Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Readings from MileHiCon Pt 3

Still doing Nano. The novel I'm working on is taking some directions I didn't expect, which is always rewarding. I like it when characters decide to be their own people. The novel is based (somewhat loosely) on my Brass and Steel short story, mentioned previously, but friends and neighbors, there's a lot more going on. I'm two days behind, which is actually pretty good. And in case you were hoping, this post does not contain any samples from the novel. I'm trying not to get all twisted up about this one the way I have about Einstein's Blues, and so I'm keeping this one close to the vest until I'm ready to show it.

However, since I'm already a day late with this post, and since I somehow didn't already post it in this blog, below is the teaser reading from Einstein's Blues that I gave at 2009's MileHiCon. No guarantees that any of this will appear in the final novel, and yes I do intend to go back and finish the thing, probably when I'm done with the novel I'm working on now.



• The year is 2967. It's a long way into the future, but the story really starts only a hundred or so years from now.

• Years get away from you in time dilation stories.

• Narrator is Haidee Lee Jones, lead vocalist and lead guitarist of The Prodigal Daughters. They're the house band for Amazitron, a traveling show in the vein of Circque de Soliel. They also do gigs on the side.

• The scene is on the conning tower of the S.S. Tallahatchie, originally a colonial ship that transported colonists and their stuff from Earth to one of the few dozen colony worlds up to forty lightyears away.

• Tallahatchie is approaching Duntemann's world, an Earth-like planet orbiting HR483 A and B, a binary star system in the constellation Andromeda, about 41 lightyears from Earth.

• Tallahatchie travels at relativistic speeds, resulting in time dilation for those aboard, but that time really passes for the place they left and the place they're going to. Einstein's Blues refers to that fact. "You can get there from here, but nothing will be the same."

• I'm still working on this novel, so take this scene as a teaser of the general flavor of the final novel, even though the scene itself may be very, very different in the finished version.
Chapter 1
In the beginning, as the saying goes, there was nothing. Darkness on the face of the water. And then... wait for it... there. Starburst.

Space explodes into a silent shower of blue sparks as we slow down, as the light from those far-away stars is blueshifted less and less, until the coolest stars' light just scootches past the UV filter in the conning tower windows. It's quite sudden. One moment, darkness, the next, stars like fireflies, lighting up the vast gulf of dusty, empty space ahead.

Look up. Let my eyes adjust to the faint light of HR 483 B. Her twin, A, is far brighter, but that means her light is higher frequency. Which means it's still into the ultraviolet. Which would sunburn my pasty white-girl hide worse than catching a round-the-backside wave on Glory, if it got through the conning tower windows. Which it doesn't. So for these few minutes, the light of the hidden twin, normally outshown by her much-brighter sister and visible only at sunrise and sunset on the surface of the one rocky planet that orbits them both; that feeble glow the red dwarf is capable of, is the major light on the face of the dark water of space that the Starship Tallahatchie sails into.

Final stop for the season. Last gasp for this show before we head back to Glory, and take a couple months off, surf, rest, lick our wounds, and spacedock the ship. Assuming Leo wants us all back and hires us again, after that we start building the next show.

And there was light. And there was still nothing, but at least now you could see it.

Look back to my soldering. Wait for the call on the radio that is, that should be coming, as the light slowly warms more and more into the visible spectrum, and shines into the dusty corners of the conning tower, over the metal grate floor, washing out the feebly blinking lights in the conning tower almost nobody uses anymore. Prop my amp on the science console. It hasn't worked since I've been with the ship.

The call comes.

"S.S. Tallahatchie, sierra sierra seven-zero-one, This is Turnbull Control, Hotel Romeo four-eight-three. Received your transmission at eighteen hours, forty-one minutes, August two-seven, two-niner-six-seven, Universal. Permission to approach is granted. We have you on the schedule and in the pattern. Your approach vector is attached to this message. Orbital control will pick you up when you clear the outer planets, and the signal will get there the same day. Look out for our extra star, and welcome to Duntemann's World. Turnbull Control, Hotel Romeo four-eight-three, end of message. Message will repeat on s-band, two two niner five megahertz in six-zero seconds." So it does, and so it will, hunting up and down the usable frequencies in interplanetary space, along with any other system to ship chatter, each with a sixty second reply window, until our reply gets there. I've heard stories about messages that stayed on the queue for a century until wreckage of the ship that never replied was found.

My voice slips into the usual 'com voice' patter by itself. I don't have to think about it. Just do it. "Turnbull Control, Hotel Romeo four-eight-three from S.S. Tallahatchie, Sierra Sierra seven-zero-one. Received your transmission at thirteen-forty-seven, August two-eight, two-niner sixty-seven. Vector downloaded. Will pick up Orbital control at or around noon, September one. Universal. Thank you, and I'm looking at your extra star as we speak. S.S. Tallahatchie, Sierra Sierra seven-zero-one, end of message. Message will repeat every hour, this frequency." Log the message into the communications console so that it will.
"Com to CIC."

Beth answers. Her watch is always the same as mine. "CIC. Whatcha got, Haidee?"
"I got approach permission and a vector download. We pick up orbital control in four days Universal."

"About time. Let me get to the nav console hon." She says. "Okay. We're set. Did they say anything else?"

"Yeah, watch out for their extra star."

"It's hardly ever missed. But noted. Thanks. CIC out."

"Com out."

Four days. I have work to do. Handmade twentieth century technology always needs work. The guitar's strings are steel. They stretch and wear out. Lose their tonal quality. Replace them. Find the loose solder joint in the amp head. It's been breaking into oscillation sometimes during rehearsal. I built this amp. I know where to look. And for that, at least, I only have my own shoddy workmanship to blame. Resolder it.

I could play blues and rock ’n roll on my optical guitar. But no. Analog, thermionic electronics are the same for my art as the wood choices, instrument shapes, and varnishes used in a Stradivarius. If you want the Stradivarius sound, get a Stradivarius. If you can't afford a Stradivarius... and who can, especially now? ...figure out how the master made his violins, and make your own the same way. If you want that sound bad enough, it's worth it.

And it is worth it. When I play, you hear what you'd have heard, feel what you'd have felt if you'd been alive in the 1950s through the 2050s, and had gone to your favorite club to hear the band. So yeah, my optical guitar has better bandwidth, easier fingering by virtue of not having physical strings, it's always in tune. It always sounds the same. And because of all those improvements, because it is so very modern and clean, playing Hendrix on it is like playing one of Bach’s sonatas on accordion and kazoo. You miss the point.

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