notes on Slip Point
I often tackle romances by deciding on a tried and true trope. The trope of choice here was childhood friends into lovers (which turned into reunited lovers). It's such an elegant solution to the problem of giving a couple enough time to fall for each other. And as someone who moved a lot as a kid, I always felt envious of folks who grew up with the archetypical boy next door. There's also the fun in exploring how people change, like the rebellious Jayce becoming a straightlaced Corps pilot.
I'd noticed that I'd used flashbacks in my previous two works, so I stubbornly decided to write a piece that was strictly chronological, even as it included important scenes from their childhood. I originally wrote a whole set of such scenes, all of them with young Shay and Jayce in friendly competition. I even used "Beat You" as the working title, as someone might say after a race, until I realized that without context it could have violent overtones.
Shay's dad delighted me with his amorality, although I deliberately stayed away from his more questionable acts because I didn't want this story to be too dark or gritty. And I still don't know how Shayalin's parents ever got together, but I'm certain that Mara Cho has an interesting background indeed before she became a Steader. (There may be something in what Jayce says about how she thinks like a rustler...)
I do want to include more GLBT characters in my works, so Quynh and Zakiyah are part of that effort. I also get frustrated when futuristic worlds are represented as monocultural (without good reason, like imperial decree or something of that sort), so I tried to sprinkle in a variety of names and languages. My own experiences growing up in a country where I couldn't speak the language fluently probably inspired the linguistic barrier element.
I have trouble writing science fiction because I have more rigorous world-building standards for it than for fantasy (have I mentioned that I've dated an astrophysicist and have one as a brother-in-law?). But space opera throws out the rules with dramatic flair. It embraces handwavy technologies like faster-than-light travel and old-fashioned standards of honor and morality. Adventuring out in the stars! Big explosions! Who could resist? Still, even in this permissive subgenre, I leaned on science fiction roleplaying game settings manuals (mostly Star Hero by James Cambias and Steven S. Long) — they're a great resource because they're aimed toward story creators and distill a lot of information into a menu of options.
Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan saga stretches the definition of space opera in the best way. It's set in a far future but centered around a planet with archaic standards, and is populated with utterly genuine characters who can make you both laugh and cry.
Pegasus in Flight by Anne McCaffrey deals with a girl with a special talent for interpreting languages (among other talented people). It's very grounded for science fiction, and shows a lot of thought as to how society would react to the emergence of psychic gifts.