A Funny Thing Happened . . .

Here I’ve been telling everyone that the prequel to my two Iskander series releases will be published in July, and I find out that the publisher and editor had September on their schedules all the time. I suppose I can consider the change as a new opportunity – by the time the Lightning Source POD paperbacks are available we’ll be reaching for Christmas season. Maybe I should have holly somewhere in the cover illustration.

It’s not that I have such a densely packed schedule that I’d need a Cray computer to figure out the changes, but I need a few days to get in this new groove. So, I don’t have to limit my commitments this month to give myself time for the to and fro with my editor. I can put off trying to find a safe method of running Word’s track changer on Open Office that doesn’t turn the whole file to garbage. If my buddy up on the mountain needs me to go out with my old survey GPS gear and find a hundred year old survey monument on a high ridge I have time to do it. I can even start collecting firewood early – whenever the current heatwave lessens.

Not that it’s a heatwave to most people in North America, but if I wanted 40+ degree Celsius summers I would have stayed working in the oil patch in the Libyan Desert. I’m strictly a temperate environment animal these days.

For all those of you who were on tenterhooks waiting to read “Arrival” I should offer something to tide you over. The novel starts, amazingly, at the point in the story where the moderns on board the Iskander realize they’ve arrived at the wrong place and cannot get away. I really have little patience for SF epics that have starships with bottomless fuel tanks as well as the agricultural setup of a small township growing food in the hold. The Iskander doesn’t have enough fuel to attempt to leave, and the last dregs of gup coming out of the krill tanks and the protein synthesizers are almost inedible. Iskander was a commercial charter, the equivalent of the old tramp steamers that provided the backdrop to a million penny-dreadful stories in the last century, and its contract didn’t allow for frills.

The one hundred and ten people aboard have no choice but to gingerly explore the strangely silent human culture down below and figure out how to get fresh food supplies and find a safe spot to set up the heavy water separator that will start them on the way to replenishing the fuel tanks. In the original plan, that was to take as long as their planetary development contracts were for – ten years.

Gisel is aboard, as a sixteen year old brat, watching the situation dawn on all the development specialists aboard – and thinking it all a huge joke. Hardly any person aboard has less qualification than a masters’, and even the starship operating staff have diplomas from the toughest technical courses on Earth. Except Gisel, who barely reached her high school graduation before joining her brother and father on the trip. She does have past experience as a medal winning gymnast, and had been shortlisted for an Olympic fencing team before becoming the Iskander’s gym minder and personal trainer. But it isn’t too many days into the unplanned exploration of Gaia, the 17th century alternate earth down below, before she finds her skills are in more demand than anyone could have expected.
The plot unfolds in a direction that shows how decisions lightly made and with incomplete information tend to drive events into paths that can become impossible to reverse. It happens on our Earth all the time. On Gaia it leads the Iskanders into danger. As they blunder into situations that spin out of control, it’s the young brat with no academic credits at all who develops the new skills needed to stave off disaster.

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