The Empty Quarter
Sand dunes, tragedy and aliens
The Empty Quarter was inspired by the concept of the angle of repose.
The angle of repose is a kind of tipping point. It's the highest slope that the pile can form without becoming unstable and beginning to slide, a point of balance. It's the reason why wet sand makes better sandcastles than dry sand — it has a much higher angle of repose.
What if one of the contaminants in sand was an alien species? What if, as a result, the sand dunes towered upwards at angles impossible back on Earth? In my story, the steep dunes cause an accident which is a turning point, a tipping point, for the people involved. Just like the angle of repose is a tipping point.
But there's a second tipping point in my story, not for individuals but for the culture of the human colonists on my alien planet. What will they do when the truth about their past is revealed? Will they make an ethical choice? I hope it's never too late for that.