Mags and her crew discover signals emanating from the depths of the subterranean ocean on Ceres and risk their lives in uncharted waters to find the source. What they find makes Mags reconsider her role in humanity’s evolution and the final fate of her universe.
It all started with one of my favorite films: The Abyss. I saw it on the big screen (twice) when it came out, and I’ve watched it maybe half a dozen times since then. The middle of this sci-fi film about underwater exploration includes a non-stop, high-stakes action sequence that lasts about half an hour, and I thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool if I could write something like that?”
My original plan was to plot something along those lines. But as I put my characters into a similar situation, something else happened. I ended up plotting a wildly different beginning and ending. I also re-watched another of my favorite films: Das Boot, about a German submarine crew that gets stuck at the bottom of the sea. I realized I was never going to top those two films, and I needed to do my own thing.
That realization was slow to happen, and I’ve written before about how it took some time to put my finger on exactly what the problem was. I’ve also written about the influence of Chaos Theory on this tale, and how much fun it was to refresh my memory on concepts I first read so long ago that I was surprised to find out just how much I have internalized them over the years without even thinking about it.
Another influence was one of my favorite books: Mankind Evolving by evolutionary biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky, published in 1962. The funny thing is, I can’t even remember how I got that paperback in the first place. My best guess is that I got it at a thrift store in Ypsilanti, Michigan — home of the Brick Dick and Iggy Pop. I first referenced the book in the prologue of the third Meteor Mags story I wrote back in 2014, The Weight of the Universe, incorporating its concepts into the series by making it a favorite book of Mags’ teenage sidekick. Mankind Evolving has been mentioned a few times since then, but this episode and its supplementary essay by Mags bring it to the forefront.
Infinite Spaces and its discussion of the nature of “god” are also a counterpoint to episode 31, Permanent Crescent. That previous episode holds nothing back in conveying Mags’ utter contempt for religion. But here, she encounters an object that gives her a glimpse into something bigger than herself and makes her step back to re-consider the nature of our universe. I feel it’s important to examine Mags’ conceptualization of her universe which includes elements of both science and magic, and to explore the conclusions she reaches as she encounters completely weird and unexplainable things.
I toyed with the idea of explaining it all and revealing the secrets. But as I’ve done before, I decided to tell the tale of the encounter and the characters’ reactions to it without giving the reader a cut-and-dried explanation. All of us inhabit a universe that will always be beyond our ability to fully explain, and how we deal with that uncertainty and mystery is part of what defines us and our lives. We are citizens of the unknown and the potentially unknowable, despite our efforts to understand it all.
While I am firmly committed in this series to continually answering questions and eventually solving mysteries our heroes encounter, I also believe that as each mystery is solved, new mysteries must arise. The more these characters learn about their universe, the more they realize just how much remains to be discovered. In that sense, they are no different from us.