If you haven't read my fiction entry for the Pod and Planet fiction contest, please read it first unless you have no intention of reading it at all. Because...
** SPOILERS **
Ok? Let's continue.
When I heard about the contest I really wanted to enter this year as I was too busy last year. Previously when I entered a writing contest, the one for Star Fleet Comms podcast (which is gone and missed), I ended up winning and I felt so awesome about that for weeks (still do in fact). The question was, what the hell am I going to write?
One of my favourite pieces of "fiction friday" that I wrote was the one where "Kirith" became a true pod pilot by enduring the test where the instructors simulate a pod breach. As you may or may not know, the pod reads your current mind state at time of a breach and transmits it across the cosmos instantaneously to a new clone, but this process flash-fries your current brain in the process. Thus, this test I wrote about is effectively killing the original person and putting them in their very first clone to live out their life. The only way to immortality in EVE is to first die.
Why would they do that? you ask. Well, the lore is not specific but not everyone successfully survives the neural transference, indeed even experienced pod pilots can suffer a failed transfer, although the odds of a failure drop dramatically after the first one. So if you are a navy and you are going to invest time and money to train a new pod pilot, you sure as hell want to make sure the applicant can actually have a chance to survive a transfer intact.
So the story was going to be about becoming a pod pilot... or more accurately, because I'm a bastard and love suffering, it was going to be about failing to become a pod pilot.
In order to make the failure mean something, the protagonist had to be someone that the reader wants to succeed. Not another manly-man who can-do-no-wrong superhero (we've got plenty of those :P ); I wanted a flawed character who was struggling to become a pod pilot to gain power and control they felt they did not have in their planet bound life. Enter Nina.
We meet Nina as already broken from her rape; who she was before is immaterial as that is a completely different person in a different life. That's why the piece is called "The Life of Nina Cruse", because we see it from its beginning in the hospital bed where she swears she is going to never allow someone to hurt her that bad again, to its end in the cloning facility where her body and brain fail her. She attempted to pass through the gate of death to immortality, and stumbled due to her flaws and the uncaring randomness of the universe.
Someone asked after reading my piece what motivated Nina to become a pod pilot after her assault. In order to understand it, imagine you are yourself living and working on a planet in the EVE universe, a normal person (as normal as you are, of course... we know about that habit you have...), and there exists these people who can go anywhere they want (where travel is expensive and highly regulated for the every-man) and have seemingly unlimited resources and are above any concept of law... who wouldn't want to be part of that class of people if they could? The only barrier to entry is that you effectively have to die in order to become one yourself (ignoring the training, profiling, etc to allow the navy or corporation or whatever to turn you into a pod pilot) and there is a risk you might not survive the transition. How low would that risk have to be before you would attempt it? 10%? 5%? 1%?
This is what motivates Nina to try and become a pod pilot: to her, the perceived risk is negligible compared to the reward of having power over everything around her and protection from those that might seek to harm it. She's chasing an ideal of godhood that she sees in the media all around her and with that power she thinks she will be free from the scars that the rape left on her body and psyche.
And that the tragedy of the piece: we see in the end those scars that gave her strength to overcome any obstacles to her goal are ultimately with her in the transition to the clone, and although I don't come out and say it, possibly responsible for her failure to survive in it.
With the story and character in my head, I was faced with the structure of the piece. I went with a 5 part that I felt had the right pacing and flow: introduction to Nina showing her helpless after her rape and her decision to never be that weak again, followed by three parts showing how she grows in strength and confidence while overcoming barriers and challenges to her desire to become a pod pilot, and ending with the cloning vat table where she realizes that all the strength and desire and willpower in the universe can't help you when it isn't meant to be. And that's the point: had she accepted that her rape was not her fault for being physically weaker than her attacker but solely his fault from the start, she could have healed and had a normal happy life: instead she burned brighter and out sooner.
So the rest is just sausage making: trying to describe relate-able characters without getting bogged down in details, trying to write a female perspective from my male brain, when to narrate and when to have dialogue, etc and so forth.
I'd love to hear feedback and questions if you have any.