Yesterday I printed out a copy of Crater for myself as it occurred to me I have yet to sit down and read it all in chronological order, as a whole book, without getting bogged down in editing. It's strange to see it, now complete, neatly stacked in a binder and even stranger to think it has taken me the best part of 16 years to write what is ostensibly a short, pulp, science fiction novel! (I have written other stuff in that time as well...)
It started out with a different title, 2297, a direct reference to 1997, the year I started writing it in and I had a clear mission for the novel in mind. To write about what happens when humanity gives itself no other option, through war, disease, poverty and habitat loss but to abandon Earth and live on Mars.
I wanted to look at the problems this could throw up, how life might be on Mars, who would have control, what would we lose from our lives, what we would gain. I set the novel three hundred years into the future and eighty-two years after humanity has had to abandon Earth and then, set about constructing a plot to get a crew back to Earth on board a 'crater', a salvage ship that scavenges for space waste material littered around Earth, material that is vital to supporting life on Mars. It quickly became obvious that life would be very different in the future.
The finite resources loop on Mars means many things are not present there. Animals, cars and areoplanes would have to go. Plant life is restricted to climate controlled gardens and life itself for humanity takes place in large biohedrons where housing is in high rise blocks of small compartments, windowless and tightly packed into the biohedrons.
I decided that the resources loop on Mars would be controlled a by a company that ran everything, and came up with a name, the Mars Mutual Incorporated Governing Association or MMIGA which had to two subsidiaries, COCOM and DECOM, (Commissioning and Decommissioning of resources) all of which became ridiculously complicated and so I ended up distilling it down to the 'Company' and the 'Academy'.
'The Board' are the ruling elite of the Company and I wanted to explore the idea of how traditional Earth-based governing systems could be replaced by a totalitarian Corporation instead. The Academy runs the craters and their crews, a sort of space-based navy. I wanted to also explore the possible weaknessess this new system of life on Mars might have for humankind.
I wanted to explore space travel through the design of the craters and think about what life is like for the crews of these long-haul flights and try to design a safe way for us to explore and travel through our universe. And I wanted to revisit Earth to find out what could have happened to it after humanity had abandoned it nearly a century earlier.
Along the way, while writing this, I tried to be in advance of current technology but it is astounding how fast technology has accelerated in the last sixteen years, some things which were complete fiction at the start are now fact and the huge progresses in miniaturisation have meant I have constantly had to upgrade, in particular, computer memory storage capacity and holographic details!
There have been many hiccups and setbacks along the way, everything from the pressures of family commitments to computer software and hardware failures, internet malware and trojan horses, not to mention highbrow disapprobation. There was a point when I thought I would give up trying to complete this novel as it was clear, early on, publishers and agents were not interested and, as such, I was writing something with no financial worth. But the characters stayed in my head over the years and I found the easiest way to get rid of them was to write their stories out.
Bits and pieces of this novel have appeared on the internet over the years and I took the decision a while ago to make it all available on my blog, for the probably very small number of pulp science fiction readers out there with access to the internet.
It has been a strange process to write Crater, unlike anything else I have written. I'd like to thank those who have encouraged me during the process, even if it at times felt like they were enduring a piece of performance art rather than a process of novel writing. Perhaps Crater isn't a glimpse of a possible future for us on Mars but a snapshot of where we are at now, our strange, gaudy, mad, bad and beautiful world, bulging towards full-capacity and struggling with an increasingly hostile environment...
Of course, now I have finished Crater, I have started, along with other projects, on Craters, the sequel.... expect to be able to immerse yourself in it on a holographic internet sometime in 2029.....