar System and use to talk to them, rather than tying up spaceships in the next system over. So this has been happening at, simultaneously, a rate of knots and the glacially slow pace of diplomancy, which is an arcane art many people recommend avoiding as it can go horribly wrong and make people explode — oh no, wait, that’s geomancy, my bad.

Anyway, the point is that we have this little probe that simply relays whatever signals we plug into it off through interspace (though we aren’t quite calling it that yet) to our new alien acquaintances, and feeds their return signals back to us. All well and good. Now, while the Solar System does have a loosely unified authority (as proven, for example, by the existence of the Solar Police), it also still retains a great deal of independent latitude for the many members. Mars has a planetary government, the asteroids are split into three main zones (plus a few lawless stations that everyone likes to pretend don’t exist, because space is big), Venus’ orbital stations are united, but Earth is still split into several chunks, albeit rather larger ones than the present day, and thank goodness for that because seriously you idiots. So, all of these semi-national actors are naturally chipping around at the edges of the diplomatic cybersecurity in an effort to get an edge on what their sorry little faction knows or might request. So far, so normal, and as soon as the Solar Police get enough confirmed evidence on any one of them, they’ll haul their collective backsides to the interplanetary courts for an extremely severe talking-to.

And they pretty much expected that, and have a task force dedicated to it. It will all be fine. *waves hands in the air*

But, while they were tracking these hackers, they found a set of attempts that didn’t fit the pattern. They built up a profile of a young hacker, an individual or small group, one prone to taking risks for unknown reward and one with a slightly unusual range of interests including trying to actively interfere with the diplomatic communications — which no-one else has been dumb enough to attempt.

Naturally, this is a rather worrying problem. And this little problem is what Dayna’s been asked to deal with — so next up is her travelling off to Venus, where “Hex” was last localised to…

3,333 Words


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(And then a few more.)

Another 1,667 words and more written, and we see Dayna board her shuttle and take off, distracted from current events by the space-sick traveller beside her, talking to him until his unease subsides before she can return to her own thoughts. Of the aliens, and what they want — nothing, she thinks: the galaxy is so very vast once one can travel between the stars — and then, as they approach the Moon, of her job, of the Solar Police, of the mantle she’s taking up again without ever having quite put down. It’s not a job that you just walk away from and leave behind…


Midday Miscellaneous


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Or slightly after midday, really.

I went and picked up my thesis from the binders’! It’s still rather hard to believe it’s real, or that I wrote that! When did that happen? (Oh yeah, those seven years of increasingly cantankerous studentship. It’s funny, when you’re eyeball-deep in it you start to forget the beauty and glory of your work, and then every now and again something just occurs to you and it’s bright shining splendid all over again — at least until you sit back down in front of yet another line of Fortran that isn’t doing what it ought to.)

So, thesis! And I hand it in tomorrow!

In other news, last night was a desperate race to midnight, and I squeaked in just under the wire… mainly by going off on a tangent and wittering on about space, because I can do that for days on end. This, therefore, isn’t so much Plot as it’s me letting myself get distracted and witter on in order to make word count in the <10 minutes I had remaining! But I kind of like it, and what’s NaNo for if not to share?

Anywhere from the mining colonies of the asteroids to the orbital stations of Venus, to Mars her home or the radiation-bathed moons of Jupiter, the spectacular views of Saturn orbit… or maybe the NEO miners, those nearby stations that industriously harvested and broke down any space debris passing close to Earth.

Earth. Old mother, birthplace of the human race, but no longer their only home. Still stained with pollution, still scarred with mining and deforestation, but cared for yet, still blue and brown and green from space, streaked with her ever-changing swirls of white as clouds danced across the surface of the world. Still capped at the poles with ice, though less than there had once been; mountain ranges tipped with snow. In the night, the vast cities shone and sparkled like living jewels, diamond dust scattered in random handfuls onto cobwebs in the darkness. And all around, stations orbited, shuttles flew back and forth between Earth and Moon, Earth and station, station and Moon. Attended by this graceful, miniature ballet, the stately planet sailed on in her endless journey around the sun, as she would for countless years to come, heedless of the delicate life birthed from her ancient surface and reaching out towards the stars.