Update on My Novel: Month 0

black pen near white printer paper
Photo by lalesh aldarwish on Pexels.com

Yesterday I announced that I was going to be bringing back the Story of the Storyteller series, though it is being repurposed to chronicle the progress on my novel. I have mentioned this novel in previous posts, I have even shared the intro from it. But in case you weren’t aware, it is entitled With the Beast, and is set on an island which a small family has just inherited. That family comes to the island with the ambition of founding their legacy, building something that will be remarkable and enduring.

I guess if I were to compare it to any other stories I would say it’s something like Swiss Family Robinson combined with Little House in the Big Woods. However there is also a strong sense of menace to it, as the narrator of the story suggests that these are events which already transpired, ones which will conclude with his coming and destroying everyone and everything.

This story is one I have had in mind since about 2014. I have worked at it on and off throughout the years, trying to get the outline just right. That outline has changed a great deal with each iteration, most notably shifting from pure horror to something more hopeful. It wasn’t until just a couple of months ago that I made up my mind for how I want the story to end.

But as iteration after iteration goes by I have realized that I am in a never-ending cycle of plotting and outlining and refactoring, such that I will never actually get the thing written if I don’t start penning my first draft now! I have a general outline for the entire story, and a very detailed one written out for the first third.

I would like to extend that detailed outline to the end of the story, but feel I can also start writing “draft one” as I do so. To that end I have committed to outlining two scenes each day, and also writing 500 words. Yesterday I accomplished that, and today I will accomplish that. In a month I’ll give you an update on my progress, and then share about whatever lessons or insights I gained in the process.

It’s going to be a long journey, but I’m very excited for it!

In Stars and Stones

astronomy constellation dark dawn
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The first thing that the astronomers of the Mauna Key Observatory made clear to the public was that our solar system is in constant movement through the galaxy. Some of the general populace would already be aware of this, but the scientific community had long since learned to speak to the lowest common denominator when presenting new scientific discoveries. And so they explained that just as how our moon orbits the earth and it in turn orbits the sun, so also the sun orbits the center of the Milky Way Galaxy and it in turn orbits the far off center of the Virgo Supercluster. It was that last statement was the part that was a discovery, for all prior research had suggested that our galaxy orbited no central mass, only that it ever drew nearer to its neighbor, the Andromeda Galaxy.

For the time being they had no explanation as to why this inter-galactic movement had never before been noticed, but cheerfully assured they would keep the public updated on this most fascinating of developments. The public, as a whole, were mildly entertained by the news but little further thought was given to the revelation.

Coincidentally, in that same year another discovery came to light which made far more of an impact on modern culture. In the midst of the ongoing Integrated Ocean Drilling Program, some seismic shifts had collapsed a large portion of their borehole and then filled it with a number of archaeological artifacts such as had never before been seen. What was most notable, though, was that these items featured unmistakable signs of synthetic materials, suggesting a community that possessed a technology which belied the age to which they must have belonged.

*

Seven years had passed since the first reports on the galaxy’s movement towards the center of the Virgo Supercluster, and each of the major astronomical observatories had confirmed the findings of the Mauna Key Obervatory. As each establishment published the results of their research, though, each claimed that the rate of the galaxy’s movement was slightly greater than that which had been measured by any of the preceding publications. By this pattern it soon became evident that the movement was accelerating, and doing so at a rate of that was greater than anticipated.

The full implications of this could not be fully extrapolated though. It was becoming abundantly evident that the scientific community possessed neither sophisticated enough models nor detailed enough data to predict future outcomes with any degree of confidence. The distances were simply too large and the rate of motion too great. Thus it was that mathematicians and physicists committed themselves to providing more robust systems for analyzing these extremes.

Meanwhile the archaeologists were facing steep obstacles in the case of the ancient relics uncovered by the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program. The first hurdle had to do with the fact that the IODP’s mission statement was solely to bore a hole to the earth’s mantle, a massive undertaking in and of itself. The research of ancient civilizations was simply not on the agenda. That did not mean that the program’s board was disinterested, but that all of their specialized drilling equipment was funded by a great number of investors whose personal needs had to be represented in their operational decisions.

The program did, at least, agree to halt all further drilling efforts for three months, while a conference was held for all interested parties to come to an agreeable resolution. The outcome of these proceedings was that the financial institutions behind the IODP agreed to a seven-year loan of their project, to any party conducting research into the ancient civilization, providing said party could raise sufficient funds. The exact quantity of those sufficient funds was never publicly disclosed, but it was public knowledge that several leading governments contributed significantly to securing the contract for a coalition of top archaeological institutions. All of the resources available to the IODP, including their drilling ship, the Chikyu, and all of its equipment and manpower were assigned to this new outfit.

The second challenge that the archaeological community faced was in identifying an approach for ultra-deep excavation. Securing pieces and drawing them up to the surface would destroy all by the sturdiest of the relics, and it was a physical impossibility to dig a large enough channel down to such an immense depth, thus ruling out more traditional excavation techniques.

*

Four years later all astronomers were in agreement that the momentum of our galaxy was accelerating at an alarming rate. It had even reached the point where backyard hobbyists were noticing their night skies changing by the slightest of degrees. Again, some acceleration had always been expected, but this large of a change was unprecedented. All projected trajectories and timelines for this orbit were updated, and the natural conclusion was that the orbit was not shaped like the wide, circular path of a planet around the sun. Instead it was more akin to the long, drawn out ellipsoid of a comet.

Under this theory it stood to reason that until just recently the galaxy had been in the most outer limits of that orbit. At that point its movement would have been so slow that it was virtually imperceptible, and thus had never been noted until this time. Of course the implication of this theory was that this orbit passed even nearer to the Virgo Supercluster’s core than originally anticipated. Indeed the proximity would be so near that its effects on the planet would be devastating.

It was determined not to share these speculations with the general public, given that they truly were speculations. Yet, as mentioned, even hobbyists were starting to see the rapid changes and it was not be long before they began to draw the same conclusions for themselves.

The tension in the astronomer circles was in stark contrast to the excitement in rippling through the archaeological community. At long last they were able to develop a process by which slices of deep earth could be flooded and then siphoned upwards to the surface for testing. What was extracted by this process would be greatly fragmented and somewhat homogenized, but not to such a degree that the separate elements’ composition could not be evaluated. In addition, the safe retrieval of some small and individual relics could be accomplished through the use of durable tunneling robots, which were to be lowered to specific areas of interest through specially drilled boreholes.

The flooding and siphoning process was completed first, and every component was passed through triage into categories of cultural, structural, and natural origin. A barrage of tests was then conducted on each category and the carbon dating estimates cast the entire project into deeper intrigue. Every sample, regardless of which category of it had been drawn from, dated to the same point of time several hundreds of millions of years ago. More than three hundred million at least, and quite possibly more than six.

This alarming result left the scientific community unable to resolve this ancient culture with any of the existing historical timelines of the earth. Either an inexplicably ancient and intelligent civilization truly did exist many millions of years before even the dinosaurs walked the earth, or else all of the scientifically approved methods for dating elements were fundamentally flawed and the entire prehistoric record would be called into question.

Added to these perplexities was the further analysis conducted on the synthetic materials which had been extracted. It was determined that the necessary methods for producing these composites was of such a sophistication as to put it on par with modern steel and titanium. This was irrefutable evidence that these ancient beings possessed a degree of intelligence and technology that rivalled even our own. A civilization much like ours on an earth so ancient that our evolutionary ancestors had not yet crawled out the ponds.

*

Another five years and the acceleration of the world had reached such magnitude that it was visible in the night sky. The appearances of “shooting stars” were constant, as another million tons of passing space debris burned in the atmosphere every second. A few degrees off of the equator a comet-like tail extended far out into space, formed by all of the evaporated moisture, each day growing ever longer and brighter.

Every estimate of the galaxy’s movement was outdated by the time it was published, and astronomers grappled with the fundamental problem of not being able to chart distant celestial bodies before they had already been passed by. This became known as the “train outrunning its own light conundrum” and the so the world flew blindly on.

Simulations were only capable enough to illustrate the “general” trajectory of this orbit, and there was a great deal of concern about what exactly would happen when the world reached proximity to the center of the Virgo Supercluster. This point now had been given a name: the Pericore. Similarly the point furthest from the cluster was now referred to as the Apocore. The general consensus was that as the earth approached this Pericore it would be subjected to unimaginable forces of acceleration, heat, and gravitational pull, but the specifics of how these would manifest was mostly speculation.

World governments tried to quell the ensuing panics, calling for order as they initiated construction of deep, underground bunkers. Though they promised that the best minds would find a way to preserve humanity, those same best minds knew that there was no possible hope. The most likely outcome was that the entire planet would to be scorched from its peaks to its core for centuries. The atmosphere would be disintegrated, all life would be destroyed, and the earth would be left as dry and empty as the moon.

Immediately before the astronomers broke their silence on the doom they saw ahead, the archaeologists claimed their ultimate prize in the form of ancient writing from the prehistoric civilization. The figures had been deeply engraved into a hyper-compressed cube of some glass-like material. It was too large to retrieve up to the surface, but after digging a series of additional bore-holes and flushing away the surrounding sediment, they succeeded in reaching the artifact with a team of robots. These were manipulated to rotate and photograph the entirety of the artifact for further analysis.

Linguistic experts and cryptographers alike were called on to collectively decipher the characters’ meaning, and soon a rough translation emerged. This accomplishment was greatly helped by the fact that this record had been designed for interpretation, as evidenced by how the piece was structured.

On the first face of the glass cube gave a sequence of numerical quantities, with corresponding representative symbols beside them. There then followed basic operations on those quantities to establish a shorthand for mathematics. These mathematical expressions included binary operations for ideas such as “and,” “not”, “all,” and “exists.”

The second face of the cube featured a series of pictures filled with geometric shapes. Though each of these was different in style from one another, it was realized they were all varied representation of the same concepts: those of planets, solar systems, and other celestial bodies.

With the foundation of those first two faces, the third could now be properly understood. This one defined a core vocabulary, by first defining objects and then operations and states that pertained to them. For example the scale of the planet defined on the second face was paired with a small fraction defined on the first face to give the dimensions of a much smaller entity, one which answered roughly to that of a humanoid. These entities were combined with the symbols established for mathematical addition and subtraction to communicate ideas such as birth, growth, and death, and again all of these combined ideas were then associated with a single symbol for the word that represented this.

On the fourth face the cube finally began to deliver its message in earnest. It described many people at great distance from each other spread all across the planet. It suggested that a portion of these people spent their time measuring the stars that passed by.

The fifth face described a galaxy shown to be moving along a massive, elongated orbit. It gave figures for the distance of that orbit and the time it took for the galaxy to transition through it. The record drew special attention to the point of the orbit where the galaxy grew nearest to a cluster of other stars.

The sixth face used depictions for many different forms of death. The death of “all” was specifically emphasized. After this mass destruction it illustrated the galaxy continuing along its orbit back away from the star cluster. At one point it passed through a cloud of some sort, the meaning of which was not explicitly defined. After passing through that cloud, though, there came many of the symbols representing the ideas of “birth” or “life.”

The general consensus was that the cube’s authors had spied a fertile cloud of elements and gas which stood in the latter half of the galaxy’s orbit. This cloud would be able to replenish the earth back to a state of supporting life, and that life would perhaps evolve and become an intelligent society. And by their intelligence that society could one day find this ancient record, the record of those that had been before. A record written moments before they were all blended into the ground with fervent heat in a burning that was destined to rise again.

***

As rough as I feel this week’s short story still is, things started for it in a far messier place! As mentioned in my post on Monday, every story’s first draft requires a multitude of cleansing passes and iterating to brush away all the noise and dirt until the true story finally shine through. It’s a process that takes a great deal of time, and is as important as any other phase of crafting a story.

In the case of these blog posts I do need to meet a deadline, one which I’m already late in meeting, and so my short stories do not have the full benefit of this process. That being said I do take time to refine these stories as much as I can within my constraints, and I would never dream of posting my initial rough draft out here for the public to see…well, aside from just this once!

In order to better illustrate the points I said in my Monday post I will not present my original first draft of this story and then the same draft with the edit marks throughout which ultimately led me to the final version you’ve just read.

 

ORIGINAL FIRST DRAFT

The first thing that the astronomers of the Mauna Key Observatory had to make clear to the public was that our solar system is in constant movement through the galaxy. Of course some of the general populace would already be aware of this, but you always tried to speak to the lowest common denominator when approaching new scientific discovering. And so they explained that just as how our moon orbits earth which in turn orbits the sun, so also the sun orbits the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, which in turn orbits the far off center of the Virgo Supercluster, of which it is a part. That alone was a very notable discovery, for all prior research had suggested that our galaxy orbited no central mass, only that it ever drew nearer to its neighboring Andromeda Galaxy.

For the time being they had no explanation to offer as to why this inter-galactic movement had never before been noticed, but cheerfully assured they would keep the public updated on this most fascinating of developments.

Coincidentally, other surprising news came to light in the midst of the ongoing Integrated Ocean Drilling Program. After some seismic shifts collapsed a large portion of their borehole, the researchers there discovered it had been and then filled with a number of artifacts of archaeological importance. What was most notable was that these items featured unmistakable signs of synthetic materials, even though they were found at a depth that would make them predate even the oldest of dinosaurs.

*

A number of years had passed since the first reports of the Milky Way galaxy’s movement towards the center of the Virgo Supercluster. Each of the other major astronomical observatories had conducted their own experiments in relation to the Mauna Key Obervatory’s findings and all agreed with the conclusions that had been presented. As each establishment published their confirmation, though, it became a pattern that each stated that the rate of movement towards the supercluster core was slightly greater than had been measured by each of the previous publications. It soon was evident that the rate of movement was accelerating. This was by no means unusual, only that the rate of that acceleration seemed greater than anticipated.

The full implications of this were yet to be fully extrapolated though. For the time being what was most evident was that the scientific community at large did not possess either sophisticated enough models nor detailed enough data to predict future outcomes with any degree of confidence. The distances were simply too large and the rate of motion too great. Thus it was that mathematicians and physicists were put under great demand to provide more robust systems for analyzing these extremes.

Meanwhile the archaeologists were only barely beginning to make any headway in the case of excavating the ancient relics uncovered by the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program. The first hurdle had, of course, to do with the fact that the IODP’s mission statement and basis for funding had nothing to do with the research of ancient civilizations. That was not to say that the members of the program’s board were disinterested, but that all of their specialized drilling equipment was the property of a great number of investors whose personal needs had to be represented in their operation decisions.

The program did, at least, agree to halt all further drilling efforts for three months, during which a conference was held where all interested parties could hopefully come to an agreeable resolution. The outcome of these proceedings was that the financial institutions behind the IODP agreed to seven-year loan of their project, the drilling ship Chikyu, and all other relevant equipment and resources necessary to any party capable of carrying out research into the ancient civilization providing they could raise sufficient funds. The exact quantity of those sufficient funds was never publicly disclosed, but it was common knowledge that several leading governments contributed significantly to securing the contract for a coalition of top archaeological institutions.

The second challenge that the archaeological community faced was in identifying an approach for ultra-deep excavation practices. Grabbing pieces and drawing them up to the surface as had been done with the first discoveries would destroy all by the sturdiest of the relics, and it simply was not an option to dig any reasonably large channel down to such an immense depth for more traditional excavation techniques.

*

Four years later and all astronomers were in agreement that the momentum of our galaxy was accelerating at an alarming rate. It had even reached the point that backyard hobbyists were noticing that their night skies were starting to change by the slightest of degrees. Again, some acceleration had always been expected, but this large of a rate of increase had the scientist’s updating their projected trajectories and timelines for this orbit. The natural conclusion was that the wide circular pattern of a planet around the sun was not the correct shape for their movement. Instead it was more akin to the long, drawn out ellipsoid of a comet.

Under this theory it stood to reason that the last several hundred million years had seen the galaxy at the zenith of its furthest reaches in that orbit, the point where its movement would be so slow that it was virtually imperceptible and thus why it had never been noted until this time. Of course the implications of this theory were that at its nearest point this orbit were even nearer to the Virgo Supercluster’s core than originally anticipated. Indeed the point would by necessity be so near that its effects on the planet would be devastating.

It was determined not to share these speculations with the general public, given that they truly were only speculations. Yet as mentioned, even hobbyists were starting to see the rapid changes and it would not be long before the more insightful of them began to draw the same conclusions for themselves.

The tension in the astronomer circles was countered by excitement in the archaeological community. After a great deal of innovation and experimentation they were able to develop a process by which slices of deep earth could be flooded and then siphoned upwards with acceptable damage to interned artifacts. What would arrive would be greatly fragmented and somewhat homogenized, but not to such a degree that the separate parts’ composition could not be evaluated. In addition, individual holes would be bored into particular areas of interest, through which durable tunneling robots could be lowered for limited retrieval of smaller and more delicate relics.

By the nature of the two extraction methods the flooding and siphoning process completed first and every component was passed through triage into various assumed categories of cultural, structural, and natural. Separate tests were done on each category in order to ascertain whether the context of this ancient civilization was at odds to the culture itself. Or in other words, this discovery was so deep in the earth that it did not make sense for it to belong there naturally, yet there was no explanation for what sort of cataclysmic event could have been buried a community to such an extent.

Each of the tests returned and the carbon dating estimates did nothing to alleviate the scientific community’s complexity. The structural, cultural, and natural remnants all dated to the same point of time several hundreds of millions of years ago. More than three hundred million, that was clear, quite possibly more than six.

This conclusion led to more than one theory among the public that the archaeological community was attempting to pull some elaborate hoax. The scientific community meanwhile had no satisfactory way to resolve this news with any of the theoretical timelines for this earth and its creatures’ evolution. The implications were either that an unexplainably ancient civilization truly did exist since even before the dinosaurs walked the earth, or else all methods for dating the world were fundamentally flawed and all grounding for the entire prehistoric record was upturned.

Added to these complexities was the analysis on the synthetic materials which had been extracted from this ancient period. The methods of producing these composites was unfamiliar to any known chemical process, but the sophistication of it was on par with modern steel and titanium. Perhaps it was even somewhat superior. This seemed to suggest that even if these ancient beings were not humanoid in their original appearance, they were human-like in their degree of intelligence and technology. A civilization like us on a world so ancient that our ancestors had not yet crawled out the ponds. That news gave even the skeptics a moment of contemplative pause.

*

Another five years and the acceleration of the world had reached such speeds that it was visible in the night sky. The appearance of “shooting stars” were everywhere as millions of tons of passing space debris were burned up in the passing atmosphere. A few degrees off of the equator a comet-like tail was forming from all of their evaporated moisture and each fortnight it could be seen from another degree of longitude’s distance.

Every estimate of the galaxy’s progress through along its arc was long since outdated by the time it was published and astronomers still grappled with the fundamental problem of not being able to measure distant enough celestial bodies before they had already been surpassed. This became known as the “train outrunning its own light conundrum” and the result was that the world flew blindly.

Simulations were useful only to illustrate the “generally” perceived trajectory of this orbit and the current progress along it. There was a great deal of concern as to what would happen when the world reached proximity to the center of the Virgo Supercluster, a point which now had been given a name of its own: the Pericore. A name was naturally derived from the similar terms Perigee and Perihelion, and similarly the point furthest from the cluster was now referred to as the Apocore. The general consensus was that as the earth approached the Pericore it was destined to be subjected to unimaginable forces of acceleration, heat, and gravitational pull.

World governments naturally tried to quell the ensuing panics, calling for order and loudly initiating construction of deep, underground bunkers. Though they promised that the best minds could find a way to preserve their people and cultures, those same best minds knew there was no possible hope to be found. The best estimates were that the entire planet was going to be scorched from its peaks to its core for a duration of at least several centuries. If a material existed that could withstand the heat, which it did not, then food and other resources would shortly be consumed and any survivors would be left on husk as dry and empty as that of our moon.

Before the astronomers’ discoveries were brought to light, the archaeologists had successfully claimed an ultimate prize in the form of ancient writing from the prehistoric civilization. The words had been engraved deeply into a hyper-compressed cube of glass. After a series of digging additional bore-holes, and flushing away surrounding sediment they succeeded in using a team of robots to both turn and photograph the entirety of the artifact for research.

The photographs were shared publicly and linguistic experts and cryptographers alike collectively worked to decipher the characters’ meaning. It soon became evident that this record had been intended as a message to foreign beings, as the piece began by establishing core principles of the culture’s language.

On one face of the glass cube was a sequence of numerical quantities and operations on them with corresponding symbols that established a shorthand for basic mathematics. These mathematical operations included binary definitions for ideas such as “and,” “not”, “all,” and “exists.” The next face then featured a series of pictures, each determined to be a different representation of the same concepts: those of planets in a solar system.

With these established, the two faces’ information combined to bring meaning to a third, one where relationships between the celestial bodies and the scale between them were used to illustrate galaxies, planets, and even entities whose sizes answered roughly to that of a humanoid. These entities were illustrated in various interactions including birth, growth, and death, and again all of these ideas were then associated with a symbol for the word that represented this.

On the fourth face the cube began to deliver its message in earnest. It spelled out a statement of many people at great distance from each other spread all across the earth. It suggested that a portion of these people spent their time measuring the celestial bodies that they passed by.

The fifth face began again with pictures showing a galaxy moving along a massive orbit like a comet around some massive cluster of stars. It gave figures for the distance of that orbit and the time it took for the galaxy to transition through it. It drew special attention to the point of the orbit where the galaxy grew nearest the cluster of stars.

The sixth face showed numerous depictions different forms of death. The death of “all” was greatly emphasized. After the mass destruction it showed the galaxy continuing on its orbit back towards its Apocore. At that point it passed through a cloud of some sort, the meaning of which was not explicitly defined, but after doing so were symbols representing the ideas of “birth” or “life.” The general consensus was that the message suggested a fertile cloud of element and gas stood in the orbit of the planet and would replenish it back to a state of being able to support life.

Life that would perhaps evolve and grow over untold eons, perhaps even become intelligent. And by that intelligence that society may even one day be able to find this record of those that had been before, a record written moments before they were blended into the ground with fervent heat.

***

 

DRAFT EDITS
Bold text represents an addition, strikethrough represents a removal.

The first thing that the astronomers of the Mauna Key Observatory had to make made clear to the public was that our solar system is in constant movement through the galaxy. Of course Some of the general populace would already be aware of this, but the scientific community had long since learned you always tried to speak to the lowest common denominator when approaching presenting new scientific discovering discoveries. And so they explained that just as how our moon orbits the earth and it which in turn orbits the sun, so also the sun orbits the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, which and it in turn orbits the far off center of the Virgo Supercluster, of which it is a part. It was that last statement was the part that was a discovery, That alone was a very notable discovery, for all prior research had suggested that our galaxy orbited no central mass, only that it ever drew nearer to its neighboring, the Andromeda Galaxy.

For the time being they had no explanation to offer as to why this inter-galactic movement had never before been noticed, but cheerfully assured they would keep the public updated on this most fascinating of developments. The public, as a whole, were mildly entertained by the news but little further thought was given to the revelation.

Coincidentally, in that same year other surprising news another discovery came to light which made far more of an impact on modern culture. In the midst of the ongoing Integrated Ocean Drilling Program, After some seismic shifts had collapsed a large portion of their borehole, the researchers there discovered it had been and then filled it with a number of archaeological artifacts such as had never before been seen. of archaeological importance. What was most notable, though, was that these items featured unmistakable signs of synthetic materials, suggesting a community that possessed a technology which belied the age to which they must have belonged. even though they were found at a depth that would make them predate even the oldest of dinosaurs.

Many of the general populace received that news with complete skepticism, assuming the Drilling Program was having a joke at their expense. Every scientist involved in the ongoing investigation and extraction, though, considered this find to be the most significant of the last two or three centuries.

*

A number of Seven years had passed since the first reports on of the Milky Way galaxy’s movement towards the center of the Virgo Supercluster., and each of the other major astronomical observatories had conducted their own experiments in relation to confirmed the findings of the Mauna Key Obervatory’s findings and all agreed with the conclusions that had been presented. As each establishment published the results of their research their confirmation, though, it became a pattern that each stated claimed that the rate of the galaxy’s movement towards the supercluster core was slightly greater than that which had been measured by each any of the preceding previous publications. By this pattern it soon became was evident that the rate of movement was accelerating, and doing so at a This was by no means unusual, only that the rate of that was acceleration seemed greater than anticipated.

The full implications of this were yet to could not be fully extrapolated though. It was becoming abundantly evident For the time being what was most evident was that the scientific community at large did not possessed neither sophisticated enough models nor detailed enough data to predict future outcomes with any degree of confidence. The distances were simply too large and the rate of motion too great. Thus it was that mathematicians and physicists were put under great demand to committed themselves to providing more robust systems for analyzing these extremes.

Meanwhile the archaeologists were only barely beginning to make any headway facing steep obstacles in the case of excavating the ancient relics uncovered by the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program. The first hurdle had, of course, to do with the fact that the IODP’s mission statement and basis for funding had nothing to do with the was solely to bore a hole to the earth’s mantle, a massive undertaking in and of itself. The research of ancient civilizations was simply not on the agenda. That was did not to say mean that the members of the program’s board were disinterested, but that all of their specialized drilling equipment was funded by the property of a great number of investors whose personal needs had to be represented in their operational decisions.

The program did, at least, agree to halt all further drilling efforts for three months, during which while a conference was held where for all interested parties could hopefully to come to an agreeable resolution. The outcome of these proceedings was that the financial institutions behind the IODP agreed to a seven-year loan of their project, the drilling ship Chikyu, and all other relevant equipment and resources necessary to any party capable of carrying out conducting research into the ancient civilization, providing they said party could raise sufficient funds. The exact quantity of those sufficient funds was never publicly disclosed, but it was common public knowledge that several leading governments contributed significantly to securing the contract for a coalition of top archaeological institutions. All of the resources available to the IODP, including their drilling ship, the Chikyu, and all of its equipment and manpower were assigned to this new outfit.

The second challenge that the archaeological community faced was in identifying an approach for ultra-deep excavation practices. Grabbing Securing pieces and drawing them up to the surface as had been done with the first discoveries would destroy all by the sturdiest of the relics, and it simply was not an option was a physical impossibility to dig any reasonably a large enough channel down to such an immense depth, thus ruling out for more traditional excavation techniques.

*

Four years later and all astronomers were in agreement that the momentum of our galaxy was accelerating at an alarming rate. It had even reached the point that where backyard hobbyists were noticing that their night skies were starting to change changing by the slightest of degrees. Again, some acceleration had always been expected, but this large of a rate of increase change was unprecedented. had the scientist’s updating their All projected trajectories and timelines for this orbit were updated, and the natural conclusion was that the orbit was not shaped like the wide, circular pattern path of a planet around the sun was not the correct shape for their movement. Instead it was more akin to the long, drawn out ellipsoid of a comet.

Under this theory it stood to reason that until just recently the last several hundred million years had seen the galaxy at the zenith of its furthest reaches in had been in the most outer limits of that orbit. At that the point where its movement would have been so slow that it was virtually imperceptible, and thus why it had never been noted until this time. Of course the implications of this theory were was that at its nearest point this orbit were passed even nearer to the Virgo Supercluster’s core than originally anticipated. Indeed the point proximity would by necessity be so near that its effects on the planet would be devastating.

It was determined not to share these speculations with the general public, given that they truly were only speculations. Yet, as mentioned, even hobbyists were starting to see the rapid changes and it would was not be long before the more insightful of them they began to draw the same conclusions for themselves.

The tension in the astronomer circles was countered by in stark contrast to the excitement in rippling through the archaeological community. After a great deal of innovation and experimentation At long last they were able to develop a process by which slices of deep earth could be flooded and then siphoned upwards with acceptable damage to interned artifacts to the surface for testing. What would arrive was extracted by this process would be greatly fragmented and somewhat homogenized, but not to such a degree that the separate parts’ elements’ composition could not be evaluated. In addition, the safe retrieval of some small and individual relics could be accomplished through the use of individual holes would be bored into particular areas of interest, through which durable tunneling robots, which were to could be lowered to specific areas of interest through specially drilled boreholes. for limited retrieval of smaller and more delicate relics.

By the nature of the two extraction methods The flooding and siphoning process was completed first, and every component was passed through triage into various assumed categories of cultural, structural, and natural origin. Separate A barrage of tests were conducted done on each category, in order to ascertain whether the context of this ancient civilization was at odds to the culture itself. Or in other words, this discovery was so deep in the earth that it did not make sense for it to belong there naturally, yet there was no explanation for what sort of cataclysmic event could have been buried a community to such an extent.

Each of the tests returned and the carbon dating estimates cast the entire project into deeper intrigue. did nothing to alleviate the scientific community’s complexity. The structural, cultural, and natural remnants all Every sample, regardless of which category of it had been drawn from, dated to the same point of time several hundreds of millions of years ago. More than three hundred million that was clear, at least, and quite possibly more than six.

This conclusion led to more than one theory among the public that the archaeological community was attempting to pull some elaborate hoax. The This alarming result left the scientific community meanwhile had no satisfactory way unable to resolve this news ancient culture with any of the existing theoretical historical timelines of the earth. for this earth and its creatures’ evolution. The implications were Either that an unexplainably inexplicably ancient and intelligent civilization truly did exist since many millions of years before even the dinosaurs walked the earth, or else all of the scientifically approved methods for dating elements the world were fundamentally flawed and all grounding for the entire prehistoric record was upturned would be called into question.

Added to these complexities perplexities was the further analysis conducted on the synthetic materials which had been extracted from this ancient period. It was determined that the necessary The methods of for producing these composites was unfamiliar to any known chemical process, but the of such a sophistication of it was as to put it on par with modern steel and titanium. Perhaps it was even somewhat superior. This seemed to suggest was irrefutable evidence that even if these ancient beings were not humanoid in their original appearance, they were human-like in their possessed a degree of intelligence and technology that rivalled even our own. A civilization much like ours like us on an world earth so ancient that our evolutionary ancestors had not yet crawled out the ponds. That news gave even the skeptics a moment of contemplative pause.

*

Another five years and the acceleration of the world had reached such speeds magnitude that it was visible in the night sky. The appearance of “shooting stars” were everywhere constant, as another millions of tons of passing space debris were burned up in the passing atmosphere every second. A few degrees off of the equator a comet-like tail extended far out into space, was forming from formed by all of their evaporated moisture, each day growing ever longer and brighter. and each fortnight it could be seen from another degree of longitude’s distance.

Every estimate of the galaxy’s movement progress through along its arc was long since outdated by the time it was published, and astronomers still grappled with the fundamental problem of not being able to chart measure distant enough celestial bodies before they had already been surpassed by. This became known as the “train outrunning its own light conundrum” and the result was that so the world flew blindly on.

Simulations were useful only capable enough to illustrate the “generallyperceived trajectory of this orbit, and the current progress along it. and there was a great deal of concern as to about what exactly would happen when the world reached proximity to the center of the Virgo Supercluster., a This point which now had been given a name of its own: the Pericore. A name was naturally derived from the similar terms Perigee and Perihelion, and Similarly the point furthest from the cluster was now referred to as the Apocore. The general consensus was that as the earth approached the this Pericore it was destined to would be subjected to unimaginable forces of acceleration, heat, and gravitational pull, but the specifics of how these would manifest was mostly speculation.

World governments naturally tried to quell the ensuing panics, calling for order and loudly initiating as they initiated construction of deep, underground bunkers. Though they promised that the best minds could would find a way to preserve humanity their people and cultures, those same best minds knew that there was no possible hope. to be found. The best estimates were most likely outcome was that the entire planet was going would to be scorched from its peaks to its core for a duration of at least several centuries. If a material existed that could withstand the heat, which it did not, The atmosphere would be disintegrated, all life would be destroyed, and the earth then food and other resources would shortly be consumed, and any survivors  would be left on a husk as dry and empty as that of our the moon.

Immediately before the astronomers broke their silence on the doom they saw ahead discoveries were brought to light, the archaeologists had successfully claimed an their ultimate prize in the form of ancient writing from the prehistoric civilization. The figures words had been deeply engraved deeply into a hyper-compressed cube of some glass-like material. It was too large to retrieve up to the surface, but after a series of digging a series of additional bore-holes and flushing away the surrounding sediment, they succeeded in reaching the artifact with using a team of robots. These were manipulated to both turn rotate and photograph the entirety of the artifact for research further analysis.

The photographs were shared publicly and Linguistic experts and cryptographers alike were called on to collectively worked to decipher the characters’ meaning, and soon a rough translation emerged. This accomplishment was greatly helped by the fact It soon became evident that this record had been designed for interpretation, as evidenced by how intended as a message to foreign beings, as the piece was structured. began by establishing core principles of the culture’s language.

On the first one face of the glass cube was gave a sequence of numerical quantities, with corresponding representative symbols beside them. There then followed and basic operations on those quantities to them, with corresponding symbols that established a shorthand for basic mathematics. These mathematical expressions operations included binary definitions operations for ideas such as “and,” “not”, “all,” and “exists.”

The second next face then of the cube featured a series of pictures filled with geometric shapes. Though each of these was different in style from one another, it was realized they were all varied determined to be a different representation of the same concepts: those of planets, in a solar systems, and other celestial bodies.

With these established, the foundation of those first two faces, information combined to bring meaning to a the third could now be properly understood. This one defined a core vocabulary, by first defining objects and then operations and states that pertained to them. For example the scale of the planet defined on the second face was paired with a small fraction defined on the first face to give the dimensions of a much smaller entity, one which one where relationships between the celestial bodies and the scale between them were used to illustrate galaxies, planets, and even entities whose sizes answered roughly to that of a humanoid. These entities were combined with the symbols established for mathematical addition and subtraction to communicate ideas such as illustrated in various interactions including birth, growth, and death, and again all of these combined ideas were then associated with a single symbol for the word that represented this.

On the fourth face the cube finally began to deliver its message in earnest. It spelled out a statement of described many people at great distance from each other spread all across the planet earth. It suggested that a portion of these people spent their time measuring the stars celestial bodies that they passed by.

The fifth face began again with pictures showing described a galaxy shown to be moving along a massive, elongated orbit like a comet around some massive cluster of stars. It gave figures for the distance of that orbit and the time it took for the galaxy to transition through it. It The record drew special attention to the point of the orbit where the galaxy grew nearest the to a cluster of other stars.

The sixth face showed numerous used depictions for many different forms of death. The death of “all” was greatly specifically emphasized. After the this mass destruction it illustrated showed the galaxy continuing along on its orbit back towards its Apocore away from the star cluster. At that one point it passed through a cloud of some sort, the meaning of which was not explicitly defined. After passing through that cloud, though, but after doing so were there came many of the symbols representing the ideas of “birth” or “life.”

The general consensus was that the cube’s authors had spied message suggested a fertile cloud of elements and gas which stood in the latter half of the galaxy’s orbit. of the planet and would This cloud would be able to replenish it the earth back to a state of being able to supporting life, and that life that would perhaps evolve and grow over untold eons, perhaps even become an intelligent society. And by that their intelligence that society could may even one day be able to find this ancient record, the record of those that had been before. A record written moments before they were all blended into the ground with fervent heat in a burning that was destined to rise again.

***

 

CONCLUDING REMARKS

Did the number of edits surprise you? I don’t usually visibly mark my corrections, so I personally was pretty amazed at how many of them stacked up by the time I was done. And as mentioned before, “done” in this instance is actually far more limited because of the blog deadline, for my more personal stories this would merely be the first of many transformations. I think you can really get a sense that the story you first write a draft of and the story you finally publish are two entirely different creations.

Now obviously in today’s little fiction I have invoked the name of science while presenting a story whose details boldly defy scientific reason. For example, there is no rational explanation for how any remnants of an ancient civilization could have survived the long march of time, let alone the complete devastation that I describe the earth being subjected to.

Obviously I had to make a decision where the line between realism and suspension of disbelief fell, and this is where it left me. This is certainly a question that often comes up when writing a story, and I’ll look into the topic in greater detail with my next blog post on Monday. Until then, have a wonderful weekend!

Doing the Hard, Hard Work

white printer paper with black and silver gel pen on top
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Do you ever have that experience where you sit down at your table and churn out thousands of words of pure gold that require no polishing whatsoever? Yeah, me either. I suppose there are times where I can get into a writing “groove” and the thoughts flow more easily, but even these sessions are going to need extensive refactoring later down the road. The fact is, actual pure gold is only found through long refinement and never in a flash of alchemy.

Certainly when masters sit at their craft they can make their work appear easy, but that is only by the quiet accumulation of skill through years of hard labor. People are not simply born with the “creative” chromosome that magically makes artistic expression effortless to them. To suggest otherwise is one of the worst insults you can give to a creator, as it suggests they did nothing more notable than win some genetic lottery. Original, quality work does not come about by luck or accident, it only comes about in one way, and that is through doing the hard, hard work.

Of course, that hard work often isn’t very glamorous. It’s slogging and frustrating and dirty. At first that might seem like a depressing outlook, but I think if we’re honest with ourselves we’ll agree that it is actually much better this way. If we could effortlessly flick out perfect creative expressions with every turn of the wrist then there wouldn’t be much value in a masterpiece anymore, now would there? The value is derived entirely because of the long, torturous effort that we know went into it. Being able to say that the work was crushing but we did it anyhow means we persevered where others gave up, and now we have something to show for it that they never will.

That doesn’t mean we have to make that work more difficult than necessary. As I suggested at the end of my last post, there are a few rules of thumb that can take the gargantuan task of correcting all of the errors in your story, and break it into more manageable pieces. I’d like to share them with you.

First off, I always like to simply read through my story over and over, fixing any glaring issues that I come across on the way. If I find a grammar error I fix it, if a sentence feels clunky I reword it, if I slipped from first-person to third I correct it. In short, anything that stands out like a sore thumb and can be quickly corrected, I take care of it. Of course some plot-holes and weak scenes are more complex and resist any sort of quick-fix. For any of these I just make a note of them and move on, I’ll be circling back to them at a later point. To me this process is a lot like sanding a rough piece of wood. Each pass leaves those snarls and knots a little bit smoother until they feel comfortable enough to handle for a more in-depth inspection. I know that I’ve reached the end of this stage when I have a read through that goes from start to finish without any new problems discovered.

If I feel like continuing on to the next step of clean-up I will, but it’s important to note that this is a process best not rushed. If you are editing your work while burned out, you are going to be sloppy and miss things. As much as possible you want to write with a clear mind, so if at any point it’s buzzing with all the minutia of your work, go and get a breath of fresh air. That principle works the other way, too. If at any point you think your story is complete, the absolute best it can ever be, take a break and come back to it later with a fresh pair of eyes for a second opinion. Most times you’ll probably realize you were too close to the grain to acknowledge the errors it still held.

Back to the polishing process, though. After I’ve completed all of my general corrections in my story I’ll move on to more targeted ones. I’ll do an entire read-through where I only resolve those complex plot-holes and weak scenes I mentioned above. I’ll cut and paste sections around and brainstorm ideas until I can unfold all of the wrinkles in my story.

Then I’ll do an in-depth dive into grammar. For this I recommend putting together a cheat-sheet of core principles that each sentence can be tested against. Don’t move on from sentence until you are convinced it either satisfies every rule or else is a justified exception to it.

I also strongly recommend one set of read-throughs just for evaluating the cadence of the story. When you have spent so much time focusing on individual words and sentences you’ve probably lost sight of the bigger picture. Each phrase may flow wonderfully now, but do the themes still do so as well?

As with before, it is of utmost importance to maintain that fresh perspective while you are working. If you haven’t already, try reading your work out loud for a change. Sentences that seemed fine in your head may sound clunky when you have to speak them. If there’s a friend or family member willing to read through it, offer it to them for a their opinion. Bring your work to a writing group to get feedback as well. Just be sure that you aren’t asking for opinions on a piece that is still laden with misspellings and narrative faux pas. If you do, that’s all your readers will be able to comment on. It’s just too rough for them to see anything else.

One other tip I would offer is that you use some sort of version controlled software to write your story in. If you’re not familiar with that term an example would be Google Docs where at any time you can look back at all the edits you have made and examine previous iterations of the same document. There are two benefits to this. The first is that it allows you to make changes without the fear of losing any previous iterations. Sometimes we go back and forth on how a scene should play out and its nice to be able to swap between options as needed. Another neat feature is that you can provide a boost to your motivation when you’re feeling low. With a few clicks of a button you can see the journey of your work from its rough genesis to the quality novel that stands before you today. If you were able to make it this far, surely you can make it to the next level, too.

Now it would disingenuous of me to suggest that I hold myself to this regime for each of my blog posts. For these I have a deadline I must meet, and while I try to follow these steps for as long as I can, sooner or later I have to just accept that my craft is good enough and move forward with it. I think there is a value to learning how to work with deadlines, but for my longer, more personal writings I absolutely do strive give them the thorough treatment. I think that they deserve my best, and it really is amazing to see how much better a story becomes once all of the clutter gets out of its way.

Next time you pick up your favorite novel, remind yourself that you do not see all the hours of labor and crumpled early drafts that went into its creation. It was not always the polished, final product that you hold today, at one point it looked much like your own flawed and error-riddled manuscript. The difference between great authors and amateurs is simply their willingness to persist in the hard labor of improving their story. Thus all that stands between you and your masterpiece is a simple decision, the decision to roll up your  sleeves, and get to work.

 

Over these next three days I am going to write up a short story for Thursday’s blog post. At the end of that story I am going to let you peek behind the curtain at its earliest form and each iteration that followed, leading up to the finished product. Obviously I will be using the processes and tips that I have just illustrated to bring my work through those varied iterations. Given the short time constraint, I am sure there will yet remain a great deal of correction to be done on my story, but hopefully it’ll be enough to convince you of the value of my approach. I’ll see you then!