Amazon had a system failure last night and a large number of rankings disappeared for the Kindle, including mine and “Hunger Games.” When the rankings reappeared, about noon, this is where I was in the Teen Science Fiction. The story is about a teenager, but not meant to be only for teenagers. Thank you all for reading my novel…and a special thanks to everyone who has written a review on Amazon.
I’ve found a writer’s critique group in Portland! The other two members are Milo and Leah and our first meeting is Monday, July 2. Actually, I found another group that I am also trying to join, but I haven’t heard back from them.
We don’t know much about each other yet, but I have high hopes. If nothing else, this will give me some short term deadlines rather than one big goal.
Perhaps I shouldn’t spend the time, but Tghu Verd (?) says some things in his review I feel compelled to answer.
First the issue with the prologue:
“but I felt a bit cheated because by the time you reach the scene the Prologue describes you have already figured out that it’s coming…and with lots of pages left you know the tension being established will be resolved positively. So no cliff hanger then.”
He may be right about this, though I do wish he had put in a spoiler alert for this and what follows. The novel starts slowly, as many have commented, and I wanted to let the reader know that there would be some excitement. However, at this point (spoiler alert) Tommy knows little or nothing about the Kadiil. He may win, he may lose. The climax is in the future. As Mr. Verd says, lots of pages left.
“What was worse were the Lords. I am still not sure if these alien slavers were just straw men (or straw aliens if you like) for Tommy’s foil, or meant to be fleshed out characters. I suspect the latter, but once again we have an alien race that are just Humans in Disguise. Perhaps that’s the Universal Truth – that aliens will be just like us – but the Lords are just so passive it’s hard to imagine them having the collective gumption to be where they were. Of course, that passivity allows Tommy to do his business, and that leads me back to my straw man theory. ”
First the “humans in disguise” comment. My first defense is, even if this is true, most, perhaps all, science fiction authors who have alien characters could face the same accusation. Actually, many authors postulate something even more preposterous (in my opinion) – no aliens at all. An empty universe for the taking. It does make the writing easier. However, I would like to answer this directly with the thought process I went through (especially since the Nesu continue to figure prominently in the sequel.)
- Earth type planet. Earth type evolution. Given that an intelligent creature appears in the first place (remember it took millions of years for humans to appear on earth) that creature will hunt, fish, and gather in order to survive. A significant argument among anthropologists is that much of our intelligence comes from increasingly complex social competition and interaction. In other words, we lifted ourselves up by our own bootstraps: we became more intelligent because it required more intelligence, as time passed, to survive in human society. The same would arguably to true of an intelligent species on an Earth type planet.
- We have specific examples of parallel evolution here on Earth, we don’t have to go to another planet. The “Tasmanian wolf” of Australia, Tasmania, and New Guinea looks like a wolf, hunts like a wolf, and inhabited the same niche in its habitat as the wolf, but it was a marsupial, like a kangaroo. It is certainly not far-fetched that the same could happen on an Earth type planet.
- Even with that, they are not human. They are amphibian. They do have two sexes, as we do, but the females are not only dominant, the males are physically smaller, and it has yet to be established if the males are even intelligent (I am still thinking about that.) I wanted them to be different, but how different could they be: they have babies which they raise from birth, so family is important. Their technology is not much different from ours because physics, mathematics, and engineering would probably follow similar paths: the speed of light is what it is, the strength of steel and concrete is what it is, and the concepts of algebra and calculus seem universal, at least in our universe. And I did want Tommy and the Nesu to have problems in common.
- Anyway, I challenge Mr. Verd to come up with aliens as significantly alien as he would like them to be. Jerry Pournelle’s aliens in “Starswarm” are truly alien, in that they appear to be some form of naturally evolved computer. But I already had a lot of computer stuff in the story, so that wouldn’t have worked. Anyway, I did what I did, and I hope most of you liked it.
Second the “passivity” comment. Yes, they are somewhat passive, but (Spoiler alert) I feel like I wrote a lot of words explaining why that was the case. Two thousand years ago, your planet was destroyed. The only time your people tried to settle on another planet, it was destroyed. One at a time, the ships your people built are disappearing. Your people are preying on each other to survive. You’ve been cooped up in a spaceship for thousands of years with no hope of escape because of a relentless enemy that actually doesn’t seem to care if your people live or die, just as long as they don’t do anything outside of certain set boundaries. You have the stars, but at the same time you are in a gigantic cage with no hope of escape. (Again, spoiler alert) After banging your head against that for thousands of years, wouldn’t you be passive, or maybe even suicidal?
“I was more concerned with Tommy’s amazing moral restraint around female slaves. Especially ones he fancies. We’re talking a teenage boy with apparently normal hormones here, but luckily his mother installed a strong ethical centre for “how to treat women” and Tommy behaves with wisdom beyond his years. The wisdom of a much older Gillaspy perhaps? I applaud the position and appreciated the insight into Tommy’s thinking/feeling on the matter but having been a teenage boy a while back I do wonder.”
The key here is that you grew up in the presence of other sexual teenaged boys and girls. Tommy reached maturity in the presence of human girls that he didn’t find sexually attractive and among humans in general that found him repulsive. I could have written some words about unfocused sexual angst, but it seemed clear enough. All that changed, of course, when the situation changed. But, by that time he didn’t know how to act. He had no role models in how to act.
I do appreciate that Mr. Verd took the time to think about my novel and write a review, but it didn’t change my mind about what I chose to do.
Writin’, writin’, writin,
Keep typin’, typin’, typin,
Though they’re slowly movin’
Keep those words a-comin’ First Draft!
Don’t try to understand ’em,
Just let them come and grab ’em,
Soon we’ll be living high and wide.
My mind is calculatin’
The things that will be waitin’, be waiting when all the words are tried.
Think ’em up, write ’em down,
Write ’em down, cross ’em out,
Cut ’em out, paste ’em in First Draft!
Lay ’em out, tie ’em in,
Type ’em in, try ’em out,
Cut ’em out, paste ’em in First Draft!
If you would like to be notified when my next novel, An Emergent Universe, is available, send an email to email@example.com with a subject of “SUBSCRIBE”. I will add you to my contact list.
(With a tip of the hat to Stewart and Julie, wherever you are and thank you for reading A Larger Universe).
Prologue (to “An Emergent Universe”)
Look down on a spinning ice skater, her arms extended, her hands trailing ribbons of sparkling threads. Dotted with crystals and eight times longer than the skater’s outstretched reach, the ribbons spiral around the rotating figure, individual threads weaving an intricate braid of light. Look closer. The ribbons are not as regular as they first appear. Wind whips the braids, splitting two ribbons into four. Some of the threads are broken, shorter than the others, and those threads fly away in patterns of their own, drawn with, but not part of the weave. Now extinguish the lights of the rink except for a single, focused, spotlight from above. Crystals on the skater’s arms and head flash, but her black costume hides the body that holds everything together. All you see are gleaming diamonds, spiraling in the dark.
Hold that image in your mind. It is the Milky Way galaxy, seen from above: the spirals form a disk, one hundred thousand light-years across, containing at least one hundred billion stars. Focus on one of those broken threads, half-way around one of the major braids and twenty-six thousand light-years from the galactic center. This fat thread, the Orion Spur, contains hundreds of thousands of stars and is some three thousand light years across and ten thousand light years in length, but it is still a single thread of the thousands that make up the braids that are the Milky Way. Insignificant among the stars in the Orion Spur, about half-way along the thread, is Earth and its sun.
For thousands of years, advanced civilizations in the Orion Spur had been dominated by the Kadiil. No one had ever seen a Kadiil, and they made no attempt to rule. Instead, they slowed or ruthlessly suppressed the acquisition of certain kinds of knowledge.
The Kadiil watched every intelligent species. When a civilization developed radio, the Kadiil enclosed their star system with a spherical communications barrier that removed all meaningful signals, both incoming and outgoing. Kadiil ships first showed themselves when a culture left its birth planet and showed signs of understanding the nature of gravity and the deep structure of the universe. To each of these species, the Kadiil offered faster than light travel. They demanded, in return, the end of specific types of research and no conflict with others. Civilizations that agreed to this bargain received unlimited numbers of sealed drives that, when mounted in ships, gave them access to the stars. Those that refused, or accepted the drives but continued their research, or attacked other planets, were destroyed, their home planets reduced to rubble.
Two thousand years ago, a species calling themselves “the People” (Nesu in their language) was one of those civilizations. They took the bargain, but secretly continued their research even as they launched starships. After the Kadiil destroyed the Nesu’s home planet, Liran (in English, Stream), the remaining Nesu became homeless wanderers and survived by trading with other star faring species and with those less technically advanced.
As the centuries passed and their situation became more desperate, the Nesu turned to violence to meet their needs. Some preyed on other ships in acts of piracy. All found it expedient to enslave members of primitive species to do the tasks they could no longer be bothered to do.
A thousand years ago, the humans of a medieval English village on Earth were taken and trained to work in and maintain one ship, the Nesu Tol (The People’s Hand). Five years ago, the Nesu on that same ship kidnapped a thirteen-year-old human boy with knowledge of Earth’s computers. That boy, Tommy Yates, then eighteen, led a successful rebellion against the Nesu and took control of their ship. He then discovered the true nature of the Kadiil, and used that knowledge to defeat them, releasing all of the worlds in the Orion Spur from their dominance.
Two months before, the Kadiil had appeared over Earth to propose their bargain. They never returned to receive Earth’s answer.
The communications barriers enclosing civilizations like that of Earth disappeared with the Kadiil. Approximately seven hours later, radio broadcasts from hundreds of other civilizations, some of them centuries old, were received on Earth. Tommy returned to Earth to find governments in panic and unwilling to allow him to land.
Of all of the star faring civilizations in the Orion Spur, only the Nesu and humans from one ship knew of their new freedom. The unlimited supply of star drives ended when the Kadiil were defeated. Everyone must soon suspect.
“I liked the book all the way through. Every time I had to stop, I kept thinking about what Tommy might do next. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. At the end where Tommy was experimenting with the Kadiil ship, the computer coding was a little confusing. I didn’t quite understand it, but i think i got the basics of it and I was able to follow the story. Over all it was one of the best books I’ve read. I can’t wait for the sequel!”
Some of my readers have been saying that the novel is targeted toward a younger audience. An intelligent, younger audience, perhaps, which my nephew definitely is. He’s at about the same age as I was when I started reading science fiction.
I placed third in a small epee tournament today. Not a small achievement since I was by far the oldest person entered.
A New Type of Space Opera,February 18, 2012
I disagree that this is a kid’s book. While it was about a kid being kidnapped by aliens and coming of age first as a slave and then as a leader of the ships crew, I think it could be enjoyed by all, even those of us with more adult tastes. As the author says, he’s attempting to write in the vein of Heinlein. To a large degree he succeeds. Certainly no one would accuse Heinlein’s works as being for children alone.
I enjoyed this book throughly, even though I was some what at a loss with all of the computer jargon. Don’t let that stop you from buying this book, though. If you enjoy a characther driven sci-fi book that is obviously developing towards a great space opera series, then jump right in.
Signed copies of my novel, “A Larger Universe” are available at Bridge City Comics, 3725 N. Mississippi Ave., Portland, OR.