Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Writing Wednesday: Chapter 1 of THE SETTING EARTH

I've been working on getting my book THE SETTING EARTH ready to be an ebook and I've got the first ten chapters to a marketable stage. I'd love to get any input on it so here is the first chapter.
I'd love to know if you think you could spend 300 pages with this group of engineers, and of course Sam the main character.
If you feel this chapter sets a tone for the book that you would like to follow.
If you think I put too much or too little emphasis on the cultural differences between the two worlds up front.
Feel free to enjoy it, if you don't I would love to know what you didn't like about it.


The Setting Earth
Chapter 1

“Into the lion’s den.” Sam took a deep breath as he approached the group of off-world engineers in the cafeteria. He carefully watched their reaction to his coming over to the table, he had heard stories about how the off-worlders reacted to “the enemy” and was prepared for their hostility. On his 6-week journey from Earth to Ceres he had thought up, and then shot down, a dozen different ways to approach the engineers from Ganymede that were notorious for hating everything about Earth and all Earthers.

If it were up to him he would avoid any social contact with the heathen engineers, as he had been taught from childhood to do with anyone who might expose him to unorthodox views, but he was under orders from Earth Intelligence and the head of the Lunar Mining Consortium herself, Isabella. He knew that if he were unsuccessful in his mission he would be a man without a Planet, as he would never be allowed back to Earth and he would never be able to live with the godless Ganymedians.

He finally decided on the direct approach, he would approach them and stoically take their hatred of him and everything his planet stood for and try to spot the one that openly hated Earth the least.

“Come join us.” A gray bearded engineer said enthusiastically before Sam got to the table, “We are talking about the project, I’m sure you have some unique thoughts on it.”

“Okay.” Sam said, he had been told to get information from the engineers and assumed it would be difficult to gain their trust. It appeared he assumed wrong, he wondered what other assumptions he had made might be wrong.

“I’m Mark by the way, I work on the targeting system.” The gray bearded engineer introduced himself, “You’re from Earth I assume.”

“Sam.” He responded as he tried to lower his tray onto the table and dropped his arms faster than the tray fell in the low gravity leaving it suspended in mid-air until he caught it again, “How’d you guess.”

“It’s the walk.” Mark told him, “It takes Earthers awhile to adjust to being 5 pounds. You can’t really learn to walk properly in the cramped quarters of a spaceship. So how long have you been on Ceres?”

“Just arrived this morning.” Sam told the crowd that was watching him with great interest. His short response was influenced by two factors; he didn’t want to give too much away, and simply maneuvering to sit down was an incredibly complex task as in the low gravity everything seemed to move with a life of its own.

“Come to spy on our project?” One of the younger engineers asked then laughed.

Before he could respond a female engineer that was roughly Sam’s age replied. “Of course he is John, I for one have nothing to hide.”

“You don’t hide much from anyone, do you Emma?” Mark asked jokingly.

“I don’t have anything to embarrassed about, unlike you.” Emma shot back then turned to Sam, “Let me show you something else low gravity does, other than make it hard for Earthers to walk.”

She lifted her shirt and let her breasts flop out. She jiggled for a split second then remained perfectly still. Without Earth’s strong gravity pulling them down they continued to dance, jiggling around like they had a mind of their own.

“Put those away,” The remaining male engineer laughed, “You’re embarrassing our new friend.”

Sam didn’t want to admit it but he was totally shocked. Back on Earth few women would be bold enough not to wear a suppressing bra that tried to hide their femininity. Here the women wandered around in the thinnest shirts, proudly putting themselves on display. The idea of a woman flashing a complete stranger was unheard of back on Earth.

Sam instinctively looked around for the authorities that would stop this sort of immoral public display.

“Oh, I’m sorry about that.” Emma told him pulling her shirt back down, “I didn’t mean to make you blush.”

“I, I was just surprised.” Sam stammered, as surprised as he was he was still grateful that her display had turned the conversation away from if he was a spy or not.

“I guess what they say about Earth is true then?” The youngest female engineer said.

“And what do they say?” Sam asked.

“That you guys have stopped having sex.” She smiled.

“Oh we still have it,” Sam told the girl who looked barely old enough to be out of high school, “We just do it discretely.”

“So how do you improve your technique if you don’t have a panel of judges with scorecards grading you?” She asked with a straight face.

Sam had heard the stories about how the off-worlders were promiscuous but that seemed extreme. He opened his mouth to say something but no words came out.

“Dude, you totally believed me, didn’t you?” She asked starting a round of laughter at the table.

“I’m sorry.” She said when she regained her composure, “I didn’t mean to pick on you, it’s just we’ve all heard the myths about Earthers and I wanted to test to see if they were true.”

“Myths?” Sam had to ask.

“You know,” She said vaguely, when Sam didn’t respond she continued, “That woman try to look like men in public, and that sex for purposes other than reproduction is outlawed.”

It was Sam’s turn to laugh at her comment.

“I’m not sure how you could enforce a law like that.” He laughed, “It’s true that we consider it a virtue to wait until marriage to have sex, but even that isn’t followed by everyone. There are many people who would like to have it outlawed, but most people understand you can’t enforce that type of thing.

“As far as our fashions, we don’t live in a climate controlled environment like you guys so our fashions tend to be more utilitarian than just for fashion sake.”

“I also wanted to do a twist on the old space corridor legend.” She told him.

“Legend?” Sam asked.

“Supposedly at Selene University, on the Moon, an Earther biologist substituted for the regular Professor.” She explained, “He was comfortable talking about how sperm contained acids, fructose and enzymes and stuff but no salt, which made the sixteen year old girl from Ganymede in the front row ask, ‘Then how come it tastes so salty?’”

“The Earther professor turned red and had to leave the room.”

The entire table laughed except Sam.

“How’s that funny?” He asked he really couldn’t see why they would find someone’s normal reaction to a girl’s immoral behavior funny.

“The biologist got embarrassed about…” She started and looked at Sam’s blank expression, “He couldn’t answer a question about a normal part of life…something people do everyday…”

“Maria, If you do that everyday,” Mark joked, “I’ll stop by tonight.”

“I didn’t mean I do it every day.” She told him, “Not recently anyway. I said people in general.”

“Let’s stop picking on poor Sam.” Emma told the group then turned to him, “You have to forgive us, we don’t come into much contact with Earthers. Most of the Earthers that come off world are either like them…” She nodded towards the group of laborers that had been on the ship with Sam, they were at their own table praying before their meal. “Or them…” She nodded towards the group of accountants still in business suits going over numbers while they ate.

“All the Earthers I’ve met either want to convert me, or feel that they need to know why I used four sheets of toilet paper to wipe instead of three.” She continued, “You’re the first one who has felt like joining us heathens, I believe we’re called.”

“Well, that’s cause he’s a spy.” John laughed at his own joke.

“And he’ll learn all about our super secret fashion techniques.” Emma shot back.

“Actually, I’m about as sick of those guys as you are.” Sam said quietly so the other tables couldn’t hear, “I spent over a month on board the ship with both groups listening to how my bowel movements were part of God’s plan then having the other group record everything that happened in the bathroom so they could judge to see how it compared with the average.

“I mean I’m religious and cost conscious and all, but they take it too far.

“It’s good to talk about anything else.” Sam was a little surprised at the feeling of relief he got from stating something that would be considered unorthodox and have him viewed with suspicion back on Earth.

“How did you do?” Maria asked him.

“How’d I do what?” Sam was baffled.

“How did your bathroom scores rank against everyone else?” Maria grinned.

“It took a little practice but towards the end I think I beat out the competition.” Sam joked, “I’m expecting a trophy when I get back home.”

“I think you’ll fit in just fine.” Emma told him after laughing at his joke, “You’re going to be working on the Diverter with us, right?”

“That’s why I’m here.” Sam said, grateful for the change in subject.

“Good, I’ll have your assignments laid out for you after lunch.” She told him.

“You’re the project manager?” Sam was astonished.

“You’re surprised?” She asked.

“It’s just…” Sam started then stopped trying to think of a tactful way to phrase his feelings.

“I’m sorry, like I said I haven’t met a lot of Earthers,” She stared into his eyes making it even harder for Sam to think, “I’m not up to date with you’re prejudices.”

“It’s not that.” Sam defended himself, “I’m not used to the boss flashing her… goofing around with the subordinates.”

“Why not?” Emma asked.

“Doesn’t it make it hard to be the boss later.” Sam asked.

“That’s right, I heard Earthers have a higher…a stacked…a pyramid type organizational structure.” Maria said, “They, I mean you, group into people into classes to assign work projects.”

“I think you mean hierarchy.” Sam told her, “How else would you get things done?”

“I think you’ll be in for a surprise.” Emma gave him a captivating smile, “Our work structure is a little more relaxed out here.

“Speaking of that is everyone finished?”

After they all confirmed she said, “Well, let’s get back at it.”

Sam hopped up out of his seat and floated towards the 10’ high ceiling. He would have hit his head if he hadn’t put his arm out. When his feet were back on the ground he looked at the engineers at the table expecting them to laugh at his mistake. But everyone except a middle-aged engineer ignored his unexpected leap towards the ceiling and continued cleaning up their areas.

“What you have to do; is follow the three-point rule. Always keep three points of contact, that means using both your hands and feet. Hold the table like this…” He grabbed the table and stood up, “That will keep you from bouncing around the room.”

“Thanks.” Sam told him.

“No Problem,” The engineer offered his hand, “Phil by the way. If you’re wondering on how to adjust to life here, just ask me.”

“Thanks again.” Sam welcomed the support but he remembered the instructions Isabella had him given before leaving Earth, Gain their trust but don’t lose sight of your mission.

On his way out of the cafeteria, Sam watched how the group of engineers “walked” with strange swaying shuffles. Sam tried to imitate it with some success until he got to the door.

He aimed for the door but noticed he was veering too far to the right he put his right foot forward to correct his trajectory but it seemed to slide effortlessly across the very rough floor and he bumped in to the doorframe.

He put his left foot back to try to regain his balance but it couldn’t find any traction and he felt himself slowly falling over. He had more than enough time to prepare to hit the ground, as the process took more than second. He instinctively turned in midair and put out both arms to stop his fall and was surprised that one arm would have been enough.

He was stuck in a push-up position unsure if he should just push himself back up with his arms, or get onto his knees and get his feet under him like he would on Earth.

The question resolved itself when Phil held out his hand. With Phil’s help he was able easily right himself.

“Until you get used to our gravity, don’t be afraid to put your hand out to stop your momentum.” Phil told him, “Trust me, it’s damn hard to hurt yourself in this gravity.”

“Thanks” Was all Sam was able to mutter.

On the way to the work area Sam took Phil’s advice and used his hands on the corridor walls often. He felt like a fool not being able to walk properly, but his new friends just ignored his bouncing around. Sam couldn’t help but fear that his obvious inability to conform with the rest of the group would catch the attention of the authorities like it would on Earth, but here everyone treated his not fitting in as normal.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Invasive Thoughts


Greg said...

interesting differences, especially the ones concerning..uh intimacy..

LMAO when the girl pulled her breasts out and they jiggled, just interesting and unique take on weightlessness.

I liked the differences for one, showed how different the two cultures are and sets up lots of conflict for the future?

Enjoyed reading it..

Shakespeare said...

Some little editing glitches, which I'd have to go through differently... but overall it is FASCINATING. I'm not a sci-fi buff, but I would DEFINITELY keep reading. This has a lot of meat, tension, and mystery.

Like it, like it, like it!

Stephanie Barr said...

I'm emailing my comments directly, bud.