Thursday, October 8, 2009

Beware Greeks Bearing Spaceships

NaNoWriMo is here again and I'm getting geared up for another 30-day mental marathon. This year I'm returning to SF with an adaptation of the Anabasis. I've wanted to do a military SF version of this classic greek military expedition gone horribly wrong for a very long time--now I've got my chance.

Since 50,000 words is basically half of a real novel, I've got a bit of a jump start on the project. I'm writing everything up to the war between Cyrus and Artaxerxes, saving the big action scenes for November 1 so I can start with a bang. Some might feel this is a violation of at least the spirit of NaNoWriMo, but when I get to the end of NaNoWriMo, I'd like to actually reach the end of the novel and 50k just doesn't cut it.

When I was just a kid in grade school, I would often find myself with a half-dozen volumes of The World Book encyclopedia spread across the living room floor open to some subject or other. At one point I made it through to the "X"s where I found an entry for Xenophon and this picture—

—entitled: Xenophon Gave Thanks to the Gods as his “Ten Thousand” Finished Their Long Retreat to the Bosporus.”

I can't say precisely what it was about this picture that so capture my imagination, but after reading about Xenophon and the “March of the Ten Thousand” I would—even years later—bore people with a passionate recounting of those historical events. I know others have done a SF version, but all the ones I know about involve some military force crashing on a planet and having to march around to some sort of spaceport or something. This version will be the first (that I know of) that takes place entirely in space.

The interesting thing about the writing so far is that I've got so many words written and yet all the politics leading up to the initial war is just a tiny fragment of Xenophon's account. It seems strange that such a minor part of his account should be so rich in potential conflict.

At least it doesn't look like I'll run out of material before Nov. 30. The real trick will be injecting the personal transformation of the main character into the story which might be hinted at, but certainly isn't addressed in Xenophon's text.