Saturday, March 29, 2014

Here are a couple character sketches and some rough concept art for the cover of the next novella, Valorous Daughter.

Meet Shaifennen Roehe, the Terror of Twelvety Town her very own self.  The upcoming full-length novel(s) are from her point of view.

This one's Zeddie, the protagonist in Valorous Daughter.  She appears briefly in The Terror of Twelvety Town and will play a major part in A Kiss For Damocles.  I've started using DAZ 3D because not only is it faster than sketching by hand, but once I've designed my models I can use them to create references for my own freehand drawing.  Plus, real-world models won't work for toaster shakings and good intentions.  Still learning my way around the program, but it lets me create concept art to feed my actual cover artist.  Easier than saying "Noooo.... her nose should be... I dunno... more nosier or something..."  I've still go to learn how to tweak the settings... get the shine in her hair to look like shine rather than grey, etc.  I'll be doing some freehand work later, but right now Manuscript Editing is my master.

The Terror of Twelvety Town actually takes place an Ayeden year (just under two Terran years) after Valorous Daughter.  In Terror of Twelvety Town, Zeddie's not only a full Rider, but assigned to act as Lead Rider for Shaifennen's escort detail.  In Valorous Daughter, Zeddie is a lowly Cadet-Petitioner.

Her full name is Zeddinbecker te' Emhain-Abhlach.  She was named by committee and Vivienne of the Gentle Walkers has been threatening to tell her how her adoptive father, Kadien Jess came up with "Zeddinbecker."  Alcohol played a role.  As a Foundling, all Zeddie knows is that her mother died.  Her pedigree tattoo is down the back of one shoulder rather than a cheek or the side of the neck like those of Homesteaders and Townies.  Instead of T'Ren scripts like Arabic, Korean or English, the characters on Zeddies tattoos are a vertical strip of characters formed with upright lines with the odd angled branch or dot.  Zeddie's spent a great deal of time studying the T'Ren diaspora and has narrowed her heritage down to the Punjab region of Terra.  A good many of Ayeden's original colonists where Sikhs from New Amristar, so that's a possibility.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Some thoughts on making starships and steam engines play well together...

In all honesty, the Tales From the Long Night setting can’t accurately be categorized as “Steampunk” any more than it is “Post-Apocalyptic” or “Dystopian.”  (Emerging Civilization is more accurate.)  The steampunk genre is typically more about alternate history where steam and clockwork technology never went out of style and frequently relies on a fantasy element or Victorian era scientific theories that didn’t pan out, like “the luminiferous aether.”  (If you’re into steampunk and wonder where the term “Aether” came from in terms of historical scientific theory, check this article out… 

Overall, I try to keep the science in these stories as hard as possible, although I do allow some Space Opera conventions such as “artificial gravity” and anthropomorphic aliens (I do take steps to ensure that the Imps aren’t just “people with things on their foreheads.”)  So while there are airships, steam engines, and clockwork technology, those are based on existing technologies rather than mystical Aether Crystals and suchlike.  Basically, old technologies that the Gentle Walkers blew the dust off of so folks could get things done without generating the electromagnetic noise that could get those old blockade drones riled up.

The first limitation Ayeden’s surviving communities face is energy.  Thanks to the “Damocles” blockade drones, the colonists can’t exactly start building oil refineries or fusion power plants.  Wood, peat, and biogas are their main fuel sources.  While biogas would work fine for internal combustion engines, those require electrical systems that bring us back to the sort of electromagnetic noise that would give Damocles a tickle.  A two-stroke engine might not rise above the targeting thresholds, but those don’t provide the horses to do any heavy moving.  Diesel-style engines are also a no-go because the colonists really can’t produce petroleum distillates in a meaningful quantity and no community can spare the crops bio-diesel would require.

That leaves us with steam power.

Historically, the problem with steam power was that by the time materials and metallurgy had improved enough to make steam safer and more efficient, internal combustion had come along and provided a better power source.  While the colonists can’t fabricate high-end alloys, composites, or ceramics on a large scale, they can reshape and repurpose salvaged materials.  Given that they’re from a civilization that had interstellar travel, it’s not much of a stretch to assume that their tech base had developed polymers, alloys, and composites that would be to our modern day tech base what foamed alloys, titanium or tungsten carbide goods would be to a Bronze Age society.  So Ayeden’s boilers and steam engines are not only efficient and safe, but are also quite superior to anything we could produce today.

So where’d they get the equipment to work those materials?  The fact that underground maglev network that became Greenline Town has such capabilities is the result of two factors.

The first is a cultural issue at play there.  In this storyverse, humanity has lost its homeworld and damn near caught the Darwin Express to Buh-Bye centuries before Ayeden Prime was even colonized.  After the Fall of Terra, it was considered in imperative that every community on every colony had to be as self-sufficient as possible.  Every community had to have the tools to make tools, rather than rely on external sources for basic survival.  While they didn’t have Star Trek style replicators, it seemed reasonable that any machine shop, motor pool or equipment bay would have on hand the high-tech, nano-bot based equivalent of a 3-D printer.  Feed in the base materials and elements, and fabricate whatever parts you need.  All that needed shipping was whatever base elements that couldn’t be produced locally.  They couldn’t lay a starship’s keel outside a proper spaceyard, but they could produce maglev cars and engines for example.

Ok… then why was that maglev network underground in the first place?

That’s the second factor.  Ayeden’s on the chilly edge of its system’s liquid water zone.  The equatorial regions where what we’d call “temperate” rather than “tropical.”  Throw in a more pronounced axial tilt and a longer day/night cycle, and winter really, really, sucked.  There were open-air cities near the equator, but communities farther from the equator were typically underground or arcologies.  Those all fetched rocks in the initial bombardment.  (The old Mutual Prosperity Coalition was big on making examples, and was fine with scorching whatever earth they failed to take.  They intended Ayeden to be an “example”….)

The old maglev tunnels had been built underground because of Ayeden’s environmental conditions.  Originally, they carried raw materials and passengers from the spaceports to the outlying arcologies and cities.  They were just full of maintenance bays and depots, where parts and equipment could be fabricated as needed.  The concourses and terminals also had basic medical facilities and shops which had their own light production capacity for small scale consumer goods.

Most of Ayeden’s current population is descended from people who were already in that system or were close enough to shelter there when the attack started.  There are some exceptions, like the refugees who made it there because of the Watchful Mother’s broadcasts and the Pridesmen who originated in the southern equatorial plains which were spared the ashfall.  Not to mention the odd Foundling here and there who constantly acted as a source of fresh genetic material… but you’ll have to read the forthcoming Valorous Daughter for more on that…

The Terror of Twelvety Town is now available on Kindle

And Nook

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Welcome to Ayeden Prime.

"When the enemy come, they dropped rocks on our seas so the waters just howled in and drank up all the cities from the coast to the mountains.
That weren’t even the worst of it.
Old Tattershanks says that when Ayeden felt all them millions of her children get murdered, she went mad with grief.  Tore herself open in her pain.  He likes to wax poetical sometimes.
Now Kethie, she don’t wax poetical so much.  She says that some of the rocks was big enough that they made a big old caldera bust loose with an eruption that lasted months and pushed our climate past a tippin’ point, brung us the Long Night.

And me?  I don’t see why they can’t both be right." — Shaifennen Roehe, Twelvety Homestead.

Shaifennen Roehe's world's seen better days.  Ayeden was once  a cultural and industrial hub, a center of trade and learning.  After a devastating orbital bombardment and centuries of volcanic winter, Ayeden's climate is finally beginning to normalize to the point where the descendant's of the war's survivors can begin to grow again rather than merely survive.

If I had to slap a label on it, I'd have to describe these stories as a mix of Lost Colony tale, with Post-Apocalyptic, Frontier, and in some stories, Military Sci Fi.  The technology has some Space Opera elements, usually wrapped in a nice, crunchy Hard Sci-Fi shell when possible.  The setting isn't Dystopian, by any stretch of the imagination.  That's been done to death... sometimes magnificently, sometimes... not so much.  I'm more interested in exploring what choices Ayeden's children will make, and what direction their fledgling civilization will choose.

The first novella in this world is The Terror of Twelvety Town, and it's currently available in all e-book formats.

For Kindle:

For Nook: