Well, this must be some kind of milestone right? I am honestly a little surprised I’ve made it this far and still have this much energy and enthusiasm to continue. Most of the reason for that though, is thanks to you. When I envisioned this point at the beginning, I assumed I would have no audience and that it would end up being more a sort of overenthusiastic proof that I actually did it.
In 100 posts I’ve completed 25 book reviews (not all Hugo winners) and read something like 45 books. People from other countries read my blog and there has been no shortage of discussion in the comments (I’ll get you lurkers to come out someday). I’ve participated in 5 other read-alongs or challenges and have another on the way. I’ve thoroughly abused the English language. I’ve met some pretty cool people and talked to them on the interwebs. Those are pretty modest achievements, I know, but having neither blogged nor publicly reviewed books before, they far surpassed my original hopes. It has been quite a hell of a lot of fun. Thank you for paying attention.
I know I promised something special and I’m sure you are wondering what is so special about this post...believe me, I’m getting there. This blog began as a personal challenge to actually finish something difficult this year. It became a way to ensure that I wasn’t going to just blast through every Hugo winner without putting some real thought into it before moving on to the next. It became something more. After so much reading and writing and getting critiques and comments from others, I really started to feel inspired. Recently, I decided I wanted to write again.
In High School I loved writing goofy short stories (I remember fondly one called “Pearly Gates and Roller Skates”). My first semester or two at university were spent as a “creative writing” major. But then my interests changed and whatever facility I may have had for writing was slowly drained from me. But this process has reignited that appetite. Inspired by this blog and the books I've rad, I'm finally writing again.
Now if you don’t mind giving me a little more of your time, I’d like to commemorate this occasion by sharing with you my initial foray back into a long neglected hobby…one which I intend to resume starting…now!
Thus Did the Ship Sail
by Jeremy Frantz
While Joffrey Sax was officially the “hyperspace technician” of the ship Thesus, as one of only two crew members, it was but one of his many roles. In fact, when he wasn't aboard the Thesus, he was considered by most to be the father of hyperspace travel.
After only a semester at an obscure theological seminary in the United States, he went on to attain seven doctorates in fields including mathematics, physics and electronics from the some of the world’s most prestigious universities. He was twice a Nobel laureate in physics and for developing the first hyper drive complex, the entire galaxy would eventually know his name. Yet, while Sax was probably the most accomplished living scientist, he would not gain popular notoriety until many years after his death.
His colleague Ariadne Franks on the other hand, whose greatest works engaged significantly fewer branches of the sciences, achieved extraordinary fame for her creation of a miniature reactor with which it became possible to contain nuclear reactors, powering the energy equivalent of a cobalt bomb, within approximately the volume of a pear.
The first time Joffrey and Ariadne met they had been graduate students (during Joffrey’s first and Ariadne’s only). On the night they were introduced by mutual friends they sat at the end of the pier and talked, they held each other’s hands and looked at the stars and something unspoken passed between them. Some now call it a fated encounter.
After that night however they returned to their studies and, for no particular reason, never reunited until they were both so engrossed in their work that any romance between the two had been long forgotten. How they both came to work on what would become the Sax-Franks hyperdrive has been lost to history but it is said that as with that fated night long ago they worked well together. Very well.
The development of Sax-Franks hyperdrive was an array of astronavigation computers and gravitation field generators powered by a miniature nuclear reactor size of a Golden Retriever. While the ship was almost completely rebuilt, the entire Sax-Franks drive fit into a single room and most of the remodeling was to add shielding from the drive’s gravitational fields and nuclear reactor.
Early space flight had been a high-energy, propulsion-based system but hyperspace travel as devised by the twin geniuses of Joffrey Sax and Ariadne Franks was also high energy, but gravity-based. Rather than attempting to fly light-years through normal space, the gravitational field generators would cause the Thesus to create an artificial geodetic effect so severe, artificial distortions in Einsteinian space-time could allow movement faster than the speed the of light. Additionally, the ship could manipulate those distortions into simple or very complex geometric inversions, depending on the destination, and very nearly hop from one point in space-time to another. The vernacular and popular (mis)understandings of the process led people at the time to dub these distortions “hyperspace travel” though the term is now (as it was then) entirely meaningless.
The “drop” into hyperspace was, considered on its own, a success. It took almost five minutes after drop for Joffrey and Ariadne to complete systems checks, not all of them having to do with the Sax-Franks engine complex. With the last check complete, they simultaneously reached to switch the viewscreen to the external cameras. Their fingers touched. They each turned to the other, smiled and moved to embrace instead. Ariadne’s eyes sparkled. Joffrey kissed her cheek. Alarms sounded the worst of all possibilities.
Five more minutes later, Ariadne was on her knees, instructing Joffrey from behind a curtain of sweat and steam drenched hair as she strained to secure an improvised primary cooling circuit. Though she shouted orders to Joffrey every few seconds, it was Ariadne who understood the maze of cooling circuits and the entire reactor was so small and cramped that there was only room for one set of hands anyway. Joffrey, sitting not two feet from Ariadne and frustrated by his inability, despaired as the walls pressed in around them.
Ariadne repaired the drive after 20 minutes, but as radioactive steam had been filling the engine room, well...you understand the ramifications.
Only when the leak had been bypassed and both the primary and secondary cooling circuits were functioning properly did Ariadne sit back on her feet and brush her irradiated, steam-soaked hair from her face. Joffrey had perceived the irregular bob of her shoulders during repair despite the fact that her arms were buried to the elbows in a tangle of pipes and circuitry. Now he realized that he too had been sobbing as she struggled through the repair. Her tears mixed with sweat as they rolled down her cheeks and fell through the grated floor which Joffrey could also now see had torn a crisscrossing pattern through her coveralls and her knees were bleeding. Dazed by the comprehension of their protracted exposure, he could only watch as her shoulders were wracked by renewed sobs. She turned to face him, he averted his eyes and his vomit trailed Ariadne’s tears through the grated floor. He fainted.
When Joffrey came to, Ariadne was seated next to him hugging her bloody knees and staring at the maze of circuitry. Joffrey pulled himself up, sitting next to her with his back against the wall of the engine room. They leaned into each other’s shoulders and they wept silently together.
A few hours passed. Now lying together on the floor in the midst of the unbelievable fever of radiation sickness, Ariadne’s head lolled to look at Joffrey and despite his agony, she saw the man who had sat with her years ago on a pier in the middle of the night. Her lips tightened into what was almost a smile.
Though the Thesus did successfully make the first ever drop into hyperspace and after Ariadne’s repairs, could have allowed faster-than light travel, it would never return to Earth, travelling instead through infinite inversions of space-time. While Ariadne fought to stem the leak in the primary circuit, the complex of computers guiding the ship through geometrical inversion, which derived their immense power from the reactor, failed. Even then, the computers could have been reset and may have produced a correcting equation but by that time, both Joffrey and Ariadne were overcome by severe high fevers, seizures and the deadly symptoms of acute radiation syndrome, of which to describe in much detail would be distasteful.
Thus did the ship sail undisturbed beyond its last possible point of contact with normal space. Thus was humanity’s quest for superluminal travel temporarily stymied by the mysterious disappearance of the Thesus and its crew.