Chapter 1 Posted

opabiniaI have posted Chapter 1 of my work-in-progress, Dust.  I hope to post a couple of chapters per week going forward.  If you have time, check it out and post a critique under this blog post–there’ll be one blog post for each chapter.  Be honest!

By the way, I just finished the book *A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, one of my favorite authors.  The scope of the book is amazing, and it’s full of interesting facts.

Here’s one: “as a rule…our tolerance for elements [of the periodic table] is directly proportionate to their abundance in the Earth’s crust…a big part of the reason that Earth seems so miraculously accommodating is that we evolved to suit its conditions.”  In other words, our bodies are exactly matched to this planet.  That has an impact on how people might colonize other planets; will we need to bring along trace amounts of things like cobalt and manganese in ensure our long-term health if we don’t find them on our new host planet, or will we engineer ourselves to not need these things anymore?

Another thing: 99.99 % of all species that have ever existed on Earth are extinct.  Extinction is part of the cycle of life on Earth and has been since life began.  Here’s one of my favorite extinct species: Opabinia, which existed during the so-called Cambrian Explosion (542 million years ago).  It had five eyes and a nozzle-like snout with claws on the end, and a mouth under the head facing backwards.  See the picture, grabbed off Wikipedia.  The point is, if Opabinia is an Earth creature, then how weird will extraterrestrial creatures be, if and when we finally encounter them?  Not likely to be green-skinned bikini models. Dang.

10 thoughts on “Chapter 1 Posted”

  1. First of all, I’m happy mammals continue to exist as opposed to the Opabinia. Kevin, both chapters I thought were interesting and informative in terms of character and the Shacktown setting in which the character finds himself. I think it would be beneficial to include some sort of map/diagram of the mentioned areas of the moon for the sake of reader orientation – don’t know if that’s possible on a blog. I wondered if kids mentioned in Ch. 1 would have the ability to ice skate given the scarcity of water? Straker comes across as an intelligent, grounded and crusty person, a very likable survivor. I can hardly wait for the next chapters to be posted!

    1. Wow Trish, good catch on the ice skating. It seems unlikely they would use their scarce water that way, so I’ll figure out something else for the kids to do! The map seems like a good idea too. I do already have some graphics (check out the Cold Crater Chronicle) so maybe a map would work, like the map of middle earth in the Hobbit series. Are you thinking something that just shows the craters and Malapert Mountain, or actually goes into detail with all the underground corridors and facilities?

  2. Hey, Kevin. My mom printed out chapter 1 and brought it with her when she visited me last weekend. It’s great! I didn’t realize the title of the book is Dust — that’s perfect — and I didn’t realize there were more chapters to read (thank goodness because this chapter got me hooked!). I love how you set the scene and how it’s not immediately apparent that this isn’t taking place on Earth (or at least not on our pre-apocalyptic Earth). The action flows really well, and I like the main character’s voice (although in some places it seems a little more proper and correct than in others). I wondered about the ice skating, too — maybe rock skating? (or I can imagine gangs of skateboarders in the tunnels). I was curious about a couple of things. One is the description of goat cheese at the very beginning — is cheese production something Straker would know about? There is the mention later of the enclosed goats that people can see (and I like the Cesar Chavez gate!). The other thing was the way he says at the end of the chapter that he’d rather die hated and famous (by becoming a spy for the govt) than as an anonymous loser, but it seems to me that he’s already hated and famous and what he wants is to choose what he’s famous for, or to be famous for himself rather than for what his dad did? Also (remember I was an English major!) would someone on the moon really always see Earth in the same spot in the sky?

    1. Hi Nora, thanks for reading and thanks for commenting–it’s especially valued coming from you since you’re such a literary type! Yes, it’s hard to write in somebody else’s voice…the only thing I know to mitigate that is to go over it again and again and ask myself how Straker would say it, so I’m still doing that, making small changes. I took care of the ice skating thing in my latest rev (not posted on the website); as far as cheese-making, the point I made to your mother is that there are very few kinds of food on the moon, and that all cheese would be made from goat’s milk since there are no cows (too flatulent!). It’s kind of a pioneer environment, so I do think Straker and others in his world would know a lot of frontier skills that you or I would not. I did put a sentence in the latest rev about how they made cheese back in the Children’s Home to cover that question. The point you made about becoming famous for something other than what his father did is really excellent–that line actually came from a kid that Joe knew, who got into really bad trouble, and I thought it fit when I wrote it in, but now I think I’ll tweek it to something like you said. Thanks for that. Yes, you would see the Earth at more or less the same point in the sky, although it would vary a little bit in elevation. The moon revolves on its axis at the same rate that it revolves around the Earth, so it always presents the same face to the Earth. If you’re Straker, the Earth would always appear to the North (everything is North from the South Pole!) at about 0 degrees longitude. The only change would be due to the tilt of the Moon on its axis, which is less than 7 degrees, so certain times of the month it would be a little higher in the sky than other times. Close enough for a novel, I think. Thanks again!

    2. Nora: I’ve been looking at your question about seeing the Earth from
      Shackleton crater again, and I’m not so sure I’ve got it completely correct. The Earth, when viewed from the Moon, slowly wiggles around within a small box in the sky, both in elevation and in longitude. But the main issue with the novel, I think, is that I’m not sure a viewer would even see the Earth from the rim of Shackleton Crater! The viewer would see Earth from nearby Malapert Mountain, since that mountain can be seen from the Earth. But Shackleton, I’m not so sure, and I’m not even sure there’s enough data to make an educated guess. Arrgg — I’m still researching, but thanks for the question.

      1. OK Nora, I think I can confidently say that, during certain times of the month, Straker would be able to see at least part of the Earth from the rim of Shackleton Crater. I say that because, during certain times of the month, it is possible to see the rim of Shackleton from Earth. And it would certainly be a very beautiful sight. So I’ll tweek Chapter 1 to make sure that’s covered. Thanks for keeping me honest!

  3. Hi Kevin,
    I’ve now finished reading through chapter 4 and find the story ever more engaging. I especially liked the launch into moon orbit. It sounded like some sort of catapult was used. Is that the case? I was a bit worried that Straker had left his guitar behind and knowing how addictive playing can be, was relieved when he pulled it out on the Allgood. As a reader I still wonder about the fate of the trapped miners. It seems an oversight that such a dramatic event should disappear unresolved from the story.
    Love, Jay

    1. Hi Jay. Yes, they get launched by a “mass-driver” electromagnetic gun; it’s a nice solution for the moon since their gravity is so much less than the Earth’s, but they’ve got virtually unlimited electrical power due to the almost constant sunshine at various spots at the south pole. The guitar figures in pretty significantly later in the story; for a while I had him playing a keyboard but it just didn’t feel right so I went with guitar. About the cave-in, I did put some stuff in the first chapter to cover that (didn’t post the updated version) but now you’ve given me an idea that maybe the marshal coerced Straker into being his spy–it was a deal Straker had to make to avoid getting in trouble over the cave-in, even though it wasn’t his fault. It’s so sleazy, it should work!

  4. Hi Kevin,
    Yes, I’m still printing and reading each new chapter and enjoying . You’re doing a great job of developing Straker’s character with the dreams and flashbacks and I’m curious about some of the technical developments. Just how do turbine blades attach to the hub? Are they welded?
    Also If Katya’s original location of the mysterious transmission was correct how to explain the apparent lack of a ship? A cloaking devise as per Star Treck? A drone receiving a laser/stealth transmission and rebroadcasting? You also did a great job of building the suspense leading up to the ship’s alarm sounding. Jay

    1. Hi Jay. Hope your chickens are healthy and happy and not being too naughty! Thanks for the comment. The purpose of this turbopump is to drive water into the “Closed-cycle gaseous core fission / nuclear thermal engine” AKA “Nuclear Lightbulb”. The concept is that the radiation from the uranium hexaflouride heats water, which is then expelled at a very fast rate as thrust. The turbopump bleeds off a little of that thrust to drive a high-speed water pump, in a manner analogous to turbo supercharger that you wish you’d had in your ’55 Chevy back in the day. As it turns out, the attachment of turbine blades to the hub is no big deal. Although the blades are made of exotic materials and must be perfect to be useful, the attachment to the hub is basically a tongue-and-groove arrangement (probably not the right term but you get the idea). In jet turbines, they’re not even fastened tight to the hub; they actually wobble a little. So I would imagine the Allgood would carry a certain number of pre-manufactured spare blades, along with some capability to manufacture on-board (think 3-D printers 75 years from now). As for the location of the transmission, Katya pegged the location but couldn’t see anything. But that doesn’t mean there was nothing there. At this point it’s a mystery, but you should be able to put it together after chapter 18. Let me know if you don’t! Thanks again, K

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