Today we are excited to welcome Fran Wilde to The Speculative Herald. She is here to tell us about all the fascinating (and potentially bad) things that can happen with altitude changes. Her latest book, Cloudbound, releases today, and unfortunate for her characters, they are faced with the altitude change from heading down to the clouds in this book.
Into the Depths
By Fran Wilde
While Updraft (Tor 2015) is a pretty level novel — flying-wise — Cloudbound (Tor 2016) does exactly what it says on the tin… by heading into the clouds. In this case, vertical worldbuilding became an important part of the characters’ plight, and very quickly, because: science!
How does a high-altitude culture experience a plunge into the depths? My research suggested a couple of potential reactions, and follow-up discussions with several physicians helped support this.
One reaction was a variation on over-oxygenation, hyperoxia, or oxygen intoxication, where the brain gets a rush of unexpected 02 – much more than it’s used to, and too quickly. Side effects can include: disorientation, breathing problems, and vision changes such as myopia. Other observed effects of more oxygen than normal can include elation, a natural high, and/or extreme calm.
Another reaction for my characters who ventured into the depths, due to the increased clouds and dietary changes, was a severe lack of certain vitamins. Many of them were already lacking in some vitamins anyway. (Hey, I’ve never said I was nice to my characters.)
So in Cloudbound, I got to play with giving them modified scurvy, rickets, and a variation on the bends.
What did that mean for characters in Cloudbound? They found ways to acclimate to the lower depths, using stages, much as divers do for long ascents after long times underwater. They skipped it at their peril. Some experienced physical reactions and difficulties with wounds healing. Several characters relate songs and tales where fliers went into the clouds, never to return, both in Updraft and Cloudbound. Everyone originally thinks this is because of the resident skymouths and bone eaters (I mean, how could you not?), but now, people begin to wonder if this is a case of
a really mean author other environmental hazards. And they’re pretty right.
Worldbuilding science – it’s not just about landscapes and living quarters, it’s about being mean to your characters!
I’m looking forward to seeing you beneath the clouds for Cloudbound! Don’t forget to acclimate!
Fran Wilde is the author of the Andre Norton-, and Compton Crook Award-winning and Nebula-nominated novel Updraft (Tor 2015), its sequel, Cloudbound, publishing from Tor in September 2016, and the novella The Jewel and Her Lapidary (Tor.com Publishing). Her short stories appear in Asimov’s, Tor.com, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Nature. She writes for publications including The Washington Post, Tor.com, Clarkesworld, iO9.com, and GeekMom.com. You can find her on twitter @fran_wilde, Facebook @franwildewrites and at franwilde.net.
Published by Tor Books on September 27th 2016
Our reviews of this author: The Jewel and Her Lapidary
Updraft (Bone Universe, #1) by Fran Wilde
"As children, we learned early that the clouds were dangerous. Turns out the city wasn't all that much safer."
After the dust settles, the City of living bones begins to die, and more trouble brews beneath the clouds in this stirring companion to Fran Wilde's Updraft.
When Kirit Densira left her home tower for the skies, she gave up many things: her beloved family, her known way of life, her dreams of flying as a trader for her tower, her dreams. Kirit set her City upside down, and fomented a massive rebellion at the Spire, to the good of the towers—but months later, everything has fallen to pieces.
In Cloudbound, with the Towers in disarray, without a governing body or any defense against the dangers lurking in the clouds, daily life is full of terror and strife. Naton, Kirit's wing-brother, sets out to be a hero in his own way—sitting on the new Council to cast votes protecting Tower-born, and exploring lower tiers to find more materials to repair the struggling City.
But what he finds down-tier is more secrets—and now Nat will have to decide who to trust, and how to trust himself without losing those he holds most dear, before a dangerous myth raises a surprisingly realistic threat to the crippled City.
In the sky-high city of living bone, to fall beneath the clouds is to be lost forever. But Nat Densira finds more in the grey expanse than he ever expected. To survive, he must let go of everything he believes.
Published by Tor Books on September 1st 2015
Our reviews of this author: The Jewel and Her Lapidary
Library Journal Starred ReviewLibrary Journal Debut of the Month Publisher's Weekly Starred Review Publisher's Weekly Fall 2015 SF, Fantasy & Horror Top 10
In a city of living bone rising high above the clouds, where danger hides in the wind and the ground is lost to legend, a young woman must expose a dangerous secret to save everyone she loves.
Welcome to a world of wind and bone, songs and silence, betrayal and courage.
Kirit Densira cannot wait to pass her wingtest and begin flying as a trader by her mother's side, being in service to her beloved home tower and exploring the skies beyond. When Kirit inadvertently breaks Tower Law, the city's secretive governing body, the Singers, demand that she become one of them instead. In an attempt to save her family from greater censure, Kirit must give up her dreams to throw herself into the dangerous training at the Spire, the tallest, most forbidding tower, deep at the heart of the City.
As she grows in knowledge and power, she starts to uncover the depths of Spire secrets. Kirit begins to doubt her world and its unassailable Laws, setting in motion a chain of events that will lead to a haunting choice, and may well change the city forever—if it isn't destroyed outright.