These are the bare facts about the planet fate has chosen for our last landfall: diameter somewhat smaller than Earth, day 21 hours, year 312 Earth-standard days (a little over 356 planet days), axial tilt 32°, considerably more than Earth, resulting in greater seasonal variation. Orbital ellipticity considerably greater as well, reinforcing that effect.
The planet hung like a cold jewel in the viewport – the last planet most of them would ever see from orbit. Great icecaps stretched north and south, coursing together to touch hands at the equator along the one major north-south-tending mountain range. Of course the world was uncharted. The stars hanging beyond it were arrayed in a manner utterly strange.
The planet’s oceans were gone – locked into the massive polar caps – and what remained as seas would be extremely saline. The air would be very dry; it was likely that rain never fell, only winter snows.
A cold, barren, forbidding world hanging close in to a cool sun.
(Dear reader, If you just want to read Jandrax and enjoy the story, no one will force you to go beyond the five asterisk barriers. What lies below, on this and many other posts, is for the geeks and nerds and new writers and would-be writers who want to pull back the curtain and see the wizard exposed.)
This is how we do it in science fiction. Log entries, printouts stuck into journals, and excerpts from contemporary writing are all ways of getting information to the reader as quickly and painlessly as possible. You have to be careful, of course. These cliches are part of the DNA of science fiction, but so is their overuse. Don’t do too much of it. Unexpected, humanizing touches like the Damn! at the end of the log entry can sometimes help. Don’t overdo that, either.
And don’t be so careful that you mess up the flow of narrative. Here is a painful example – painful to me, that is; I’m sure no reader ever noticed it. In the first sentence the words “most of them” should have been “they”. I knew there was going to be a one-character exception to the statement, but I didn’t have to be so tediously accurate. It comes from all those master’s theses and academic papers.
In fact, fighting back academic speech is an ongoing struggle. Natural speech doesn’t come naturally to me, and the problem was much worse back when I was writing Jandrax. If I could remove about fifty instances of the word “thus” and replace them with less pretentious words, Jandrax would read more smoothly.
Oh, well, it gives us something to talk about.