Monday, June 05, 2006


Beyond the Threshold

After talking about it for months, doing endless amounts of research, and outlining the thing to within an inch of its life, I finally started writing the space opera this afternoon. I only had a few hours to work, having spent the rest of the day on Georgia Patrol, and openings always take me far more time to write than anything else in a book, so I only managed 1,797 words between two o'clock and five thirty.

I've always wanted to try one of these little writing progress meters, so here goes. The novel is going to skew a bit shorter than my last few projects, hopefully, so I'm targeting for 90K at the outset.

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
1,797 / 90,000

Two percent? A decent enough start, I suppose, but not a typical day's output for me, I'm afraid. Maybe tomorrow.

I'm not sure if I'll be tracking my progress online throughout the novel or not. My schedule these days is a bit screwy, as I'm only able to work three days a week, sometimes only a few hours a day, and never the same three days in any given week. By this fall, Georgia will be starting preschool and my life will fall back into something more closely resembling a routine, but at this point its a bit more, shall we say, organic?

In any event, the following is the opening chapter of the novel, which is entitled Beyond the Threshold. This is what's called a "spec" novel, by the way, which means it hasn't been sold yet. Just so you know.


When I woke up, surrounded by talking dog-people, it was clear we’d strayed pretty far from the mission parameters.

The rest of the crew had gone down a few weeks out from Earth, when Wayfarer One passed Neptune’s orbit, but I’d opted to stay awake almost until we reached the sun’s heliopause. As I arranged myself in the narrow sleeper coffin, the hibernation gasses gradually slowing my body’s processes to a near halt, I closed my eyes, knowing that when I opened them, four decades and 4.3 lightyears later, it would be to look at a sight no humans before us had ever seen.

Wayfarer One’s automated systems were programmed to wake us a few weeks out from Alpha Centauri B, as the engines fired and the ship began to decelerate. According to the mission specs, by the time the ship’s velocity slowed to zero we would be within visual range of our destination, a tiny Earth-like planet known only by a registry number, that might one day be a new home for humanity. I was born a century after an asteroid toppled the most powerful nation on Earth, and knew all too well how vulnerable our planet was to another such disaster. A larger strike could well mean the extinction of life as we knew it. Establishing a toe-hold on another world would only serve to increase humanity’s chances of surviving into the distant future; but first we had to find a world capable of supporting life.

That was the mission my colleagues and I had accepted. We knew it would mean sacrificing anything like a normal life, as our friends and relatives aged and died back on Earth as we traveled between the stars, but it was a sacrifice we were willing to make. We would be carrying life into lifeless space, the first humans to reach another star.

It came as something of a surprise, then, when I opened my eyes and looked up to see a trio of spacesuit-wearing dogs standing over me, their tongues hanging out as they barked enthusiastically.

More surprising still, they seemed to be barking at me in English…

There it is. A so-far-unnamed narrator, some spaceship fu, and talking dog-men. I may be posting little snippets tomorrow, depending on how I feel about them, as well as updating my little progress meter thing.

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