Astrogator's Logs

New Words, New Worlds
Artist, Heather Oliver             

My Fictional To-Do List

Whistling Wind

A while ago I saw this question: “What’s on your fictional To Do list?” Here’s a partial list of what I’d pursue if I had a semi-infinite lifespan and equivalent resources. The list doesn’t include real-life wishes, like learning a dozen languages and to play the bagpipes or refurbishing my advanced physics knowledge and small airplane pilot skills.

1. Become the astrogator of the first ship to Alpha Centauri;
2. Decipher the Minoan language and its script, Linear A;
3. Comprehend and translate cetacean songs;
4. Engineer biological nanobots that we can truly trust;
5. Identify the woman who wrote The Song of Songs.

Those of you who have read my fiction (whose published portion is the tip of the iceberg) know that in fact I pursue this list in it. In Planetfall we catch brief glimpses of how starship Reckless arrived at Koredhán (Glorious Maiden) under the leadership of Captain Semíra Ouranákis (Skystrider), how the travelers modified themselves genetically to fit the planet and how this choice eventually made them able to communicate with the mershadows, the native aquatic sentients.

What few have seen is the driven, haunted, blade-sharp loner who started the work that resulted in the genmods of the Koredháni, launched the Reckless, and decreed that Minoan (deciphered by her family, who are also part of this large universe) would be the ship’s lingua franca.

So here’s a tiny bribe: to those who read The Other Half of the Sky I will send Under Siege, a short screenplay that features the first captain of the Reckless. As proof, email me ( one of the unabbreviated names of the protagonist in Christine Lucas’s story. The screenplay file contains another reward layer: a link to my earliest published stories. Of course, reading the anthology should be its own reward… but consider this a coda, given the parameters I specified for the collection.

To whet appetites, here’s a passage from Under Siege:

Let’s try it on Loki.
(A few beats later)
It works!  I can’t believe he used a single encryption system.

(skimming the file, aghast)
I can’t believe what I’m reading either. Somehow they attached thruster engines to the space station without anyone noticing. Armed it with nukes, too!

Subtle. Anyone adopts an agenda the Agency disagrees with, death rains from the skies. Or a solar flare hits the station’s gyrostabilizers, same result.

They also sequestered all the first and second generation biological nanotech reagents up there.

Ah. That might explain why I suddenly couldn’t renew any of my grants.

You were involved in nanotech research?

Involved? I was the first one to use biobots to successfully regenerate brain neurons. Turns out they also augment brain function… not something the brass was happy with.
(Jonathan looks at her, stunned for once. She smiles tiredly, points at her head)
What did you think this was for, decoration?

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Music: The Time Machine, Eloi by Klaus Badelt

11 Responses to “My Fictional To-Do List”

  1. Asakiyume says:

    That’s excellent! I realize one thing I love about plays is that the drama comes through conversation.

    I like your fictional to-do list, too–and your real-life one, as well (piloting skills: very cool).

  2. Athena says:

    Exactly! Everything depends on conversation rather than narration.

    My flying skills are totally rusty now — plus the fibromyalgia wouldn’t allow it: small planes have essentially zero hydraulics, you rely on brute strength to maneuver them.

  3. Christopher Phoenix says:

    I like your fictional to-do list, and your real-life one is cool- a dozen languages, definitely a worthwhile (if challenging) goal! I have not given much thought to a fictional to-do list- joining the crew of the first starship to Centaurus would be an obvious first choice.

    In real life I wish to continue studying advanced math and physics, learn digital painting (I’m an aspiring artist), locate and observe all the 110 deep-sky objects on the Messier catalog, create a fictional specu-bio project like Wayne Barlow’s Darwin IV, learn everything about astronautics that I can, and visit the southern hemisphere to get a glimpse of the nearby stellar shores of the Centauri system…

  4. Athena says:

    Your lists are very interesting as well! I forgot to add “learning to play the bagpipes” (amended it now!). Visiting the southern hemisphere gave me a real frisson — not automatically recognizing the constellations is a preview of how it would feel to be under alien skies.

  5. Marie says:

    Have you re-written the original script or is the above excerpt an additional scene?

  6. Athena says:

    I only slightly updated it — the excerpt is one such updated portion. The rest is as you remember!

  7. Marie says:

    Love all I remember! (smiles)

  8. Athena says:

    You have the file, right?

  9. Marie says:

    Absolutely! You know I am the proverbial clam.

  10. Christopher Phoenix says:

    That’s a high compliment, coming from you!! Learning to play the bagpipes- you definitely have a varied to-do list. (-: I forgot to mention studying the math behind creating 3d starmaps, I find those maps fascinating.

    Yeah, I’ve never lived anywhere where the constellations were not familiar. I imagine the old explorers were even more disconcerted, ‘specially since they relied on familiar celestial guides for navigation!! The constellations are nearly the same near Alpha C, though, other than that Sol is in Cassiopeia- we’ll have to go farther afield to find unrecognizable skies.

    BTW, Saturn was at opposition on the 28th, have you had a chance to view it? It was a breathtaking experience to see the ringed planet in person, and I spotted Titan moving in its orbit around Saturn from one night to the next. Those moons move so fast…

  11. Athena says:

    I did see Saturn — it was so bright it was hard to miss — but, unfortunately, not through a telescope.