Apr 282014

So a while back I wrote a story, edited it, re-edited it, submitted it to Analog sci-fi magazine for publication, and it was rejected without comment. I’ve been pondering what to do with it ever since, with ideas such as submitting it to other magazines, submitting it to online magazines, submitting it to forums set up to help aspiring authors, self-publishing on Amazon, self publishing on my blog here, making it freely available, or just abandoning it as another lame idea. The last one is, realistically, the most sensible, but I’ve decided to just go ahead and post it. I’ve concluded that the amount of effort required to hammer it into shape for conventional publication would suck all the entertainment value out of writing, and would probably still fail. Self publishing on Amazon or some such might still be a good idea, but only if people actually want to read my stuff, and how are people going to know if they want to read my stuff unless they’ve read it?

So… here it is. I’ve converted it into three formats… EPUB, MOBI and PDF. They all seem to be running fine, but if you have trouble with one of ’em, let me know. Since WordPress blogs seem to have a problem with EPUB and MOBI files, I’ve saved all three formats into a single downloadable ZIP file.

Mass Disappearance.zip

And uploaded the files separately to the website rather than the blog:

EPUB version

MOBI version

PDF version

If you read the story, let me know what you think. If you *like* the story, feel free to tell others. If you *really* like it, feel free to toss cold hard PayPal cash my way via the “tip jar.”.

If it’s successful, I’ll post more. I’ve two stories underway with the same cast of characters, and quite a number more sketched out.

Mass Disappearance

Feel free to post questions or comments.

I have included not only the craptacular cover illustration but a diagram at the end. It helps me to try to shoot for consistency if I have things mapped out, which these days means modelling the vehicles and places in 3D CAD systems. If there’s interest, I would include a diagram or two with each further story… think of it kinda like the maps you often find in science fiction and fantasy novels.


Fiction Tip Jar

 Posted by at 11:09 pm
  • Reindeer Flotilla

    So it’s about the rapture, right?

    • Anonymous

      No. Not even close.

  • Herp McDerp

    Hmm. Part of the reason, I suspect, that Analog rejected it is that the story can’t decide what it wants to be. It starts out as a “No shit, there I was at twenty thousand feet …” tale, and then segues into being a puzzle story, and then an adventure/horror story. In tone it’s sort of “Mister Roberts and the USS Reluctant visit R’lyeh and meet Cthulhu.”

    As far as it being a puzzle story goes, the reader has the feeling of being given clues along the way, but the clues don’t really add up … and although there are hints as to what’s going on, there’s no real answer to the puzzle. Even a slightly more explicitly stated Lovecraft-style ending — “There are entities Out There that are incomprehensibly greater than us; the nicest of them are merely indifferent to our existence, and the others view us as snack food” — would help, but you’d have to move your second paragraph to the end.

    It would be more satisfying if it were established that the people at Gunnston Station had something to do with the odd occurrences — a secret project gone awry, such as an attempt to open a Gate to Somewhere Else that should have been left closed.

    There are still a few rough edges: you should mention the War sooner, the ship’s name (unless I missed it) isn’t clear (“the George what“?), in several places your narrator uses “probably” about things he should know definitively one way or the other, a few misspellings here and there … and I’m still wondering how it comes to pass that the gas giant has any tritium (half-life: 12 minutes) to mine.

    • Anonymous

      > and I’m still wondering how it comes to pass that the gas giant has any tritium (half-life: 12 minutes) to mine.

      Twelve *years,* in point of fact. It would not be impossible for a gas giant – or many other kinds of planets – to be a tritium generator; you just need a place with a lot of lithium and a lot of neutrons. A gas giant with a core with an excess of uranium would become a natural fission reactor, as has happened on Earth; mix in a good supply of lithium, and there ya go.

      Yep, the story’s flawed, I admit.

      • Herp McDerp

        Twelve *years,*

        Oops! There’s still a difficulty, though — the tritium will stay near the planet’s core. On the other had, you did say it was a “mine” … those folks must have some interesting mining technology! On the gripping hand, why not just say that they were mining lithium?

        Yep, the story’s flawed, I admit.

        Flawed, but fixable, I’d say. I enjoyed reading it, but the ending was unsatisfying. You wouldn’t have to explain everything, but it would help if things happened for a reason. Gunnston Station apparently was a quiet little backwater for decades. What changed? Why did the strange phenomena suddenly begin to manifest?

        • Anonymous

          They would have very interesting mining tech. Not made clear in the story, but this is set about 500 years down the line. They have long since passed the Singularity, with the result that their culture has long since integrated tech that would be considered “godlike.” And yet these people live lives that we would recognize. Not because it’s impossible for them to achieve godlikeliness via tech, but because they don’t want to. Others, however, have done just that. So you end up with a mishmash of abilities and technologies.

          For example, elsewhere people are building orbitals and halos, simply because they can.

          • Anonymous

            The tritium half life was no deal breaker for the reason you explain. A double station might even have allowed a left/right storyline perhaps, with each section with a different gov’t–but that really wasn’t what you were trying to do.

            I think the best thing to do is to find an artist who is also hurting for work–and maybe turn this into a line of comic books/graphic novel.

            Things that may not work for a movie or a text story are a more natural fit there. Take “Watchman” and the giant alien deal. Doesn’t work for the movie–but great for the comics. Same with how Superman and Doomsday killed each other. In the animated movie, both fall from a great height and leave a huge crater.

            “the story can’t decide what it wants to be.”
            That actually works in favor of a comic book–you want to change its direction often

            “I would include a diagram or two with each further story… think of it kinda like the maps you often find in science fiction and fantasy novels.”
            We never see enough of that. Hell, I’d buy a book that details starships described in novels…

          • Anonymous

            > A double station might even have allowed a left/right storyline
            perhaps, with each section with a different gov’t–but that really
            wasn’t what you were trying to do.

            The station is built on a standard plan… there’d be dozens to low hundreds just like it by this point. By having two side by side cylinders, you get:
            1) stability, as a single cylinder would want to tumble
            2) separation of habitat from agriculture/industry/etc
            3) The possibility of wildly differing ecosystems just next door to each other
            4) Backup. A disaster befalls one cylinder, the other might be a fallback.

  • gdoom

    I generally liked it. The pacing felt well done for a short story. The few things that popped out at me were references to a ‘hyperdrive/space’ kept jarring me into Star Wars land and the disconnect in scale/story between the black goo on the station vs. the world and star eating things.

    • Anonymous

      > references to a ‘hyperdrive/space’ kept jarring me into Star Wars land

      Not sure what you mean here.

      > the disconnect in scale/story…

      Once again, this aspect is something the narrator would be unaware of. However, consider this: in an ecosystem that includes megafauna like elephants, you’ll also find paramecia.

      • Herp McDerp

        > > references to a ‘hyperdrive/space’ kept jarring me into Star Wars land

        > Not sure what you mean here.

        My impression is that gdoom wasn’t aware that hyperspace and hyperdrive were hoary old SF tropes by the time Star Wars was filmed.

  • Herp McDerp

    Out of curiosity, do the behemoth-squid aliens figure in any of your other stories? Do you plan on explaining the events of this story elsewhere in a bit more detail? (Perhaps not, since you mentioned that this story is being told by the viewpoint character as an old guy.)

    • Anonymous

      The character is, basically, a Nobody. Thus any stories told from his viewpoint would have to work under the limitation of only telling what he knows. But other stories – such as those describing The War, some years later – might well have a gods-eye-view, and would describe not only what “experts” might know, but what might Actually Be.

      So… maybe. If I describe the war in some future story/stories, what happened at Gunston would be explained.

  • Bill H

    Now THIS is the kind of story I like to read and which ANALOG seems to be sprinting away from.

    Sure there are a few quibbles. Like in several descriptions of the conditions of the second cylinder, it is mentioned that the artificial gravity is off, when a better term would have referred to spin (because true artificial gravity is also in limited use.)

    FANPACKS! loved that idea and have not encountered it before in discussions of living in a weightless environment Even in The Smoke Ring by Niven – although if I remember right those folks were mostly non-power using out in the boonies.

    I am reminded ofthe “fish” that lived in hyperspace in Feintuch’s Seafort books. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Feintuch#Seafort_Saga Recommended, but only the 1st 3 books.

    The Sunday comics used to run Mandrake the Magician when I was growing up. That strip went sci-fi for awhile and the was a giant star-eating slug. Can’t seem to find comic images of that. http://pjb.hopto.org/index.php?id=13&xr=77

    Anyway – MORE!

    • Anonymous

      > it is mentioned that the artificial gravity is off, when a better term would have referred to spin

      I went round and round trying to figure out the best way to word that sort of thing. But I eventually concluded that, this being a first-person narrative, the words used should be of the person there… and what a person there would be most cognizant of would be a lack of “gravity,” not a lack of spin.

      > true artificial gravity is also in limited use

      Yes. For the people of this “universe,” they’d encounter “gravity” at least four ways:

      1) By standing on something massive, like a planet

      2) By being accelerated by something like a rocket

      3) By spinning around

      4) By turning on the “grav plating.”

      I am considering adding a fifth, another type of on/off artificial gravity that works on a completely different principle to “grav plating.” And why not? My TV is old… it has a cathode ray tube. if I were to buy a new one, it would have a plasma screen. or perhaps a liquid crystal display. Or if I wait a few years, perhaps it’ll have a screen based on advanced “electronic paper” or something entirely different. Or I could – if I has the money – replace my car with its hydrocarbon burning internal combustion engine with one that burns hydrogen. Or has a hydrogen fuel cell and an electric motor. Or just batteries. Or perhaps, just for giggles, a steam engine. Or a hydrocarbon-burning turbine engine, or a turbine/electric hybrid.

      I’ve always been disappointed that so much science fiction has *one* technology to do X, when it’s entirely reasonable that there would be several. In my “universe,” humans have two types of FTL, though they only use one (“hyperdrive”) at this stage for reasons which will make sense if I ever write the story I’m contemplating.

      > FANPACKS! loved that idea and have not encountered it before in discussions of living in a weightless environment

      Actually I got the idea from Babylon 5. In one episode, a mention was made of someone putting on a jetpack to rescue someone falling from the central core shuttle of an O’Neill-type station. But jetpacks are a *terrible* way to get around in an atmosphere. Seems to me that if you have the ability to make meaningfully useful jetpacks, you’d be able to make much more capable “fanpacks,” which take the power of the system and use it to accelerate large volumes of ambient air, rather than expelling small flow rates of limited fuel at extremely high velocities. Fanpacks would seem to be not only almost trivially easy for the technology at hand, but very likely extremely common in an environment like this.

      > Anyway – MORE!

      Thanks. More is being scribbled, but it’s a low priority given how little interest has been expressed.

      • Bill H

        Right – jet packs (and even rocket packs) have been around forever but FANPACKS would be different. Concept art on that would be interesting. Maybe something like the Rocketeer’s backpack (comic version, one engine, not two like the movie) but larger diameter for more air – something like 18 inches in diameter with crossed rudders on the exhaust for steering, and reversing prop. Ducted fan, like a Moller Skycar engine pod. Would be noisy (active noise cancellation!) Awkward shape though.

        Hmmm… Imagine if the pod (duct) was a flattened oval in cross section. And the prop blades are made of dynamic smart materials that shorten and lengthen as the prop rotates, always being the right length to almost touch the duct (and the right airfoil). In essence you then have an oval propellor. I haven’t seen that idea theorized anywhere.

        • Anonymous

          The fanpacks as I see ’em are simple, minimalist devices. There would be a power unit (undefined) that straps to your back like a parachute pack; the straps would self-rigidize where appropriate to keep the unit stable on you. When its time to go into action, two fans, around 40 centimeters in diameter, would unfold from the unit and would be held above and behind the wearers shoulders. The fans would be many-bladed fans akin to this in general configuration:
          An important difference would be a mesh over both inlet and exhaust to keep the stupider people from sticking their fingers into it.

          Control would be by simple differential thrust and vectoring by simply moving the independent arms holding the fans. Navigation would be far easier than it has ever been with any real-world jetpack: it has built-in sub-sentient artificial intelligence, and control can be over-ridden by an authorized AI (as happens in the story). The flyer need not have any idea how to fly; they are just cargo, while the fanpack is a complete vehicle. For those flyers who want control, it would be by some sort of simple neural interface… or by verbal commands, or by pointing your arms like fricken Superman. Or some combination, however the flyer wants to do it.

          I’m assuming an electrical system, with very advanced motors and *handwave* electrical storage “batteries” of immense capacity.

          When not in use the system would fold quite small. This is done via not-quite Terminator 2-style mimetic polyalloy metals, but materials that can change their shape with ease and become incredibly strong and rigid on command. I think all of this would be reasonable given a few hundred years of development. When not in use, the bulk of it might be as flexible as fabric.