The Space Opera That Never Was

Yesterday I wrote a cool sentence.

Well, not actually a sentence – more of a statement. Well, not even a statement – more of a descriptive title to what I thought could be a chapter in a science fiction novel. Look, whatever it was, I was very proud of it. It was so conducive to creative thought that I actually began to write the introduction to a science fiction novel (it was here that the author decided that the makers of Word for Windows were the most annoying bastards in the entire world. Every time he began to write the word “novel”, he’d get to the first ‘e’ and a little box would pop up next to the with “November” in it, implying that he didn’t have the intelligence or presence of mind to put a capital letter at the start of a proper name. Naturally, being an educated person, he would have put a capital “N” if he was going to write “November”. But he wasn’t going to. He was about to write “novel”, because that’s what he started to talk about and he wasn’t planning on writing “November” until the bloody programme starting annoying him by suggesting it every time he started to write a word with N, O, V, and E as the first four letters. Damn programmer geeks think they’re being so bloody helpful, popping up little squares every time you type something, thinking they’re helping you get things done quicker…it’d be a lot quicker if they didn’t keep implying that you don’t know what the hell you’re doing all the time. And if they’re so smart and so helpful, why couldn’t their programme have figured out that it would’ve been completely out of context to write “November” in that position: “…a chapter in a science fiction November…”? Now, because of those well-meaning, over-cautious but more likely bloody-minded programmer bastards, not only has most of the introductory paragraph been taken up by a bracketed and completely unplanned rant about an annoying little “help” function, the author has ended up writing “November” six times when he didn’t intend to mention it at all unless it was relevant to the story, which it was never going to be [stardates don’t use Earth months, as any decent science fiction writer should know]).

Ahem.

I had a loose introductory plot idea for my space opera (although massively clichéd): a flotilla of space vessels disappears without a trace, the fleet commander wants answers and the only guy who can possibly help is a (wrongly) convicted ex-special forces space-felon with borderline psychosis! Not the most originaltreatment in the world, but I just wanted to start somewhere solid and then see where my brain would lead the story.

Unfortunately, once I completed to the second paragraph of my Pulitzer-winning epic, Ihad to go to lunch and I foolishly (or perhaps fortunately, for the reading public at large) forgot to save my work. I found that out when I returned to work and couldn’t find my story anywhere. Someone had closed the programme in my absence and not saved changes to “doc1.doc”. Some people have no respect for literary masterpieceswritten during work time on work equipment. God-damned barbarians.

The story opened with a repeated hail to the lost flotilla: “Flotilla nine…flotilla nine, do you copy?” It was meant to drop the reader straight into the story, straight into the action, straight into unsettling uncertainty and suspense. I was going to give background on everything later in the narrative, including plenty of interchapters dedicated to our no-nonsense flawed hero figure: “…he leaned against a bulkhead, one hand in a pocket and the other playing absent-mindedly with a beret which had been jammed beneath the epaulet on his left shoulder…” Very sexy. I was tossing up an eye-patch, but hey – this is the far future and he’d either have a bitchin’ multifunction cybernetic eye or a perfect new one made from his own stem cells. The last thing I remember writing was something about the commander, red-faced, shouting “Forty-nine ships don’t just disappear!” as the hero smirked to himself, clearly in contempt of “the brass” and their ignorance (because he alone knew what they were up against – he’d seen it before and these bastards hadn’t believed him; they just threw him in the hole for a decade … the bastards). Upon reflection, it may have been for the best that I stopped if I was going to continue writing, shall we say, tried and true material like that.

The thing is, it looked great in my mind. I could see how the film version of my novel was going to open: a shot from behind of a dozen or so monolithic, battle-scarred warships covered with multi-barrelled turrets; massive photon engine exhausts emitting an eerie blue-green glow; lusciously rendered starfield in the background; over in one corner of the screen hangs a reddish-brown planetoid or moonlet with a few gigantic scorch marks on the surface, giving the viewer the impression that they’ve missed something awesome but can expect to see even better later on; perhaps even a few lithe little scout ships flitting in and amongst and around their larger counterparts, fixing stuff. Over this, you’d hear the repeated hail, then you’d zoom to a close up of the concerned-looking comms officer, eyes flitting, hands on buttons, face illuminated by the various screens in front of him. The camera would then pan across & up to the rather perturbed face of the commander of the fleet.

It was all a great idea. All from one little grouping of words that just popped into my head. I originally wrote it in the subject box of a humourously abusive e-mail I was sending to a friend because I wasn’t sure if the people at his work would see “You’re a gaping porn anus” as utterly hilarious as my friend and I would. I also didn’t want anyone at my work to see it because my friend undoubtedly would reply, using my original. “RE: You’re a gaping porn anus” would also not be perceived as hilarious by anyone who didn’t know the context in which it was written (because, of course, anything can be flat-out hilarious in right context, even [or especially] gaping anuses). So, to avoid reprimand or perhaps just to avoid being given a wide berth in the tea-room, I decided to use something innocuous, neutral, or even a tad perplexing to the naked brain.

What popped out was: “Juncture Group Omega nearing Respite Zone W1-K/3D”.
Cryptic, jargon-y, even nonsensical on a surface level (like most good science fiction terminology) and a great catalyst for a story. But the lack of auto-save betrayed me. Perhaps it’s best in hindsight that I lost that first couple of paragraphs – realistically I should have known that my short attention span would never have allowed me to stick with one great idea for as long as it takes to write a November.

Shit.

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