Tuesday, 11 March 2014

370km up and nowhere to run: Malcolm Cross on space station horror story Orbital Decay

Imagine being trapped in a tin can moving at five miles per second with unspeakable terrors inside and nothing but pitiless vacuum outside. That's the horrific situation facing the astronauts of the International Space Station in the brand new ebook from Abaddon Books - Orbital Decay.

This latest ebook exclusive from Abaddon in the Afterblight Chronicles series has been written by Malcolm Cross and we asked him to explain why setting his new novella on the ISS was the ultimate in horror settings.

My generation didn't have the moon landings.

The Space Shuttle was so passé it barely rated a news item, Skylab had long ago been abandoned and burned up, there was a fire on Mir and we hardly even heard about it. The International Space Station? It's been up there for sixteen years. Mostly we don't think about it.

For decades we all took human spaceflight for granted, and then Chris Hadfield burst onto twitter and Gravity rocked the Oscars, and then the spacemen over your head became real. For a lot of us it produced a brief disconnect with reality, a moment to dream in, a thrilling heartbeat where the silly childhood idea Star Trek might be real came back.

Obviously, I leapt at the opportunity when Abaddon Books offered me the chance to write about what happened on the ISS during the apocalyptic plague that kicks off their Afterblight Chronicles setting. Trouble is, for a good horror story, often you need to start somewhere normal and familiar, then take your reader to a place that's threateningly different. 

The International Space Station? It isn't familiar. It's a flying can with two very different architectural styles in the American and Russian sections, constantly noisy with the hum of air circulation fans. Silence isn't peace and quiet -- it's a reason to panic in case the air goes stale and asphyxiates you. There are dozens of sunrises every day, and just as many nights.

Trying to make it seem familiar felt sacrilegious. But that was my first goal, working in the routine around day to day research, everyday life with big 'family' dinners the whole crew gathers for, and even being forced to swallow down toothpaste because, after all, you can't spit into a sink without gravity's help. Even if the International Space Station's a place where you can turn the wall into the floor and a corridor into a canyon to fly through with just a twist of the body, to the Astronauts who call it home, it really is home.

And like any home, it's a great place to set a horror story.

Orbital Decay by Malcolm Cross is out now in ebook from Abaddon Books and available direct from the Rebellion Publishing webshop.

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