Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Day Two: Dead Men In Cold Places

I’ve been thinking about Antarctica today. The idea of the international community coming together and cooperating as it shares a frontier space in the name of scientific research. There aren’t really any other environments that can prepare us better for life on the moon, I don’t think; where simple shelter and supply drops and human company are serious lifelines. It’s an intriguing place and existence, and one that I intend to look further into when I try to build a model of how my lunar society is going to work.

Antarctica also gives me a couple of other interesting bits when it comes to this novel. The last time anyone seriously proposed a lunar base, for instance, they pitched it to be located in the Shackleton Crater, named for Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton. The crater is also located at the moon’s southern pole and Lunar Prospector measurements indicate that there may be a significant concentration of water ice in the region, which could be of great help in creating a sustainable facility.

Antarctica also gives me Rodney Marks.

Don’t know the name? It’s not that surprising. Good story, though.

Rodney Marks was an American astrophysicist who was working in Antarctica when he died of methanol poisoning in 2000. It wasn’t the quickest death, and it was painful, and it was investigated several times by both personnel on-site, and the New Zealand authorities. In the end, it was determined that Marks—despite being an unliked, binge-drinking Tourettic—could not have accidentally ingested lethal amounts of methanol, and had little to no reason to commit suicide. No official or public ruling was ever filed, and the matter seems to have been dropped completely since 2007, but it sure looks like it could have been murder. And if it was, it would have been Antarctica’s first.

Kind of cool, right? This is my precedent. It’s a great example of the kind of story that I’m setting out to tell. Hell, it almost is the story that I’m setting out to tell, minus the prospect of resolution and rocket-ships. But it’s also the kind of thing that I want—this idea that we don’t know for sure that it’s a murder when we’re going in. There has to be investigation and suspicion, because the concept of just looking at it and saying, “It’s murder,” is too jarring for the people in this world. It signifies the intrusion of humanity’s darker aspects upon their community. For them, if it’s a murder then it’s all downhill from here.

That’s why I think my protagonist has to be someone from Earth. He or she has to be someone who’s a little more jaded, or has just been so inured to the processes of human cruelty that they’ve never bothered to leave Earth and get away from them. It’s a very traditional concept when applied to a detective. Very Chandlerian. Actually, I’m thinking of looking at the chapter-to-chapter “formula” for writing a detective story that Chandler published. Even if I end up warping it a bit—or just not using it at all—it might be an interesting thing to show you guys and talk about a little bit. Discuss a bit of story structure as we go along.

And that brings us to the close for today. I also made a few notes today about the nature of this future setting, and gave some consideration to the population and demographic breakdowns of the lunar surface. I’m planning on working more on the setting tomorrow, though, so I’m going to save that stuff for then.

 

-Sean

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