‘Up Against It’ Explores Life in the Asteroid Belt

Against ita science fiction novel by environmental engineer Laura J. Mixon, explore life on asteroid 25 Phocaea. The book takes a more realistic approach to space adventure, moving away from familiar games like FTL drives and instant communication.

“When I’m reading science fiction, one of the things I can really get into is things that have a lot of scientific basis,” Mixon said in Episode 517 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy audio file. “As I write, I try to really dive into the challenge of ‘How can I make this believable but still really blow the reader’s mind?'”

Against it paints a vivid picture of a space colony rife with asteroid miners, genetic attackers, and Martian bandits. An interesting detail is “The Circuit”, a rite of passage in which the characters make a 13-year journey around the asteroid belt. “Especially because people live longer [in the future], they feel they can do it,” Mixon said. “It’s like people climbing Everest, only I think there’s a bit of a sense that you’re not really a ‘creative, unless you can say you’ve done this.’

One of the main characters of the book is Jane Navio, the trustee of resource management of 25 Phocaea. For inspiration, Mixon drew on his own experience as a corporate officer at a scandal-plagued investment bank. “I think the fact that Jane regrets her past and has to deal with all the political conspiracies and how to get things done when everyone might have a very different agenda than you, that influence a lot Against it,” she speaks.

She hopes the book will help encourage humans to settle elsewhere in the solar system. “I think storytellers are a really important part of delivering the futures we want to see,” she said. “You have to be able to visualize it before you can do that, so I wanted to write stories about that.”

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

Laura J. Mixon in her first novel Astronomers:

Melinda Snodgrass be friends with Ellen Datlow, which editor acquired for this new YA series they are releasing. They were looking for suggestions, and suddenly I realized what I knew I wanted to write. I sat down and wrote the first three chapters and a sketch in a very short amount of time—while I was still sick with the flu, over Thanksgiving weekend—and then sent it off. And then, in a week and a half or two, Ellen contacted me and told me she wanted to buy it. I was amazed. I never thought it would be this easy.

Laura J. Mixon in her novel Proxy:

I learned to write that as I went. It’s a multi-perspective story. The first character you meet has amnesia, and it turns out that person is actually one of three personalities occupying the same body. That person was a young man who had been trained to essentially separate his consciousness — he basically had [dissociative identity disorder]—But it was made so that he could control different authorizations at the same time. One of them is a woman, and she is one of the main characters of the book. It was a difficult thing to write – and perhaps read – but I really loved the book.

Laura J. Mixon on asteroids:

The first scene I wrote [in Up Against It] actually from Jane’s point of view, as she swings on a vines. They have these tethers, which is one way they can travel between different asteroids. There are three that are strung in the same orbit and they use ionic tuning to keep them aligned, but the rest of it, I call the “treeways”, are sturdy cables extending from the cables are three asteroids — because the asteroids are really far apart. Whenever you see in the movies that all these asteroids gather together, that’s not how it really looks.

Laura J. Mixon on the research:

One of my clients is a mining company, BHP Billiton, and David Porterfield is my primary contact. So a lot of details about mining, he was happy when I interviewed him and got information about the types of challenges that miners face and speculated, “What would it be like in a micro-environment?” gravitation?” I told him I wanted Geoff and his friends to have something sensible but funny and weird to fight the bad guys when they were cornered by Geoff, and he told me about potato gun. He said, “I actually have one and we can go out and shoot it.” It was loads of fun.

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