Raj Patel pressed his face against the porthole, his fingers locked tight around the nearby handhold. His stomach lurched and rolled, only partly because he was still unused to weightlessness. Mostly it was the emotional stew created by the sight of the massive planet appearing before him, its almost inconceivable bulk entirely obscuring the four wheel-shaped habitats he knew were there, orbiting Jupiter. Sat Yuga, Fiddler’s Green, Eden and Arkadia.
He rolled the word around in his mind. Arkadia. His new home.
Darusha Wehm writes:
Children of Arkadia is high-tech science fiction (space stations! artificial general intelligences! smart drugs!) with a pastoral, agrarian sensibility (farming! water wheels! goats!). Arkadia is built by a group of political dissidents, economic refugees and disgruntled AIs fleeing a war-torn Earth to create a new society in space. But creating a new world, with new systems — both political and technological — is challenging, even when everyone is working toward a common goal. After all, just because I treat you the way I want to be treated, there’s no reason to believe that you’re being treated the way you want.
Originally the story opened on Earth, setting the scene for why the characters leave in the first place. But this isn’t a story about Earth and what happens there. It’s a story about making something new, about leaving behind preconceptions and prejudices (or not), and how to build something better.
I realized that I wanted the reader to have that same sense of excitement and trepidation the characters had when the full understanding of what a one way trip to space entails came to them. I wanted to capture that sense of wonder I feel every time I see visions of the cosmos, the desperate desire to be out there and see it for myself, right along with the terror of making an irreversible decision.
Raj is uncomfortable, physically but also emotionally. He’s leaving behind everything he knows to do something that, on the face of it, is absolutely crazy. There’s no going back and that’s terrifying, even if the place he’s going to is meant to become a paradise. The story is all about transition from one kind of society to another, a home of birth to a home of intention. Change is frightening, even when it’s a change for the better. Opening with a visual marker of change not only sets the tone for the whole novel, but also clues the readers to some of the upcoming struggles the characters will face.
Besides, if you have the opportunity to open with the image of Jupiter heaving into view from the port of a spaceship, why would you not do that?
About the author:
Darusha Wehm is the three-time Parsec Award shortlisted author of the novels Beautiful Red, Self Made, Act of Will and The Beauty of Our Weapons. Her next novel, Children of Arkadia (Bundoran Press), will be released on April 28, 2015. Her short fiction has appeared in many venues, including Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Toasted Cake and Escape Pod. She is the editor of the crime and mystery magazine Plan B.
She is from Canada, but currently lives in Wellington, New Zealand after spending the past several years traveling at sea on her sailboat. For more information, visit http://darusha.ca.
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