A Task Both Amazing and Disconcerting

I am embarked upon a journey into the unknown.

Okay, so not exactly, but I have the opportunity to do something fantastic and it’s not something I’m entirely prepared for. Steel Beneath the Skin is to become an audiobook. It’s something of an experiment; I use audiobooks a lot and have friends who do, but whether this will be a successful enterprise is an open question. The process itself promises to be fascinating, so I plan to document at least some of it here, as things proceed. I’m using the ACX service to find producers and get this thing going, so this will be my view of how that system works for this task.

Obviously, the narrator is going to be key. ACX allows you to hunt through potential narrators/producers for your ideal choice. In this case it hardly seems necessary, but it certainly is fascinating. The talent out there! I should be used to the idea. I listen to the books, I play a fair bit of video games, I like animated movies, so voice acting should be something I think of as commonplace, but there are people out there who can turn their hand to anything.

Thus far, however, I’ve posted the project to ACX’s site and I’ve received 8 audition recordings in 36 hours. The procedure is to take a short excerpt from the work you wish to publish, and this is used as the audition piece. The first problem, of course, was finding something to use for that. I wanted a self-contained clip, preferably with a reasonable amount of non-speech text, but also with Aneka and Ella speaking, and also Al if I could manage it. That would give a good selection of voices, particularly the two primary characters. I have decided upon a female narrator, and having Al in there gives an indication of how a male voice will sound. Aneka and Ella have distinctly different accents as well. Eventually I settled upon the short scene where Aneka tries on her swarm dress for the first time since it’s actually one of the few scenes in the first book which has all three together.

And now I have several different versions of that scene in audio. I do not mind admitting that selecting one person to do this is likely to drive me nuts. I’m horribly conflicted over several of them already. It’s sweet shop syndrome; too many good things to choose from and I have to pick just one… Okay, so it’s amazing, and fun, and fascinating, but how the Hell do I make a decision on this?! I’m selecting someone who is going to give a voice to these characters I’ve invested so much time in. This is going to be hard.

Which Actress Should Play Aneka Jansen?

Okay, this is not a push for Hollywood to pay me millions for the film rights (though it’s a nice thought), the title of this post came up as a search query in my blog stats. I have no idea whether the person who typed it was referring to my Aneka or some other one, but if I put that query into Google all I see is Steel Beneath the Skin references.

Now, I have no idea who should play Aneka. Seriously, not a clue. Angelina Jolie when she was younger? But she’d need some serious padded bras. Liv Tyler? Personally I think this is a job for some ultra-realistic CGI.

Anyone have any ideas?

The Crew

The Garnet Hyde Crew

I thought it was about time you got to meet the crew of the Garnet Hyde (when it’s on archaeological missions anyway). Book 2, The Cold Steel Mind, introduces a new member, and I haven’t really shown you the renders of the others yet, so here they are.

From left to right…

  • Captain Mallory Drake. No one ever calls him by his first name; he hates it. A career Navy man, Drake left the service for reasons as yet unexplained and ended up running a research vessel for the University of New Earth.
  • Shannon Patton. Drake’s partner and the second in command aboard the Hyde. She looks a lot like some sort of space bimbo (and the shipsuit doesn’t help), but she is actually a very skilled pilot and mechanic.
  • Delta Ling. New to the team, Delta was brought on for her skills with robotics and also for her muscles. Born on a high-gravity world, she has a lot of muscle, but her home world also made her a bit shy of the permissive culture in the core.
  • David ‘Monkey’ Gibbons: Doctor Gilroy’s son, David is known as Monkey because his father, the captain of a battleship, was called Ape. He tends to be shy around women he finds attractive, and he liked the look of Delta as soon as he saw her. He tends to think of Bashford as more of a father figure than his own father; his boss is dating his mother, and does more to teach him about life and work than Ape ever did.
  • Doctor Gillian Gilroy. Head of Archaeology at the University of New Earth, Gillian is the foremost expert in the Lorenti Federation on the Xinti and Old Earth. She’s a lot older than she looks.
  • Leo ‘Bash’ Bashford. Also ex-Navy, Bash was a technician rather than a fighting man, but he can still handle a laser carbine quite well enough and his skills made him an exceptional facilitator (someone who facilitates getting scientists in and out of their working sites). At some point in the past he was Gillian’s partner, and they have restarted that relationship recently.

So, that’s the permanent crew, minus Aneka and Ella. There’s also another important crew member missing from the line-up, but that one’s a secret… for now anyway.

The New Model Aneka

New Model Aneka

I’ve been doing some model work. Rebuilding Aneka using Victoria 6 and Gia required more than a little work, but I like the result. Her face is a little softer and her muscles a little more pronounced. And if you’re wondering where the different pistol comes from and where Bessie has got to… Well you’ll have to wait for book 2 to find out.

Ella Narrows

Born in 451 (Federal Standard Calendar) on Harriamon III, a mining colony on the federal rim, Ella had a tough childhood. Everything started out pretty well, she was a bright, cheerful child with every hope of leaving her home world to make something of herself in the core systems. At the age of 12 she was infected by a variety of local disease, a flesh-eating, lichen-like life form which destroyed her eyes and half her face leaving her blind and disfigured. Deciding that the only way her daughter would ever see again was if she was taken somewhere with better medical facilities, Ella’s mother Janna moved Heaven and Earth to get her to New Earth where her face was rebuilt and her eyes replaced with cybernetic ones.

Ella and Aneka

Now in her seventies, though she looks to be in her early twenties, Ella is back to being the bright young thing she was as a child. She went to the University of New Earth, studying psychology, anthropology, and archaeology as a minor, and was picked up as the assistant to the Doctor of Archaeology, Gillian Gilroy. She loves field work, and loves watching people, studying the interplay of society and individual personality. Her talents lend themselves to analysing the social systems uncovered in archaeological digs.

If she has one failing, it is that her emotions are more or less always written on her face. She likes people and loves sex. Her smile can light up a room, but when she is not smiling her features tend to give her a rather sad, contemplative look. Outwardly she is all confidence, but under that there are deep-seated insecurities born of her time as a blind, ugly girl in a galaxy full of beautiful people. When she wants something, or more especially someone, she goes for the direct approach; there is no point in holding back, as far as Ella is concerned, because tomorrow you might be dead, or blind and ugly.