If it Wasn’t Arduous

My mother-in-law recently took the family and I on an awesome trek to the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador. Though the journey to and from wasn’t the most memorable part, I will share what it looked like coming home:

Thirty hours in transit.

Boat to Zodiac to bus to airport and so on.

Four airports (two in Spanish-speaking Ecuador).

Customs, leaving Baltra (Galapagos) and arriving in Miami (90 minutes, zombies after an overnight flight).

One hotel room for eight hours, enough time to watch a Spanish-language “The Martian” and some soccer (for those of us who can’t sleep-on-demand) and veg and think about dinner. (At some point, fear of falling asleep and missing a flight overrides a need to try to sleep.)

Waiting, and sitting, and waiting, and pacing, and…

I could go into more detail (the poor service of American Airlines, the do-not-drink-the-tapwater order in Guayaquil) but we’ve all been there before. Life shunted into a string of waiting spells, shuffling, patience–international travel these days.

So it’s no surprise I’m reminded of the finishing steps for publishing a novel. The tons of work and countless (countable?) hours. The waiting and pacing. The parade of decisions and second-guessing and, yes, retracing of steps (your own, and thousands of others before you). At the end, you’re fried.

Sound familiar?

It’s no exaggeration to say I’ve read through my novels 20 times each beyond the initial writing phase. Who hasn’t edited a paragraph 13 times (the tone, the word choice) only to come back on a second read-through and cut it entirely? Fat, superfluous, saved for another work.

(Ironically, this journey home was in one ‘straight shot’ whereas the completion of a book is spread over, say, 3-4 months.)

Of course, if the whole process wasn’t arduous, would it even be worth it? If you weren’t so sick of reading your own work (or cramped seat 17E) you could go ape-shit by the end, have you worked enough?

So, as I begin the finishing process for a fifth time (Destruction) I’m going to pin up a copy of this picture. The big Galapagos sea lion on his beach, basking and stretching his back and playing king. Because sometimes the world is this pristine. Sometimes the water is that blue.

A Galapagos sea lion showing off his stuff, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.

Easy As Burgers

A comparison, restaurant and book:

1. Lake District, England.

A restaurant with a water view–in town, in a charming building.

The customers–hungry for lunch, fresh off a hike.

The interior–hip and inviting.

The menu–simple enough, burgers and quesadillas.

Wait time–none.

Staff–friendly but…?

 

2. My local library.

A thriller–famous name, bestseller status.

The reader–eager for knowledge and comparison.

The cover–jazzy, dark, thriller-worthy.

The menu–predictable enough, violence and espionage.

Wait time–ostensibly, none.

The writing–should be great, but…

An owl-art decoration from a cafe in Bowness-on-Windermere, UK.

Easy Money

Okay, these two examples represent, in my view, idiot-proof things. Automatic satisfaction, success had easily. Give us the grub (or story), you get your money. Yet both were screwed up.

In the restaurant (1), we ordered our food. Despite there being only two other parties (with at least 6 staff in sight) our burgers and quesadillas took an hour to arrive. (Without being a trained chef, I could’ve whipped this order up in 15 minutes.) Irritation is trying to explain to a nine-year-old, over-and-over, what could be taking so long when there’s no reason for the wait. (They were not slaughtering the cow on-site, after all.)

The likely culprit: Putting teenagers in charge of a restaurant. (I have one myself, so I recognize the M.O.) In other words, laziness.

 

In the book (2), I started with the opening page. The book begins with a seven-line sentence about, say, the virtues of one sniper bullet (skull-puncturing force at a premium) over another. A paragraph-length run-on sentence–an editor’s nightmare. Not art. Not describing some nuance of the human condition. No, a round of ammunition (for a villain who likely wouldn’t last past the 3rd chapter).

Book closed. No wisdom to be had.

The likely culprit: A publisher saying, after 20 bestsellers, “This guy doesn’t need any editing or proofreading.” In other words, laziness.

 

The End Result

Call me old-fashioned, but I feel that it’s my job to present the best-possible product (novel) I can. No run-on sentences or typos or glaring errors (a few small ones can’t be helped, I guess). Someone always needs to be minding the store. Things won’t just take care of themselves. Nothing truly is idiot-proof.

So, maybe after 20 novels, I’m lazy enough to hash out a long-winded chunk of schlock and it gets past a few sets of eyes? Then it’s time to hang up my pen, or shutter the restaurant. Do the job right or don’t do it at all. Restaurants are always hungry for money (they still have a whopping failure rate). A bestseller author has plenty of money. In either case, the drive for more cash shouldn’t fall prey to minimal effort.

Laziness reflects poorly on everyone.

Faith in Technology

I could imagine it, the yellow-lit, windowless world of a G.A.S. ship’s engineering section. The jarring crash of a foreign thing–the bulkhead before me split by a cone-tipped warhead. A half-moment of panic before the thing flashed…

     -Endgame

In modern America (and, increasingly, the rest of the world) faith in technology is certainly something we are guilty of. If your iPhone goes on the fritz (or into a body of water) schedules and contact info are thrown into digital chaos. Most cars or trucks can be shut down by a software glitch. If our ballot-casting machines aren’t protected from cyber attack–which likely happened in the 2016 election–how do we weigh a tainted democratic process?

A Look at the Future

In Endgame, the Mitasterites commit an overwhelming force (five Global Assault Ships, around 150,000 soldiers) to the assault on P-75. They need their precious fuel (a rare crystal unique to the frozen world). Success depends on their sabotaging the opposing T.U.’s primary defense–the Cecelia rockets. (These 150-foot monsters carry enough explosives and metal fragments to eradicate most any threat–provided they can reach them.) Enter cyber warfare.

The technology of one computer transmitting code to hijack another computer is beyond me. (The closest I’ve come to grasping code was a class in JavaScript.) But, just as we have the weapon of cyber attack today, we can see the folly of it not working. The Mitasterites (a young, industrious empire) are cursed with arrogance and cockiness. Why wouldn’t their cyber sabotage work?

Clearly, that means not enough of the right people asked, ‘What happens if the cyber attack fails? Or if the system senses an error and reboots itself after seven hours? Won’t our ships be in danger?’

My heart jumped. Raising my own scope to the sky, I imagined a great flowery burst in space.

Could this be the Mitasterites’ Titanic moment? Will they learn? Unlikely.

Lessons Yet-to-be Learned

To heroine June Vereeth and the other T.U. soldiers, the Mitasterites squander grotesque amounts of men and materials on a gamble. They lose P-75–their first defeat brought by a cataclysmic no-win blast, the fuel dump detonated by the T.U. base chief. Losing two Global Assault Ships (and many thousands of crewmen) is a huge black eye in the aftermath. Failing to grasp the tactical error of a cyber assault, they try it again in Destruction. The Cecelia rockets are delayed, not defeated. Ships are put in peril. Men are squandered.

One can assume that only sorrow and stupidity would be on display when observing chunks of starship tumble through the atmosphere. Enlisted soldiers most often pay for their commanders’ decisions. One can hope the general populace learns something from this.

“We won’t get fooled again,” The Who famously sang.

Of course we won’t.

Endgame cover by Greg Simanson Designs. Cover shows characters, rockets and a woman's eye against a green-ice background and twin suns, orange lettering. "The war begins" is added at the top.

LP2

At the neighboring gate, #40, sits a huge jet.
All loaded, doors closed, faces by windows. Happy ones.
Silvery, muted colors in pre-dawn light.
Massive engines, intake fans spinning smoothly.
Designed to go far—stays aloft for a long time.
Sumptuous curvature.
It looks comfortable, too.

Check my boarding pass again.
Scheduled departure in 15 minutes.
No plane.
How long have I been here?

Others are waiting, too. A full flight?
Checking phones, paperwork, others’ faces.
Nervous talking, though no one seems familiar—to me, to each other.
The jetway door yawns, unlit.
Every other gate has a plane—boarding or pulling away.

“Excuse me,” I say to the agent, proffering my pass.
A raised eyebrow—recognition.
“Your flight isn’t here, sir.”
I spy another plane landing—wrong airline.
“I don’t understand. Do you know why?”
“Afraid I don’t,” the agent says.
“Can you call someone?”
“Not permitted,” she returns. “I don’t make the rules.”

Her bittersweet smile dismisses me.

Ticket in hand, I return to waiting.
Watching.
Waiting.
Hoping.
Waiting.
Pacing.
Waiting…

Fog rolls in.
No plane.
Clocks—frozen in place.

Planes at gates at sunrise, SeaTac International Airport.

 

Science Fiction and Invention

Yesterday, on my professional site’s blog, I wrote on the importance of science fiction as a way to introduce new ideas (yes, including a couple of my own for my Woman at War series).

You can read it here:

The Beautiful Drawing Board

 

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Author Justin Edison dabbles in politics, helping out Dr. Kim Schrier for WA's 8th District

Regards,

Justin