Monday, September 14, 2015

Background on The Bright Black Sea Part 3


I've spent several years and hundreds of hours and no doubt banged out half a million words writing The Bright Black Sea, so I'll let it tell its own tale. I will, however, give you a short introduction, without delving too deeply into the details of the plot or the characters.

First, as usual with me, the story is told as a first person narrative – the way we live our lives. The narrator, Wil Litang, is the newly appointed captain of the Lost Star, an interplanetary tramp freighter. He was the ship's first mate and when the captain/co-owner took gravely ill, he was appointed acting captain, charged with taking the ship on its usual round the planetary belt of Azminn, one of the stars of the Nine Star Nebula. However, before he completes this six month journey, not only does his captain die, but the other co-owner does as well, leaving the ship in charge of the Ministry of Probate of the planet of Calissant, pending it's final disposition to the heirs. Plus, in the course of the Lost Star's circumnavigation of Azminn, interplanetary trade takes one of its periodic nose dives, so that by the end of the voyage cargoes very hard to find, and the Ministry of Probate is laying up the tramp ships under its control as they arrive back in Calissant.

But facing this uncertain future is not the only thing Litang finds he must deal with. The late owners of the Lost Star had a rather shadowy past. They were known for their barely believable tales of pirates, battles, revolutions, and desperate escapes which they claimed to have survived in their younger days. Now it seems that this dangerous past may well have caught up with them and Litang's Lost Star as well.

Though Litang would like nothing better than to circle Azminn twice a year hauling containers around the sun, between the economic slump and the mysterious dangers out of the past, the Lost Star is forced to sail for the vast asteroid belts of the Nine Star Nebula known as the drifts, beyond the law of the Unity, and the Patrol that enforces it. In the drifts Litang and the Lost Star cross orbits with all sorts of dangers – pirates, space wars, assassins, and strange space phenomena that border on the supernatural. And make some deadly enemies of their own.

The Bright Black Sea chronicles the adventures of Litang, his shipmates and his ship as they attempt to avoid an untimely death while unraveling the mysterious past of the Lost Star.

I started writing this novel as a serial, and it retains this episodic nature. This, however may make it an easier read since The Bright Black Sea is a rather long novel, running over 326,000 words in length. While the over arching story continues from episode to episode, the episodes divide the book into a dozen segments, allowing readers pressed for time, way stations on their voyage through the Nine Star Nebula.

My ideal for this novel is Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series. While there are hundreds of books about the Royal Navy in the time of Napoleon, O'Brian's stories stand head and shoulders above them, in my opinion, because he includes so much more of the life of the times, and the world of the times, than the run-of-the-mill nautical adventure. I'm certainly not a writer of O'Brian's caliber, but I have tried to write a novel that mixes adventure, mystery, humor and romance with the everyday world of an interplanetary ship, and the worlds of wonder it calls on. The golden age science fiction stories of my youth may have inspired The Bright Black Sea, but I've taken those themes and stories and recast them into what I hope you will find, a rich, unique and rewarding novel.

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