As you know, under my own name I write and explore historical fiction, but to avoid shelf and reader confusion under a different name – lately shortened to Nicky Adams – I write slightly paranormal but also science fiction.
In some ways the two go hand in hand. Paranormal or physic phenomenon such as Remote Viewing, which I explore in the YA novel Out in the Dark, used to fit nicely in the realm of science fiction, but has since moved to paranormal.
Remote Viewing, and things like energy healing, Reiki healing, etc., have a place in science fiction as much as space travel set in the future does. Who is to say that as we learn more about the very nature of energy and the outer limits of what our brains can do, that what we now consider paranormal becomes normal – as in backed by science?
But I digress. I wanted this post to be about why I keep coming back to science fiction in the choice of books I read. (Though, I do read a wide variety of genres). There is something about science fiction that allows a different kind of exploration.
This is why I responded to an open call from a publisher recently and spent many long nights working to complete a YA science fiction novella. I tried to stay within the confines of the guidelines, but I soon found myself exploring some of the bigger issues facing our world today.
My protagonist is a 17-yr old girl, on the cusp of adulthood and grappling with her place in a crumbling, yet rigidly structured society. Her questions echo many of the questions I’ve heard from the teens I mentored.
This is where science fiction lets us explore these questions and hopefully find some different answers or can simply spark discussion. Though I doubt my books and stories will solve any major crisis facing our world, at the very least they’ll entertain and offer a welcome, brief, escape.
Below, enjoy a few pages of Once Around Europa.
Once Around Europa
By: Nicky Adams
Trying to free the small craft from the gravity well was taking too much fuel and Dina wasn’t sure if she would still be able to make it home once she did. Her attempt to slingshot around one of Jupiter’s moons hadn’t worked as she’d planned, she’d been going too fast and the gravity eddy had appeared out of nowhere. It hadn’t even registered on the instruments; it had just sucked her into the well and made her an almost stationary satellite.
A quick one-two burst of her port thruster should free her, if she gave it enough power, but that would mean tapping into reserves. Well, it was that or die right there once the fuel ran out. At least if she got free she might have a chance of getting home, or at least be able to signal for help, which was the last thing she wanted to do as the tribe had already made it clear that they didn’t think she could finish the task anyway.
The lack of confidence from the tribal elders stung. Especially after her grandfather had taught her everything she needed to know to participate in the Age of Ascension ritual. She was seventeen, old enough to be her own person and be accepted as a full – adult – member of the tribe, but the rules were such that she would only receive full status if she went through the ritual. The very survival of the tribe depended on it.
Three centuries ago when it became clear the home planet was going to have to undergo renewal or be lost forever, the tribes opted to colonize the Moon rather than disappear into outer space like the rest of humanity. The tribes were given sovereignty and formed the Council of Tribes to peacefully rule the moon. Each maintained their own heritage and traditions and grew their own foods in the massive lunar greenhouses.
Contact with the rest of humanity was sporadic, and the tribes did not expect ever to see the rest of them again; the tribes would remain as guardians of the planet that had given them life and now struggled to live herself.
Everything was focused on ensuring that Mother Earth could recover from the ravages of humans. In order for that to happen the tribes insisted on children learning both botany and technology in equal measure with the idea that either the tribes would return home and live according to the old traditions or, if the planet did not recover, they would eventually leave the moon in search of greener pastures.
This was why the Rite of Ascension was so important. Any seventeen-year old who could build and pilot a small craft – with minimal help – and who was the first in his, or her, group to fly it around Europa, would be given a position on the joint tribal science council. They were the one united group, outside of the ruling council, responsible for making sure there would be suitable, long range, escape craft should it become necessary to abandon the Moon.
For those teens less capable in the technical arts there was a botany trial. They would have six months to grow a very diverse crop in a greenhouse of their own construction. In every challenge there remained a component of constructing something that would hold up and provide shelter or transport. Though Dina was adequate at growing vegetables, she had no interest in being a farmer for the rest of her life. In fact, she wanted to explore the stars, and secretly hoped they would leave the Moon in her lifetime.
“Come on!” Dina cried, trying to coax more power from the engines. The little ship groaned and shuddered but delivered. She was still in the lead.
“Still alive, I see,” the smug voice of Cole sounded over the communications system. “But you know I’m going to win this. No place for losers on the council!” He laughed his annoying laugh that other girls found so charming. Not Dina.
With a slap of her hand she disconnected the com. She was in no mood to listen to Cole’s superior and arrogant prattle. Sure, he was one of the smartest, most handsome youths of her tribe, that still didn’t give him the right to taunt her, again. He’d been on her case ever since she’d signed on for this rite when she’d turned fifteen. He’d tease her that she wasn’t smart enough, or that she was too short, or that her blue eyes should disqualify her.
Once, way back in her heritage, an ancestor had taken a wife from the white settlers and every so often the DNA from that long-ago match would reassert itself and a baby would be born with blue eyes, standing out from the others. It was so rare but whoever had blue eyes carried it almost as a mark of shame. For Dina it was just a reminder of how badly she wanted to get off the barren rock and explore the solar system. And perhaps find where the rest of humanity had ended up, even if it meant leaving her people behind.
If she didn’t win this challenge she could look forward to a life of simply maintaining spacecraft and maybe working on other people’s designs. None of that was good enough. She had to win.
A sufficient time had elapsed since Cole’s last taunt, so she reactivated the com system. It was important that she listen in on other communications to know how the others were doing or if there were any dangers up ahead. Although, she might not warn anyone of that eddy. She needed all the advantage she could get.
Europa loomed in her view screen, big, icy and blue; oddly inviting in its cold beauty. For a moment Dina stared, transfixed, and contemplated landing.
“What? Oh, are you kidding me!” Dina was startled back to the task at hand by a blinking warning light which was accompanied by a matching alarm sound. Why she’d thought using the sound of the now extinct burro had been good, she couldn’t fathom as she frantically adjusted settings to pacify the warning. This was no time for life-support to fail.
“Yes, I know,” she said to the empty cabin. “I was so sure I wouldn’t ever have to hear the alarm because I thought everything would go perfectly. I was wrong, okay?” She lifted her head and seemed to be addressing some being up in space.
“Yes, you were wrong, Wildflower, too cocky again,” the disembodied voice of her grandfather spoke in the cabin. “I warned you against that.”
Dina gave a start. “Grandfather?” she whispered, her throat dry and constricted. The one person she never wanted to let down, who had taught her everything she knew.
“Yes, Wildflower, it is I …The wise one,” the voice chuckled. He had been a bit of outlier in the tribe because he felt they had limited themselves by going to the Moon. It was just like staying on the reservation, he’d said.
“Grandfather? I don’t understand,” Dina said, looking around to see if perhaps he was in the craft with her, which would be tricky under any circumstances because the inside was quite cramped.
“Before you try to find me, shouldn’t you get your life-support working again?” the voice said.
“Oh, right.” Dina turned her attention back to the console which still had the alarm and light going. She could already feel the oxygen fading from the air as it became harder to breathe. How had this happened? There had to be a leak somewhere for it to disappear so rapidly, but that didn’t make sense either. There were sensors that monitored for leaks and they weren’t giving any indication that something was wrong.
Dina could feel panic slowly spreading up from her stomach. Her heart rate was going up and her breathing was getting shallow. She tried to brush her hair from her face but that wasn’t right. Her hair was in a long braid down her back. What was brushing her face? And where had those swirling colors outside come from? That wasn’t right either.
Panic now held a tight grip on her throat. Every breath was a struggle as the young woman fought the ship for control of life support and navigational sensors.
“It’s not you, Wildflower,” Grandfather said.
“Of course it is, who else could it be?” Dina snapped at the disembodied voice. “I built this ship and I’m piloting it. I did all the preflight checks and double checks. Everything was working perfectly, everything was within spec. Do you hear me? Everything!” Her voice was a hoarse croak as she fought for air.
“So, it’s not you,” Grandfather said again. “Remember this is a rite of passage, a test.”
Dina slapped her forehead. “Of course, how could I be so stupid!”
“On top of cocky.”
“Yes, thank you for that, O wise one,” Dina replied sarcastically.