Nightwind Follow-Up, ch 16-18

Chapter 16 started from a really weird place.

I was still a good little evangelical at the time I wrote the original draft of the book. You’ll notice that, among its other quirks, there’s a complete lack of cussing. At some point I realized that not-swearing wasn’t going to be enough if I sold the book because there would have to be some sort of Christianity in the book. So I just kinda shoehorned it in to Horatio’s character.[1]

On re-reading the book I knew that bit was coming and I kinda braced myself for it to be awful. In retrospect it really isn’t. It’s a bit out of place, but that’s because I don’t bother to talk about religion anywhere else in the book and I hadn’t conceived of Horatio as a character with religion. I was very much working off of the Star Trek/Babylon 5 model where most, if not all, of the people had just kind of moved beyond such things.

I really wish that I had realized the implications of this chapter more at the time. It feels like such a tremendous missed opportunity and highlights so much of what happens when you don’t really think through your worldbuilding. It’s also one of those things that goes a long way towards explaining why Horatio ended up as my favorite character in the book.

At this point the main characters are basically operating in a consequence-free environment. The chain of command has completely broken down because, well, everyone is either dead, in survival mode, or sidelined and playing the role of Greek Chorus. Horatio is the last man standing. He’s also the oldest and most experienced officer in the Navy and in this moment he’s standing up to take his place as the conscience and will of the whole of the United Commonwealth. He’s literally the only one who can see the big picture and is taking steps to hold everything together. He assembled the relief convoy. He took the initiative to find help wherever he could.

Now, almost before it’s begun, it’s blowing up in his face. He doesn’t know how to handle it. He’s always seen the Navy as a tradition and a chance to play dress up and live up to his names and legacies. He’s never killed anyone in that time. He’s never ordered the men and women in his command to take actions that will lead to their deaths. He’s certainly never made a mistake that resulted in the loss of thousands of innocent lives.

In this moment Horatio doesn’t know what to do. It’s possible this is the first time in his life he’s ever not known what to do. Who steps up to help him? A smuggler. A criminal he’s spent his career chasing down.

There’s an entire character study here. Horatio Semmes suddenly confronted with his own mortality and fallibility. Tina Morgan turning out to be a criminal with a heart of gold. There’s little doubt in my mind that I realized this at the time. I just didn’t stop to dwell on it because there was more important stuff to get done.

Horatio gets something of the same arc in the rewrite. It’s not as extreme, but it’s something I felt I had to keep in to some extent. He’s easily the most interesting character in the book. I’m thinking maybe instead of Nightwind I should call it Phoenix.[2]

Either way, I think Horatio realizes that he’s operating in a consequence free environment and he hates it. He just committed the fatal mistake to end all fatal mistakes and knows that there’s no one to keelhaul his ass. He can’t deal with that. Too bad I decided to just kind of wrap it all up in one chapter.

Chapter 17, then, is another round of Robert Laird twirling his designated villain mustache and being a cartoon.

I don’t like talking about Robert Laird anymore. This is just schlock. That’s all there is to it.

One of the interesting things about the re-write, though, is that I’ve kept Laird in the picture. He even plays the same role. It’s just that in the re-write he has actual motivations that make sense and he’s a patriot instead of a villain. One of the biggest difficulties I’m having right now is in the question of whether or not to actually include him as a perspective character in the book. As it stands right now there’s one Laird chapter that lets out some crucial information. There’s also a second chapter that theoretically could exist where I give him a voice while he takes an action that will happen no matter what. At this point it’s mostly a question of whether I want Laird to have a voice in the re-write or just be a shadowy figure that the main characters are working to counter.

I still feel like he has to have a voice to some extent. Now that he’s not a mustache-twirling stock character from central casting I want him to be something other than a voiceless villain. Laird now has legitimate concerns and someone needs to speak those words.

Otherwise, let’s avoid talking about Laird as much as possible from now on. His story is in a bad place and doesn’t get better.

Chapter 18 is one of those things that seems like a good idea at the time. I decided that I needed one of those, “Humans bumble through a first contact situation,” storylines. It’s a good storyline. It’s just a storyline that needs to be in a different book.

What I’ve learned since writing the original is that there are only so many storylines a book can hold. When I first conceived of Nightwind this story would have fit. I realized somewhere in there that the adventure and discovery aspect wasn’t something I could do particularly well, mostly because of that whole not knowing where anything is problem I mentioned a few posts back.

The other thing here is that Lindros has moved on to being openly insubordinate. She should really be in the brig at this point, but instead she’s going down to meet angry aliens. So that’s neat.


[1]Part of the reason I followed up writing Nightwind with Second Chances was because Nightwind wasn’t at all a Christian book and Second Chances was supposed to be a Christian book. In retrospect, though, Second Chances isn’t really a Christian book, either. I mean, it’s all there, but the altar call scene isn’t conversion porn and the characters are all somewhat fleshed out, including the non-Christians. There are also a couple of Christians who are real assholes. So that’s a problem for the Christian fiction market.

[2]One of the most difficult things about the re-write is that I think I have to change the name of the book. My initial plan was for a trilogy, with each book named after the central ship. So Nightwind was to be followed by Starfire, where Captain Turner takes a central role in dealing with humanity’s new relationship with the Joshans. The third book was still somewhat up in the air. Plan A was Captain Hunt dealing with the fallout of Starfire while liasing with an alien race we haven’t yet met. Plan B was one of those jump forward into the future where a powerful warship from the past is recommissioned for some idiotic reason to save the day from some threat or another things.

I can’t really do that as a central conceit now, though. Nightwind is almost the B plot at this point in the rewrite. Semmes and Admiral Belden occupy more of the space and Turner and Hunt are actual active participants in the whole enterprise.

One thought on “Nightwind Follow-Up, ch 16-18

  1. I don’t have a problem with a character being a Christian as long as it doesn’t break the story. And here, at least, it doesn’t. He’s not evangelising at Bixby, he’s just saying “this is why I’m in the place where I am”. And clearly he doesn’t have All The Answers.

    I agree on the too-much-plot-ness. I’d actually rather read either the story of the Nightwind mission or the story of the breakdown of Earth’s government, but not both side by side. And since they’re out of communication with each other, that actually works quite well, So book 1 might be the Earth story, ending when Nightwind returns to the system; book 2 Nightwind‘s story ending at the same point; book 3 the conclusion. Or something like that.

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