Pelagia - Between the Stars and the Abyss

by Steve Holloway

GENRE: Science Fiction

Former special forces agent turned particle physicist Ben Holden is on the run.

The New Caliphate will stop at nothing to get their hands on his wife’s scientific research, which is believed to hold the key to unleashing chaos in the West and advancing their cause.

But in reality it’s Ben’s biometrics that have the potential to unlock the information they so desperately need. Within the oceanic world of Pelagia, in the year 2066, Ben finds sanctuary among the sea settlers of the South Pacific Pelagic Territory, but his respite is short-lived.


Ben’s Escape

He lifted the hatch and placed it onto the deck, then pulled himself up and lay flat near the bow. The coolness of the storm awakened his senses. Rolling onto his back, he paused under the deluge and allowed the rain to stream into his mouth, gulping down the water.

Thirst barely slaked, he slithered to the edge of the boat. The wind now lashed his wet body. He shivered, staring into the night, allowing his eyes to adjust. He spotted the island, a dark fleeting promise glimpsed through a break in the squall.

Looking back, he saw a silhouette climb out onto the side of the boat. Adrenaline shot through him. The man was just a few metres away, clinging to a rail as the boat rolled under them, but still looking towards the stern. Ben inched closer to the edge of the bow, willing himself to be a shadow.

Holding the safety rail, Ben swung himself over the side with the roll of the boat. He hung for a moment, suspended above the sea. Large, deep breaths. Each time the boat tipped his feet dipped beneath the waves. On the third tip, he released his grip, slipping below the surface noiselessly.

As he surfaced, he heard the man on deck shouting into the water in Arabic, “Cut the rope!” There was an answering shout from the water that was lost in the roar of rain.

Ben kept to the shadow of the bow rocking above him. After a minute, that seemed like an eternity, the man climbed back into the stern cockpit. Ben slipped below the water.

About the Author:

Steve Holloway grew up on the beach cities of Los Angeles and has always loved the sea. This passion led him to gain a degree in Aquatic Biology from the University of California Santa Barbara; a background which opened many opportunities for him in researching, developing, and engaging with mariculture activities around the world. 

Steve and his wife have lived and travelled in many countries over their forty years of marriage, successfully raising three kids in exotic locations in the process. They have always engaged with the people and cultures they live among. 

Currently Steve lives in England and consults for a Christian charity in areas of research, leadership development, adapting to new cultures, social enterprises, and mariculture projects. Currently he is consulting for a Indo-Pacific mariculture project – a social enterprise – growing sea cucumbers, a delicacy for the Chinese market. 

Steve has always loved books and writing. The story of Pelagia reflects three of his passions: science, the sea and the narratives of faith. The background, in his words:

“I have for many years believed that settling the open sea was within our grasp, and even more accessible than space as our ‘next frontier’. So through the last ten years or so I have been thinking just how this might happen, what would be needed, where people would settle, what kind of livelihoods they might have on the open sea, beyond the EEZs of terrestrial countries. My son Adam told me about what would become a key component of Pelagia, Biorock or seacrete, because of his experiments with it. Many discussions with other scientists, engineers and others helped to begin to fill in the gaps and the concept of the Pelagic Territories, similar to the unincorporated territories of the early US, and what geopolitical contexts they would find themselves in.”

Steve finds any excuse to get into the ocean: sailing, diving, swimming, or just poking around tide pools.

Q&A With the Author

When did you first consider yourself to be a writer?

As a child, I loved reading. The local library in our small coastal town was one of my favorite haunts, after the beach. The love of books naturally drew me to want to write, so I started writing stories when I was 9 or 10. I tried to write in the style of favorite authors like Ray Bradbury, Isaac Assimov, Robert Heinlein. Some of those early stories are still gathering dust in my attic.

What advice do you have for a new writer?

There are the normal pieces of advice you hear: write a lot, find your voice, experiment with style, do character sketches, etc. All good. However, with the rise and ease of self-publishing, many books go up on online sites that have not run the refining gauntlet of good review, developmental editing and objective feedback. Those books don’t do well. 

It is very hard to be objective about your own work, so a common bit of advice I give to new writers is to find or create an environment in which they will get honest, constructive critique and encouragement. Critique can be hard for many writers. For me, after the first shock of honest feedback, I have learned to pick my ego up off the floor and move on to improve my craft. I’ve learned it is not about me as a writer, but the stories and the audiences that read them.

What is the easiest part of the writing process for you?

Imagining scenes and characters. I have a very active imagination and can easily see in my mind’s eye the passage I’m working on. I simply write what I ‘see’. Most of my characters just ‘appear’ and then gain a life of their own. I then follow them around and the story unfolds; they often surprise me and do unexpected things.  

What is your favorite part of this story?

As a marine biologist, I love the sea and being in it. So, my favorite part of my book, Pelagia, is exploring the life among emerging communities on the open sea. It is really a frontier environment and has parallels with stories from the American frontier. Individuals and families against the elements, outlaws, and political intrigue. The beauty, freedom and inspiration of forging a new nation state on the vast oceans, the ‘blue frontier’ of our planet. It is an unknown area and a worthy next frontier for humanity – we have better maps of Mars and the Moon than our oceanic basins. 

Which Character was the most fun to write about? Why? 

I think it would be Suliman Battuta, the leader of a nomadic clan who on top of the ocean and travel South Pacific herding tuna.  The clan is of Yemeni descent; their ancestors were Bedouin nomads who herded camels and goats. Now as nomadic ocean settlers these Bedouins have traded the vast desert for the sea, and camels and goats for tuna. 

I’ve met people like Suliman during my travels and work in different parts of the world. He is noble, wise and very comfortable in his own skin. He carries the responsibility of his ocean-going tribe and does it with humility and grace – even in the face of terrible events and circumstances. 

Which Character was the hardest to write about? Why?

Oh, I think it is the nine-year-old autistic child, Sophia, who is a savant prodigy, who designs marine robotics. She is the daughter of Suliman Battuta. I had to do a lot of research to try to get her character right. Coincidently, my last editor for the manuscript had an autistic daughter, and she reported that she loved how I described Sophia (and wanted to have some of her technology). 

I worked hard to get the relationship between Sophia and the family’s artificial intelligence character, Nemo, right. Feedback from readers makes me think that I did capture this well.  Sophia is often mentioned by my readers as one of their favorites. 



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  1. Science Fiction is so amazing because it stretches the imagination.

    1. So true, and many of the breakthroughs in science were first anticipated by science fiction writers. Submarines - Jules Vern. Mobile phones - Star Trek. Holograms - Star Wars. Geosychronous orbit - Arthur C. Clark. Robotic-human interactions - Isaac Asimov. The list is extensive.

  2. I enjoyed the Q&A and the excerpt, Steve, your book sounds like a fascinating read for me! Thanks for sharing it with me and have a wonderful day!

  3. This sounds super good and I really love the cover.
    heather hgtempaddy

    1. If you want to know more about the cover story:

  4. This sounds like an interesting read and I like your advice to new writers!

    1. So encouraging to see so many people try their hand at writing; learning to take and handle constructive critique is hard, but key. I see so many good stories that could be great with sound editing and feedback.

  5. The cover is wonderful. I am curious about how the ocean features in the story.

    1. The story revolves around future settlers of the open ocean. Some are nomadic, following their tuna herds around the Southern Pacific Gyre. Some have settled on seamounts - undersea mountains whose peaks are close to the surface. Here are three blogs that give a bit more of the story:

  6. I love the cover. Was it hard to decide on it?

    1. Thanks, Sherry. My son did a great job. If you want to know more about the 'cover story', here is a blog I wrote on it:

  7. Looks like a cool book, nice to learn about it.

  8. Thank you for sharing your interview and book details, as an author, I will take your advice into consideration and as a reader, I am looking forward to reading your book

  9. Thanks for the great interview and excerpt. The book sounds very interesting. Love the cover!

  10. Pelagia - Between the Stars and the Abyss by Steve Holloway sounds like an interesting and engaging book for readers who love science fiction.

    allibrary (at) aol (dot) com

    1. Yes, I've had many, many unsolicited very positive responses to the book from many quarters, so that is gratifying. And not just because I wrote the book; one of my key motivations was 'vision casting' for the idea of settling the open seas, to show how it could actually be done.

  11. With some of the ideas that are being considered because of global warming, the idea of an oceanic community not totally land bound is definitely a possibility.

  12. Yes, good point, but it goes far beyond just responding to something like global warming. It would be one of the most fascinating - and probably challenging - frontiers on earth.


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