John Burnett is an extremely talented man. He runs his own website at www.thewingless.com. He's a talented musician, a great programmer, a good writer and artist, and certainly on of the best website designers I've ever seen.
Thewingless.com is a beautiful website. It quietly conceals most of his work under the guise of a sci-fi themed metaplot which is really quite interesting. For those of you who want to cut straight to the content, just click on the green buttons, but keep in mind that you're missing out. The music is haunting, with a kind of sunrise at Mecca feel to it.
His latest project is a Sci-Fi epistolary novella called Planetfall. Planetfall is the story of the crew of the NSEA Demosthenes, an interplanetary vessel with a crew of 64 people. As the ship and crew are pushed to the limit to attempt to meet a deadline, catastrophe strikes. In the light of the new developments, very hard decisions have to be made. The story really deals with how the various members of the crew deal with this event, and how the ties that bind them together as a crew begin to break down when they are forced to place the crew ahead of themselves.
In a way, the Sci-Fi setting is an almost irrelevant MacGuffin. The story isn't about the ship, it isn't about the technology, and it certainly isn't about space. It's about the people. It's about what people are willing to do to ensure their fortunes at the expense of others, and how that can backfire. You could take the same people, and put the on a boat, or an island, or a city, and the social lessons don't change. The work it most reminds me of is William Golding's Lord of the Flies. Just as in Golding's work, this is about civilization.
The story is presented in a very minimalistic and clean flash setup. Burnett also applied an ambient soundtrack comprised of a piano and violin duet that combines the aspects of the page, and makes the story extremely immersive. The story is very well written. The only chink I could find is that some of the characters' mannerisms come off as a little too, I don't want to say snobbish... literarilly experienced? There are times when it seems like it's not a security guard and a technician arguing, but two english professors. But that's a pretty minor flaw.
Planetfall is certainly worth a read. Spread the word.