I found this writing challenge through a link on Midlife Musing‘s blog. The suggestion is ‘pick up the nearest book and turn to page 123′. At the time I was sitting in my lounge, and I looked around. Not having a book on the coffee table next to me, the nearest book was any one of about a thousand in the bookcase pictured here, so I walked over and picked up the nearest one at random. Next, I’m asked to take the first and last sentences on that page and connect them together. OK, here goes:
‘Quilan wondered about their ship names.’ The one that really caught his eye in the enormous space dinghy supermarket was a little black number called ‘The colour of Space’ which he thought was quietly amusing. ‘So many of their ship names were like that, even if more were just jokey.’
Sadly the page is rather short, being a chapter beginning with an arty-farty spacing-and-line design taking it towards the bottom but it did at least give me an opportunity to name a ship and give me a small private chuckle in memory of a certain ‘Red Dwarf‘ episode.
But wait! Maybe I was supposed to write something longer? Responses on the original website offering the challenge varied between synopses of the page in the book to one-liners like mine, but included some interesting creative efforts several paragraphs long. So let’s try that.
‘Quilan wondered about their ship names.’
She was always a little apprehensive about her first visit to a new culture, and this assignment had been making the hairs stand up on the back of her neck since she’d left Outpost 435 with the instructions ‘See what you can do for them, and try not to get killed’.
It was always hard to understand the motivation of a people who’d suddenly taken off from their homeworld for no good reason that anyone could see and refused to communicate for the best part of three decades, but she found it particularly disturbing that they’d broken silence only to request the presence of a single white female under thirty years old, demanded that the ambassador must be a virgin and must travel alone, and then refused to explain or elaborate.
And so here she was, coming into dock and doing her best to delay the moment when she’d have to leave the safety of her ship and discover exactly what it was they wanted, with the knowledge that the whole future of interplanetary relations rested on her shoulders. No-one had any idea what these lunatics might want, but they’d been odd people to start with, and now they’d had nearly thirty years to continue developing their idiosyncratic weaponry, no-one wanted to upset them. She’d have to be insane not to be nervous.
She cruised past the lines of tethered vessels trying to get a clue to their thinking. You could learn a lot about a culture from the way they named things, and she thought perhaps she was beginning to get a handle on them.
Craning her neck to read the Unisperanto markings on the battered grey hulk nearest to her she could make out the words ‘Benchmark of Fidelity’. She couldn’t read the next one, but the newer transport below it read ‘The End Justifies’. At the end of the first rod of the dock she’d read perhaps fifty names with various themes from the didactic to the incomprehensible. Many of them were amusing – she remembered ‘I May Be Gone Some Time’ and a small dark vessel simply called ‘The White Giant’. But some of the names which seemed merely a little odd nagged at her mind until she solved the riddle and unearthed the sinister message hidden in the words. She shivered. ‘So many of their ship names were like that, even if more were just jokey.’
Wow, that was fun! It’s been a while since I did any kind of writing exercise just for the sake of it! If you’re into creative writing, go try it – and don’t forget to post your results on Booking Through Thursday!
I’ve had a quick browse through the site and it seems to be an interesting place to go if you enjoy books, and though I was disappointed not to find more pieces about writing, I think I’ll probably pop in again.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the book I happened to pick up was ‘Look to Windward’ by Iain M Banks.