Look. I even opened it up and added 900 words to it and everything! And they were good words, as free of filtering as I’m capable and with nice sensory details while a character is trying to will himself to not go insane. And it was a lot of fun getting back to it, even if I couldn’t remember a character’s name.
But see, here’s the problem. Yesterday when driving into work I was listening to a podcast from the day the Atlantis landed. That got me thinking about the future of manned space flight, and that a beta reader for one of my stories actually felt it was unbelievable that NASA was behind a manned spaceflight event in the story. I’d meant to take “NASA” and “Houston” out of the story, but listening to the banter between mission control and Atlantis and thinking about that comment…it just got me bummed out about the future of space exploration. I’ve already written that post, so I’m not going to get all maudlin about it right here.
Later in the day the news broke: there was new evidence of water on Mars. This is the kind of big space news that tends to get me really excited, but when I was already bummed out about space it just made me realize that, oh sure, there was water. But what else? Where’s my Barsoom? I was promised a Barsoom! With canals, and intelligent life, and a breathable atmosphere. And all the wonderful things that old pulp science fiction taught us about the solar system.
It was a golden age for the solar system. Mars was inhabited. Venus was a swampy world filled with dinosaurs. There were gremlins on the moon. The earth was hollow and inhabited both inside and out. A planet orbited on the other side of the sun from us, right where we couldn’t see it. The only bad news was for Phaeton, the poor demolished planet whose civilization was destroyed.
I have a series of stories that exist largely as titles that travel to many of these places. Some of them have the earliest bits of plot outlined. Others are just titles. Yesterday I decided I needed to get to work on one of them. Because I wanted a planet that was the way the late nineteenth century imagined it. And there’s just not the right Kickstarter project getting ready to do that in reality, so fiction would have to make do.
So, see, I really had intended to walk away from short stories for a while and get back into my novel, but the short stories just pulled me right back in. This new one is called The Ghosts of Venus, and is currently at 1400 words long. And I’m loving it. Loving it more than I’ve loved a first draft in a long time. So that’s my new project, get this story written, and then decide where to go next. Perhaps back to Capsule, or perhaps on to one of my other pulp title stories and hook up with the Mummies of Phaeton, the Devil Dogs of Inner Earth, or the Madmen of the Moon. All of these have concepts behind them, all of them will be told one day.
Because sometimes you just want to make your own worlds.
Venus photo by JPL and NASA, released to public domain.