Thursday, October 05, 2006

Stories - Continued - Novy

Continuing the stories behind the stories in issue three of IGMS, here's Rick Novy, author of "The Adjoa Gambit."


I live in Arizona near Phoenix. There are three Indian reservations in the Phoenix metropolitan area: Fort McDowell, Salt River Maricopa, and Gila River. One day, I started thinking about how in many cases, the indigenous Americans were pushed out of their ancestral homes by invaders who intended to settle on their land. Then, they were given the crappiest land available--land that these people were ill-adapted to live on.

As a speculative fiction writer, I took that a step further. What if the entire earth were invaded, and we were all pushed off our land. Where would our reservation be? Obviously, the reservation had to go on the worst possible land on the planet, the only place we don't already live, Antarctica.

This story starts well after the reservation is up and running so I avoided all the problems with infrastructure. It already exists when the story begins. Some of that infrastructure is primitive, like the ice mines.

The three reservations in the Phoenix area all have something in common: casinos. In fact, "Casino" was the working title for this story. Taking the parallel one step further, I had envisioned humans buying luxuries with Proc money they made with casinos. For that to work, the casinos needed patrons, and thus was born the Proc penchant for gambling. It became part of who they are, a part of their culture, or at least the subculture stuck minding the store at ARIP.

I ended up eliminating the casinos, but kept the gambling as a Proc nuisance trait, but it's a trait that can be very dangerous to the unwary.

The main concept of the story, that of the Olympio family losing their dome, was easy to come up with. This falls back to the gambling. What is the worst thing you can lose in a harsh environment like the Antarctic? Your shelter.

The story was not the easiest to write. At this stage, I made a first stab, but only got as far as Shannon meeting the new family in the rations line, then I got stuck because I really didn't know where the story was going yet. Usually, I need to know the beginning and the end before I can write. The fun part for me is watching the characters figure out how to get from beginning to end. The problem here was that I didn't really know the end. I envisioned Shannon liberating the earth and owning the Procs with orbital casinos. That was far too ambitious for a short story, and probably not plausible anyway.

It was only after I started wondering who this strange family was that the true plot began to emerge. When I discovered that the still-unnamed eldest child was the only one that could communicate with Shannon, I knew she was going to be a major force in the story.

I wanted this family to be from somewhere remote and different from the western world, and became Africa. At the time, I had a co-worker from Togo, so I spent some time with him learning enough about the culture to write the story.

He also gave me a list of names. Koffi and Kossi you might recognize from the current leader of the U.N. For the women, he gave me a list, and I used the one I liked most for this pivotal girl, Adjoa.

As to the actual writing, it was fairly difficult to write. Several false starts dogged me, but I finally ended up with about the first half written in stolen moments on my little pocket PC, an HP iPAQ. The second half was written on my regular computer. I often move partials off my iPAQ to finish them more efficiently.

During the critique cycle, I had many suggestions. It left me unsure of the story, and so it sat on my hard drive for six months before I reread the story and decided to submit the story without revision.

There were two suggestions in particular that nagged at me, and they are inter-related. The first suggestion was to use Adjoa's point of view, the second was that Adjoa's taunting worked too well.

I ultimately decided to stay with Shannon's point of view because the story really is about her willingness to sacrifice herself to help others. To me, the climax of the story is her decision to wager her own dome to try winning back the dome the Olympio family lost. The blackjack game is really just a long denouement. While Adjoa's point of view would have made an interesting story, it would have been a completely different story.

Adjoa's taunting to win the blackjack hands is meant to indicate that this is not about the gambling at all. It's about power and intimidation, and Adjoa succeeds because she turns the Proc against himself. Would it work for her again? Probably not.

One interesting sidebar is that this story is one of the few I've written with very little male population. The Procs don't count because they're aliens. Larry, the preacher, is really just a token man. He fills an important role, but he also demonstrates that some men are in the reservation. Still, most of the male population at ARIP are children.

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