Free Fiction: The Secret History of The Last Colony

Interestingly enough, given the last post here, I have a new bit of fiction online for you: An excised chapter of an early version of The Last Colony. As I explain in the introduction to the chapter, it’s no longer a “canonical” part of the OMW universe, because it’s from an iteration of the story I chose not to use, but I kept it as a reference point for a number of characters in the story, and later strip-mined it, not only for the final version of The Last Colony, but also for scenes and characters in Zoe’s Tale as well. And I also take a couple of whacks at Fermi’s Paradox, which annoys me for various reasons. In any event, it’s a fun and informative read, and I hope you check it out.

Apropos to the last entry, in which I note that “free to the reader” does not mean “unpaid to the writer,” I will note that I originally intended to post the excerpt here on Whatever, but just about five seconds before hitting the “Publish” button I said to myself, hmmm, I wonder if I could sell this instead. So I pinged Subterranean Online about it, and as it turns out, the answer was, why, yes, I could sell it instead. So I did. And here we are.

17 thoughts on “Free Fiction: The Secret History of The Last Colony

  1. I recall a very, very old issue of Byte magazine, when Jerry Pournelle was writing a column regularly. He was talking about word processing a manuscript versus typing, and the dread of losing earlier versions. I think I remember it involved a conversation with Frank Herbert (tells you how long ago it was), and his idea that every change, every insertion and deletion, should be recorded, so that all the edits could be flipped through when it came to decide whether it’s been improved or ruined by the latest changes.

    In practical experience since then, MS Word’s “Track Changes” feature does this, but is a nightmare to wallow through, let alone the fact that it is capable of swallowing documents whole and burping out nonsense.

    The fact is that I can’t imagine wanting to compare every changed letter, word, sentence or paragraph, but rather to holistically swap in whole sections or chapters. In programming, the same thing is needed: one change in one module would cause an error, an inconsistency: twelve changes across the entire system makes it stable and happier.

  2. The fact is that I can’t imagine wanting to compare every changed letter, word, sentence or paragraph, but rather to holistically swap in whole sections or chapters. In programming, the same thing is needed: one change in one module would cause an error, an inconsistency: twelve changes across the entire system makes it stable and happier.

    That’s exactly the reason I’m currently saving my dissertation, a Latex document, on a local SVN repository. This way I use the editor Undo/Redo functionality for reverting and reinstating the small modifications, and when I’ve made some significant changes I commit the files with and explicative ChangeLog entry; this way I can easily track everything without the need for keeping multiple revisions in different files.

  3. Going off on a tangent there is something that has bothered me for some time about alien species contact. I haven’t studied it in depth or looked into theories, etc so this may be a tired subject….but it would be new to me, so please indulge me.

    I personally have never heard the discussion of time involved with the search for alien radio transmission, and believe this would be a significant factor. Am I off base with this? (also has this one been worn out with thousands of prior comments, observations, etc?) To find the transmission would be dificult, but I would think it would be significantly compounded by the element of time. I’m not personally convinced that “intelligence” is a very useful survival skill (long term) and if intelligent species should have a tendency to pop up and then pop out through a myriad of methods that we seem to be presently exploring with great fervor. Would the search not be further compounded possibly by a very narrow window of time in this case? With time factored in, if it in fact should be, I would think that it would be a very large haystack that we would have to filter through.

  4. o.O

    How bizarre. It’s like thoughts have been stolen out of my head!

    That is to say, each time I cut anything more than a sentence from one of my (wannabe, unpublished) works in progress, I save it in its own word file, because, like Mr. Scalzi said, you can strip-mine that sort of stuff for bits of dialogue, cool descriptions, or even just general characterization. Even if it doesn’t make it into the final, it’s never wasted; it’s a very good way to get a handle on a character that’s difficult to work with. And the little fan in me was thinking one day when I was strip mining some of my old stuff from two years or so ago…hey, wouldn’t it just be so cool if pro authors did something like this, and if they did, if they, like, posted cut scenes that are technically non-canon online? That would totally make the little fan in me go, “Wheeeee!”

    And now, Scalzi has gone and done that.

    …I guess this is the cue for the little fan in me to go Wheeee!

    So. “Wheeee!”

    ::hops around::

    My day has been made. This is where I print out the cut scene and compare it to The Last Colony and have much writer-geek fun thinking about story architecture. :D

  5. I said to myself, hmmm, I wonder if I could sell this instead. So I pinged Subterranean Online about it, and as it turns out, the answer was, why, yes, I could sell it instead. So I did.

    “That’s my boy!”
    – RAH

    :)

  6. My favourite mention of Fermi’s Paradox in fiction is the Outer Limits episode ‘Final Exam’ (Wikipedia entry), where a student creates a cold fusion bomb and uses it to extract some much-deserved vengeance on people who had wronged him.

  7. Dorky question I suppose, but I was curious on one difference I noticed in this draft vs the final. In this version, General Szilard is directly involved and actually creates the strategy used to stop the Conclave. This was not the impression I had from the final version of the story (though it is not directly explained). Did your idea of his involvement change as you continued to refine the story (and how was it going to go/why did it evolve) or is this part of the “behind the scenes” action of the print Lost Colony?

  8. Szilard was a definite architect, and this was noted in Last Colony in conversation with John Perry, even though he thinks in general it’s a bad idea.

  9. @#3: “I’m currently saving my dissertation [..] on a local SVN repository. [..] this way I can easily track everything without the need for keeping multiple revisions in different files.
    But, isn’t that exactly what you’re doing? ;)

  10. Domini@#6, there are various other authors posting deleted scenes and earlier drafts online now. Brandon Sanderson has several for Elantris and Mistborn over on his website, for example.

  11. I know I’ve come relatively late to the party, but is there a spoiler-tolerant discussion thread for TLC around here somewhere?

  12. Alex S.@11: He’s not doing it. The computer is doing it for him. ;)

    Also important is some sort of back up strategy. Fortunately, text files are pretty small (compared to, say, audio or video files).

  13. Thank you for sharing the variant segment of the novel- which- would- become TLC. Though I would starve if writing were my sole income, occasionally a bit of someone’s technique adheres; this is both a fun read and a good lesson.

    [OT] And most of all, thank you thank you thank YOU for Zoe’s Tale! It was worth every sweated minute waiting for its arrival, tenfold every penny spent on same … you made me laugh and cry (almost at the same time), and I believe ZT will do the same to most of your readers.

  14. Thanks for this, it came at a perfect time. Last week I read TLC (sorry, I’m late to the party) and this past weekend I bought and read ZT in preparation for hopefully seeing you at DragonCon and discussing it with you.

  15. Thanks for this, it came at a perfect time.

    Yup. I received ZT in the mail yesterday, so I started re-reading TLC last night. Then this morning I find this!

This is the place where you leave the things you think

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s