Last Star Standing

By Spaulding Taylor

On a post-apocalyptic 23rd-century Earth, an Aussie rebel battles its rulers - and his own demons

Friday, 9 August 2019

Thrilled to be at 50%!!!!!

Dear supporters, friends and anyone interested enough to click on my update:

 

First, thanks SO MUCH for your belief, those of you who've got me to 50% in under a week!! :

Here's a blog post about the writing of Last Star Standing: 

 

God stepped out on space,

And he looked around and said:

I'm lonely—

I'll make me a world.

 

                                    (James Weldon Johnson, from ‘The Creation’)

 

 

 

It was a couple of years ago, and my daughter had just gone off to uni.

And my professor husband works really hard. 

And our two long-haired dachshunds – think live teddy bears – have zero, and I mean zero, conversation.

So. I drooped around the house – thought about tidying up and thought better of it – thought about practising cello – nothing special to practice for – thought about trekking to the recreation ground and working on my tennis serve – but couldn’t be bothered. I had a couple of editing projects I could/should be working on - but the whole world seemed very grey.

 

Suddenly I remembered this poem. I’m lonely, I thought, think I’ll make me a world.

I cheered up at once.

I decided almost instantly that a whole new world – featuring maps (these days they all seem to have cunning little maps, complete with detailed islands and Tolkienesque mountain ranges) – was Not Me.

I hate maps. I can’t even read a map.  I am basically allergic to maps. And I’m so good at getting lost that even the tiny man inside my sat-nav hates me, and spends all his time secretly plotting my downfall.

Perhaps for that reason, I selected a dystopian Earth, the only place where I have some notion of the geography – it’s vague, mind you; don’t test me with Tajikistan – and I picked the 23rd century as close enough to still provide some points of contact, while still far enough off for a helluva lot to have happened in-between.

So . . . what could have happened? Well, WWIII – sorry to be the one to break it to you – must be a near-certainty.  But that would just have left only a barren earth, and I wanted life – and conflict – and character.

Although I had a signal advantage with regards to character, because I’d recently had a shock while meditating. (And yes, I know that you’re not meant to be shocked while meditating, unless your dachshunds go mad barking. As they do.)

Now I’m pretty rubbish at meditating, although I sometimes get swirling colours: magentas, cobalts, fuchsias. They rise under my eyelids and spin away, and very jolly it all is, if you’re at all into that kind of thing.

However, the day I’d been shocked I hadn’t “got” any colours at all.  Instead, I got a vision, and this was it: a man – underground, imprisoned in a steel chair – staring up a steel shaft about 100 metres, into a starry sky.  A rebel, an outsider, an assassin, volatile, sardonic, a man with a hunger to lead. And when I connected this character with the concept of a speculative book, something inside me went click.

The other – and, I admit, obvious – plotline, because a born rebel has to rebel against something, was an alien invasion. So, I factored that in, though I retain strong personal doubts that We Are Not Alone.

My bet is: we are alone. Sorry, crop circle people, astronomical fanatics, UFO enthusiasts etc. I just don’t see it. So, you can all stop reading here, and just go off in a strop.

Right, where was I?

So, totalling up the score, I had:

1) An appealing and charismatic lead character (tick)
2) A plausible scenario: a wrecked earth, further demolished by an alien takeover (tick)
3) Absolutely no idea of plot at all.  (Ouch.)

 

Now plot has always been my personal bugbear, though I’ve forced myself to become accomplished at it, through developmentally editing over 120 full-length novels and memoirs over the last 15 years.

So I walked the dogs and pondered plot and lost a couple of tennis matches and pondered plot and messed about on the cello and pondered plot and woke up at 3 a.m. and pondered plot, and generally became Exremely Bad Company, which is an infallible signal to my husband not to mention the war/plot.

And, in the end, it still didn’t come, so I just began to write. And the plot developed as I wrote, as I was winging it. There are books like that, blessed with a protagonist so strong that s/he creates the plot.

I felt hugely grateful to him.

Now when I first began to imagine which part of earth might suffer least in WWIII, and – I suspect that this, too, is profoundly unoriginal – in fact, I once had a musician friend who actually emigrated to New Zealand for this precise reason – I picked Australia.  

This is because it seems to me that the parts of the planet that will get it in the neck, when WWIII eventually breaks out, will be roughly exactly where my family lives, or in other words, London and Washington, D.C. (The offspring will probably be in Beijing, comprising a triple whammy. Basically, all I need is for my sister to move to Moscow, in order to have all bases covered. ☹)

However, the chances for my Aussie friends do seem just that little bit brighter.

The Aussies are no great military power, being so laid-back as to be horizontal. They are unlikely to be central to the next world war, for the same reason. So I conceived that the earth’s conquerors, the Xirfell, might establish their centre in Australia.

Their basically living underground came from a similar premise: that the earth’s surface – while just about liveable for the plebs – would be too wrecked. The idea of their importing creatures from other planets was a no-brainer, and the invention of these potential creatures a delight. Just for starters, I imagined:

 

Blurgs: oily creatures, mostly composed of see-through rings, organs banging up against each, with a taste for eating fugs. Don’t get on with other blurgs.

Testers: The Xirfell’s preferred servants (not their real name).Christened ‘Testers’ by humans on whom the Xirfell made them experiment, in the days after the invasion

Pundlings: a servant race, obedient, flat-footed, good-natured, exploitable

Gromelines: delicate, tiny creatures, highly intelligent, somewhat magical. Reproduce like seahorses: the male tends the infants.

 

By then I was flying – the most wonderful sense of flow. As if I never wanted to stop writing. As if even eating was a distraction and a nuisance. And once it was finished, I felt bereft – which for me is a Good Sign.

If asked to sum it up, I'd describe it as a dystopian, sometimes funny, occasionally erotic thriller – and a (very) easy read.

Here’s the back-cover blurb:

Aiden, indigenous Australian and 23rd-century member of “the rebellion”, struggles not only with the alien regime who have taken over the Earth, but also with an untrustworthy leader, an unfaithful girlfriend – and - above all -  with his need to be “seen” as the leader he feels himself to be.

So now I’d love for you to click on the link, and to support my whole “new world”!! (And, to those of you who already have: THANK YOU!!!)

 

 

Alice

 

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