Inspiration From Real-Life Experience

Somehow, somewhere, I lost my Blackberry yesterday.

Yes, of course, I did all the usual things to try to find it: searched high and low, called it using the land line, rooted around under the seat in the car. But it was no use, it went missing somewhere between Conifer and Five Points (north of downtown Denver) and isn’t coming back. When I mentioned this to Carl, it prompted us to wonder what would happen if someone similarly misplaced their MA? How might we use this as a story element, if a character had a habit of doing so?

In our fictional universe, MAs are vital pieces of personal equipment. More important than a mere cellphone and more powerful than even today’s smartphones, they serve a number of communications, information access, computation, organization, navigation, and safety functions. To someone who had grown up using an MA and had woven instant access to these functions into his daily routine, losing his MA would be akin to losing a part of his brain. It would be much more disruptive than what we experience today when (as also happened to me about two weeks ago) we lose internet service for a few days – in such instances we find other things to do, or other ways to accomplish what we would have done on the internet. But forty years from now, when our lives will be still more integrated with our information systems, this may be difficult or impossible. Loss of connectivity will be much more disruptive.

And not only disruptive, but potentially dangerous. If one loses his MA entirely (not merely its connection to information infrastructure), he loses the safety features built into it. On our Mars of 2051, this means that he may have no knowledge of current air composition or radiation conditions, for example, information which could have life-or-death importance at any time. As we showed in In the Shadow of Ares, this isn’t an idle concern. Amber and Grantham face the inconveniences and dangers associated with losing connectivity and with losing their MAs at different points in the story.

This is an issue you may see arise in the sequels…

Amber’s Mission

Last week marked the anniversaries of the Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia accidents.  Those old enough to remember one or more of those tragedies recall the feelings of shock and sadness.  Eventually we moved on, however, recommitting ourselves to the noble endeavor of manned space exploration.

But what if a spacecraft vanished without a trace?  And what if, decades later, you had the chance to solve a mystery that most had given up on, even if they hadn’t forgotten?  That’s the challenge facing 14-year-old Amber Jacobsen:

There was an ocean of data from the Ares missions and the subsequent exploration and settlement of the planet…surely there was some clue, something that had been missed.  She looked up at the portraits again.  What if it was right in front of everyone, and they couldn’t see it, because they were still thinking like Earthers? 

But shewasn’t an Earther.  She looked around the cabin at the memorials to the Ares III crew.  Mars was her world, the only one she’d ever known.  If something had been missed, maybe she could see it.  Why shouldn’t she be the one to find the truth? “I’ll do it.”

“What’s that?”  Aaron had drifted over to the other side of the cabin.

“Find out what happened.  You know, figure it out.  I’m gonna do it.”

The Mysterious Mr. Rana

There’s more to Rajiv Rana than we let on in In the Shadow of Ares.
What could he be hiding? And how did he really break his nose?

There’s more to Rajiv Rana than we let on in In the Shadow of Ares:

He paused, then added simply, “You’re quiet today.”

“Am I?” she asked coolly as she pulled on her immersion goggles and rings.  You’re part of it.  Margolis said so herself.  I know you’re hiding something.  That’s why none of the Green’s survey data from the past two years is available.

“Yes, you are,” he replied, noting the tone in her voice with a slight narrowing of his eyes.  “But, if you don’t want to talk to me, well, that’s okay.  We can talk again when you’re in a better mood.”

She yanked off her goggles and turned to face him.  “What makes you think I’m in a bad mood?”

He shrugged.  “Your…moodiness?”

“What?  Oh.  Well, maybe I am mad.  Shouldn’t I be?  I know you’re hiding something…” She stopped short when she saw his face suddenly become an expressionless mask.

There was an uncomfortable pause.  “Hiding?” he asked cautiously.  “What is it you think I am hiding?”


His dark eyes bored into her own.  “Go on.”

Me and my big mouth. “The, uh, the cavern…”  If possible, his face became even more expressionless when she mentioned the cavern.

“The cavern?  What is it you think I am hiding about a cavern?”

Think fast. “I, uh, I know you’re hiding something down there.  There’s…  something down there, isn’t there?  That’s why Grantham won’t let anyone go in?”

“Oh, that again.”  Rana pursed his lips and rolled his eyes.  The tension between them seemed to evaporate suddenly.  A little too suddenly, perhaps.

What could he be hiding? And how did he really break his nose?