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Icarus Beach: a teaser

Posted: Wed Aug 29, 2007 11:19 pm
by caliban
As Kazo plummeted towards the heart of the doomed star, she thought of what Apilak had told her:

Love, Apilak had said, is no more eternal than the stars. It may burn slow and steady for a long time and then gradually shrink away, or it may burn bright and hot for a brief period, only to end spectacularly.

Like a supernova? Kazo had said, her voice sharp with sarcasm.

Apilak laughed. Of course! And then Apilak added softly, But those are cynical words. We live in the light of ephemeral suns, Kazo. We all need that light.

Now, falling, Kazo felt only darkness.


In the dark of her cabin, when Majnu had touched her, Kazo had felt the searing heat of desire; the dark swirled around their bodies, but inside, beneath her skin, in her lungs and her thighs and her head, heat and light roared and filled her.

They met shortly before the supernova, in preparation for the rare tarindhu celebration of rebirth. Once or twice a century, when a massive star ripens to death, a few hundred thousand of the galaxy’s most devoted, superrich tarindhus gather to witness the explosion that destroys the star while simultaneously reseeding the starlanes with heavy elements. Of those devotees, maybe a thousand will descend into the heart of the star and ride the shock wave. A third perish, the most honored of deaths. And to survive—survival heralds the rise of a family’s fortunes, both material and spiritual.

Although she had never been through a supernova, Nagaan Kazo had had many adventures in her young life. The Nagaan family—Kazo, her older sister Kumko, and their mother Haisho—worked as guides aboard the starcraft Umialik, hired by the superrich to tour extreme environments of the galaxy.

Apilak, the owner and captain of the Umialik, was a genius at spinning knotted anomalies into brane-shifted blisters, best in all the galaxy. She never lacked customers.

When word spread that the star Maishaitan was nearly ripe, Apilak put the services of her ship out to bid. She won a contract with old Samraatju Rajraan, to carry him and his third brood of children to the supernova. The Samraatju owned a flock of moons that manufactured knotted anomalies. Apilak’s price: sufficient knotted anomalies to fling the Umialik across the galaxy and back a hundred times.

Nagaan Haisho, Kazo’s mother, did not reveal her price.

Posted: Thu Aug 30, 2007 2:26 pm
by Windwalker
The neatest thing about this teaser is how much is conveyed so quickly -- exotic settings (supernovae, branes), distinct characters, cultural customs (the bidding and price of services, the nova surfing ritual). I like the attention to both small details (Umialik, like umiak...) and the elegiac tone of the opening.

I considered Icarus Beach a work of original imagination when I first read it. Going over the story's beginning once again, I still feel the excitement of that first reading.

Posted: Thu Aug 30, 2007 3:22 pm
by caliban
Windwalker wrote:I considered Icarus Beach a work of original imagination when I first read it. Going over the story's beginning once again, I still feel the excitement of that first reading.
Athena, you're very kind.

I don't know if this helps anyone, but I started writing this story twenty years ago, when I was in graduate school. Sometimes it just takes a long time to get a story right.

The two biggest hurdles I faced over the years were (a) the "technical" details of how one could surf a supernova and (b) the main conflict in the story. The recent idea of "brane" physics gave me a mechanism for surviving a supernova (for coherence, this also gave me my star drive); I found a suitable conflict by adapting (this won't spoil anything) the storyline from Romeo and Juliet.

What I learned in writing this story:
It is always important to have a strong emotional thread to a story. In this case, the Romeo & Juliet storyline provided the emotional backbone to the story.
I also learned that brash, vibrant characters make a story more alive. That may seem obvious, but too often I had been writing passive, quiet characters. And the stories were boring. I also think the main character Kazo (named after a Japanese pen pal, Kazuyo, I had in third grade) was influenced by watching anime films by Miyazake, who tends to have bright, resourceful, and outspoken girls as protagonists.
Finally, in inventing a "technology" for a science fiction story, it is also useful to have some metaphorical echo relevant to the story. Although I do not comment textually on it in the story, the "brane" technology literally isolates the characters from the "normal" world in a bubble-like enclosure, which echoes the characters' feeling of emotional isolation and being trapped.

Posted: Sun Sep 02, 2007 11:48 pm
by intrigued_scribe
Brilliant, rich and utterly arresting! :) In only the space of a few papagraphs, you've crafted the background of several three-dimensional characters and offered highly convincing glimpses of their lives, who they are and the ways in which they interact. More than that, you present a look at a multi-faceted, completely original universe that engages the imagination on more than one level. The brevity of the introduction shared here somehow makes it all the more effective, even as it draws the reader in and sparks a desire to know more.

In particular, the details presented about Kazo carry the sense that she has come a great distance (in the metaphorical sense along with the obvious physical), yet is still just beginning all at once. That, and the other aspects combined make this work truly exciting.


Posted: Mon Oct 01, 2007 7:18 pm
by caliban
Woo hoo! I just got the issue. The cover art is pretty nice. At least, it's tasteful. Not 100% accurate, but it nicely captures the spirit of the work.

I'll add a link to Analog as soon as they post the cover art. (In a few days.)

Posted: Mon Oct 01, 2007 8:53 pm
by Windwalker
caliban wrote:The cover art is pretty nice. At least, it's tasteful. Not 100% accurate, but it nicely captures the spirit of the work.
You can't ask for more than that! Ok, we await the link with baited breath.

Posted: Wed Oct 03, 2007 3:41 pm
by rocketscientist
I my book you can't go wrong with a a story about a supernova. I look forward to the link!

Congrats on selling your story!

It's here!

Posted: Thu Oct 11, 2007 12:08 am
by caliban

There is even more of the story posted online... Plus the cover!!

Re: It's here!

Posted: Thu Oct 11, 2007 12:33 pm
by Windwalker
caliban wrote:Plus the cover!!
Not bad at all! Though it's so small on the web page that I cannot distinguish the features of the people. But they did capture the concept.

Posted: Sat Oct 13, 2007 10:31 pm
by intrigued_scribe
The cover does indeed capture the concept of the story; thanks for the link!


good reviews

Posted: Sat Jan 12, 2008 11:50 pm
by caliban
"Icarus Beach" has garnered some good reviews. Most important to me is Gardner Dozois saying he almost included it in his Year's Best Science Fiction anthology:
If I'd had just a little more room, I would have used "Icarus Beach," which struck me as the best story in ANALOG this year.
For me that's very high praise and something I'm very happy with. :)

Posted: Sat Jan 12, 2008 11:56 pm
by intrigued_scribe
That's excellent, and the positive reviews are well deserved. Congrats! :)

Posted: Sun Jan 13, 2008 2:10 am
by Windwalker
Well deserved... you may become famous yet, you are young! *smiles*

Posted: Sun Feb 03, 2008 3:36 am
by caliban
More good news: Locus magazine's 2007 recommended reading list includes "Icarus Beach." Only two stories out of Analog last year made it.


Now I gotta finish those other stories and send them out.

Posted: Sun Feb 03, 2008 1:33 pm
by Windwalker
Sometimes the right guys get the recognition they deserve. You may end up leading the ideal life, doing both science and art. All I can say is, go for it!