Monday, April 14, 2014

A Wreck of Titanic Proportions in Outer Space

The sinking of the unsinkable luxury liner Titanic has inspired many a book and movie over the 102 years since ship-met-iceberg, including my own "Wreck of the Nebula Dream."  

Aside from the nonfiction accounts and straightforward romance novels set on Titanic, there have been stories featuring everything from time travel to werewolves.  Even Douglas Adams, he of “The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” fame wrote a comedic treatment with Terry Jones of Monty Python in the last 1990’s, based on a cd-rom game, odd as that may sound. Reading a synopsis of the book on Amazon, however, the work doesn’t seem to have taken much from Titanic but the name.

Certainly there was nothing humorous about the sinking.

Right from the beginning though, what I wanted to write was a serious novel, set in the far future, on a space-going luxury liner. Originally I thought I’d be able to pretty much follow the pattern of what happened to Titanic for my own plot, somewhat changed to reflect the future and the “ocean of space”, versus the Atlantic.

My characters felt otherwise. I’m a very seat-of-the-pants style novelist and almost as soon as I began figuring out who would be aboard and what catastrophes might occur, I could see I was going to be loosely suggesting Titanic. Actually, that was a freeing realization, because in the 1912 sinking so many people lost their lives and there are relatives and descendants worldwide who are still affected by the ripples from the tragedy. I didn’t want to write anything that might reflect back on the real people who sailed on Titanic.

I kept the situation though – a middle of the night disaster, not enough lifeboats, no lifeboat drill, too much speed, new engines, inability to get help in a timely manner, communications issues…and men, women and children in jeopardy. I gave some nods to well known facets of the Titanic, starting my novel with a scene on board the shuttle, where a female passenger creates a fuss, having had a terrifying premonition of the disaster. In 1912 many people had documented premonitions of disaster and foreboding dreams about Titanic, and about 50 actually cancelled their passage.
There’s an entire deck of the Nebula Dream that’s the swimming area, complete with a beach – Titanic had an actual swimming pool, which was considered quite a novelty at the time. I have one rich passenger on my ship searching for her jewels in the damaged hold area, picking up on the theme of the women who tried to retrieve theirs from the Titanic’s purser after the ship struck the iceberg.

Of course, this being science fiction, I threw in some twists and turns abut who or what comes looking for the ship in distress (but no spoilers from me!)….

I’ve always thought it was especially poignant that so many children perished when Titanic sank, so I included Paolo age 8 and Gianna age 3 as two of my characters, representing in my mind all the little ones who didn’t survive in 1912. I made sure my hero Nick,  and every other person in the group, was  devoted to getting the children safely off the Nebula Dream.

Speaking of Nick, when I was thinking about who the hero should be, I asked myself who I’d want there with me if I was in such a perilous situation. A Special Forces soldier sounded about right! Once I figured out why he’d be traveling on such a luxurious vessel, the plot fell into place.  Mara Lyrae,the heroine, is a high powered business executive, who worked her way up from entry level to the heights of intergalactic corporate power, but hasn’t forgotten anything she learned along the way.  She also does not buy into “women and children first” when it comes to herself. She’s in the thick of trying to rescue others. There was at least one business woman on the Titanic, Lady Duff-Gordon for example, who was a well-known fashion designer of her time.

Even I couldn’t ensure that all the passengers survived in the book, any more than everyone survived the Titanic sinking…but there’s a Happily Ever After ending for some people. Because this is a romance after all.

Much as I like writing in seat-of-the-pants style, it soon became apparent I’d better sit down and design my starship, so I’d know which deck had what and could explain to the Readers where Nick and the others were going at any given time. I still have that hand drawn schematic, not that it’s exactly a thing of beauty!  But this was one time I really did have to do the details before the writing.

2013 SFR Galaxy Award and Laurel Wreath Winner

Traveling unexpectedly aboard the luxury liner Nebula Dream on its maiden voyage across the galaxy, Sectors Special Forces Captain Nick Jameson is ready for ten relaxing days, and hoping to forget his last disastrous mission behind enemy lines. He figures he’ll gamble at the casino, take in the shows, maybe even have a shipboard fling with Mara Lyrae, the beautiful but reserved businesswoman he meets.

All his plans vaporize when the ship suffers a wreck of Titanic proportions. Captain and crew abandon ship, leaving the 8000 passengers stranded without enough lifeboats and drifting unarmed in enemy territory. Aided by Mara, Nick must find a way off the doomed ship for himself and several other innocent people before deadly enemy forces reach them or the ship’s malfunctioning engines finish ticking down to self destruction.

But can Nick conquer the demons from his past that tell him he’ll fail these innocent people just as he failed to save his Special Forces team? Will he outpace his own doubts to win this vital race against time?

Audiobook, narrated by Actor Michael Riffle – Available Now at Amazon and iTunes

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