In the continuing quest for inspiration in writing my science fiction book Aqaara, I was recommended the graphic novel series Saga by Brian Vaughn and Fiona Staples. I was most interested in its apparently profound treatment of sexual themes and imagery, and yet was disappointed to realize that it is neither thought-provoking nor titillating. The work is nothing more than a morass of simplistic morality propped upon a landscape of superficial sexuality in which – surprise! – a transgender character recently appears. The story-line is vapid, the dialogue interminable to say nothing of the farcical content. But worse of all are the references to the authors’ own process themselves, their love of books and killing off their babies. Which they never did and really should have.
Och engaged the signal and listened with the rest to the bitter message from Earth. “This is not open to negotiation. You are ordered to return.”
“We are leaving,” he replied simply.
“We condemn your actions. Your assets are to be seized, everything you own on Earth.”
“We give everything we have left behind freely. It is all for you. Use it for the good of all.”
“Your families will pay a dear price for your betrayal.”
“We would like you to accept our departure, commander. What else is there for you to do?”
“Set your course for return or you will be condemned.” The radio went down.
“They hung up on us?” Dee asked.
Och nodded. “It’s like a bad break-up.”
I did a reading last evening, which was this: There weren’t any hours. They didn’t exist. Dee thought about that too much, every day she had been on this ship, every day if days had existed. But they didn’t. Those things, those ticks, didn’t exist, not anymore. And she didn’t understand what the point was of pretending they did. There were no months, no years, no millennia, no seconds. There was none of that. They didn’t have a sun, no weather, no storm coming, no frost, nothing like that, nothing that was real, nothing. They were relative to nothing. Absolutely nothing. She hated thinking about that, thinking it again and again. In spite of all of their schedules and notifications, their habits, despite what everyone said, none of that existed. They just didn’t have time anymore. There was no planet, no star, no system. They were relative to nothing. It was that simple. They no longer rotated. They no longer revolved around anything, and nothing revolved around them. There was no longer a gravitational field, nothing to hold them, to give them weight. They had removed themselves, purposely dropped themselves into the abyss. They had left. They were relative to nothing. And nothing was relative to them. They were separate, moving, independent, away, further, closer, something else, deeper, whatever the word would be, whatever they would concoct in the days, the not-days, the not-months, the not-years to come, that word that defined their current state, their collective morass, their disappearing, connected to nothingness, broken free, going too fast – .91 light speed? Really that speed? Really that?
Focus is everything. Despite a tepid reaction to my first assignment – and being told that my character (me?) is an unlikable jerk, perhaps racist – I found myself getting on track. The details are the thing. And today’s work at Kenyon College on a variety of ways to implement dialogue is a good way to move things forward:
Dee reached in for the last of the pups, already half out of the incubator, not wanting to be alone. “I was six months old. You don’t remember anything at that age.”
“You can remember some things,” Calli replied. “I can remember lots of smells, like that blue blanket. I turn back into a baby when I remember it.”
Ashe laughed. “No way.”
“I think about your aunt as a little girl – she was barely three – trying to get our mother to wake up and not understanding why she wouldn’t.” The images coursed through Dee, almost like Calli had described, the smells of the kitchen, the sun across the floor and then the dark, her own stink rising with her mother’s. “I was crying too. Don’t forget that. She had to feed me cereal and bread, handfuls and handfuls of it. And still I wouldn’t stop.”
Ashe had her face pressed close to the pup’s. “How long were you there with her?”
“Three days,” Calli answered. “She’s told us like a million times.”