MARGO ST. AUBIN TAKES OVER THE BLOG TODAY. MARGOT’S STORY, VENUS TIMES THREE, WAS INCLUDED IN TUSCANY BAY BOOKS’ PLANETARY ANTHOLOGY SERIES: VENUS. IN ADDITION, MARGOT ALSO HAS A STORY IN THE VENUS EDITION OF THE SERIES. TODAY SHE WILL TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT HER STORY IN VENUS.
After having written “How to Train Your Werewolf”, I really wanted to write something space-y for the next anthology. Writing about the Greek goddess of Love seemed like cheating. Blending into this was my fondness for the short stories of Harry Harrison, in particular “ The Men from PIG and ROBOT”. I wanted something uplifting, quirky and with an emphasis on character.
Jude Gates ESQ was born in part thanks to the Baen Free Radio Hour. They talked about the Liaden series, describing one of its offshoots as staring characters resembling Wooster and Jeeves as Men About Space. This tickled my funny bone
and settled into my subconscious. Then I started rereading the complete short story anthology of Dorthy L. Sayers, starring primarily Lord Peter Wimsey. I particularly enjoyed the later stories, about Harriet and Lord Peter as parents, or working together. I suppose Mr. & Mrs. North and Nick & Nora Charles in The Thin Man had their influences, too.
The lynchpin was while going through Amazon looking at books. Then on CSPAN I heard about a book called “ Who owns the Moon?”– and land ownership and mining rights were as complex, if not more so– than the law of the sea. Suddenly, clever lawyers in space-saving our world from excess litigation captured my imagination. It didn’t hurt that Tom Stranger had come out recently. Thank you Larry, I think I popped a rib laughing. While I did have this idea floating around before Tom Stranger came out, it did help me realize that this whole thing had to be a comedy.
While Jason evolved organically with the plot of his story, Jude was fully formed before the story was written. So he was not only on the search for more money, he was in search of a plot.
Because it was Venus, I knew Jude had to fall in love. A nebbishy awkward fellow with a gift for gab would require a very special lady to fall in love with. Thus Saudella was born. In order to see his charm, she’d have to be a mind reader. It’s space opera, of course that can happen! I admit, I borrowed some of her character from the secretary on WKRP in Cincinnati.
Looking further for a flushed out plot, I borrowed some plot points from a Babylon 5 episode. That would be A Voice in The Wilderness, season 1. The episode neglected to delve into how mining rights might be affected. Therefore I knew I had a new slant on Epsilon III. Then I looked up some stuff about mining rights– and fun facts about the planet Venus. Writing a story is like making sausage. You are allowed to get parts from anywhere, but they better taste good together.
The last and final ingredient was actually Tinney. I borrowed his name from a friend’s last name on FaceBook. I wanted a contrast to Saudella’s unique AI experience. I also had a narrative voice that was certainly not Jude, but it knew enough about Jude’s private thoughts it had to be an AI with neural net access. Not to mention, if his knowledge was as vast as it would have to be– he’d need help organizing it. Plus, he needs a lot more storage than a human brain has available. Last but not least, he’s a little reminder that it really is Space Opera.
He is a great boisterous foil for Jude, plus helped define what technology is like in this world. He isn’t exactly Jude’s Bunter, lacking in any social graces. Yet he says all the things that Jude won’t say and more besides. I admit, no knowledge of how AIs work went into building him. This is space opera. I won’t besmirch “science” by calling this “science fantasy”. I tried to introduce some realistic concerns here and there, because Bujold taught me that even space opera has to feel real at some level to sell your world to the reader.
Knowing a little bit about computers, I decided to give him a portable body. Basically, a robot shell that he can inhabit, and do physical things for Jude now and then. It’s an idea that I partially borrowed from Fool’s War and When Gravity Fails. The idea is that The AI both lives in Jude’s head to help him with his law practice, and can also inhabit the robot body. As a complex piece of software, he can jump to one or both places. The only issue is that the part of him in the robot has a limit to how far it can transmit data privately.
The plot is as follows:
The esteemed head of an astronomically wealthy family dies, leaving several relatives conflicted over the will. As the family lawyers to the deceased, Jude and his brother are asked to present the will and arbitrate the estate holdings. The megalithic conglomerate that spans the galaxy becomes the arena where powerful personalities clash over differing opinions on future direction for the company.
The strangest part of the conflict is over mineral rights for the Planet Venus. Who knew our galaxy’s white elephant was prone to causing such strife? Well, Venus is the goddess of love in Roman mythology, so maybe we should consider ourselves forewarned.
On the way to the reading of the will, he learns that another lawyer is joining the fray to reveal a secret codicil that will determine the future of planets.
To make matters worse, he’s falling in love with this beautiful and mysterious woman, whose motives and role are unknown. Rumor has it that her input will drastically change the will with a codicil. It is clear she has some unusual talents. It may even be possible that she would use his feelings against him. All while he does his best to protect the family– against itself, and all other interests, business and personal.
When another family member is killed at the reading, and the wife of the original deceased disappears, who knows what will be the outcome for the family? For the corporation? For the planet?
And all Jude has is a vast knowledge of interstellar property law, a wisecracking AI, and a brother who straightens his tie at awkward moments. His father and head of the law firm, who has known the family all of his life, must correspond virtually because he is also dying from an intergalactic virus.
I suppose it is fitting that the reading of the will takes place on Mars, the planet of strife.
I think the hardest part of writing this story was actually finding a name for it. I stole Venus Times Three from a classic novel of science fiction. It started out as a working title. The editor liked it, so we kept it.
The most horrible thing about all this is that my search engine, plus AMAZON show me the name of my own short story, but not this classic work of Science Fiction! I hope I can encourage more people to read classic science fiction. But it’s okay if you read me, too. I hope you have as much fun reading this story as I had writing it.
– Margot St Aubin
Margot St Aubin has tried everything from web designer for a law firm, security guard for a famous auto company (among other places), a clerk at the Borders home office, to learning to code. No one told her that pythoness had anything to do with well poisoning. If you ask nicely, she makes book covers. She loves to travel, which seems to mean getting stuck in foreign countries, being harassed by the secret police, and being shut out of famous landmarks by burly men with machine guns. Juggling words and harassing fictional characters is overall more satisfying. For her sins, she is stranded in New York city for the duration. She is hopeful that messages in a bottle will lead to rescue soon. She lives in a bunker with her family at an undisclosed location in Queens.