Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Day Sixteen: A Healthy Workplace Environment

Let’s talk about Warren Cole’s coworkers at Dennison-Holt for a little bit. Neither of these guys fit too neatly into any archetypes that I can think of at the moment (though both are potential suspects), so I’m just going to dispense with that today and get down to it.

*  *  *

Charlie Adlard:

Nobody has been on the moon longer than Charlie Adlard. Originally a NASA engineer, Adlard came up on the initial construction of Armstrong Station and was eventually assigned as the station’s long-term commander not long after it went live. He left NASA after an explosion at Armstrong killed six and led to the station’s closure, and—rather than return to Earth—moved on to the newly founded McMurdo-Lunar to work as a civilian contractor. Once established, he did several years of advising and engineering work for the UN and the corporations when they started moving up-well.

Adlard enjoys a reputation as a lunar pioneer—a modern-day space hero—despite the accident that occurred under his watch, and this was a major contributing factor in Dennison-Holt’s decision to hire him as their program coordinator and PR man at McMurdo. His reputation with the UN is fine, and both the McMurdo staff and the scientists who pass through the colony still love him, but the corporations hate him like crazy. Dow’s not so sure about him—the man’s got station and clout and it’s made him cagey and more than a little arrogant—but he’s got respect for the man and can relate to some of what he went through in his career.

The man’s of relatively average height and build, and has kept himself in good shape despite being in his mid-sixties and his long-term exposure to lunar gravity. His hair and beard have gone white, and he’s lost a lot of his hair in a fairly dignified way. Great, bright blue eyes and good teeth. All in all, a great fit for the job that Dennison-Holt hired him to do. People love him. His staff loves him. Like most people who make their way up the well, though, he’s got some antisocial tendencies—he’s just better at hiding them than most, and he keeps the fact that he’s got issues with most everyone pretty well under wraps.

Adlard has good potential as a suspect, especially in the initial stages of the investigation. The well regarded public figure with the guts and wits and—yes, possibly—capacity to commit a murder and execute an intricate cover up…Well, that’s a bit of a time honored thing. It’s all about what you do with the character though, and, while I’m a bit intrigued by Adlard and any potential motive for murder that he may have hidden within him, that’s something that probably won’t be explored further until I start seriously plotting the novel. Which makes him the first character I’ve discussed so far who might not make it to the page.

Akako Bogdanov:

Warren Cole’s Dennison-Holt assigned research assistant is Akako Mikhailovna Bodanov*, a PhD candidate in Extraterrestrial Geology from the Ural State Academy of Mining & Geology. She’s in her mid twenties—easily the youngest character in the novel by a decade—and comes from wealthy Russian and Japanese stock (father is Russian, mother was Japanese) and was raised spending time in both countries. Akako also spent time in the US as a girl—accounting for her excellent English and her ability to fit in more easily with the primarily Western McMurdo population.

Akako believes fiercely in the Dennison-Holt mission and plans to bring that philosophy of conservation with her when (she hopes, and is likely to be disappointed) she is chosen as mission crew for the impending Martian Colonial Initiative. She very clearly idolizes Charlie Adlard, but didn’t get on very well with Warren Cole on a professional level; finding him to be a mediocre scientist with a complete inability to leave his personal issues and interests at home. She’s not much of a people person, and her sense of entitlement makes her somewhat impatient with those around her.

Ms. Bogdanov initially took the D-H for the prestige, rather than something more practical for Mars (like digging on Earth in a similar geological area), because she hoped to use the extra personal time and low-grav experience to design some new piece of testing equipment and gain some notice with the colonization panel. She lacks the engineering background for that, though, and was becoming increasingly frustrated with her position in the weeks leading up to Cole’s death. Now that she handles all of the dead man’s surveys in his absence (which is a big deal for an ambitious intern) she seems to have balanced out a little bit again, psychologically, and seems to hope that the title of Interim Surveyor will get her the attention she feels that she deserves. Maybe a little simplistic as far as motive is concerned, but most people don’t kill one another for complex reasons.

Akako is young and very pretty, and has a lot more life in front of her than she’s otherwise willing to acknowledge. Trim, tall, dark haired, and fine featured. Being raised by wealthy, heavily social parents, she learned at an early age how to turn emotions and the pretense of emotions on and off at will. It should be a little hard sometimes to tell whether she’s expressing her own views in a conversation or merely shutting down and allowing herself to reflect the views of those around her. Could very easily become a femme-fatale type, if the need ever arose.



*Akako’s name as presented here is actually kind of a nice example of why secondary research (to me, anything that you look into for reasons beyond the development and execution of the primary plot and character arcs) is important when you’re writing a book. In films, television, and books we often see the sort of “typical” three-named Russian. A lot of people, I think, just hear it and assume that it doesn’t mean anything, though, which isn’t true. A lot of Slavic nations still employ that middle name (here: Mikhailovna) as a patronym: a portion of the name designed to pay tribute to, or at least acknowledge the existence of, the person’s father.

In this case, Mikhailovna shows us that Akako’s father is named Mikhail, and the suffix –ovna serves to identify the word as a patronym and Akako as Mikhail’s daughter (as opposed to his son, who’s patronym would have the suffix –ovich, in the case of a given name that crosses genders). It’s the kind of little touch that can be easily overlooked, but might also make the work pop and come alive in a more realistic way for the right reader…and, for that reason, secondary research is the search for as many of those little details as possible. Just to make as many readers as possible feel catered to and included in some way.

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