To our families. You mean the world to us. Perhaps even every world.
Regarding Space Travel
Any author who hopes to write a story about interstellar space travel must eventually deal with the fact that interstellar space travel is impossible. Or if not impossible, then so shockingly impractical that it's probably not worth the trouble. We can't go to the stars in real life, but we hunger to see them and discover what secrets are hidden behind all of those shimmering white dots. So to soothe our curiosity, we write stories about outer space. However, in our stories we can't travel through space for all the same reasons we can't travel through space in the real world. The only saving grace of fiction is that we can cheat.
I suppose you can write a story about a guy who decides to find out how a remote colony planet is doing, and so he spends most of his adult life traveling there. Then his daughter spends her life bringing back the reply, “We're mostly okay here, but we're fresh out of that orange cheese dust they put on chips and cheese doodles, and we don't know how to synthesize it ourselves.” Then the man's grandson takes them a shipment of cheese dust and his great-granddaughter brings back their reply of, “Thanks!” I'm not saying it can't be done, but there are certain limits on what kind of story you can tell if it takes decades to go somewhere and your characters keep dropping dead of old age. It's going to be murder on pacing.
One popular solution is to just cheat around the physical limits of the universe with technology. Take all the unknown stuff about how a ship can move in space without needing to constantly shed mass, how it can get anywhere in a reasonable time frame, how it can circumvent the unbelievably annoying restriction that you can't travel faster than light, and where all the required energy is going to come from. The author puts the solutions to all of these problems in a box, they write “magic” on the side, and then they strap it to the back of a spaceship and call it the engine. Then the author can stop worrying about all that crap and get on with their space adventure.
The other solution is for the scientifically minded author is to try to bluff their way past these problems by dropping in some ideas based on quantum tunneling, string theory, black holes, or whatever stuff is popular enough that readers will have heard of it yet complicated enough that they will have no idea what it really is. The author can cover up the word “magic” on the side of the box with jargon. The problem with this is that it takes a good bit of scientific knowledge to pull this off without making a fool of yourself, it can sometimes be a bit dense to read, and unless you actually know how to travel faster than light, you're still going to end up with a magic box.
In this book you will find my own solution to the problem. I wanted technology that was at some kind of mid-point between the booster-rocket technology we have now and the magic “warp drive” technology of the future. Something that's complicated, inconvenient, but mysterious to the reader. This fixes my most frequent objection to fictional technology, which is that it's usually not nearly enough of a pain in the ass. When I see a large-scale transportation technology that isn't an expensive logistical and maintenance nightmare, it really pulls me out of the story.
It was both a joy and a challenge to 'finish' this book, and an honor to 'work with' Shamus, or at least his prose. However, when working with fiction, one often has to wrestle with the issue of authenticity. In this case, two authors worked with very little collaboration to create a story. Neither of us can claim our contribution is “authentic” except that we are authors. It is in this sense that I present to you, the “real story” of Rin. It is real in the sense that it is complete, and that it is a public record of events as I see them unfolding. I have no authority to claim my extrapolations are canonical in any sense, except to the degree that they are convincing.
I have also taken upon myself to alter what Shamus has put down, altering the unfinished text to suit the direction I wanted to take with it. As I “ran with” the story, I gladly take the blame for the terrible characterization, stilted dialog, poor pacing, and occasional blatant inconsistencies anywhere in the entire text. The presence or absence of such flaws I can, of course, not confirm, having worked with the text too long and too closely to see anything but afterimages. Shamus set the stage, the characters, and the general course, but if it drives upon the rocks know that I was the captain at the time. But, of course, if one wishes to find credit for the core conceits of this tale, I must yield the floor to Shamus. His was the framework on which this story hangs, and I have only attempted to fill it out and see it to completion.
Although some attempt has been made at accuracy in physics, history, society, psychology, and philosophy I cannot claim to be an expert in any of these fields. Alas, if it were so I could no doubt write marginally better fiction. I could also, however, find much better uses of my time, so perhaps it is to your benefit that I know so little. Whatever the case, please take the contents of this story with a dash of whimsy. The technicalities are intended to be engaging and provocative, but not precise to five places (and anyway, three places is quite sufficient). I encourage you to view the following narrative not as a definitive record, but as one young woman's experience of several tragedies (intertwined, no doubt) and what seemed (to her) to come of it... As seen through the eyes of two decidedly male authors.
We often turn to non-fiction to find truth, and fiction to find novelty. It is fascinating that this relationship is inverted when writing. As authors, it is fiction which allows us freedom to express our true beliefs without the fetters of research or credibility. Likewise, authors of non-fiction are forced to learn and understand alien concepts in order to conform to a reality which often defies explanation.
It seems that this revelation of the self attracts both prophets and egotists. I hope to be one of the former, but without falsifiable statements of fact you won't be able to prove it. Here we see the dual strength and downfall of fiction. It comes closest to personal conviction, while being the furthest from corporate conviction. Nevertheless I (and I hope many others) find fiction often the more convincing. It bypasses external reality, and informs of and to the internal one directly.
This story was the most “dark”, “gritty”, and “serious” of any I have worked on. As such, you will find within harsh language, indiscreet situations, and generally things you might not want to read out loud to your kids. I don't plan on reading it to my kids, or at least not too often (though I did read an incomplete version of the text to my wife in their presence (Thanks for the feedback and support Anna!) without any perceptible ill effects). I am not ashamed to have written such a work, as I feel it reflects the state of the world as it really is. But I also admit that the events could have been cast in a much happier light, and that the dingy shadowed feel is intentional.
It is clear that when Shamus began this story he was writing unabashedly about what interested him, and I have striven to do so as well. We are (if I may be so bold as to state quite bluntly) both rather interesting people to begin with and I think we have put together a rather interesting story for you to enjoy. That this story contains topics and situations not generally considered “nice” is a side-effect of the process. I have attempted to treat everything without gratuity, but also without flinching from the fact of the matter, whether this entails the actions of characters or their own individual views. If you deduce from the result that the authors are themselves not very nice people, well, you may be on to something. I'm sure our wives will be happy to provide you with supporting evidence.
With all that said, please enjoy. This is the longest narrative I have had the pleasure to flesh out, and I hope its setting and characters inspire you to do what you can with what you have, no matter who or where you are.
I've re-titled these pages from "A Collaboration" to "An Undead SciFi" since it seems truer. I had hoped, starting the endeavor, that it WOULD be a collaboration between Shamus who I somewhat idolized at the time, and myself who felt acutely in need of camradrie. Sadly, it didn't turn out that way. Now that I am regularly talking with Shamus, I realize more vividly than ever how much I had hoped to be working with someone, and how much Shamus (and perhaps myself as well) is not the kind of person one can work with. In any case, "Undead" is much closer to the actual result and hints much better at the process.
Despite the unsavory methods and disappointing process, I still hope you enjoy reading this a fraction as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Paul Spooner P.E.