‘Up Against It’ explores life in the asteroid belt

Against a currenta science fiction novel about an environmental engineer Laura J. Mixon, explores life aboard asteroid 25 Phocaea. The book takes a more realistic approach to space adventure, eschewing familiar tropes such as FTL drives and instant communication.

“When I read science fiction, one of the things I can really get into is things that have a lot of scientific basis,” Mixon says in episode 517 of The The Galaxy Geek’s Guide podcast. “When I write, I try to really dive into this challenge of, ‘How do I make this believable while still blowing the reader away? “”

Against a current paints a vivid picture of a space colony full of asteroid miners, gene pirates, and Martian gangsters. An interesting detail is “the Circuit”, a rite of passage in which the characters take a 13-year journey around the asteroid belt. “Particularly because people are living longer [in the future], they feel like they can afford to do it,” Mixon says. “It’s kind of like people climbing Everest, except I think there’s a bit more of a feeling that you’re not really a ‘stroid’ unless you can tell you have Do it.”

One of the main characters in the book is Jane Navio, commissioner for resource management at 25th Phocaea. For inspiration, Mixon drew on her own experience as the head of a scandal-ridden investment bank. “I think Jane’s regrets about her past, and having to deal with all the political machinations and how to get things done when people might have very different agendas to yours, that influenced a lot Against a current,” she says.

She hopes the book will help encourage human settlements elsewhere in the solar system. “I think storytellers play a very important role in realizing the future we want to see,” she says. “You have to be able to imagine it before you can do it, so I wanted to write stories about it.”

Listen to the full interview with Laura J. Mixon in episode 517 of The Galaxy Geek’s Guide (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.

Laura J. Mixon on her first novel Astropilots:

Melinda Snodgrass was friends with Ellen Datlow, who was the acquiring publisher for this new YA series they were launching. They were looking for submissions, and all of a sudden I had this flash of what I knew I wanted to write. I sat down and wrote the first three chapters and an outline in a very short time—while still sick with the flu, over Thanksgiving weekend—and then sent it off. And then, in a week and a half or two weeks, Ellen contacted me and said she wanted to buy it. I was flabbergasted. I never would have thought it would be so easy.

Laura J. Mixon on her novel Proxies:

I was learning to write that as I went along. It is a story from several points of view. The first character you meet has amnesia, and it turns out that person is actually one of three personalities that occupy the same body. This person is a young man who has been trained to essentially split his consciousness – essentially he has [dissociative identity disorder]- but it was induced so that it could control different mandatory bodies at the same time. One of them is a woman, and she is one of the main characters in the book. It’s a hard thing to write – and probably to read – but I have a lot of affection for this book.

Laura J. Mixon on asteroids:

The first scene I wrote [in Up Against It] was actually from Jane’s perspective, when she was swinging through the vines. They have these tethers, which allows them to travel between different asteroids. There are three that are chained together in the same orbit, and they use ion correction jets to keep them aligned, but the rest are what I call “treeways”, which are these rigid cables that s ‘lay cables among those three asteroids—because the asteroids are so far away. Every time you see in the movies where they have all these asteroids grouped together, that’s not really what it looks like.

Laura J. Mixon on research:

One of my clients was a mining company, BHP Billiton, and David Porterfield was my main contact. So for a lot of mining details, he was very happy for me to interview him and get some insight into the kinds of challenges that miners face and speculate on, “What would that be like in a mining environment? microgravity? I told him I wanted Geoff and his friends to have something plausible but funky and weird to fight the bad guys when they got stuck in Geoff’s little claim, and he told me about potato guns. He said, “Actually, I have one and we can go out and shoot it.” It was very fun.

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