Wednesday Wanderings – How It Started
I never intended to write a novel. Scylla and Charybdis was supposed to be a short story. In hindsight, I’d never written a “real” science fiction novel before: I’d dabbled in it, but they were all terrible, straight up fantasy-in-space, or both, written when I was too green a writer to know better. (There’s a particularly entertaining project, unfinished – two chapters, maybe? – entitled “The Universe Is On Fire!” which featured an alien race I can only describe as fire elementals. This whole idea came about because of writing advice to be sparing with exclamation points: one should only use multiples when “the universe is on fire.” This is a pretty good example of how my head works, I just have a much better filter from idea to execution now. I hope.)
Back to Scylla and Charybdis. At the time, I knew my limits. I figured I could “fake” science fiction for the duration of a short story, but no longer. So I wrote it up, got it extensively critiqued, revised, was highly satisfied with the end product … and I couldn’t sell it. Multiple editors were very complimentary, but they all said the same thing: it read like the beginning of a novel. This was several years ago; now I have a lot more resources for markets, and I might have found a place for it. Maybe it’s for the best that I didn’t, because I don’t think I would have considered expanding it had I sold the short story.
So I trunked the story. It was a few years later, when pondering what my next novel project might be, that the idea resurfaced. I hesitated: I knew hard sciences weren’t my forte, and as much research as I could do, I was afraid of making invisible mistakes – assumptions that I wouldn’t even think to look up. But I still really enjoyed the idea and the characters. I ended up deciding to solve my science problems by defining as much of the technical specs of the setting as I could. Knowing star strengths, orbits, lightspeed calculations, etc, helped me to avoid making dumb assumptions.
Of course, I also had to come up with an answer for the question that was the end of the short story: which route would Anaea take? I had initially envisioned that the short story would only be a small portion of the novel, but as I re-explored the opening events, I realized I needed more development and conflicted. It ended up being much more pivotal than I had anticipated, taking up the first quarter (roughly) of the book.
And then I was in uncharted territory, plotting a new course …
Scylla and Charybdis releases April 15th!