Thursday, September 4, 2014

Lunatic Space Pirates - Sabrina's way

(subtitle: "When Karen learned not to make silly suggestions, because of the risk that we might run with them")  :)

I love story prompts. One of my favorite things to do is find upcoming anthologies and see if their prompts inspire me. When I had more time, I used to love Liberty Hall's challenges, but alas, I haven't been able to join in recently.

Here's how I worked in this prompt.

Step 1: Stare fixedly at prompt.
Step 2: Try to remove images of striped leggings and Johnny Depp from brain. I also had to try to not picture this anime:

Space Pirate Captain Harlock - 2013 version

Step 3: The ten step method. This is something I learned from someone at Hatrack (Rich Ware, I think?) where with any story idea, you write down the first ten story ideas you come up with. Then you throw those ten ideas away, because more likely than not they are cliches. This is one of my favorite pieces of writing advice of all time. I use it constantly, even though the number of ideas I get to before finding something I love varies widely.

So! Lunatic space pirates falling in love during freefall:
1. Firefly-ish group of bandits who roam space stealing things.
2. Super-metaphorical group of people in insane asylum, something that ends with some person thinking, "But really, aren't we all space pirates, floating through this crazy world?"
3. children playing dress-up
4. lunatic = moon crazy. Pirates specifically on the moon? Maybe the moon is crashing into earth?
5. Ghosts of dead pirates who have to fall in love to move on from this earthly (spacely?) plane.

At this point, my brain stalled. I was trying to consider too many things at once. It also didn't help that I had my cat plop himself two feet down from me and make this expression because he wants me to play.
Don't you love me???

Anyway, in order to brainstorm, I first separated out the free fall part. And then I did something I often do when stuck, which is to research a phrase to find alternate or less-obvious meanings.

Wikipedia tells me that, "In Newtonian physics, free fall is any motion of a body where its weight is the only force acting upon it. In the context of general relativity, where gravitation is reduced to a space-time curvature, a body in free fall has no force acting on it and it moves along a geodesic.
I'm going to pretend I understood more than half of that. I always hated physics.

This definition of free fall is more interesting: "The ability to achieve the sense of weightlessness."

Okay, I like that. Something about a lack of burdens, of responsibilities.

Wikipedia also tells me that: "Lunatic" is an informal term referring to people who are considered mentally ill, dangerous, foolish or unpredictable; conditions once called lunacy. The term may be considered insulting in serious contexts, though is now more likely to be used in friendly jest. The word derives from lunaticus meaning "of the moon" or "moonstruck". The term was once commonly used in law

(Yes, I know Wikipedia is a minefield of inaccuracy, and I would never use it for real research. But for brainstorming? Sure thing.)

From that same Wikipedia page linked above. I also learned that the "loonie" is the name for the Canadian dollar coin (Canadian space pirates??), and that "The term lunatic derives from the Latin lunaticus which originally referred mainly to epilepsy and "madness" as diseases caused by the Moon. By the fourth and fifth centuries astrologers began to commonly use the term to refer to neurological and psychiatric diseases. Philosophers such as Aristotle and Pliny the Elder argued that the full Moon induced insane individuals with bipolar disorder by providing light during nights which would otherwise have been dark, and affecting susceptible individuals through the well-known route of sleep deprivation.] Through at least 1700 it was also a common belief that the Moon influenced fevers, rheumatism, episodes of epilepsy and other diseases.]"

OMG MOON DISEASE. (But it can't be a plague, because the Cinder series has that covered.)

Okay, so there is a moon disease.
1. Some sort of disease like black lung that moon miners get.
2. Some sort of mental disease where someone transfers between being in an insane asylum and a space pirate, like that Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode.
3. Bipolarism, as mentioned above, truly influenced by the phases of the moon.
4. Someone who is affected by the moon's phase no matter where they are.
5. Someone who is a deity of the moon, off on a ship somewhere, still tied to the phases and the state of the moon.
6. Werewolves on spaceships still affected by the moon (though isn't it the moon's light that makes them change? Hmm)

I know I should go on, but I've gotten too thoroughly stuck on #5 up there. But maybe it isn't the deity of the moon, and certainly not of our moon, but of a planet with multiple moons like Jupiter, and the intersections causes some sort of disease or manifestation of powers, of personality.

Now I've got the lunatic, space, and free-fall parts taken care of. Piracy can just means stealing, so maybe my goddess character needs to steal something to survive?

Okay, I've got a summary:

Gods were never meant to leave their worlds. But when the last of Selene's worshippers died in a global pandemic, she had just enough power left to send herself to a passing merchant ship and disguise herself as one of its workers. There, she hoped to find freedom, but the ties to her old world were not cut as easily as she would have thought, and the bits of stolen faith she survives on have left her frail. All of that would be bad enough, but now Selene has fallen in love with a mortal, and she has no idea how to keep him…

And the first thirteen:

One night, after a double shift in the engine room, the switching of Urmiel into its lower orbit hit Selene particularly hard. She doubled over and retched. Drops of blood cascaded from her lips like pearls, and the metal grating beneath her sizzled and warped where they fell. She wiped her mouth and took a shuddering breath.
"Selene!" David dropped to his knees next to her. He reached for her shoulder, but she knocked his hand away.
"I'm fine!" The phasing of Urmiel with Sadusen always made her cross. But Selene didn’t apologize. If she was smart, she would make David hate her now. Because it seemed that no matter how many thousands of light years she got from her home planet, the moons that had once been her domain hadn't lost any degree of their hold over her. Each shift and change of the seven moons twisted at her insides, wrenching her personality into ever changing forms. And before long, Rasoyn would come out of harmonious orbit. And then, she wouldn't love him anymore.

You'll just have to trust me that the free fall/shedding of responsibilities is going to be in there. But not her cutting her ties to her planet. That would be too easy.

Only now am I going to read the other posts from this week. It looks like we've had a lot of awesome stories from this. Space teenagers! Space janitors! Space prisonbreaks! And space rescue of McLoveinterest!

By the way, ladies, if anyone wants to flesh out their stories more... there's totally a space pirate anthology open. I kid you not: (scroll down to Yarr! A Space Pirate Anthology). Subs are due November 1 - Ready, set, arr!


  1. That is an awesome story, and I love your first 13. You really ought to consider fleshing it out and submitting it to that anthology. (But on your own time, my friend. Maybe you could take a sabbatical from work?)

    I learned that fantastic advice from Rich too, and I think about it often. But I never, ever, ever follow it. Watching your story ideas emerge makes me want to try it again.

  2. I have heard that advice before, too. It's an Orson Scott Card brainstorming trick (throw out your first ideas because they're all crap/cliche.) I don't follow it, perhaps my stories are overly cliche'd? :)

    This was great, nice work Sabrina!


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