An extract from Prelude: The Expanding Seas of Earth by J.H. Tabbott
The research vessel Sally’s Pride. Plucked off the ocean by an alien expeditionary force planning an invasion, Dr. Maggie Kestler and her crew must find a way to warn Earth.
Time is running out, and the best plans Maggie’s devised so far are probably suicidal. When an even more daring plan comes to light, she must choose. However, the final solution will test their strengths, beliefs, and personal hopes beyond all limits as they journey toward a strange new reality…
Maggie grabbed a short plastic tumbler from the counter and tugged at one of the chairs by the table. It was tethered to the mess deck by cable for rough seas, but there were no rough seas in space. Pouring the dark red wine into her glass, she toasted, “Here’s to surviving.”
The Coulets lifted their glasses in salute. Adele spoke. “Oh, I think we all survive. It is of Earth I am not so sure.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of.” Maggie regarded them admiringly. They were obviously soul-mates. When Blaise spoke to Adele, you could hear the respect and warmth in his voice. And Adele’s trust and admiration toward him always shone through, even when she teased him, which she and – it seemed to Maggie – even he clearly enjoyed. Their passions for each other may have cooled, but not waned.
“You’ve spent more time on the teaching machines, and spoken to Khreseea more,” Maggie asked, “What do you think of their plans?”
“Well, do you mean will their plans succeed? Or do you wonder what their plans will mean to Earth?”
“Good point, but I guess both…”
Blaise nodded, and took a slow sip of his wine, then looked directly into Maggie’s eyes. “We have discussed this before, between ourselves,” Blaise glanced at Adele, “and the conclusion is always the same. Their plan will succeed. It is unstoppable. We have not seen their weapons, but we have seen a little more of their ship and have been allowed a small peek at their science…so far ahead of our own, so powerful. If their weaponry were only a fraction as advanced as their other technologies, Earth would have no defense. Earth may fight, but it will be a short fight. Non, Earth’s governments will cooperate.”
“And what about the people? You think this rosy picture they paint of cooperation – advanced medical technology, ending famine, humanity becoming part of the greater universe – is that realistic?”
“We all die,” Adele responded, “Certainmente they can help us live longer, but inevitably we all die. Our own technologies have already added many years to human life. Hunger? We can cure it ourselves even now. It is only a question of politics and transport that starves people. These things, I think they can fix, but so can we. But becoming part of a greater universe…I don’t think.”
Blaise spoke up. “Was the French peasant part of the greater universe under Louis the 16th? Did the American farmers feel part of the greater British empire before 1776? These are the pretenses people of power embrace to justify their ambitions. The only thing that is real is that they will be in power, and we–we will be powerless.”
Maggie digested the words first, uncertainly. “Do you think we have any chance? Can we change anything? Stop them?”
“We have wondered the same,” Blaise said quietly, “but we have come up with no answer.”
“We had thought maybe some way to warn Earth,” Adele added, “but, of course, even then what could Earth do?”
“Have you seen anything, any clue, how we could warn Earth?” Maggie asked.
“Aaahh, yes.” Adele smiled conspiratorially at Blaise. “My husband has thought of two such wonderful plans”
Blaise sighed dismissively, and turned to Maggie, “I would not myself call them plans. And only if we were very fortunate would one work. If we could get to their communications system–and had time to decipher it–we might send a warning to Earth before we were captured. But most likely we would not have time enough. The second has a better chance. If we could get to their engineering, I think we could much easier compromise this ship’s containment fields. They would not have time to react, and Earth would know we are here.”
“But their containment fields…for their power source?”
“Yes. They control great power. Unleashed, we could paint a bright spot on the night sky. I am sure we are still within our solar system. We would be seen. Questions asked. This close, it would be known this was not natural–a warning at least that something very dangerous was near.”
“But we’d be dead. We’d blow up the ship with ourselves on board. And it could take years before Earth found wreckage and really understood.”
“Well,” Blaise swirled the wine around in his glass, “it is not a perfect plan.”
A Bite of... J.H. Tabbott
Question one: How much of you is in your hero/villain?
I don’t know. But I suspect all authors imbue both their heroes and villains with at least some aspect of themselves. In Maggie Kestler, I see much uncertainty. She has a strong opinion of what must be done, but a built in resistance to stepping out of her comfort zone to make decisions for others. I can relate to that, including sometimes over-thinking decisions I must make. In Kreseea, I see someone operating completely in her comfort zone – confident and arrogant in her ability to control situations. In my particular area of expertise, I am confident. And honestly, within that domain, sometimes I will show a little arrogance – to a purpose, for getting things done. I think people who at least know what they’re doing are entitled to occasionally show a little arrogance – so long as they don’t lose sight of the real possibility they could still fall on their faces. Arrogance makes the fall all that harder, so it is rarely worth it.
Question two: Would you rather live in this world or the one you create in your books?
Well, despite all its flaws, I like this world. I’d just like to change it in new and exciting ways–so I like exploring change. However, I believe there are limits to what we can change. What it means to be human is to be imperfect, but be capable of seeing perfection. Only not everyone’s vision or values are clear, so people develop different versions of perfection. I don’t believe people, individually, will change, but in the aggregate I do believe human society will always draw toward perfection – just never reaching that goal because humanity has built-in flaws.
So I enjoy writing about game-changers. In PRELUDE, I give my protagonists a chance to lead humanity onto a new path. Yet I have them respect everyone’s right to choose. What I’d like to see most in this world or any imagined future, is universal acceptance that everyone has a natural right to choose their own path, and make all their own personal decisions.
And, of course, I’d love to live in a world where interstellar travel is a routine thing.
If it is an integral part of your theme, or can help supporting your theme, then use it.
Question three: Chips or pasta?
It depends upon the occasion. Watching football? Chips! Dinner with my beautiful wife? Pasta, a nice salad, and a good Merlot.
What time of day do you write best?
I don’t know, but usually I’m stuck writing evenings between nine and midnight. Day job done, a little quality time with my wife, then dive in. I would love to have mornings, to see what happens when I’m fresh.
J.H. Tabbott in his own words
I’m a native New Yorker, who grew up loving reading and aspired by age nine to become an author. New York City has so many diverse and rich real-life characters, I was inspired to write “the great American novel” – which ambition was further out of my reach than expected. And my early disappointment led me to set writing aside too soon.
My other love is the water. I like telling people I was born on an island, with all the rich tropical images that conveys. Then I tell them it was Staten Island – in New York City. One of the five Boroughs. Entirely different images ensue.
But still I was surrounded by water and bought my first boat by the age of nineteen. Cruising New York harbor and the Atlantic Highlands inspired and fulfilled my need to explore new places. It later seemed fitting when I began work at a steamship company and learned about the waterfront from the bottom up. Working with ships and international trade became my career, and I still enjoy it. But writing was always my first love. I never forgot it.
I became most attracted to science fiction because every story was an exploration of new worlds and new ideas. My earliest favorite was Isaac Asimov. His wonderful cleverness and humor still inspires me.
I enjoy knocking about on boats and enjoy watching sunsets over the St. Johns River from my home. But now, after the sun sets I turn on my computer, and have the thrill of creating my own new worlds to share with others. It’s a soaring freedom hard to come by in other jobs.
Prelude: The Expanding Seas of Earth is out now.