Friday, October 30, 2015

Pinpointing Global Positions; National Novel Writing Month.

Dear friends and fans -

Please excuse my lack of updates the last couple weeks.  I broke the fifth metacarpal in my left hand and was in a splint, then a cast, for a combined total of four weeks.  I've only just gotten my cast off and been able to resume working full-time on this project.  However, I do have some updates and information for you.

Being bandaged up limited my typing ability, but I was able to get some research done.  I've fleshed out more of the logistics and behavioral traits of Psamanthe, one of my smallest colossi, with the invaluable help of an ornithologist at the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy.  I also began plugging some more numbers on Triton's and Proteus's travel routes.  By multiplying Triton's speed and the mileage of his trip, I was able to determine to the minute how long it would take him to circle the Earth (as detailed in a previous post).  The new news is I found out exactly how many miles per year Triton travels, and have used that to figure out within a few miles where he'd be at any moment in time over the book's 100-year backstory.  The short version is, if Triton begins transporting his humans in Los Angeles and this book begins 100 years to the day after our colossi begin their regular migrations around the globe, then on that day Triton and his residents will be on the Eastern end of the Gulf of Mexico on their way from Miami to Mexico City.  Depending on the hour of the day, they could be north-by-northeast of Havana or northwest of Cancun.  I'm currently working on Proteus's figures and should have them figured out for my records by the end of the day.

And now I can shed a bit more light on why I want this to be done so precisely.  November is National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo).  Thousands of novelists and aspiring writers try to write as much of a book as they can throughout all 30 days of November.  It sounds like a large task, and it is, but no matter whether one finishes or not, s/he will have that much more of a book finished than s/he had the month before.  If an author writes 2,000 words a day, then by December 1st that author will have 60,000 words done, which is a good size for a book.

I have never participated in National Novel Writing Month.  My books have taken me between 11 months and six years each to write.  This year, however, I decided to find a compromise.  Rather than try to cram in writing the entire novel in a month, I'm going to aspire to completing the book's sub-plot: a heart-wrenching tale about a man earning the unfortunate nickname "Topper" and the lives involved in his tragic misadventure.  In order to write this story, I needed to know when and where Triton and Proteus's paths would overlap, whether at the same time or with no more than a month's overlap.  I also need some of Topper's story to take place a set amount of time prior to the rest of the events of the book, so knowing when each titan would be where and how far ahead/behind of the other they'd be was absolutely vital.  Now that I've done that (and finished outlining the story), I have all the tools I need to begin writing the book.

I'll do my best to update about my progression throughout NaNoWriMo right here on Wandering City Blues, so tune in every Writers' Wednesday for an update.  Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Triton's Migration in Full Detail

In my previous blog post, I teased the global journeys taken by our two biggest colossi, Triton and Proteus.  Triton walks a path stopping at 50 of the world's most populous cities while Proteus's journey takes him to 23 of our tallest skyscrapers (including several that have yet to be finished in 2015, such as the Wilshire Grand in Los Angeles and Hermitage Plaza in Paris).  Today I'd like to offer more insight into Triton's migration.

Before addressing the length and required time of their journeys, the first question is: how would they cross the water?  As my titans will often be wildly different in their biological and physiological make-up, so too must be their methods of locomotion.  While I plan to have at least one or two who "doggy paddle" their way across the seas, I want Triton and Proteus to stay dry from at least the knees down, for reasons that will be revealed closer to the book's release.  To accomplish this and maintain a degree of realism, I turned first to water striders.  Water striders have a sort of cilia/hair system around their feet that allows them to "walk on water," which I've adapted for use on my two biggest titans.  However, if you strapped extra weight to a water strider's back (like, oh say, a city full of humans), the extra weight would sink it.  To solve this problem of added weight, I looked 100 years to the past in my book and to real-world Finnish biomimetics.

It's always been my intent, in my fictional universe, to have a period of one to three years in which humans frantically developed and implemented their plans for leaving the ground-level surface while the mysterious red-orange fog slowly covered the Earth.  When adapting to life in a "theriopolis" (or beast-city), keeping us above the surface on water would be as important as getting above the 1,000-foot fog ceiling in the first place.  If these teams observed Triton traversing the water, his strider-like cilia would be an immediate point of focus.  Next, to counteract the added weight of a population and its township on Triton's back, it would simply be a matter of developing a long-lasting flotation device to help keep us up.  Conventional balloon/bladder systems would leak or be crushed, possibly in a matter of months.  But a solid, flexible, superbuoyant shoe of some kind would accommodate changes in terrain, weather and weight, providing a long-term solution to compensate for our mass.

The Helsinki University of Technology in Espoo, Finland, has already developed a breakthrough material that solves the "water-walking" problem raised by Triton.  Explained further at the American Chemical Society website, this aerogel, derived from the cellulose in plants, keeps 1000x its own weight buoyant in water.  If we combine this with the water strider's nano-fibrous seafaring, so to speak, the solution becomes clear.

Let's pretend we shod Triton like a horse with just 5,000 lbs. of Helsinki University's nanocellulose aerogel on each of his four feet.  That's the weight of one mid-size sedan each - a small burden to lift for a half-mile tall creature.  With that, we could float 20 million pounds of added weight without Triton's feet even treading any deeper on his trek across the ocean, let alone sinking him entirely.  This equates to roughly 60 small homes - each the size of a two-bedroom apartment - plus their inhabitants, even before calculating in what Triton's (and the remainder of his cilia's) natural buoyancy could keep up.

By neutralizing much of this added cargo's gravitational pressure on the water, Triton could maintain a steady speed as he skated the ocean's surface.  The second question is:  How long is Triton's journey, assuming he could walk on the surface and float along the water?  Like I said, Triton is attracted to the Earth's cities that had the highest populations before we left the surface.  He walks a global path stopping at 50 of those cities, which are pinpointed on this downloadable map along with Proteus's path, which I'll discuss another time.  Connecting these 50 points in a semi-linear pattern (with brief stops to stretch his legs in Saipan and Honolulu), Triton completes his circuit in 48,033 miles.  For current hypothetical purposes, I'm assuming Triton meanders at about 15 mph.  Simple division tells us that, if he didn't stop for an instant at any one city, his trip around the globe would take 3,202 hours, or 133 days and 10 hours.  If he paused for an hour per city, it would take him 135 days and 12 hours to circle the earth completely.

The third question is:  Why figure this stuff out so exactly?  First, I hate deus ex machinas.  Nearly anything I put in a book, I want explained and believable.  "Suspension of disbelief" is a great mental tool that allows us to go along with a fictional story, but I aim to test your faith as little as is humanly possible.  Second, by writing distinct personality traits and locomotive speeds for each leviathan, I can triangulate their global position down to within 10 miles (or one hour) for any moment in their 100-year tenure roaming the planet.  If a person needs to travel from Triton to Proteus (for example), I need to know when, where and how often the two would cross paths in order to make that happen.  Since this book will involve a healthy amount of inter-colossi travel, I couldn't ask a reader to pay money for it if I kept saying "Oh, fortunately, these two beasts just happened to cross paths that day."  If one character needs to get to a city that his/her titan doesn't visit - or to a person on another titan - one or several transfers (plus some overnight stays atop skyscrapers in between) arise as feasible options.

With these planned migration routes, Earth just became a worldwide above-level subway system.

Thanks for reading.  Stay tuned for more insight into my next book.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Leviathan Migration Patterns, Map 01.

In order to incorporate human travel from one of this book's gigantic beasts to another, I sought to establish routes by which they'd circumnavigate the planet.  Aside from the creatures themselves, however, I wanted to root as much of the novel in reality as I could.  I thought it would be too easy, or even "cheating," if I arbitrarily had them cross paths whenever I saw fit for the story.  Instead, I opted to give my colossi personalities, as many species of animal have in our world.  This would help determine which paths they'd take around Earth and why.

Today I'm proud to present the fruits of my last week's research:  the migration patterns for my largest two leviathans, Triton and Proteus.  Here's a mid-size map of the places they visit; please feel free to click here to download an extra large (4.94mb) .jpg of the same map, or simply click this image for a larger version.  (More text below)

Upon emerging from the sea, Triton, the largest creature, was attracted to some of the cities on Earth that had the largest populations of people - as a big fella, he likes big cities, which is how his routine developed.  Of course, since humans now live on the leviathans' backs, Triton's journey - which takes him to 50 of the largest cities we had at the time of departing the ground - continues now more out of habit than anything else.  On this map, his points of interest are displayed as red dots.

I've imagined Proteus as a creature with longer front legs than hind legs, like a gorilla that walks with his fists on the ground.  Since this puts him at such a peculiar upwards-looking angle, Proteus is a silly and curious titan who loves the tallest things.  Since his arrival, he has circled Earth visiting and playing with 25 or so of the world's tallest skyscrapers and tower structures.  He sees them the same way we see Stonehenge or the Easter Island heads - curiosities our size or bigger - although Proteus isn't afraid to use a billion-dollar high-rise to scratch an itch on his shoulder.  His favorite spots to travel are represented by green dots (or green circles surrounding red dots, whenever Proteus and Triton both visit the same city).

One of the great things about setting this life-changing event in the near future is the opportunity to write in buildings that have yet to finish construction as of Fall 2015, like the Hermitage Towers in Paris or the Wilshire Grand in Los Angeles.  Again, I wanted to make this world as real as possible, so I stopped myself from inventing new skyscrapers as an easy crutch for writing the travel routes.  However, utilizing unfinished towers lends the setting the near-future tone for which I'm aiming.

Stay tuned, there's a lot more to come.