Effugium: Beginnings

I’ve just moved into a new house. I spent fourteen hours yesterday hauling the rest of my stuff from the old house, and in the back of my closet I discovered a six-page brainstorming session from my, eh… younger days that eventually became the short story With New Eyes.

Years later, I discovered that said short story and my epistolary “Time Remaining” blog went together like chocolate and peanut butter, so I morphed them into the Reese’s peanut butter cup that is Effugium.

Bear in mind that this was originally intended for my eyes only, as a way of sketching out ideas, so there are a lot of crossed out paragraphs and restarts, and random bits of dialogue and ideas that I just kind of jotted down as they came to me. It’s not good writing, nor was it meant to be. It’s just a rough sketch. If I didn’t have a name for something, I just drew a pair of parentheses with nothing in between. Here it is:

Late 28th century: the prophet Jonas receives a vision in a dream, spoken to him by the makers, a superior race of aliens who created earth billions of years ago. They are displeased with the course mankind has taken, and express their intention to destroy the world.

Jonas was to gather as many followers as he could, and with their money construct a massive generational starship to take them to a distant planet prepared by the makers for those among man who believed.

Jonas wrote a book based upon that vision, and subsequent ones, and his followers gradually grew in number. By the time of his death at the relatively early age of 167(the avg male lifespan in the 28th century was 212), ( ) had become earth’s dominant religion, eclipsing all others in popularity. Christianity was still plugging along in its various denominational sects, and Islam, though fairly obscure, was still practiced amongst a handful of people.

Millions, however, who found adherence to these ancient doctrines highly/somewhat ridiculous, embraced ( -ism) with a religious fervor that was almost unheard of in those previously atheistic, and, depending on whom one asked, “enlightened” times.

The religion was founded upon the belief that man should reach his full potential, rather than stagnating, which the makers claimed humanity had done for centuries.

Jonas’ successor, the prophet Liam, began construction of the starship in 2903, using the vast wealth Jonas has accumulated from his followers.

Liam died in 3002 before seeing the starship completed. The third prophet ( ) oversaw the final construction of the ship, and began preparations for its thousand-year journey.

A crew of one thousand(as specified to Jonas by the makers) was selected, and from the rest, DNA samples were taken from each and every follower, living and dead. All would be resurrected upon arrival at ( ).

The voyage finally gets underway in 3090.

The story begins in 3540, with two children, Kylee and Marius discussing the legitimacy of their religion. Marius expresses his growing skepticism for this “bullshit” as he refers to it.


“An old earth expression. Means nonsense.”

She scolds him, warning him not to say things like that. As his betrothed, she is concerned about his lack of faith, his blasphemous assertions that the prophet Jonas was a fraud and a lunatic.

Uncertain of what to do, she tolerates Marius’ faithlessness, hoping it will pass.

Okay, so at this point, I cross out the entire next page and start over.

Here’s the aborted continuation of this synopsis:

He speaks longingly of earth, his fantasies of returning to that nonexistent world, which he insists still exists, because there is no such thing as the Makers.

Finally, at her wit’s end, she reports this problem to her mother, who promptly brings it to her husband’s attention.

A security team arrests the young man, and Kylee never sees him again. The look of betrayal on his face as they drag him away haunts her. She opens her computer to earth history and begins to read.

Okay, now that part starts over again(Odd, because I like this scenario best now)with different circumstances:

Story skips ahead to her early 20s in a secret meeting of the resistance. 22 members make up the small but growing organization. Recruitment was difficult because of the risk of exposure. They are discussing a possible new member. Kylee expresses concern that her husband is becoming suspicious of her behavior.

So I guess she has a husband that isn’t Marius and has come around to her betrayed betrothed’s way of thinking. Then it starts over again, but earlier, as indicated by all these insane arrows:

Story skips ahead to Kylee sitting in her quarters, staring blankly at the wall.

“What are you thinking about?” her husband asks curiously.

She dismisses the idea that she is thinking about anything at all. She says she needs to go for a walk.

“I’ll go with you,” he says, rising from his chair.

“I’d rather be alone,” she insists.

Now I scrap all that and start over yet again.

Story begins with Marius composing music in the arboretum, when a group of people arrive. One asks him why he doesn’t believe in the makers. He argues with them about the absurdity of constructing a starship to travel to a nonexistent world, a “ship of fools” as he calls it, “on a voyage to nowhere.”

“The council tolerates your dissent because of your popularity amongst the population. But their tolerance has limits,” warns one of the men, after Marius explains to them that they are all part of what was in earlier centuries called a cult.

He uses examples of the Heaven’s Gate followers, calling up the eerie images of their mass suicide on his computer. He tells them that they are stagnating, unable to achieve, to reach life’s full potential.

Then I–you guessed it–scrap all that and start over.


One of the dissenters is walking down a corridor in the lower section of the ship, when he is attacked and killed by an unknown assailant.

Upon discovery of the body, the dissenters storm the council chambers, demanding to be heard. Murder has never taken place aboard the ship.

They are assured that this most distressing matter will be promptly taken care of.

The dissenters take little comfort from this. “Is it not enough that that they shout at us, hurl insults at us, spit at us? Now they must kill us?” asks one.

A council member orders silence. “As repugnant as I find your faithlessness, I assure you that murder will not be tolerated.

The end, let’s try something else:


Marius is sitting in the garden composing music. ( ) approaches him and asks “I am curious. Why have you chosen to separate yourself from the ideals of ( )

Marius asks him whether he’d ever wondered why it was like to set foot on solid ground, etc.

( ) replies that such things are impossible. The earth has been destroyed. We travel to ( ) so that generations may experience such things.

They debate for awhile,

That’s it. That’s all of it. Well, except for this:

If you’ve read Effugium and its sequels Exsilium and Anshar, you’ll recognize they share a ton of common elements with this scribbled-down mess.

I’ve always liked the idea of generational starships, of the passengers’ descendants finishing a voyage embarked upon by their ancestors.

I’ve also always liked the idea of it being made possible by a rich, charismatic cult leader. I’ve also always been fascinated by heaven’s gate. Their website is still operational, by the way. It’s operated by two members who stayed behind. Go check it out, it’s completely unchanged since 1997.

It’s definitely one of my favorite cults. It’s just such a weird deal. The seeds of “Effugium” were planted the very day of those tragic events. I knew I wanted to write a book about a spacefaring cult, except have it be true instead of just a bunch of people killing themselves. It just took me twenty years to fully form the idea.

As I read this, I remembered that the naming of the prophet “Jonas” was because I’d been listening to Weezer’s “My name is Jonas.” Of course, Jonas later became Richard Kryuss, a charismatic billionaire inspired by the likes of Richard Branson and Elon Musk. Marius, the ship’s resident heretic, became Galen the Sixth.

Looking back on these early notes is like looking at Ralph McQuarrie’s early Star Wars sketches: it’s familiar, but also way different.

So yeah, I’ve been building this universe for quite some time, and I plan to keep doing so for decades to come.


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