[Fiction] Friday Challenge for September 5, 2008:
Pick a book of fiction you’d never read (e.g., if you read sci-fi, pick a romance). Open to a random page and read the last couple paragraphs of the page. DO NOT TURN THE PAGE. Now continue writing the story. Feel free to change the genre as you write.
Well, this should be fun. I looked in the bookshelf where I hide the books I will probably never read (and happened to discover some unread Sci-Fi and Fantasy books, but that is another story all together) and pulled out The Dogs of War by Frederick Forsyth., which, coincidentally, was published in the same year I was born. It is a war-time crime thriller, as far as I know – not my cup of tea generally, until I really run out of other stuff to read or if someone has misplaced the dictionary. The original passage is in brown italics.
It had meant forsaking a project that interested him deeply, and doing the same to two of his junior colleagues. He had indented for the necessary equipment for an African climate, sending off his requirements to the half-dozen different supply directorates concerned, answering the petty queries as politely as he could, and waiting, always waiting, for the equipment to arrive and he waited for the final seal of approval from the council. But he could not wait to get his hands dirty again.
It felt like years since he stood under the big open sky, and he looked forward to breathing in the alien landscape the continent had become. It felt even longer since he had been able to practice real science. Thirty years in this confined space was a long, long time.
There have been recent successes re-terraforming the northern continents, and some have started settling across the frozen tundra that has spread across most of the northern hemisphere. The southern continent, that they nostalgically called Africa, had resisted every effort thus far and cost them far more than the bureaucrats were happy with, but would be able to house and feed many more people than the frozen continents would. And they would not be able to sustain a society floating in space for much longer. The human race needed to return home.
He sipped the dark, bitter tea slowly, staring at the stars beyond his window, ignoring her incessant rambling. It had been years since he visited the surface. He had seen several expeditions leave in recent years with high expectations and soaring spirits, only to return days, weeks later, battered and broken. But he needed to do this one himself. He could no longer trust anyone else with his science.
He took another sip of his tea, and realised she was silent, probably expecting some kind of response to whatever witty remark she had just made. He cleared his throat, and said “I will be leaving tomorrow.”
They had been married for so long, she knew not to argue. Instead, she twirled her gray hair between her fingers and asked, “How much must I pack?”
“Enough for a month. Maybe more.”
I am sure I can write more on this, but right now, this is where I am going to leave it.
I love the sci-fi spin on this, and am interested to see how the expedition works out.
and I think you left it exactly at the right spot.. funny how a prompt can get your mind spinning and crate a whole new world? looking forward to hearing more about this.
"The southern continent, that they nostalgically called Africa...": for some reason this made it "real" to me. I love the idea of humans being forced to live among the stars while Earth needs rehabilitation, I assume from yet another devastating nuclear apocalyptic thing we are wont to unleash upon each other. I would definitely want to know more about what happens on earth, as well as the relationship between the scientist and his wife. Well done!
This is really reminiscent of the MARS series (author's name escapes me) with the terraforming of the planet, and battles between different wings of scientific thought ... and thoroughly beautiful twist on a little bit of Forsyth. And I agree with Willow - Africa was a perfect addition, which gave the reader a real understanding of what the forzen north must be like.
So many fantastic stories this week!
The SF spin is a million miles from the political potboiler of the Forsyth original (if I remember rightly, it's about a group of mercenaries who plot a coup in an African nation).
So many stories concern humanity trying to recreate Earth elsewhere, I'd be keen to read one about them trying to rehabilitate Earth so they can go home again.
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