Returning to the Arkship Ulysses

20 July 2015

As many of you know by now, I finished writing my epic SF novel the Arkship Ulysses at the tail-end of last year. I may have mentioned it once or twice.

Needless to say, the whole endeavor was a labour of love from beginning to end. Writing on the Arkship Ulysses spanned nearly 5 whole years – a depressingly long chunk of time to devote to telling a story I’ve had going round my head since I was 14 years old but a necessary one.

712L The Observers web

I have no idea why I keep using this picture to illustrate the Arkship Ulysses. I guess I just like it

The end result was good, although I’d be lying if I said it ended up close to what I originally envisioned. For one thing, it was a lot longer than expected, so much so that I had to cut the story in two and add in a sequel I’ve been trying to plot out ever since. At least 2 major characters were chopped out of the final cut, one of whom was originally supposed to be the book’s hero. There were whole chapters that I’ve even talked about on this blog that never made it into the final edit.

Still, I have to count it as a success overall, not least because it actually received an honest-to-God review online! And believe me: for an unpublished, unknown author like myself to receive any sort of unsolicited attention is a very rare and humbling thing indeed.

A couple of choice quotes from The Finder’s Saga review linked above:

“Burgess story and writing are epic. The chapters are long but the writing rich with description and dialog.”

“I find the plot intriguing and the characters strong, rich and multidimensional. The characters have motivations, fears, hope and all the emotions necessary for a rich story.”

“I find his setting descriptions and the background story believable and essential to the plot.”

Those are all really nice things to say about my work and I’m honestly chuffed to bits and extremely humbled that The Finder’s Saga would commit an entire blog post just to talking about yours truly. One of these days I’ll return the favour man, I promise.

And by the way, reading nice things about myself: Strangest. Feeling. Ever.

Special thanks to The Finder's Saga for the really kind words

Special thanks to The Finder’s Saga for the really kind words. It was very humbling

Anyway, in his book On Writing, Stephen King says it’s often a good idea to let a novel sit for a few months after you’ve finished writing it before you start with the redraft. He says that when you first finish working on a novel, you’re too close to it. You’re too invested in the characters and too close to the story to have any sort of objective opinion about it.

He recommends taking a step back and leaving it in a drawer for a few months while you work on other things.

This book is pretty much my bible when it comes to approaching creative work

This book is pretty much my bible when it comes to approaching creative work

It has now been six months since I last wrote about the Arkship Ulysses. In the meantime I have, in accordance with King’s advice, been doing other things. Lots of other things. Now, finally, I think I’m ready to jump back in to this beast and make some much-needed (and final) edits.

“What edits?” I hear you cry.

Well as it happens I actually made a list of patch notes whilst writing the first draft in anticipation of this day. These are basically moments during the writing process in which I was aware of contradicting myself but didn’t want to go back and fix them in the interests of moving things forwards. The list I’m about to print here probably won’t make much sense unless you’ve read the book as closely as I have but hopefully it will put into context just how much redraft work needs to be done.

In short, it will involve writing one completely new chapter and extending two more as well as numerous other fixes which will mostly involve a lot of CTRL+H work.

writers-block

Note: I will not actually be using a typewriter to make these edits

Fixes needed are:

  1. Make Nathan Hathaway Master-at-arms not Chief of Marines
  2. Don’t kill Tundra until chapter 15
  3. In chapter 14, Rutherford tells Kara that she’s due to move into the Captain’s quarters – not ones that he himself is funding
  4. Change Ramiel Sullivan to Gabriel Sullivan throughout.
  5. In chapter 17, it is taking place on the morning of Earth Day not the evening. People are still getting ready and when he listens to the Captain, he’s talking about how nervous he is about meeting Kara for the first time and whether he really needs to. He’s told it’s mandatory.
  6. It’s Commander Fletcher, not Albright
  7. Stuart when he goes to Oxley: he is publicly thrown out but still secretly helped. Oxley sends Sarah to give Stuart a map. ‘The best nodes can be found here’. And then they share a shot of something (this contains the gene seed for the Metapath). Stuart perhaps vaguely guesses this near the end of the book but it’s not until the sequel that all becomes clear.
  8. Remove the character of Rutherford. Where he currently exists, make it all Nathan Hathaway. Put Rutherford as a far more professional soldier type. Keeping his superior’s secrets and covering up for him out of loyalty. A much better replacement for him in the second book when he takes over as master-at-arms. It’s Rutherford that interrogates Stuart, not Hathaway
  9. Give each department head a cool-sounding naval name. Boatswain (chief of maintenance) for example. Chaplain, Master Shipwright (chief engineer), Wardmaster (medical), Ordnance, pursers (administration), etc.
  10. Show Estavan getting pulled away for interrogation better than currently

As well as generally giving it a spit and polish and cutting its length by at least 5%.

Additional scenes to add:

  1. Before being rescued from the bunks. A scene where Abi is burying her father. Her friends gather around her wrapping up his body and leaving it out for the priest. There’s nothing left to keep her here now, she thinks. Its time she makes a break for freedom. Brent is marveling over Kara. This is the girl the uniforms are all het up over? Dawn reveals her plan to use her. He offers to take her in to show the Gentleman. They’re putting an army together. Plans to attack the ship. Abi rolls her eyes at the words. It’s all show boating, she thinks. Still she gives the uprising her blessing. He’s angry now about father’s death. He doesn’t know what he’s saying.
  2. After visiting the bunks to try and see Dawn. Abi goes looking for what remains of her old life. There is little left. Her old quarters are all in the hands of the Oxleys. She manages to look up Stuart in the directory but his quarters are deserted. They are tiny and a mess. Equations everywhere. Old ship parts he was tinkering with. She finds a small box tucked away under the bed containing the old family crest. She remembers how it used to adorn her father’s chest when he still wore the uniform of master shipwright. Remembers him cold beneath the touch as they laid his body out to be collected by priests. She takes it with her.
    Outside she runs into the landlady who scowls at her. Says Stuart is two weeks late paying his rent. She’s going to kick him out. She thinks Abi is a whore he’s hired. She takes the box of goods from Abi. Abi protests. I’m his sister. But the landlady takes one look at the number on her arm and shoos her away. Abi returns to her quarters alone. That’s when she cries.
  3. Final chapter to resolve everything. The Captain sits in his quarters going over the reports coming in. The ship is a mess, the nobility are at each other’s throats in outrage and he doesn’t know who to trust anymore. He trusts Abi, however, for reasons Abi doesn’t understand. He asks her to help him find a genuine long-term solution to the issue with the bunks. He reinstates House Leighton which his father pulled down years ago. He names her ambassador to the bunks. Abi reluctantly accepts.
work-in-progress

“A movie is never finished, only abandoned.” – George Lucas. Suffice to say, it’s the same with books.

Phew! Well anyway, that’s all for now. I’m going to give myself 3 months to make all of the changes listed above. At the very least I hope to be done by my birthday when I can finally start sending this thing off for submission and working on another novel instead. As always I will post my progress here.

I also plan to start posting some deleted scenes on here which never made it into the final cut. Think of them as Director Bonuses if you will, a nice little extra for those of you who have been following me this far.

Watch this space!


Reading my favourite authors

10 January 2015

Long-time readers of this blog will remember about a year ago I published a list of my favourite authors. You can find the article here so I’m not going to spent too much time explaining my choices now, but as a quick reminder the authors were:

  1. C. S. Lewis
  2. Ursula Le Guin
  3. Kurt Vonnegut
  4. Douglas Adams
  5. George R. R. Martin
  6. Octavia E. Butler
  7. John Wyndham

Over the years it’s safe to say I have read a lot of books by these guys and many of them rank among my absolute favourites.

However, I haven’t read all of them and therein lies the theme for this new series of posts. Starting this month, I will be reading one book from one of the seven authors above every few weeks. These books will be entirely new to me. Perhaps they will be lesser known works by these authors. Perhaps they will be famous books that for some reason or other I never got around to reading. All of them will be new to me.

I can already tell you these reviews are going to be very interesting to write. Unlike the reviews I did when I was reviewing the slush pile at a publishing company, I won’t be reading these books completely in the dark. And unlike when I was reviewing the best-selling books of all time I won’t have any word of mouth or film adaptations to give me some idea of what to expect.

Instead, I will be reading these books from an entirely new position: armed with full knowledge of who these authors are and knowing all too well the high standards to which they are capable of reaching, and yet approaching each book as a fresh artifact to which I have little association beyond perhaps a vague sense of its plot.

As a fan of these writers, it’s going to be hard to stay objective and not fall into bouts of fanboyism. But never let it be said I’m one to shy away from a challenge…

So without any further ado, these are the first three books I will be reading in this series:

Book one: The Screwtape letters by C S Lewis

stllewisIf anyone ever asks me who my favourite writer is, I will tell them C S Lewis. His book Til We Have Faces is easily my favourite of all time and I can’t name a single book of his I haven’t enjoyed (although That Hideous Strength came very close).

I love how the guy writes about his faith. I love the way he couples together such pedestrian everyday characters and situations with such deep and challenging theological themes. As a religious man growing up during these spiritually lukewarm times, I find it extremely heartening to read a man like Lewis and feel the pure conviction shining through from his work. Of all the writers I have ever encountered, he is the one whose world view seems most to mirror my own. There are many times during his more discursive books that I literally feel as though I’m reading my own thoughts presented on a page.

C S Lewis was a university professor by trade so his writing style is often very literate and occasionally falls into bouts of self-indulgent argumentation. Sometimes it feels like he’s lecturing you more than telling a story, which I know puts a lot of people off him, especially considering the inflammatory subject matter.

For both of these reasons, however, I think The Screwtape Letters will be an excellent book to choose for this series. The Screwtape letters are a series of fictional letters from a demon to another who is trying to tempt a man to damnation. Straight off the bat we can see that this is classic Lewis: Christian themes; literature and argumentative writing style; lecture first and plot second.

It’s widely considered one of his best books.

Book 2: The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut

the-sirens-of-titan3I have read precisely two of Vonnegut’s books: Slaughterhouse-Five and Cat’s Cradle. You might be surprised that I consider the guy one of my favourite writers of all times considering I’ve only read two of his books but if you think that way that’s only because you’ve never read them.

Vonnegut writes with none of the reverence or spirituality that characterizes Lewis’s work. His work is anarchic, cynical, darkly funny in an almost depressing way. He writes like a man who has truly seen the depths to which humanity can sink and is now desperately trying to make sense of it all. It’s like the literary equivalent of punk rock and I love it.

When it comes to choosing which of his books I should read next, I actually have Vonnegut himself to fall back on. In Chapter 18 of his book Palm Sunday he grades his own novels. Not in accordance with some external standard of what is ‘good’, he says, but rather in reference to his own abilities and what he feels he is capable of.

This was how he graded himself:

  • Player Piano: B
  • The Sirens of Titan: A
  • Mother Night: A
  • Cat’s Cradle: A+
  • God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater: A
  • Slaughterhouse-Five: A+
  • Welcome to the Monkey House: B-
  • Happy Birthday, Wanda June: D
  • Breakfast of Champions: C
  • Slapstick: D
  • Jailbird: A
  • Palm Sunday: C

Obviously I’m going to choose one of his A-rank books for this series and The Sirens of Titan seems like the perfect choice.

Written early in his career, this book famously ranks among one of his most chaotic of all. From what little I’ve heard about the book, it has almost defies description. Vonnegut seems to tumble between ideas, somehow forging an almost Macgyver-like plot out of little more than wit and cynicism alone. Reading the book’s blurb tells me almost nothing about what to expect inside. All I know is that Vonnegut thought it was good and that’s good enough for me.

Book 3: The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin

lathe-of-heaven2Sometimes you read a story and you feel entertained. Sometimes you read a story and feel moved. Some books challenge you. Some books stay with you forever. Only Le Guin manages to do all of these things at the same time.

Have you ever met someone before whom you feel insignificant? You know that this person is more intelligent, more insightful and more talented than you will ever be, so much so that all you can do is stand in awe of them. That’s how I feel when reading Le Guin.

Despite being a devout feminist, atheist, environmentalist and socialist her books never seem to brow beat you with these principles. Unlike Lewis, she never seems to be lecturing you. Instead she lays out a situation and lets you come to your own conclusions.

Likewise, unlike Vonnegut she never seems to let her ideas overwhelm her or get her down but instead remains in control of her plot throughout. From a technical standpoint, she is probably the best writer on this list. Certainly, I’ve never known a female writer create such realistic male characters before.

When it came to choosing which of her books to read, it was actually really easy. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of parallel universes. The idea of taking one thing, changing it and then running with the implications of that change is science fiction in its purest, most undiluted form.

As a kid I loved shows like Sliders or the mirror universe episodes in Star Trek. As an adult, I adore reading through alternate histories. I am always running what-if scenarios through my mind with my own life history and that of the world around me. I find it fascinating.

So you can imagine how delighted I was to stumble upon this book. Here we have a novel which isn’t just about one alternate universe but about the implications of creating such universes in the first place. The book is surprisingly short considering the amount of ground I’ve heard it covers so I’m expecting a dense read. I’m expecting some tough themes here on the nature of choice, reality, fate and free will. I’m expecting some crazy, unpredictable turns of events and, most importantly, a bloody good read.

Of all the books on this list, this is the one I am most looking forward to reading. It was the one that made me decide to start this series in the first place.

So that’s the first three books for you. I’m going to get cracking on reading them now and I’ll post back here in a couple of weeks with the first of my reviews.


Merry Christmas everyone!

24 December 2014

Merry Christmas to all my readers!

decorated-christmas-tree-widescreen-765740

It’s been a long hard year full of ups and downs, and now is the time to sit back and reflect on all that’s happened. Pour yourself a glass of your favourite bubbly, turn on the TV and and do your best impression of a sack of potatoes while stuffing yourself full of turkey and chocolate.

Because that’s what Christmas is all about!

And as my own little Christmas gift to you all, as promised here are the final two parts of the Arkship Ulysses:

Not much to say about these chapters except that they are done and with that, the Arkship Ulysses is also done and I am very happy about both of these facts. One final spell check and re-formatting notwithstanding this book is now done and dusted and ready for submission.

It’s a strange feeling writing these words. I believe it was George Lucas who once said that no film is ever finished, it’s just abandoned. That’s kind of how I feel about this book. Looking at what I’ve written, I can see so many points that could do with fine tuning. There are sentences to be trimmed, dialogue to be retooled, descriptions to be neatened out and rephrased… But that’s all detail work to be talked over with an editor. The fact remains that this book is complete in a structural and plot sense and that means this is now a great time to ‘abandon’ this particular book into the wild.

As long-time readers of my blog will know, this book has been a bit of an experiment on my part since I’ve been ‘publishing’ it here at the same time as I was writing it. I did this in the hopes that doing so would help give my readers a better insight into how a book is written and also give me a place to vent my frustrations when things inevitably went wrong.

Now that it’s finished, however, I must start to put the commercial aspects of my book first. Therefore, I shall be removing all chapters from my blog later today (with the exception of these three teaser chapters). So if you haven’t finished reading it all yet, now is a good time to catch up (unless you like the idea of waiting until it’s on sale in a book shop somewhere). πŸ™‚

Here’s to a fantastic Christmas for everyone. Cheers!


The Arkship Ulysses – Chapter 23

19 December 2014

Chapter 23: The Metapath

Length: 4,577 words

POV character: Stuart

Synopsis:

For Stuart, it is a time for hard decisions.

Though he has saved the Captain’s life, and rescued the whole ship from certain destruction, now he needs to save his own hide. The strange woman visits him while he is recovering from his near-death experience. This time she is determined to get some answers about who Stuart really is and what he plans to do now he has unlocked the secret to his power.

Notes:

You know, I’ve been working on this book for a very long time. A really long time. In fact, by this point it’s getting on for half my life time.

With that said, you might be surprised to hear that as little as two years ago I had no idea where this book was going. Oh, sure, I told myself that I knew. I had outlines and plans and whole spreadsheets full of character arks. I’d written and rewritten well over 40 chapters worth of material, most of which will never see the light of day (though I am tempted to release some of it here after the book is finished as a kind of bonus for anyone who’s been patient enough to stick around all this time).

Two years ago, I cobbled together something that looked like an ending, ran the whole thing through a spell checker and then declared, “yep that’s finished”. But it was a lie. I was in pain at the time, mourning the loss of a year’s worth of work and desperate to get some closure on that part of my life.

Looking back now, I see that the book wasn’t finished. Not even close. It’s still not finished now.

The truth is, the book was simply too complicated to get my head around easily. You ever hear that analogy about woods and trees? Well, this right here was a veritable jungle and I’d stupidly walked into it with only the most rudimentary of maps. I had characters clashing into each other all over the place, each of which needed to be set up, given a character arc and believable closure all whilst also building the story as a whole towards some sort of cohesive end. I had an upper word limit I was desperately struggling to keep away from (I still am), and all in all it was just a constant logistical battle to keep all the balls in the air and make it look interesting while doing it.

And that’s the right word for it, I think: a battle. With myself. With my imagination. With my motivation. With the chapters I had already written which would sometimes need to be mercilessly cut and with the tenuous deadlines I kept setting myself which would then fly merrily by unmet.

And the worst thing was, it was a battle I was losing.

So I came up with a Strategy. Part of this strategy involved walking away from the novel for a year and allowing myself to get some distance from it. But the other part was more complicated and it involved trying to combat two specific hurdles I kept running into while writing the book:

  1. I didn’t know where the overall plot was going (though I did know some of the individual character arcs)
  2. Writing in a linear fashion meant that I was constantly switching POV and, consequently, voice. This would lead to an inconsistent writing style at times as characters started sounding very samey to one another

To combat both of these issues I tried delineating the story telling. I figured that by stripping out each of the characters and dealing with them one by one, the main plot would somehow materialize before my eyes. At the very least, I could write around that huge snarl of plot threads, allowing me to make some sort of progress on the novel while I tried to think up a long term solution to the thornier plot issues.

The first character to go through this delineated writing process was Michael. It was easy to work on his chapters since they have always served more as bookends to each part than chapters in their own right.

The next character to be looked at was Estavan, which was also pretty straightforward since he only had four chapters and only two of them impacted on the rest of the story.

Now that the easy characters were out of the way, I next turned my attention to Stuart who had seven chapters to his name at the time (I believe he has more now).

However, once I’d finished writing through Stuart’s section, my grand Strategy came screeching to a halt.

You see, I’d written too much.

When I pasted all the then completed chapters together to see how the book was looking, I discovered a huge pacing issue in the way Stuart’s chapters were laid out. In the middle section of the book he seemed to disapear for huge chunks of the narative at a time. Then at the end of the book, you suddenly couldn’t get rid of the guy. I think I had something like four chapters in a row focused on Stuart. And when you only have seven chapters to play with in total, you know something’s going wrong.

All this was compounded by the issue that I simply couldn’t move any of his chapters earlier in the book since some of the events in those chapters impacted on some of the other characters’ chapters. It was precisely the sort of situation I’d been trying to avoid all along and, I’ll be honest, it bummed me out for a while.

So my Strategy was a failure. The next day I went back to the beginning of the novel and started writing it out in a more typical, chronological order. It made more sense that way and the chapters ended up more sensibly spread out throughout the novel as a result.

I’m sure at this stage you’re probably asking yourself why I told you all of this. Well, it’s because this chapter right here is that bottom-heavy section of the novel I just talked about. In essence it’s something like three chapters’ worth of material from that earlier draft, all condensed down and flattened into just one chapter (plus an epilogue that’s coming later).

Condensing chapters means cutting text. Huge chunks of text. Some of my favourite parts of the novel in fact ended up deleted from this chapter. You need callouses on your heart if you’re going to be a writer.

It’s frustrating too because this is one part of the book I thought I’d finished years ago and now suddenly I found myself forced to wade through it once again. I think part of the issue (other than the chapter’s extreme length) is the sudden tonal shift that I was only just noticing between the breakneck action of the last few chapters followed by this more thoughtful, measured section of narrative. That’s yet another side effect of writing a book out of its correct order. I’ve learned my lesson for the future.

Anyway, hopefully it’s all fixed now and is ready for consumption. I hope you enjoy it.


The Arkship Ulysses – Chapter 22

3 December 2014

Chapter 22: A time to stand

Length: 5,713 words

POV character: Michael, Stuart, Abi

Synopsis:

The lower classes are rebelling, the ship is in danger and the Captain’s life hangs in the balance. The only two people who can save the ship are a crippled genius imprisoned in a room that shouldn’t exist, and an outcast from society, running for her life with a stolen uniform on her back and security hot on her trail.

It seems like saving the ship is an impossible task for both of them but it’s something they have to try. Even if it kills them in the process. Even if the ship isn’t worth saving.

Notes:

The French call it the denouement: literally the unraveling. It’s that time in any story when everything comes together. The plot threads are all neatly tied off, the characters complete their arcs and the events come to a head, perhaps teasing a potential sequel with a money-hungry wink at the audience.

In many ways it’s the most important point in the story. Get it right and you end the book on a high. The reader steps away from the novel feeling invigorated and enriched by his experience. Maybe you make him start dreaming of being on similar adventures. Maybe you get him thinking about what he would do in the same situation. Either way, he is captivated and he is going to want more.

Get it wrong on the other hand and boredom, confusion and downright book-hurling anger await.

No one wants that.

The problem is, I honestly don’t know which of those categories the ending of this book falls into. I’m way to close to this thing at the moment, the writing still too rough around the edges to objectively judge. In all honesty the only thing I can say with any certainty right now is that yes, this is an ending. And yes, it ties off all the plot points in a climactic scene that hints at a sequel.

But more importantly than any of that… I just know I’m so bloody happy to have finally finished it.

Just two more chapters await me now and both of those are already in a good second-draft quality state. I’m looking forward to revisiting those chapters once more. I’m looking forward to putting this story, which has lived in my mind for half my life, finally to bed.


The Arkship Ulysses – Chapter 21

25 November 2014

Chapter 21: Breakout

Length: 5,342 words

POV characters: Dawn and Stuart

Summary:

Chaos has engulfed the ship. The unspoken – long the down trodden slave race of the Arkship Ulysses – have risen up as one and are reaping havoc among the God-fearing civilian population for the first time in centuries. The only person who has any hope of stopping them is Stuart Leighton who, thanks to his connection with the ship and the Metapath gene that dwells inside him, has a unique insight into the crisis unfolding below. However, he finds himself frustrated at every turn, unable to work without the support of the woman who is holding him captive who is still suspicious of his motives.

With no tools at his disposal or help on his side, Stuart can only watch as the unspoken sweep through the lower decks. But things are about to get a whole lot worse when the ship’s Master-At-Arms, the arrogant Commander Nathan Hathaway, finally springs a trap he’s been building for months: a trap which involves the Captain and the Captain’s new bride-to-be, and an assassination attempt that will shake the ship’s hierarchy to its very core…

Notes:

Not much to say about this one except to say that I wrote it from scratch over the last couple of weeks so the writing might be a bit rougher round the edges than some of my more polished efforts.

It’s also worth noting why I haven’t updated you for a while on my progress and despite what you might think, for once it’s not due to any sort of writer’s block but rather the exact opposite. I’ve actually been writing like a mad man over the last couple of weeks, getting well ahead of myself and even forging on right to the end of the novel, which is something I’m thrilled to be able to report.

After this chapter only three more remain and they all exist in at least first draft form. A quick read-through, another week of redrafts for them and hopefully this novel will finally be put to bed.

I’m very excited about it.


The Arkship Ulysses – Part 3

3 November 2014

Part 3: Unspoken

Words: 6,595

POV character: Michael

Synopsis:

Through back story we find out about the Captain’s first fiance, a noble woman he was due to marry years ago but whom he publicly shamed in order to call off the wedding. We learn about how perfect everyone said his bride-to-be was and how terrified Michael was of the prospect of marrying her. For he has eyes only for Susan, the enigmatic woman who’s identity he has spent his entire life keeping secret. He sees how the proposal is driving her away from him and he is determined to call the wedding off at any cost in order to salvage their relationship. Even if it means ruining his reputation and leaving a bunch of scheming enemies in his wake, for Susan he will do anything.

Notes:
Hey would you look at that! My second chapter in less than a week. That must mean my writer’s block is gone, right?

Well… not exactly. Don’t get me wrong: I’m absolutely thrilled to be posting this right now but the sad truth is it’s a chapter I wrote a very long time ago. In fact, these Michael chapters were pretty much the first things I wrote for this book way back when it was about 10 times more complicated than it is now and had a cast of thousands. These chapters were designed from the beginning to serve as mile stones in the story that would bookend each section of the story while welcoming in the next.

The chapters were designed to do two things:

  1. to give the reader new information on back story they otherwise wouldn’t get to see, and
  2. set the tone for the part ahead.

You might think it’s pretentious, but I’ve always liked it when books are broken down into several parts like this. To my mind it gives the reader a natural stopping point in the story. It’s a chance for the reader to cleanse their palate so to speak. To put the book down and reflect on what they’ve read in a way that a simple chapter break can never manage.

The idea was that this book would be written in several parts (originally planned to be five back when I didn’t realise just how long this thing was going to be) with each part serving as a prologue for the next section written from the point of view of Michael, the ship’s lame duck of a captain.

These chapters would be special too. While most of the chapters in this book are written from the closed first-person perspective (meaning they are written from inside a character’s head with each moment recounted to the reader in a blow-by-blow fashion), these prologue chapters have a wider scope in mind. The action here is less linear and more free form. It’s actually a style I really enjoy writing in and it’s one I’m definitely going to use more of in the future.

So, in the first part we had the back-story of how the Earth was lost and the Arkships were launched. We found out about Michael’s family and how this society has devolved into a feudal one over the years. We also got a glimpse of the mysterious Susan who wouldn’t appear again for some time. It was a teaser chapter designed to set the scene. I’ve always liked it.

In the second part, we got the back-story of the bunks. Although the reader had already got the chance to see the bunks and meet the unspoken who lived in them during the first part, it wasn’t until here that the reason for their existence is explained. I show how close the Captain is to Father Estavan and how suspicious he is of his Second, High Commander Hathaway. I talk about the food crisis and how, although the Captain knows it is happening, he is powerless to do anything about it.

Now it’s the third part and in some ways it’s the most crucial part of all because it’s here that we get the back-story of Michael himself. We find out what he’s been doing as Captain all these years since taking command. We find out about his history with marriage and the perilous lengths he has gone to over the years to keep his beloved Susan safe from harm.

It’s only after getting all this information that a discerning reader should be able to work out everything that’s happening in this book. Why is Nathan Hathaway staging an elaborate coup designed to overthrow the Captain and instigate a riot among the unspoken? Why is the Captain finally allowing himself to get married after all these years of saying no? Why is it the disgraced Father Estavan that Michael has gone to to organise the whole betrothal? What, really, is the deal with Susan? And so on. All these questions (and more) are answered in this chapter.