Way back in 2016, I was writing my Steampunk adventure The Rocks of Aserol, when I had a couple of ideas for short Sci-fi stories. They were a welcome distraction while I was waiting for inspiration for the Steampunk tale, they became the short stories Ring Miner and The Orbital Livestock Company. They’re featured in my collections Flash Fiction, parts 1 & 2.
The premise of Ring Miner was that there were useful things in the rocks that make up Saturn’s rings and that, in the future, we might try to mine them. It was a dangerous job and the story dealt with a new recruit’s first shift.
The Orbital Livestock Company, or OLC as it came to be known, was a way of solving Earth’s food problem, by farming on space stations. Initially involving animals, I had a theory that I could expand them to include crops as well. I’d already set up a farm under a dome on Reevis (in my novel Ribbonworld), so I’d researched the subject a bit and had a pretty good idea of how to make it sound realistic.
These stories were finished at the same time as I received the challenge, set by my wife, which was to write a female lead character.
Having a wife and three daughters, I figured I had enough background material to make an attempt, the thing was, I wanted to make her different to all the other characters that I was writing. There seemed to be no point in just having a female in the same situations as my male leads. I wanted her to be different, while still being Sci-fi.
At the time, my wife was reading a novel where the lead character (female) is wronged in love and runs away to Cornwall, where she opens a café on the beach.
I had an idea to go one better than that.
I called my new character Andorra Pett, she too was running from a bad relationship, but instead of the beach in Cornwall, she was headed off to a space station orbiting Saturn.
And that was where Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Café was set.
I expect you can see where this is going, the space station was there to mine the rocks in Saturn’s rings and of course, it needed a farm as part of its structure, to supply the inhabitants with food, it being a long way to get deliveries of anything.
All I had to do was put Andorra on the space station and wait for the voices in my head to show me what she would do. It turned out that she bought the lease on an old café. As well as running it and learning how life in space works, she also solved crimes, especially the ones that nobody thought were actually crimes.
Five stories later, she’s still doing it. She’s travelled from Saturn to Mars, briefly been back to Earth, she’s had a voyage on the solar system’s first interplanetary cruise liner and worked as a ring miner. She’s currently on the Moon, where things are not as they seem. After her earlier relationship problems (mostly detailed in Andorra Pett on Mars), she’s found love again, which is good. As it happens, her new partner, Derek, runs the OLC farm situated on the space station. With him, she’s been involved in developing a way of farming lobsters in space, something she could never have imagined herself doing.
Andorra uses her unique way of seeing things that others have missed to work out what’s going on. Even though she’s a bit accident-prone, with a tendency to get into some tricky situations, she continues to come up smiling (so far!).
I love writing about her and discovering the world she lives in. While it’s not that far advanced from our own, there is some interesting technology in her version of our future. It does a good job of keeping everyone alive and safe out there as the Solar system is explored and developed.
What do you think?
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