Rendezvous with Rama, chapters 27-29

And today we have more of my re-read of Rendezvous with Rama. Previous posts are elsewhere on this website, but beware that spoilers (to the extent that a book published in 1973 can be spoiled) abound.

Chapter twenty-seven opens with Jimmy Pak beginning his return from the far end of Rama in the Dragonfly. He has not made much progress before he notices an electrical field and the beginnings of a thunderstorm, of sorts, at the small spikes (Little Horns as they are referred to). There is a lot of turbulence and, eventually, flame from the Big Horn that reaches to each of the smaller ones. A concussive burst of wind hits him.

The following chapter continues immediately on from the last with the Dragonfly being damaged and Jimmy falling (very, very slowly) to the surface of the southern part of Rama. (I can’t stress the ‘slowly’ part enough, it takes the whole, short chapter.)

Chapter 29 begins with Jimmy regaining consciousness. A creature is dismantling the now-destroyed Dragonfly. He initially cannot tell whether it is an animal or robot. The creature, which he dubs a crab, then leaves in the direction of the Cylindrical Sea with the debris. Jimmy follows. The crab dumps the remainder of the Dragonfly down a deep well-like structure, but ignores Jimmy. Looking into the hole, Jimmy sees other, different creatures.

The exclusive focus on Jimmy and the Dragonfly and his solo exploration of the southern continent of Rama over these last several chapters is a departure in the structure of the book, which before this goes roughly back and forth between Norton and the rest of the crew in Rama and the committee and doesn’t focus on any particular person. Prior to this, as well, the point of view on Rama is almost always Norton.

The departure is an interesting one, because it provides more specific detail about the experience of Rama from a particular perspective than had previously been provided. There is also more character development of Jimmy than other characters receive.

The introduction of a creature, whether organic or robot, is also significant, of course, and changes the feel of the story. The presumed sterility of Rama had already been challenged by the storms and the organic content of the Cylindrical Sea, but the presence of a larger creature takes that to another level of complexity.

More later!


Camp Nano: This novel sucks

fullsizeoutput_21b7There comes a time in the life of every story I write when I think that it is absolutely awful and I don’t know why anyone would ever want to read it. I had this over the past week with my current Camp Nanowrimo project.

When I first started to seriously write, this stage did me in every time. What was the point in continuing with a story that was so clearly already a failure? Obviously, the story was trite and used ideas and concepts that had been used over and over again. What could I possibly add?

What I have come to realize (for myself, since all writing advice or observations are inherently personal) is that I can’t listen to that voice. I have to keep writing. I have to ask myself what it is that I think is the problem.

Are there particular elements to the story that aren’t working? Sometimes there is a character that is behaving in a way that doesn’t work in the context of the specific story. Maybe their motivation doesn’t make logical sense. Maybe there are plot holes. If there are specific elements that are wrong in whatever way, I make adjustments to try and eliminate them.

Do I know where the story is going? I rarely know exactly how my story is going to end when I start. Part of me feels like a failure for writing this way, but I know that it’s just a style and there are plenty of successful writers who do the same thing. But even if I don’t know the specific ending, I do need to know the direction that it is going in. It’s hard to keep writing without that and that, in turn, leads to the sense that the story is just bad and going nowhere.

Is the story actually not working? Sometimes, I go through the various considerations and, at the end, determine that the story is actually not working at all. Most often what I realize in these cases is that I don’t have a clear idea of what the story is about. I have an idea or a character or maybe even both, but there is no story to hang them on. For me, this is usually in the context of a short story, as I am more rigorous in my planning with novels (so I typically abandon a non-working concept much earlier in the process). With some stories, I am able to work through this, but with others, I need to put them aside, at least for a while.

Most often, especially with novels, my problem lies with the first or second question. And those are the things I can work on. I can plug plot holes, figure out the direction my story is going, or add aspects to my characters. The key, for me at least, is to keep going. Writing is more than words on the page — it is thinking and note-taking and finding pictures of people who look like my characters, it is research and listening to other writers talk about their processes.

I don’t pretend that I know all the answers. In the depths of hating my current WIP, it can be difficult to remember the path out of that. But I do know that I need to remember to keep going.



Rendezvous with Rama, chapters 24-26

And my slow and careful (let’s call it artisan) re-read of Rendezvous with Rama continues. You can read my previous posts here if you’d like, but beware that spoilers (to the extent that you can spoil a book that came out 46 years ago) abound.

Chapter 24 introduces a new character, another member of Norton’s crew. James Pak is a young, inexperienced officer who also competes in aerobatic flying (referred to as sky-bikes). Happily, he has brought one with him on the mission, hidden from Norton. He goes to Norton and tells him this, saying they will be able to reach the southern continent.

This chapter gives a lot of backstory, not just of Pak, but, through him, providing context regarding the evolution of sports. As is typical in the book, Pak is given a selection of characteristics that are thrown out in Norton’s thoughts about him.

Chapter twenty-five continues with Pak (now referred to as Jimmy) practising with his sky-bike, called Dragonfly and determining how to control it within Rama. Having practised, the doctor assesses whether he will be able to make the six hour plus trip to the southern continent and back.

The next chapter, 26, describes, in typical Clarke-ian detail, Pak’s trip to Rama’s south pole. Much of the description is about the the large spike at the south pole that extends five kilometers along the central axis (and is surrounded by smaller spikes). When Pak reaches the spike, he discovers a field (“probably magnetic”) that interferes with him communications. He is then directed to move away from it.

These three chapters cover very little actual forward movement of the plot. The description of the Dragonfly, and Pak’s control of the vehicle, is almost the whole of it. (There is actually little description even of Rama’s interior, other than the spikes.)

I love Clarke’s attention to detail and, as I re-read this book for the nth time, I am appreciating how much this has influenced my own writing. Hyper-detailed description is something that I have struggled against in my own stories and I am appreciating that I don’t necessarily need to do that. (And I am also seeing where, at least in part, I got it from!)

That’s all for now. I’m going to try to do the next installment of this early next week.