Christopher Franke, one of the creative minds behind â€˜Tangerine Dreamâ€™ and the composer for five years of â€˜Babylon 5â€™ composed a suite called â€˜Voices of Authorityâ€™ (a section of which was eventually used as the theme music to year five of â€˜Babylon 5â€™). It is a stirring military piece that I like walking to. It makes me want to conquer the world and impose my own special tyranny on society. It also inspired me to try and write a short piece of fiction in the time it takes to play (eleven minutes, approximately). Here is the result.
â€œFive minutes until the destruction of the Earth, commander.â€
Milev looked over towards his adjutant.
â€œVery good, Mister Anders. Adjust our orbit accordingly and prepare the crew for shockwave in ten minutes time.â€
â€œYes sir. Will you wish for anything before the event?â€
â€œNo. The desolation that is my soul is enough to keep me going for the time being. Dismissed, Mister Anders.â€
It was magnificient, he had to admit. A cliche of the highest calibre, but then again, were not they all in this time? Five thousand years of recorded history; one super-civilisation that rose out of so much strife and hatred.
â€œFor what purpose did we do all of this?â€ he asked aloud.
Because we could was his silent rejoinder.
The American continents were before him now. From space the Earth looked unoccupied. You could, if you knew where to look, see the slight discolouration where the larger cities lay. If you cared to consider it then you could then try to imagine the billions of people making their way through their lives down there. Families, governments, corporations; none of them aware that above them say a single ship, the result of a centuryâ€™s endeavour, readying a weapon no one thought possible, to destroy every last one of them.
All because someone could.
Which should have been the end. However, flushed with a certain liking of the proceedings thus far (no matter how angsty is was) I decided to hit repeat and continue on. The further results were not pleasing. Indeed, uninspired is the word I would use. Having set myself the unenviable task of destroying the Earth I somewhat was at a loss of how to do it, and suddenly I was trying to come up with a mechanism and rationale.
Overthinking is a constant issue in writing. It marks the difference between story as explanation and story as exposition. Exposition is the writer telling you what is going on; explanation is the writer providing answers to questions. The problem often is that some answers are irrelevant, and irrelevant answers produce exposition that bogs down the flow. Take the following, unfinished section of the story (to whit, the bit I shouldnâ€™t have written)
The shipâ€™s intercom activated. â€œWeapon ignition in T-minus thirty seconds.â€
â€œThis is Commander Milev; crew, may I have your attention. In under thirty-seconds time the Megaran Quantum Solution will be employed. You may wish to say goodbye to the Earth before retiring to your capsules. Milev out.â€
Five… Milev considered briefly aborting the process.
The Earth appeared to stop in its orbit. For a brief moment Milev considered the trillions of people left hanging above the ground as gravity ceased to be a factor in their day to lives.
T-minus one second.
T-minus two seconds.
T-minus three seconds.
The nearly-spherical object once known as the Earth began to dissolve, streams of matter dispersing outwards.
This is just exposition. It doesnâ€™t serve any narrative point. It tells us nothing about Milev and doesnâ€™t do a great job of creating tension. It is, in fact, a waste of my time and yours.
Thank the gods above and the gods below, then, that I realised that continuation was a bad idea. Worry, however, that it took me a good ten minutes to realise that.