Enterprise versus Enterprise. From ForeignPolicy.com
One thing I’ve discovered by publishing my first work of nautical science fiction is that the field is incredibly small. There just doesn’t seem to be that many SciFi writers taking their stories out to sea. This seems strange to me, as most of the great space operas are really nautical tales. There’s a reason that TV Tropes has an exhaustive list of entries under “Space is an Ocean” (and, for that matter, “Space Whale“, because we can’t ever have enough Moby-Dick-in-Space stories). It isn’t a coincidence that the US Navy has named at least 7 ships Enterprise (FYI, the aircraft carrier CVN-80 Enterprise is actually bigger than the starship NCC-1701 Enterprise).
So here are my 5 favorite maritime science fiction stories.
Title page for 20,000 Leagues by Jules Verne
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne.
The Grand Daddy of maritime science fiction, 20,000 Leagues still holds up. Even though the science is dated, Verne’s insight shines through, predicting the deep-sea gold rush more than 100 years before we even knew about the geologic formations that would produce seafloor massive sulfides. Considering that almost one-fifth of all deep-sea hydrothermal vents are currently at risk for deep-sea mining, Captain Nemo’s declaration that “in the depths of the ocean, there are mines of zinc, iron, silver and gold that would be quite easy to exploit” is particularly prescient.
Early this month, I completed and self-published my first science fiction novel through Amazon’s Kindle Direct publishing service (and, a few days later, as a paperback through Createspace). The ideas for the book were conceived over a long week in August, while vacationing with my parents at a rental house in St. Michaels, Maryland. Wandering through the low-lying eastern shore towns started me thinking about the kinds of stories we would tell hundreds of years from now. Thus, the central conceit of Fleet — that it was not a tale of environmental devastation but of people living their lives in a post-sea-level-rise world — surfaced.
Writing Fleet was a marathon. All told, from the first day that I started outlining characters and deciding what the central story of Fleet — uncovering a human disaster caused by desperation and betrayal, then buried at sea — to the day I hit publish on the Amazon server, Fleet took a little over 3 and a half months, during which time I was also moving across the country, finishing several scientific manuscripts, and looking for a job.
Having now had a few weeks to decompress, I think it’s a good time to reflect on the book, what I tried to accomplish, and where it goes from here.
“The sea is big. The sea is cruel. She takes more than she gives. That’s how it’s always been.”
The world has changed. Coastal cities lie abandoned as the encroaching sea rises, drowning and reshaping the land. Violent plagues, impervious to antibiotics, sweep across the planet, erasing entire communities in a single outbreak. The last refugees take to the sea, fleeing from the chaos in increasingly decrepit ships.
To the people of the Fleet, this is ancient history. There is no room for nostalgia when every day is a fight for survival.
Finally, after five months, the Fleet saga is complete. Sail with the crews of Miss Amy, Melville, Gallant, Salty Dog, Knot Work, Pair-a-dice, Satyr, Crystal Coast Lady III, Seahorse, Eastward, Rosscarrie, Shellfish Lover, and NC-3502-WM as they fight for survival in a new and unyielding ocean. Currently available as an Amazon Kindle eBook, a paperback edition will be available shortly.
Fleet is a dystopian maritime adventure in which sea level rise and disease has driven the last survivors of the human race to sea. I’m releasing the story in serials — 3 chapters on the first Monday of each month — on Amazon. Loyal readers who can’t wait for the next installment can slate their thirst with a series of short stories set in the world of Fleet that will be published on Southern Fried Science every few weeks. Please enjoy the forth and final of these distractions, The Sea-Above, where we find out how one of my favorite side-characters survives the fire on Gallant and what happened to the sailors who journeyed into the sea-above.
Amberjack was trapped. There was only one way out of the hold and fire raged beyond the bulkheads. Remembering his training, he found a rag to cover his face and, creeping low, felt along the walls until he found a cool spot.
There were no cool spots.
The fire spread through the ship. It blazed on the decks above and the decks below. He was trapped like a chicken in Gill’s diesel stove.
No, he thought to himself, not diesel. Fizzle.
He laughed at his own joke, then choked as the smoke seeped through the sealed hatch. He was roasting! He coughed again. The smoke surrounded him, permeating the hold. His rag reeked of it. He tore it from his face in disgust. He coughed again and again. He couldn’t stop. He wanted to panic, knew he should panic, but he couldn’t. His head was light. His mind felt clear. He began to drift, backwards. The flames reminded him of his great-grandfather, a man who lived for over a century, and a story he would tell the young Amberjack; a story about other ships, their fleets, and the sailors who rode fire into the sky.
“Did you know, Jack, that not every ship sails on the sea?”
We’re approaching the home stretch. Fleet: Horizon, the conclusion to my ongoing science fiction serial novel, premiers on December 2. Each installment features a distinctive cover, featuring one of the ships in the Fleet. The ship on each cover is a real vessel, photographed during one of my many field expeditions. In honor of the completion of Fleet, here are the real stories behind the four vessels featured on the covers.
Fleet: The Reach features the ship that inspired (loosely) NC-3502-WM. The actual vessel is an ocean tugboat that I encountered in Antigua, at the conclusion of JC82/83 — my research cruise to the Mid-Cayman Spreading Center and tag-along cruise to the seas around Montserrat. The noticeably aging vessel was living out its latter years as a pilot boat, delivering pilots to cruise ships and other large vessels so that they could navigate into Antigua’s port.
Maritime Pilots are an old and honored profession. Many ports are dangerous, with local hazards that shift, sometimes as often as the tide. Because of this, large vessel require a local mariner, someone who knows their waterways, to guide ships into port.
Fleet: Dereliction is now available through the Amazon Kindle store!
“Captain Spat, father of Bosun Salmon, you stand accused of mutiny for allowing the theft of NC-3502-WM by negligence in your duties as both father to your daughter and mentor to your crew! How do you plead?”
The fleet is in chaos. Their best ship has been stolen. With her authority slipping away, the Admiral must seize command, root out the mutineers, and recover her stolen vessel. But, on the other side of the Reach, the trio – Croaker, Snapper, and Salmon – have reached their destination, the mysterious derelict that has been supplying the fleet for months.
The darkest secrets in the fleet will rise to the surface.
Head on over and check it out! It’s only $0.99, what have you got to lose?
Fleet is a dystopian maritime adventure in which sea level rise and disease has driven the last survivors of the human race to sea. I’m releasing the story in serials — 3 chapters on the first Monday of each month — on Amazon. Loyal readers who can’t wait for the next installment can slate their thirst with a series of short stories set in the world of Fleet that will be published on Southern Fried Science every few weeks. Please enjoy the third of these distractions, Shut the Box, where we get to learn a little more about a few of my favorite captains and some of the tangled history of the fleet.
“Who gets the first roll?” Captain Binnacle asked as she carried four very full glasses of Gill’s special reserve into the lounge.
“Captain’s prerogative, dear.” Captain Grease-pen was sprawled across the long couch that ran the length of Shellfish Lover’s main room.
“Very well, Windlass, you’re up!” She passed the glasses to her three guests. It was a quiet mid-week night in the fleet, and the four women were gathered for their regular game of shut-the-box. With fuel rations in full effect, it seemed like they were gathering for drinks every night.
Fleet: Dereliction premiers next Monday! With the fleet split in two and its most valuable ship stolen, the Admiral has to deal with the fallout from the first mutiny in recent memory. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Reach, the trio of mutineers finally discover the dark secret behind a mysterious shipwreck.
This has been my favorite installment to write. You’re going to finally learn the truth about several characters. Motivations will be revealed. Most importantly, the story that’s been hinted out throughout the last two installments will finally be told. This was also may favorite cover to design. There’s a great story behind that image, which I can’t tell yet as it might give away some of the plot.
UPDATE: These posts, and the hashtag are getting a lot of attention, so I’d like to reiterate, Caveat Tweetor (twitter beware) — these models are being generated on the fly as request come in. They are not validated and there are many variables that influence sea level rise which are not taken into account. This is a fun way to visualize potential sea level rise but it would be inadvisable to use it for real estate speculation.
The central conceit in the world of Fleet–my dystopian maritime science fiction serial adventure–is that sea level has risen 80 meters, an extreme maximum projection under global climate change prediction (INSERT LINK TO USGS DATA HERE AFTER SHUTDOWN ENDS – UPDATE: Oh, neat, we have a federal government again. Here’s the source). Since 80 meters is pretty hard to visualize, I turned to Google Earth to help me simulate what our world would look like under those conditions, starting with my new residence in San Francisco:
San Francisco, 80 meters
Oh, but we’re not done yet.