‘Up Against It’ examines life in the asteroid belt

against ita science fiction novel by environmental engineer Laura J. Mixon, explores life aboard the asteroid 25 Phocaea. The book takes a more realistic approach to space adventure, avoiding familiar tropes like FTL drives and instant communications.

“When I read science fiction, I can really dig into things that have a lot of scientific backing,” Mixon says in episode 517 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcasting. “When I write, I really try to immerse myself in that challenge of ‘How can I make this believable but still really amaze the reader?'”

against it paints a vivid picture of a space colony full of asteroid miners, gene hackers and Martians. An interesting detail is ‘the Circuit’, a rite of passage in which characters take a 13-year journey around the asteroid belt. “Especially because people are living longer [in the future], they feel they can afford to do that,” Mixon says. “It’s a bit like the people who climb Everest, only I think you feel a bit more like you’re not really a ‘stroider’ unless you can say you’ve done this.”

One of the main characters of the book is Jane Navio, resource management commissioner at 25 Phocaea. For inspiration, Mixon drew on her own experience as a corporate officer at a scandal-plagued investment bank. “I think Jane regrets her past, and dealing with all the political machinations and how you get things done when people have very different agendas than yours, which have had a huge impact on against it,” she says.

She hopes the book will encourage human settlement elsewhere in the solar system. “I really think storytellers are a really important part of creating the future we want to see,” she says. “You have to imagine it before you can do it, so I wanted to write stories about that.”

Listen to the full interview with Laura J. Mixon on episode 517 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (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 recruiting editor for this new YA series they launched. They were looking for proposals and suddenly I had a flash of what I knew I wanted to write. I sat down and wrote the first three chapters and an outline in just a very short time – while still sick with the flu, over Thanksgiving weekend – and then sent it in. And then, within a week and a half or two, Ellen contacted me and told me she wanted to buy it. I was stunned. I never thought it would be so easy.

Laura J. Mixon on her novel Proxies

I learned how to write that while I was at it. It is a story with multiple 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. That person is a young man who has been trained to essentially split his consciousness – essentially he did [dissociative identity disorder]- but it was set up in such a way that he could check several proxy holders at the same time. One of them is a woman, and she is one of the main characters of the book. That’s a challenge to write – and probably read – but I love that book a lot.

Laura J. Mixon on asteroids:

The first scene I wrote [in Up Against It] was actually from Jane’s perspective, when she’s swinging on the vines. They have these chains, which is one way they can travel between different asteroids. There are three that are strung in the same orbit, and they use ion correctional jets to keep them aligned, but the rest, there are what I call “tree orbits,” these stiff cables that run out of the cables between those three asteroids – because asteroids are really far apart. When you see in the movies where all these asteroids are clustered together, that’s not what it really looks like.

Laura J. Mixon on research:

One of my clients was a mining company, BHP Billiton, and David Porterfield was my primary contact. So a lot of the mining details, he was really happy for me to interview him and get information about the kind of challenges miners face and speculate, “What would it be like in a microgravity environment?” I told him I wanted Geoff and his friends to have something plausible but funky and weird to ward off the bad guys when cornered in Geoff’s little claim, and he told me about potato guns† He said, “I actually have one and we can go out and fire it.” It was very nice.

More great WIRED stories

Go back upstairs. Continue to: beginning of article.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *