Three days ago, did a short writing exercise which I cobbled together from a list of sf story ideas and my own fancy. This was the original “idea”:
1,000 human beings are selected to board a spaceship headed for the stars. The trip is so long that they will die in space, but their descendants will reach a new planet.
to which I added:
Generational Space Travel; one child’s third person perspective as an outcast (500 w)
I wanted to write a child—it turned out to be a she—in the midst of torment coming from her peers. I was reasonably excited with the result that I shared it with my lady. She suggested I keep going with it, so I added to it a general purpose (read: non-genre) writing exercise. Abbreviated, that exercise went:
Synesthesia, according to M.H. Abrams in A Glossary of Literary Terms, is a description of “one kind of sensation in terms of another; color is attributed to sounds, odor to colors, sound to odors, and so on.” Writers consciously and unconsciously employ this peculiar method to convey the irreducible complexity of life onto the page. Use synesthesia in a short scene—surreptitiously, without drawing too much attention to it—to convey to your reader an important understanding of some ineffable sensory experience. Use “sight, sound, touch, taste, and, especially, smell.” 600 words.
This kind of writing, while not too difficult, does not come naturally to me. It takes a concerted effort for me to attempt at the kind of language which it is said came naturally to Nabokov. However, I liked Eilick (the little girl) and the first hints at her world, so it seemed worth it to try. The result was a lot of fun to write and I’m pretty proud of it. Without further introduction, here is the latter part of what I may continue to fashion into a story.
In a nook recessed far back into the corner of her family’s quarters, Eilick tries to follow her father’s advice about how to shirk off the day. With her legs folded beneath, she faces a small porthole, her eyes lightly closed. She breaths rhythmically, carefully, evenly and tries to—but no, she shouldn’t try—let go of the boys pushing past her on the walkway. This time, she doesn’t notice Jial’s glance. She turns just before the bag strap would have hit her and remains blissfully unaware. She slips out of Jallon’s now playful grasp with ease and he never instigates the others to conjure undirected meanness and spite.
She breathes slower still, heart rate falling with each exhalation.
After she slips out from under all of this weight, she remains still. She imagines nothing at all. The room’s soft corners smells of home but also confinement. The piped in, hundreds of times recycled air is grey turning warmed orange as it ceases to be duct air and becomes the atmosphere of home. She feels through her knees a simple cacophony of Aniars’ movement in vacuum and the neurons of its combined nervous and circulatory systems. The agents of what makes Aniars the living world make meals, smelling like beautiful, long held notes to the hardest worked and toneless chatter to the hardened cynics. They tend flaxen-voiced and siren-throated children alike. They sweep and they experiment and they maintain and they monitor and their collected vibrations make the grey walls blue with sadness, or maybe contentment.
Now swimming in the stilled air, orange as nothing natural Eilick can remember having ever seen, she slides her hands up her thighs slightly and opens her eyes to the porthole. She drinks in flat black stippled with white points and scattered with small reds, yellows, a blue. With eyes adjusted to the blackness behind her thin skin, she feels the lightest brush stroke of taupe behind a particularly dense collection of stars. Mr. Rynnick says this won’t be visible much longer. Eilick follows the streak until it terminates at brushed, riveted steel and she purposefully moves her gaze back to the middle.
The stars sing, their music warm and silken. Despite her day and Jallon and Jial and the collected ensemble of incomprehensible cruelty of her classmates, she smiles. When a single tear beads at her eye, she is happy for it. She blinks slowly, releasing the sentiment to her cheek, and bows her head.
Now back in her own mind, she thanks her father. The day still happened, but now it carries no weight at all. Looking back out the porthole, she reads the history of the Milles in the stars. It is written in pictograms and glyphs and letters and it leads to Aniars today and will one day culminate in a place left deliberately blank in every Mille’s mind.
Have there ever been exactly one thousand of us? she thinks. Not for as long as she can remember. Surely at some point in her years they must have fluctuated back to their launch number, at least for a day, or an hour, or a minute, before another death or birth broke the round number jagged again.
What do the others call themselves? They could think of themselves as Milles too. Or Oliefa or Shen. She knows they wouldn’t need to stick to this format. They could name themselves anything they liked, but she liked to think the Milles were just this similar to their brothers and sisters.
At the portal to their quarters, Eilick hears a rustling and rubs the trail left by her tear from her cheek. She leaps to the door, smiling. “Daddy!”