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2015 SPRING FEATURE: Aurora Rising


Aurora Rising is a New Space Opera trilogy set in the early twenty-fourth century, a time when humanity is still alone yet technologically advanced and spanning one third of the galaxy www.gsjennsen.com/books/ The plot revolves around the romance of a fiercely independent explorer named Alexis Solovy and an agent from a rival empire, caught up together in roller coaster of conspiracy, space battles, strange new worlds, and all the things we love in science fiction. G.S. Jennsen’s writing is immersive yet economical, cognizant of hard science fiction elements, and, most importantly, focuses on an adventure story that is entertaining.

Starshine: Aurora Rising Book One - Prologue
Starshine: Aurora Rising Book One
“Prologue”


Author:  G. S. Jennsen
Website:  www.gsjennsen.com
The end of the world began with a library query.
…or perhaps it was the space probe. The alien was being vexingly reticent on the matter, the man thought as he straightened his dinner jacket in the mirror.
“She is hardly the first person to express an interest in that region of space. Why are you so worried about her when the others didn’t concern you?”
The others did concern us, but they were deflected with little difficulty. This woman, however, has exhibited a notable talent for discovering what others cannot. As such, we would prefer she never look.
The man smoothed out a crease in one of the sleeves then fastened the antique pearl cufflinks, an heirloom passed do

Starship HUD by GSJennsen
Cosmos: Mysteries by GSJennsen

What I admire most about the Aurora Rising saga is how the author plays on her strengths as a female writer while also incorporating her engineering background. The result is a thinking man’s/woman’s scifi trilogy. Jennsen doesn’t waste time on mainstream controversies and she doesn’t go overboard trying to impress ‘literary people’ at the expense of artistic integrity. She doesn't need to because it's the science that sets her apart (imagine that).

Below is an interview I conducted with GSJennsen:

SPACE-COMMANDER: In a recent post in Flashforward Friday www.ravenoak.net/archives/2875 you spoke about disconnect between stories with future technologies and unforeseen technologies that make scifi stories from the past seem obsolete. Do you think that stories should be written in a way that are deliberately relevant to current issues of our time, or is it more important to focus on how the future will be different? In other words, is it better to take a problem in our society such as an increase in the gap between rich and poor due to automation and milk it into a dystopian conflict, or is it better to portray a utopia in which current problems are essentially nonexistent due to some kind of technological advance?

GSJENNSEN:  An outstanding question, and one I’ve been dying to answer. Conventional wisdom says that all science fiction is actually about the time in which it is written. While this can be true, sometimes very deliberately so, I take issue with the notion it’s anything approaching an absolute.

As for whether science fiction should craft dystopias or portray utopias, I don’t believe it’s an either/or proposition. These are not the only two options, or even the best ones. Dystopias are rarely viewed as such in the eyes of those who live in one—they see good and bad, problems and improvements. I would also argue a true utopia will never be possible, at least not in the eyes of those who live in it. The present day may appear a utopia to people who lived 300 years in the past—look at all the amazing ways our lives have improved since then. Similarly, the world of 300 years in the future will probably appear a utopia to us—but we see only the advances, not the problems.

To answer your question directly, though, I’m not writing about today—I am firmly writing about the future. A big part of that is imagining a plausible, recognizable future, one in which the natural march of time has resulted in natural, believable changes. Injecting current social or political issues into a setting 300 years in the future feels as wrong to me as depicting Alexis Solovy driving to the spaceport where her FTL ship is berthed in a pickup truck powered by a combustion engine and fossil fuels.

The universe of Aurora Rising isn’t a utopia from any perspective, but it is a universe that has moved beyond the pressing problems of the early 21st century. Perhaps most obviously, it has moved beyond discrimination on the basis of gender, race or sexuality. Some might argue this is a naïve, pie-in-the-sky approach, but consider this: 150 years ago African-Americans were slaves in the U.S., without legal status as persons; today they are equal in every respect not only under the law but in the eyes of the vast majority of people. Is there still discrimination? Yes, but more of it is stamped out every day. In twice as many years as those since they were enslaved, is it honestly reasonable to believe we’ll still be fighting that battle? Women have been allowed to vote in the U.S. for less than 100 years, and today their only real remaining battles (in developed countries) are against sporadic pay disparity and participation in military combat. I don’t think I’m naïve to believe these will be solved in far less than another 300 years.

What has taken the place of the problems of the 21st century, however, are the problems of the 24th century—prejudice against artificial intelligence, attempts at controlling a 100-world empire in competition with an upstart rival and the anarchy of the unaligned worlds, uncontrolled corporate interests and unregulated technological advances. Crime of all sorts and power struggles continue unabated. I will note that one problem this future does have in common with our present is the struggle of individuals to place their lives within a much larger human picture, because this has been and likely always will be a reality.

There are many reasons writers and the big publishing houses may want science fiction to be thinly-veiled critiques of current ills, but as an independent writer and self-publisher, I’m thankfully under no obligation to shoehorn in today’s political or social activism into my books, and I won’t do so. Will this limit the amount of traditional attention (critical awards, society memberships, approval by the “powers that be”) that I might receive? Likely so. But it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make to share what I view as a far more realistic, plausible vision of the future.



SPACE-COMMANDER: In addition to your excellent world building and Goldilocks approach to prose www.amazon.com/Starshine-Auror… the main thing that sets you apart from other indie SFF writers is that there are actually a lot of people who have read your books and posted reviews on Amazon. It can be really discouraging to look through and see this vast wasteland full of novels (traditionally published included!) that are either sitting there with just one to five reviews, or with about 50 ‘received from such-and-such book in exchange for review’ comments. Candidly speaking, what is your secret?

GSJENNSEN:  Very simply put, I asked.

At the end of every book, I’ve inserted a candid and personal request to my readers to help me in my career. I ask for them to review the book and to talk about it on social media and with their friends. It doesn’t occur to most readers to leave reviews; until I was a writer I never left reviews, even for books I adored and read over and over again. But when asked, many readers are happy to do so.

I launched my author website six months before I published Starshine and encouraged the readers of my Mass Effect fan fiction to subscribe to it. During the ramp up to publication, I used the website to update them on the book, give insights into what I was trying to do and share my thoughts and efforts. By the time Starshine was released, there were several hundred people who felt like they were part of the project and were invested in its success. People who are invested in something are more likely to do what they can to actively support it, including leave reviews and share it with others.

Since the beginning I’ve cultivated casual and friendly contact with anyone who reaches out to me. I don’t view or treat my readers as ‘fans,’ but rather as friends who have taken precious time out of their lives to read my books. I value each and every one of them, and that pays off.

Still, these aren’t revolutionary actions or anything more than many independent authors do. The rest of the answer is…I don’t know. But based on the substance of the reviews and conversations with readers, I’d like to believe it’s because Starshine (and now Vertigo and Transcendence) made an impact on them.

Long before I was a writer, I was a reader. Over the years I’ve read so many books that followed a stock formula. Science fiction as an allegory for modern times. Social and political issues shoehorned into a futuristic setting. Male characters who treated women as objects, or female characters who landed perfectly timed “you go girl” moments against the patriarchy. Technically well-written, grammatically perfect and following the prescribed story structure paradigms, but with forgettable plot lines filled with forgettable characters who were two dimensional stereotypes cranked out to meet conventional expectations.

For the most part, I’ve finished those books, closed them, set them aside and promptly forgotten about them. They not only offered nothing new or original, they didn’t make me feel anything. They didn’t make an impact, emotionally or intellectually, or haunt my thoughts long after I turned the last page.

In breaking away from the “conventional” wisdom of what is allowed and what should and should not be done, I think I shocked readers—shocked them into paying attention. By a large margin, the response has been a positive one, and from readers of every demographic. I’ve received emails from retired men who’ve been reading sci-fi for 50 years who sheepishly admit they kind of liked the romance elements, from readers who thanked me for the realistic and non-political depiction of a same-sex marriage, from teenage girls who thanked me for giving them multiple female characters they could admire—women who were strong, multi-layered and flawed—and from men who thanked me for giving them the same in the male characters. I’ve received a lot of emails thanking me for telling a complex, rich story in a manner that didn’t “talk down” to the reader and instead respected their intelligence.

Admittedly, I’ve also received the occasional scathing review for there being “too much romance in my sci-fi” or “too much sci-fi in my romance,” for there being too many characters, too many planets and too many plot threads to keep track of. I’m okay with that, as those weren’t the readers I was after anyway. But what I haven’t received a lot of? “Meh.”

SPACE-COMMANDER: In one of your blog posts you mentioned that regardless of whether one is published independently or traditionally, the work of marketing to consumers ultimately lies upon the writer. Out of all the resources available: platforms such as dA and tumblr, scifi conventions such as the one in Birmingham where you will be speaking as a panelist www.magiccitycon.com/ fandoms, magazines, and contests, is there anything you found to be particularly worthwhile, or is it all more like a mad scramble to keep things percolating along?

GSJENNSEN:  I view all those resources as tools, but only tools. What I try to do as an author is establish as many personal connections between myself and my readers as I possibly can. Traditional publishing has inserted three levels of management between authors and readers (agents, publishers and retailers). In the independent bookselling model, those layers are reduced to a far shorter chain from author to reader, with no agent or publisher and the retailer being a low-overhead pass-through operation like Amazon or Smashwords, rather than a brick-and-mortar store that decides which limited number of books will be available for you to choose from.

My marketing plan is simple, and it comes back to one piece of conventional wisdom I do adhere to: “Nothing sells a book like word of mouth.” My two largest overseas markets, especially during the first few months after Starshine’s release, have been Australia and Germany. For a time I had no idea why this was the case as I had no special connection to either country. But after a while I figured out that I had two especially enthusiastic readers in Australia and one in Germany who were blanketing all their social circles with recommendations of my books. They were each readers who had reached out to me early on, and I had fostered two-way relationships with them through emails and online. Without my urging or even my knowledge, they were now going the extra mile to help me, and it was making all the difference.

I believe a writer’s career—or at least my writing career—will evolve and grow from exactly this sort of interaction. It’s slow and takes effort, but for me the interaction with my readers is the true reward for what I’m doing anyway. A year after I published my first book, I consider my career to already be an unmitigated success, not because of the money in the bank but because of the emails in my inbox and the conversations on my social media walls.

As for which resource works best, the answer is simple: they all do. Readers have their own preferences for social media outlets, and you need to be where they are, which is to say everywhere. It isn’t the particular tool that gets the job done, though—it’s the personal contact and interaction you can foster through the use of the tool.



SPACE-COMMANDER: In addition to doing quite a bit of homework on FTL, you also learned a lot about metallurgy, which is a very important component of the Aurora Rising series, because Alexis Solovy is a deep space prospector. When I was reading 2312 I came under the impression that there is about enough useful material in the belt to construct about 5,000 large habitats and I am clueless about the kinds of minerals that may or may not be sitting within the thousands of A.U.s between systems. What are some things you have learned about the demand for various transition metals and heavy elements that are required in emerging technologies, the prevalence of them in the asteroid belt, and how this could factor into a push to exploring areas beyond our solar system?

GSJENNSEN:  First off, I trust Mr. Robinson is accurate in his assessment, at least based on the measurements available to us now. A lot of intra-stellar science fiction focuses on the issues of scarcity of resources and efforts to turn them to productive purposes. I have no doubt humanity will go through such a phase as we take our first real steps off this planet—a phase where we harvest asteroids and build space-based factories to build the first permanent space habitats, which will be cramped and on which every resource will be treasured and hoarded. I don’t know if it will be in 50 years or a 150 years from now, or how long it will last.

With full knowledge and malice aforethought, I skipped that phase—not that I don’t recognize it will be an important yet difficult period, but I’m more interested in what happens next. The invention of some form of faster-than-light travel will change everything, easily as much as the discovery of how to make fire or the invention of the wheel and the internal combustion engine to turn it did.

I know, FTL travel is impossible. More on that in a moment. On the expectation that it is possible, FTL travel is a staple of modern life in Aurora Rising. Once we’re talking about rapid (days, not decades) travel to other stellar systems, the concept of scarcity of resources is simply no longer relevant. When our reach spans the Milky Way, resources are for all intents and purposes infinite. Harvesting, transporting and transforming them are still issues, but humans have already proven fairly adept at mastering those skills.

Now about FTL travel, and things that are impossible (forgive me, you’ve tangentially hit on one of my pet topics).

How are we going to do these impossible things? We don’t know. Right now we’re incapable of envisioning the advances in science, technology, manufacturing and all the other disciplines which will be required to traverse the stars. If we could envision them, we would be there already. But the history of the human race is one of forward progress and constant improvement. We research. We experiment. We theorize. We dream. We push forward. Not everyone does, but enough people do.

400 years ago man couldn’t have envisioned the changes in society driven by computers, because we were reading books by candlelight. For computers to exist (or even be dreamed of) we first had to discover how to harness the power of electricity. Before that, we had to understand the concepts of physics. But at the time Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo and Newton were reading books by candlelight and thinking about the answers to those questions, while their contemporaries were in the streets declaring what was impossible.

We cannot solve the problems of tomorrow with the understanding of science we have today—it’s as simple as that. But it doesn’t mean they are impossible to solve – it just means it isn’t possible yet.

I have an unshakable belief, driven by the evidence which is the history of humanity, that we will do anything and everything we as a culture decide we want to. It may take years, generations or even millennia; but then again, right now people fly across the planet in machines we invented barely 100 years ago, after eons of dreaming of growing wings and touching the sky. A single century, and already we take this miracle for granted. When the time comes that we conquer the stars, our descendants will look back to consider the history of spaceflight. All those people who said “it can’t be done” will look as foolish to them as the anti-heliocentric adherents—which is to say virtually every person born before 1500—do to us.

How? I have no idea. Dear God, I wish I did. Imagine how good my books would be if I did!

SPACE-COMMANDER: One thing that I have noticed about some of the mainstream sagas (i.e. Star Wars, Star Trek, Dune, Game of Thrones, etc) is that flashback scenes are almost nonexistent while other famous works (i.e. Oryx and Crake, Lost, etc) use them as an integral part of the experience. Do you think there is a litmus test that a writer can use to know whether or not to incorporate this technique, and how did you decide that this was the approach that was right for you?

GSJENNSEN:  Every character comes into a book with a history, one which has shaped who they are when we meet them. The question is whether to reveal this history through their actions in the present or through glimpses into the past—and I chose to not limit myself to either. I included flashbacks, but only where the scene presented was powerful or provided significant insight into not only who the character was, but why they were acting as they were.

I’ll give an example: Alex Solovy’s relationship with her father before he died (when she was 13) informs not only her personality and worldview, but her relationship with her mother, Miriam. But in the real world, people don’t rehash or discuss decades-old events when they clash in the present. They were there. They know the history perfectly well. Exposition doesn’t occur naturally, especially in heated arguments, and I felt that artificially tacking it into interactions would interfere with the flow and muddle the tone.

In Alex’s meeting with her mother at the beginning of Starshine, she pointedly lets her mother know that she doesn’t blame Richard Navik for the “unpleasantness” of the meeting by retorting, “I don’t blame him. I blame you.” In flashbacks throughout both Starshine and Vertigo, the reader is gradually given the full picture of the loss of David Solovy, the impact it had on both women – the wife and the daughter—how it poisoned their relationship, and how that was both of their faults and neither of their faults. Once the full weight of this history on both women is fully understood, the “I don’t blame him, I blame you” line takes on a new meaning.

Alex wasn’t talking about Richard, and Miriam knew it. Alex was talking about her father. In Vertigo, during a flashback to when Alex was a young teenager, the reader witness a heart-wrenching scene where Alex lashes out, declaring she wished her mother had died instead of her father. The line in Starshine was a direct, merciless cut against her mother, whom Alex unjustly blamed for the loss of her father and (less unjustly) for the disintegration of their relationship in the aftermath, but this isn’t apparent until much later.

So why didn’t I make this clear from the start? Well, that would involve either spending the first 50 pages chronicling Alex’s life from birth to “now,” presenting a dry summary of events, or having Alex launch into a painfully awkward “as you know, Mother,” exposition in the middle of their argument. None of those would’ve made the beginning of Starshine a particularly engrossing read—and besides, knowing all the answers from the start takes the joy out of reading fiction. Readers want to get to know the characters along the way, in an organic manner.

For me, flashbacks are another tool, but there has to be a reason for them. I tried very hard not to use them as a crutch, but instead as a way to bring forth deeper dimensions of the characters that would otherwise either have to be shown through stilted, unnatural exposition or be left on the editing room floor.



SPACE-COMMANDER: In Starshine the reader learns right away that Alexis is directly related to a VIP. Was the immediate link between the struggle of the average Joe (or this case, Jane) and the conflict of the elites something that you planned from the beginning, or did you decide at some point that a gradual buildup from ordinary to extraordinary, a la Luke Skywalker, would slow the momentum of the narrative you wanted to tell? In other words, is the drama of the elite so important anyway that it’s basically a waste of time to initially pretend that a character has no ties beyond the mundane?

GSJENNSEN:  A very interesting question, and one I had to ponder for several minutes. The best criticism is the kind that hands your own work back to you from a viewpoint you hadn’t intended and makes you ponder if you meant to do what you did.

While Alex might occupy a social position you could arguably view as being “VIP” at the start of the story—due largely to her mother’s position of military power—she’s also largely alienated from that power. Her wealth is all her own doing, the result of years of hard work and risk-taking. Growing up, her family was modestly middle-class, as you would expect of two mid-level military officers. Miriam’s father was also military, and David’s father was (and still is) a construction worker. So any VIP status was earned by this generation through their own actions; none of the Solovys were born into wealth and privilege.

I wrote Alex from the beginning as a loner. She values freedom above all, and at the opening of Starshine she’s a very driven but aloof character. Her personal relationships have by and large failed, because of her unrelenting dedication to spending her time among the stars but also her internalized grief at the loss of her father. This makes her a difficult and emotionally guarded person. The gradual buildup that occurs with her doesn’t so much relate to her standing in society as it does to the development and growth of her as a person. Her rise to hero status is much more of an internal journey, one which manifests in an outward manner only near the end.

All this being said, I’ll absolutely concede that many of the characters in Aurora Rising are VIPs. The story told is a big story, with far-reaching conspiracies, destabilizing wars, high-level assassinations, massive military clashes and galaxy-altering alliances formed and broken. Like it or not, that story simply can’t be told from the perspective of the average Joe.

SPACE-COMMANDER: On your blog you mentioned that your third book includes some epic space battle action. As an avid player of EVEOnline, what influences did you draw upon while depicting deep space combat?

GSJENNSEN:  I eagerly await the day when video game graphics catch up to film graphics and are able to allow us to experience the magnificent space battles we see on the big screen. Don’t get me wrong—EVE boasts some gorgeous graphics. But the combat itself is somewhat more…removed. Their trailers are fantastic, though . I’m also a Mass Effect fan, and the graphical presentation of the climactic battle above Earth in ME3 left much to be desired.

So for space combat itself, films for now provide the most inspiration in terms of visuals. The Star Trek reboots are probably the best, most state-of-the-art example (once you get past the hyper-iconic ship designs). The space battle at the beginning of Revenge of the Sith is excellent, as is the escape from Miranda in Serenity and the attack on Xandar in Guardians of the Galaxy. Though there aren’t many space battles, the ship designs in Jupiter Ascending are quite unique and inspiring.

I also rely a good bit on space art. Though it’s still-frame, artists can otherwise fully create their vision to an extent not yet available to either film or video game developers. There are so many astoundingly talented artists on Deviant Art; I’m in awe of their skills and have amassed a voluminous collection of their work. There are times when I’m writing that I have every inch of both monitors covered with space art, leaving myself only the tiniest space in which to type.

QUESTIONS FOR THE READER:

1) Do you think the best science fiction is rooted in an Enlightenment mentality, a la Star Trek, or a mindset more in line with Romanticism, such as Star Wars or the Cyberpunk genre?
2) What is your favorite story published by an independent author?
3) Which game has had the most influence on your development as a visual artist and/or writer?
4) Beyond FTL, what is one area of worldbuilding that you find to be particularly challenging?

deviantID

space-commander

Artist | Hobbyist | Varied
United States
I'm in my late twenties and like many aspiring writers, I have opted for anonymity. When I was younger I was a huge fan of the Sim and Sid Meir games, but as I got older I gradually grew tired of them and started looking for a more creative outlet. One day I noticed dA-Muro, started doodling, and the rest is history.

My main activity on dA revolves around a massive group world building project called One-Planet-at-a-Time one-planet-at-a-time.deviantar…. It's basically a science fiction universe that is designed to remain as open-ended as possible instead of collapsing in on itself like a lot of the mainstream universes seem to be doing. Submissions to this group are officially accepted on Sundays. I do not thank people for faves but I do reply to most comments and notes within a reasonable amount of time.

If anyone would like a critique for a short story (preferably sci-fi) just send me a note and I'll put it on my to-do list. My policy is one critique per writer unless the writing is for the OPaaT Project in which case I am willing to write multiple critiques. Even if you are not a Premium member I am still happy to provide detailed feedback.

Activity


115 deviations
2015 SPRING FEATURE: Aurora Rising


Aurora Rising is a New Space Opera trilogy set in the early twenty-fourth century, a time when humanity is still alone yet technologically advanced and spanning one third of the galaxy www.gsjennsen.com/books/ The plot revolves around the romance of a fiercely independent explorer named Alexis Solovy and an agent from a rival empire, caught up together in roller coaster of conspiracy, space battles, strange new worlds, and all the things we love in science fiction. G.S. Jennsen’s writing is immersive yet economical, cognizant of hard science fiction elements, and, most importantly, focuses on an adventure story that is entertaining.

Starshine: Aurora Rising Book One - Prologue
Starshine: Aurora Rising Book One
“Prologue”


Author:  G. S. Jennsen
Website:  www.gsjennsen.com
The end of the world began with a library query.
…or perhaps it was the space probe. The alien was being vexingly reticent on the matter, the man thought as he straightened his dinner jacket in the mirror.
“She is hardly the first person to express an interest in that region of space. Why are you so worried about her when the others didn’t concern you?”
The others did concern us, but they were deflected with little difficulty. This woman, however, has exhibited a notable talent for discovering what others cannot. As such, we would prefer she never look.
The man smoothed out a crease in one of the sleeves then fastened the antique pearl cufflinks, an heirloom passed do

Starship HUD by GSJennsen
Cosmos: Mysteries by GSJennsen

What I admire most about the Aurora Rising saga is how the author plays on her strengths as a female writer while also incorporating her engineering background. The result is a thinking man’s/woman’s scifi trilogy. Jennsen doesn’t waste time on mainstream controversies and she doesn’t go overboard trying to impress ‘literary people’ at the expense of artistic integrity. She doesn't need to because it's the science that sets her apart (imagine that).

Below is an interview I conducted with GSJennsen:

SPACE-COMMANDER: In a recent post in Flashforward Friday www.ravenoak.net/archives/2875 you spoke about disconnect between stories with future technologies and unforeseen technologies that make scifi stories from the past seem obsolete. Do you think that stories should be written in a way that are deliberately relevant to current issues of our time, or is it more important to focus on how the future will be different? In other words, is it better to take a problem in our society such as an increase in the gap between rich and poor due to automation and milk it into a dystopian conflict, or is it better to portray a utopia in which current problems are essentially nonexistent due to some kind of technological advance?

GSJENNSEN:  An outstanding question, and one I’ve been dying to answer. Conventional wisdom says that all science fiction is actually about the time in which it is written. While this can be true, sometimes very deliberately so, I take issue with the notion it’s anything approaching an absolute.

As for whether science fiction should craft dystopias or portray utopias, I don’t believe it’s an either/or proposition. These are not the only two options, or even the best ones. Dystopias are rarely viewed as such in the eyes of those who live in one—they see good and bad, problems and improvements. I would also argue a true utopia will never be possible, at least not in the eyes of those who live in it. The present day may appear a utopia to people who lived 300 years in the past—look at all the amazing ways our lives have improved since then. Similarly, the world of 300 years in the future will probably appear a utopia to us—but we see only the advances, not the problems.

To answer your question directly, though, I’m not writing about today—I am firmly writing about the future. A big part of that is imagining a plausible, recognizable future, one in which the natural march of time has resulted in natural, believable changes. Injecting current social or political issues into a setting 300 years in the future feels as wrong to me as depicting Alexis Solovy driving to the spaceport where her FTL ship is berthed in a pickup truck powered by a combustion engine and fossil fuels.

The universe of Aurora Rising isn’t a utopia from any perspective, but it is a universe that has moved beyond the pressing problems of the early 21st century. Perhaps most obviously, it has moved beyond discrimination on the basis of gender, race or sexuality. Some might argue this is a naïve, pie-in-the-sky approach, but consider this: 150 years ago African-Americans were slaves in the U.S., without legal status as persons; today they are equal in every respect not only under the law but in the eyes of the vast majority of people. Is there still discrimination? Yes, but more of it is stamped out every day. In twice as many years as those since they were enslaved, is it honestly reasonable to believe we’ll still be fighting that battle? Women have been allowed to vote in the U.S. for less than 100 years, and today their only real remaining battles (in developed countries) are against sporadic pay disparity and participation in military combat. I don’t think I’m naïve to believe these will be solved in far less than another 300 years.

What has taken the place of the problems of the 21st century, however, are the problems of the 24th century—prejudice against artificial intelligence, attempts at controlling a 100-world empire in competition with an upstart rival and the anarchy of the unaligned worlds, uncontrolled corporate interests and unregulated technological advances. Crime of all sorts and power struggles continue unabated. I will note that one problem this future does have in common with our present is the struggle of individuals to place their lives within a much larger human picture, because this has been and likely always will be a reality.

There are many reasons writers and the big publishing houses may want science fiction to be thinly-veiled critiques of current ills, but as an independent writer and self-publisher, I’m thankfully under no obligation to shoehorn in today’s political or social activism into my books, and I won’t do so. Will this limit the amount of traditional attention (critical awards, society memberships, approval by the “powers that be”) that I might receive? Likely so. But it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make to share what I view as a far more realistic, plausible vision of the future.



SPACE-COMMANDER: In addition to your excellent world building and Goldilocks approach to prose www.amazon.com/Starshine-Auror… the main thing that sets you apart from other indie SFF writers is that there are actually a lot of people who have read your books and posted reviews on Amazon. It can be really discouraging to look through and see this vast wasteland full of novels (traditionally published included!) that are either sitting there with just one to five reviews, or with about 50 ‘received from such-and-such book in exchange for review’ comments. Candidly speaking, what is your secret?

GSJENNSEN:  Very simply put, I asked.

At the end of every book, I’ve inserted a candid and personal request to my readers to help me in my career. I ask for them to review the book and to talk about it on social media and with their friends. It doesn’t occur to most readers to leave reviews; until I was a writer I never left reviews, even for books I adored and read over and over again. But when asked, many readers are happy to do so.

I launched my author website six months before I published Starshine and encouraged the readers of my Mass Effect fan fiction to subscribe to it. During the ramp up to publication, I used the website to update them on the book, give insights into what I was trying to do and share my thoughts and efforts. By the time Starshine was released, there were several hundred people who felt like they were part of the project and were invested in its success. People who are invested in something are more likely to do what they can to actively support it, including leave reviews and share it with others.

Since the beginning I’ve cultivated casual and friendly contact with anyone who reaches out to me. I don’t view or treat my readers as ‘fans,’ but rather as friends who have taken precious time out of their lives to read my books. I value each and every one of them, and that pays off.

Still, these aren’t revolutionary actions or anything more than many independent authors do. The rest of the answer is…I don’t know. But based on the substance of the reviews and conversations with readers, I’d like to believe it’s because Starshine (and now Vertigo and Transcendence) made an impact on them.

Long before I was a writer, I was a reader. Over the years I’ve read so many books that followed a stock formula. Science fiction as an allegory for modern times. Social and political issues shoehorned into a futuristic setting. Male characters who treated women as objects, or female characters who landed perfectly timed “you go girl” moments against the patriarchy. Technically well-written, grammatically perfect and following the prescribed story structure paradigms, but with forgettable plot lines filled with forgettable characters who were two dimensional stereotypes cranked out to meet conventional expectations.

For the most part, I’ve finished those books, closed them, set them aside and promptly forgotten about them. They not only offered nothing new or original, they didn’t make me feel anything. They didn’t make an impact, emotionally or intellectually, or haunt my thoughts long after I turned the last page.

In breaking away from the “conventional” wisdom of what is allowed and what should and should not be done, I think I shocked readers—shocked them into paying attention. By a large margin, the response has been a positive one, and from readers of every demographic. I’ve received emails from retired men who’ve been reading sci-fi for 50 years who sheepishly admit they kind of liked the romance elements, from readers who thanked me for the realistic and non-political depiction of a same-sex marriage, from teenage girls who thanked me for giving them multiple female characters they could admire—women who were strong, multi-layered and flawed—and from men who thanked me for giving them the same in the male characters. I’ve received a lot of emails thanking me for telling a complex, rich story in a manner that didn’t “talk down” to the reader and instead respected their intelligence.

Admittedly, I’ve also received the occasional scathing review for there being “too much romance in my sci-fi” or “too much sci-fi in my romance,” for there being too many characters, too many planets and too many plot threads to keep track of. I’m okay with that, as those weren’t the readers I was after anyway. But what I haven’t received a lot of? “Meh.”

SPACE-COMMANDER: In one of your blog posts you mentioned that regardless of whether one is published independently or traditionally, the work of marketing to consumers ultimately lies upon the writer. Out of all the resources available: platforms such as dA and tumblr, scifi conventions such as the one in Birmingham where you will be speaking as a panelist www.magiccitycon.com/ fandoms, magazines, and contests, is there anything you found to be particularly worthwhile, or is it all more like a mad scramble to keep things percolating along?

GSJENNSEN:  I view all those resources as tools, but only tools. What I try to do as an author is establish as many personal connections between myself and my readers as I possibly can. Traditional publishing has inserted three levels of management between authors and readers (agents, publishers and retailers). In the independent bookselling model, those layers are reduced to a far shorter chain from author to reader, with no agent or publisher and the retailer being a low-overhead pass-through operation like Amazon or Smashwords, rather than a brick-and-mortar store that decides which limited number of books will be available for you to choose from.

My marketing plan is simple, and it comes back to one piece of conventional wisdom I do adhere to: “Nothing sells a book like word of mouth.” My two largest overseas markets, especially during the first few months after Starshine’s release, have been Australia and Germany. For a time I had no idea why this was the case as I had no special connection to either country. But after a while I figured out that I had two especially enthusiastic readers in Australia and one in Germany who were blanketing all their social circles with recommendations of my books. They were each readers who had reached out to me early on, and I had fostered two-way relationships with them through emails and online. Without my urging or even my knowledge, they were now going the extra mile to help me, and it was making all the difference.

I believe a writer’s career—or at least my writing career—will evolve and grow from exactly this sort of interaction. It’s slow and takes effort, but for me the interaction with my readers is the true reward for what I’m doing anyway. A year after I published my first book, I consider my career to already be an unmitigated success, not because of the money in the bank but because of the emails in my inbox and the conversations on my social media walls.

As for which resource works best, the answer is simple: they all do. Readers have their own preferences for social media outlets, and you need to be where they are, which is to say everywhere. It isn’t the particular tool that gets the job done, though—it’s the personal contact and interaction you can foster through the use of the tool.



SPACE-COMMANDER: In addition to doing quite a bit of homework on FTL, you also learned a lot about metallurgy, which is a very important component of the Aurora Rising series, because Alexis Solovy is a deep space prospector. When I was reading 2312 I came under the impression that there is about enough useful material in the belt to construct about 5,000 large habitats and I am clueless about the kinds of minerals that may or may not be sitting within the thousands of A.U.s between systems. What are some things you have learned about the demand for various transition metals and heavy elements that are required in emerging technologies, the prevalence of them in the asteroid belt, and how this could factor into a push to exploring areas beyond our solar system?

GSJENNSEN:  First off, I trust Mr. Robinson is accurate in his assessment, at least based on the measurements available to us now. A lot of intra-stellar science fiction focuses on the issues of scarcity of resources and efforts to turn them to productive purposes. I have no doubt humanity will go through such a phase as we take our first real steps off this planet—a phase where we harvest asteroids and build space-based factories to build the first permanent space habitats, which will be cramped and on which every resource will be treasured and hoarded. I don’t know if it will be in 50 years or a 150 years from now, or how long it will last.

With full knowledge and malice aforethought, I skipped that phase—not that I don’t recognize it will be an important yet difficult period, but I’m more interested in what happens next. The invention of some form of faster-than-light travel will change everything, easily as much as the discovery of how to make fire or the invention of the wheel and the internal combustion engine to turn it did.

I know, FTL travel is impossible. More on that in a moment. On the expectation that it is possible, FTL travel is a staple of modern life in Aurora Rising. Once we’re talking about rapid (days, not decades) travel to other stellar systems, the concept of scarcity of resources is simply no longer relevant. When our reach spans the Milky Way, resources are for all intents and purposes infinite. Harvesting, transporting and transforming them are still issues, but humans have already proven fairly adept at mastering those skills.

Now about FTL travel, and things that are impossible (forgive me, you’ve tangentially hit on one of my pet topics).

How are we going to do these impossible things? We don’t know. Right now we’re incapable of envisioning the advances in science, technology, manufacturing and all the other disciplines which will be required to traverse the stars. If we could envision them, we would be there already. But the history of the human race is one of forward progress and constant improvement. We research. We experiment. We theorize. We dream. We push forward. Not everyone does, but enough people do.

400 years ago man couldn’t have envisioned the changes in society driven by computers, because we were reading books by candlelight. For computers to exist (or even be dreamed of) we first had to discover how to harness the power of electricity. Before that, we had to understand the concepts of physics. But at the time Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo and Newton were reading books by candlelight and thinking about the answers to those questions, while their contemporaries were in the streets declaring what was impossible.

We cannot solve the problems of tomorrow with the understanding of science we have today—it’s as simple as that. But it doesn’t mean they are impossible to solve – it just means it isn’t possible yet.

I have an unshakable belief, driven by the evidence which is the history of humanity, that we will do anything and everything we as a culture decide we want to. It may take years, generations or even millennia; but then again, right now people fly across the planet in machines we invented barely 100 years ago, after eons of dreaming of growing wings and touching the sky. A single century, and already we take this miracle for granted. When the time comes that we conquer the stars, our descendants will look back to consider the history of spaceflight. All those people who said “it can’t be done” will look as foolish to them as the anti-heliocentric adherents—which is to say virtually every person born before 1500—do to us.

How? I have no idea. Dear God, I wish I did. Imagine how good my books would be if I did!

SPACE-COMMANDER: One thing that I have noticed about some of the mainstream sagas (i.e. Star Wars, Star Trek, Dune, Game of Thrones, etc) is that flashback scenes are almost nonexistent while other famous works (i.e. Oryx and Crake, Lost, etc) use them as an integral part of the experience. Do you think there is a litmus test that a writer can use to know whether or not to incorporate this technique, and how did you decide that this was the approach that was right for you?

GSJENNSEN:  Every character comes into a book with a history, one which has shaped who they are when we meet them. The question is whether to reveal this history through their actions in the present or through glimpses into the past—and I chose to not limit myself to either. I included flashbacks, but only where the scene presented was powerful or provided significant insight into not only who the character was, but why they were acting as they were.

I’ll give an example: Alex Solovy’s relationship with her father before he died (when she was 13) informs not only her personality and worldview, but her relationship with her mother, Miriam. But in the real world, people don’t rehash or discuss decades-old events when they clash in the present. They were there. They know the history perfectly well. Exposition doesn’t occur naturally, especially in heated arguments, and I felt that artificially tacking it into interactions would interfere with the flow and muddle the tone.

In Alex’s meeting with her mother at the beginning of Starshine, she pointedly lets her mother know that she doesn’t blame Richard Navik for the “unpleasantness” of the meeting by retorting, “I don’t blame him. I blame you.” In flashbacks throughout both Starshine and Vertigo, the reader is gradually given the full picture of the loss of David Solovy, the impact it had on both women – the wife and the daughter—how it poisoned their relationship, and how that was both of their faults and neither of their faults. Once the full weight of this history on both women is fully understood, the “I don’t blame him, I blame you” line takes on a new meaning.

Alex wasn’t talking about Richard, and Miriam knew it. Alex was talking about her father. In Vertigo, during a flashback to when Alex was a young teenager, the reader witness a heart-wrenching scene where Alex lashes out, declaring she wished her mother had died instead of her father. The line in Starshine was a direct, merciless cut against her mother, whom Alex unjustly blamed for the loss of her father and (less unjustly) for the disintegration of their relationship in the aftermath, but this isn’t apparent until much later.

So why didn’t I make this clear from the start? Well, that would involve either spending the first 50 pages chronicling Alex’s life from birth to “now,” presenting a dry summary of events, or having Alex launch into a painfully awkward “as you know, Mother,” exposition in the middle of their argument. None of those would’ve made the beginning of Starshine a particularly engrossing read—and besides, knowing all the answers from the start takes the joy out of reading fiction. Readers want to get to know the characters along the way, in an organic manner.

For me, flashbacks are another tool, but there has to be a reason for them. I tried very hard not to use them as a crutch, but instead as a way to bring forth deeper dimensions of the characters that would otherwise either have to be shown through stilted, unnatural exposition or be left on the editing room floor.



SPACE-COMMANDER: In Starshine the reader learns right away that Alexis is directly related to a VIP. Was the immediate link between the struggle of the average Joe (or this case, Jane) and the conflict of the elites something that you planned from the beginning, or did you decide at some point that a gradual buildup from ordinary to extraordinary, a la Luke Skywalker, would slow the momentum of the narrative you wanted to tell? In other words, is the drama of the elite so important anyway that it’s basically a waste of time to initially pretend that a character has no ties beyond the mundane?

GSJENNSEN:  A very interesting question, and one I had to ponder for several minutes. The best criticism is the kind that hands your own work back to you from a viewpoint you hadn’t intended and makes you ponder if you meant to do what you did.

While Alex might occupy a social position you could arguably view as being “VIP” at the start of the story—due largely to her mother’s position of military power—she’s also largely alienated from that power. Her wealth is all her own doing, the result of years of hard work and risk-taking. Growing up, her family was modestly middle-class, as you would expect of two mid-level military officers. Miriam’s father was also military, and David’s father was (and still is) a construction worker. So any VIP status was earned by this generation through their own actions; none of the Solovys were born into wealth and privilege.

I wrote Alex from the beginning as a loner. She values freedom above all, and at the opening of Starshine she’s a very driven but aloof character. Her personal relationships have by and large failed, because of her unrelenting dedication to spending her time among the stars but also her internalized grief at the loss of her father. This makes her a difficult and emotionally guarded person. The gradual buildup that occurs with her doesn’t so much relate to her standing in society as it does to the development and growth of her as a person. Her rise to hero status is much more of an internal journey, one which manifests in an outward manner only near the end.

All this being said, I’ll absolutely concede that many of the characters in Aurora Rising are VIPs. The story told is a big story, with far-reaching conspiracies, destabilizing wars, high-level assassinations, massive military clashes and galaxy-altering alliances formed and broken. Like it or not, that story simply can’t be told from the perspective of the average Joe.

SPACE-COMMANDER: On your blog you mentioned that your third book includes some epic space battle action. As an avid player of EVEOnline, what influences did you draw upon while depicting deep space combat?

GSJENNSEN:  I eagerly await the day when video game graphics catch up to film graphics and are able to allow us to experience the magnificent space battles we see on the big screen. Don’t get me wrong—EVE boasts some gorgeous graphics. But the combat itself is somewhat more…removed. Their trailers are fantastic, though . I’m also a Mass Effect fan, and the graphical presentation of the climactic battle above Earth in ME3 left much to be desired.

So for space combat itself, films for now provide the most inspiration in terms of visuals. The Star Trek reboots are probably the best, most state-of-the-art example (once you get past the hyper-iconic ship designs). The space battle at the beginning of Revenge of the Sith is excellent, as is the escape from Miranda in Serenity and the attack on Xandar in Guardians of the Galaxy. Though there aren’t many space battles, the ship designs in Jupiter Ascending are quite unique and inspiring.

I also rely a good bit on space art. Though it’s still-frame, artists can otherwise fully create their vision to an extent not yet available to either film or video game developers. There are so many astoundingly talented artists on Deviant Art; I’m in awe of their skills and have amassed a voluminous collection of their work. There are times when I’m writing that I have every inch of both monitors covered with space art, leaving myself only the tiniest space in which to type.

QUESTIONS FOR THE READER:

1) Do you think the best science fiction is rooted in an Enlightenment mentality, a la Star Trek, or a mindset more in line with Romanticism, such as Star Wars or the Cyberpunk genre?
2) What is your favorite story published by an independent author?
3) Which game has had the most influence on your development as a visual artist and/or writer?
4) Beyond FTL, what is one area of worldbuilding that you find to be particularly challenging?
First and foremost, I would like to take this time to congratulate Zerraspace, recipient of the previous feature  2014 WINTER FEATURE: Voice of the Virtual Phantom2014 WINTER FEATURE: Voice of the Virtual Phantom
Voice of the Virtual Phantom is a yet to be published young adult novel set on the near future world of Zainter http://zerraspace.deviantart.com/gallery/38028504/The-Zainter-Project The story focuses on the adventures of four teenage protagonists: Zad, Peter, Lillian, and Stella as they try to make sense of a world lost in its own memories. While the story is primarily character-driven, it also features topnotch worldbuilding in terms of speculative engineering and a unique ecology http://s1.zetaboards.com/Conceptual_Evolution/topic/4819855/5/#new
Zainter from Orbit  fav.me/d5es4r2
Zainter - Altitude Map (Preliminary)   fav.me/d5aoamp
Zainter - Bushmat Grove   fav.me/d5p74ib
The thing I admire most about the Zainter Project is its organic approach to developing the setting: an online social worldbuilding approach allows the author to integrate feedback in a way that enhance
, for being selected as the lead ship designer for Starfighter Inc www.escapistmagazine.com/artic… This game is being produced by Impeller Studios, a new startup company led by David Wessman (X-Wing and TIE Fighter series), Jack Mamais (Mech Warrior 2 Franchise), Coray Siefert (Homefront) and Marc Wilhelm (The Sims 2). For more info, check out Zerraspace's recent interview www.escapistmagazine.com/artic…

Below are my 20 favorite deviations from 2014. Enjoy.


Category #1:  Gasp-worthy amazing; a.k.a. "Oh yeah, now I remember why I keep coming back to dA..."

Point Sentinel by tigaerCelistic Concept Art by ZellimCosmic vista by dm3daPreparation is everything by SARGY001

Category #2:  Cool Spaceships

Destroyer Landing by JJassoNeptune Cruiser by beltminerSouthampton Class Destroyer by HandofManosKitanian Patrol Ship by desuran

Category #3:  Cool Maps

Chart of  Central Orbani by ElsaKroeseVeridian Nation Map by HandofManosDomum Trinity by arsheeshCity of Fingard by felipecarbus

Category #4:  Cool Aliens

Luminous Oppugno by MichaelBeaudryMeet the Hoshlinaka by Whachamacallit1A Pirasan worker by joeabuy1000Zainter - Sheath Grass Evolution by Zerraspace

Category #5:  Misc
The Destination is Everything by Malicious-MonkeyMeros ton Miteron by Apostolon-IAMRiot Control Drone by KaranaK How much sci do you need in your sci-fi?Over the years I've seen a push and pull between actual published science fiction writers and artists and those who think more science should be involved in sci-fi story telling. There's been a hugely failed push by some to get sci-fi to really go hard science across the board. 
Two of the best examples is the bad movie science websites and blogs and the never-ending "No Stealth in Space" argument.
Neither has gained any real traction. You still get gobstoppingly nutty concepts like "Red Matter" in Star Trek 2009, and Cylon angel time loop, parallel evolution in Battlestar Galactica.....and Ancient Aliens is in season, what, three? Four?
So why hasn't the push for hard science taken off? Why so few films like "Gravity" (which still had horribly bad science). http://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2013/10/17/what-does-a-real-astronaut-think-of-gravity/
The reason is simple: People don't expect it to be spot on. All film and writing is about story. Its about people. The machines are ALWA




For anyone who may be interested, I am curious to know if anyone has ideas about the minimum infrastructure and resources needed for a Von Neumann machine scenario. Personally, I am not a big fan of Von Neumann machines. At all. Once a writer lets that kind of a genie out of the bottle, it's only a matter of time before either the whole universe gets devoured by Greenflies or Eldritch Abominations show up out of nowhere and start killing off all intelligent life. However, I do think coming up with a Von Neumann scenario is a useful thought experiment. For instance, if we wanted to establish a Moon Base with just robots, how many of them would we actually need to send over before the Moon started sending things back? Would a handful of robots be able to replicate using some sort of 'grey goo,' or would dozens of Walmart-size factories be required despite advances in 3D printing?
9970 AD



***



THE CHRONICLES OF KANANGAR: A RISING TIDE



It is an age of turbulence.
After decades of corruption,
oppressed colonists and natives
have joined forces against
an alliance of megacorporations.

In a rare moment of solidarity,
two rival civilizations,
the Drall and the Marlon Chaan,
have pressured the TriGalactic Federation
against unilateral intervention.
Meanwhile, the insurgents
wage a fierce guerilla war.

Seeking a decisive victory,
the corporate alliance
is assembling a mercenary fleet.
Little do they know
that informants have revealed
the coordinates of the rendezvous…




***



The void.
Not the edge of a star system,
but somewhere midway between star systems.
Thousands of astronomical units
away from a star—no, tens of thousands.
A light flickered somewhere in the abyss,
and then another, and then dozens more.

BOOM!!! a pilot could almost hear
as his starfighter banked away
from one of eight kilometer-long battleships.
Several other starfighters zig-zagged away from the explosion,
and quickly regrouped
before returning to the combat zone.

“Alpha Wing, return energy to your rear shields.”
a voice resonated through the com channel,
“Here they come!”
Almost 300 starfighters emerged
from the handful of carriers that had survived,
and both sides were now evenly matched.

1/3 of the coalition fighters had been destroyed within the first couple minutes.
Sure, the mercenaries had been distracted by a swarm of missiles,
but their anti-fighter defenses were state-of-the-art.
By and large, the private security forces adhered to a Medium Ship Doctorine:
an emphasis on frigates as opposed to starfighters and cruisers,
kind of like playing chess with bishops instead of knights or rooks.
Frigates could tear apart fighter squadrons like hornets raiding a honeycomb.
Corvettes? Well, as far as frigates were concerned,
corvettes were just big starfighters with less maneuverability.
Still, a fighter squadron within close range
could be just as deadly to a frigate
as a knight landing on a bishop.

Most of the starfighters broke off
and engaged their counterparts,
swarming each other like Mayflies,
and filling the void with flashes of railgun blasts
while other coalition ships continued a relentless barrage
consisting of missiles and long distance lasers
against 80 frigates using data
relayed from the combat zone.
“Corvette group in route.
Bravo Wing, concentrate your fire on the cruisers’ engines
and stick to the ion canons and EMP disks.
That first battleship was just to show them we mean business.”
Other than the eight battleships, there were sixteen enemy cruisers
and two dozen corvettes.
Meanwhile, most of frigates were attempting to disperse,
despite interference from disruption fields
and increased vulnerability caused by active warp drives.
The alliance’s main group lay wide open
for 200 corvettes now within range.

Half a minute later the pawns landed on the rooks.
Of course, the marines, blades, and walker pilots
would not have appreciated the comparison.
Nor would have the handful of beast moderators:
skilled telepaths who were now directing
several 30-meter battle worms
along the outer hulls of their respective battleships.
‘Third Law Organisms,’ the humans had called them
a couple hundred years ago
when watching the then-divided Marlon Chaan skirmish.
‘Fire Worms,’ some had referred to them,
because of the creatures’ ability to emit plasma
as they burrowed subterranean tunnels
or breached the hulls of starships.

Unlike the marines and walkers,
who relied primarily on heavy armor and big guns,
the blades were limited to deflector suits and used melee weapons.
Neon-like stripes lined their silhouettes,
gracefully balancing an array of energy shields
that provided protection
from lasers, plasma blasts and high velocity projectiles.
Within five minutes a team of blades took control
of a battleship,
and then used it to blast apart one of its counterparts.
Several minutes later three of the other battleships were commandeered,
and the remaining cruisers and fighters surrendered
while two dozen frigates fled the arena.
But the hasty negotiators did not refer to their forfeit
as surrender, per say,
instead agreeing to join a new mercenary group:
one with considerably diminished compensation
and less flexibility than their previous contracts.

Thus, in a relatively short timeframe
a fleet of predominantly rooks and bishops
had been subdued by knights and pawns.
The feudal skirmishes of yesteryear
were but a distant memory
but when all was said and done
everything still resembled Chess.
New technologies altered the mechanics,
but the essence of the game persisted.
And as in all great Chess games,
the most important piece was the Queen.
But, what would a queen be in this arena?
A battlecarrier? A dreadnaught? A titan?
No, those were all rooks.
A queen was more similar
to its Medieval counterpart:
an individual of great distinction,
though not necessarily wealthy or directly powerful,
or even a woman—although in this case it was.
This queen excelled in the arts of propaganda,
social climbing and making obstacles disappear.
Some would judge her for such intrigues,
but her approaches produced results.
In the coming days self proclaimed experts
would talk in circles about the battle that had just transpired,
expounding upon erroneous jargon,
forces of history, and petty statistics.
The real story, however,
the one involving a well positioned queen
winning a war almost before it had even begun
was only a whisper
amid a roar of fatuous nonsense.


***



DIANE



“…and today the Intergal Industrial Average dropped three points during a massive sell-off of assets along the Sierra Corridor…”

“…the Atlas Party will fight tooth and nail against any executive action aimed at appeasing the mercantilist double standards of rogue nations…”

“…human rights to do what?! Those people were being used as indentured servants and wage slaves. Of course they’re better off now!...”

“…a transport full of refugees arrived at…from the…system. Harrowing accounts have described human farmers being driven away from their land…”

“…conservative faction took control of the…parliament. The pro-human government has declared marshal law…”  

“…several rebel groups based in the…sector are alleged to be engaged in piracy…”

“…according to our sources, the Secretary of State is meeting with the Archbishop of…as well as several coalition leaders for a Church of Orion-brokered diplomatic summit…”

“…and I am pleased to announce that the Populist Party supports the president’s decision to normalize trade relations with the sovereign nations of the former Sierra Coalition…”

“…six hours ago a coup occurred in the…capital. General…has assumed control of the government…”

“…Federation Intelligence is not interfering with…We will not condone these unsubstantiated accusations…”

“…regional legislature is pleased to announce the addition of…new Federation member worlds.”

“…so far the Xanilla Corporation has been the only multinational to fully integrate the Terran Mining Guild into its supply chain…”


An attractive blonde in her late twenties blinked as she gazed through one of the windows of a subway train and moved her briefcase from the side of her hip to the top of her lap. Moments earlier she had been reviewing news stories via her corneal and auditory implants, but now that the craft was near its destination she preferred half a minute of silence.

The train was clean, lightly packed, and spacious, almost to the point of being luxurious. As the craft decelerated the blur beyond the windows slowly transformed into a series of hexagonal tunnel sections.

After disembarking, the woman took an escalator to a platform walkway two levels above the tracks and then took a right, passing through an entranceway that lead out of the subway. On the other side she walked across a concourse full of restaurants and shops, and then took an elevator ten levels up.

The woman then emerged from the lift and walked through a large atrium. The enclosure was ovoid, full of large fountain plazas and immaculately gardened green space. The architecture had a curvaceous, chrome white style to it: a look that epitomized perfection through simplicity. Sunlight beamed down from a series of skylights 50 meters above and glimmered along the surface of the water.

When the woman reached the other side of the atrium she passed through a government security checkpoint and waited in a lobby for several minutes.  She was then escorted along a corridor to an elevator that took her up an additional 50 levels. There, she passed through another security checkpoint, briefly interacted with a receptionist, and waited 30 minutes while a VIP’s previous meeting dragged through most of her time slot. So much for arriving early.

At this point her cybernetics were unavailable due to security reasons, so she opened her briefcase and glanced through paper printouts of policy documents, talking points, etc that she had kept for such occasions. At one point she looked up to relax her eyes, and noted that the room was much more ornate than the other interiors she had passed through: each side was lined with four Corinthian columns; the wall paneling was exquisite, almost to the point of being gaudy; and four large oil paintings hung on each of the walls.

The first painting, hanging near the entranceway behind her, depicted a massive space battle, painted in vivid shades of red, orange, yellow, and dark blue; the second mural, the one to her left, portrayed some kind of gathering in a large chamber full of what appeared to be dignitaries, with a central human figure shaking hands with a quadrupedal alien, probably a Marlon Chaan; the third painting, the one across from her and behind the receptionist’s desk, appeared to show some kind of large scale terraforming operation: in the bottom right corner, there was a jagged wasteland, full of reds, greys, and browns, along with figures in environmental suits, and in the bottom left corner there were various shades of green, making up the edge of what would undoubtedly become a sprawling layer of vegetation. Meanwhile, a tempestuous sky, interspersed by the occasional isle of blue, filled the top half of the painting with a captivating array of grays, whites, and golds. The fourth image, hanging near a window to her right, depicted several curvaceous arcology cities interspersed between a series of snow-capped mountains, forests, glades and turquoise lakes. The architecture of the monolithic ivory-silver cities complemented the surrounding wilderness; blending with it in a way that was almost intoxicating for her as she gazed upon the graceful half-domes, green terraces, smooth towers and enchanting waterfalls.

“Ms. Green, Congressman Charhyyn will see you now.”

Regional Congressman.



***



“So you mean tuh tell me there’s uh shortage uh scientists right now? If thah’s true, then I’m the mos’ hones’ politician on this side uh the Sierra Corridor,” Charhyyn said with a deliberate frontier drawl. He was tall, middle aged, handsome enough, and had a pair of penetrating brown eyes. The man was also charismatic, with an aura befitting of one who not only accepts how he is perceived, but embraces his stereotype.

“The Feds certainly seem to think so,” Ms. Green replied. Diane Green had come from a humble background, hailing from a densely populated ‘Middie’ industrial world, but, like most people, her accent fit with what was referred to as ‘Movie English.’ “That, or they’re trying to brain drain their rivals. Either way, now is the time to get our region on board with this.”

“Or at leas’ thah’s whah the Ivy Consortium would have us tuh believe.”

Diane blinked. Ivy was not her employer, but the megacorporation certainly made generous contributions to the special interest group she promoted.

Charhyyn continued, “Shore, this mih’ be a fanTAStic opprutunity in the lon’ run, but rih’ now, my constituents seem tuh be a wee’ bit mo’ah consunned abou’ jobs, seCURity an’ infrastructure. An’ you expect this legistlachuh tuh fit in some miscellANEous provision fo’uh popin’ up a buncha’ resuch centuhs all ova’ the place?”

“You’re the Majority Whip. You could make it happen.”

“That I suttenly could,” Charhyyn smiled slyly as he lifted his eyebrows, “But then what? Miz Green, I may be a team playuh, but I dihn’t get wheh I am jus’ by bein’ some corprit lapdog. Ova an’ ova again I tol’ folks ‘The only one who can help a Rimmuh, is a anothuh Rimmuh!’ An’ you have the auDAcity to tuh think that I’m jus’ gonna roll ova while a bunchuh vital resou’suhs are diVERted tuh subsidize Arr an’ Dee while the poor fall through the cracks!”

“And that is where you are wrong. New industries emerging from frontier research initiatives will improve the economy as a whole, not to mention allowing this region to compete with other areas of the TriGalactic that, shall we say, have a much more conducive atmosphere for capital expenditure. The analysts at my agency predicts that sixty percent of the funding will come from the Feds, twenty percent from Public-Private partnerships and ten from nonprofit entities. All that we need to make this happen is a small investment from the regional legislature.”

“Yes, a ‘small investment,’” the politician grinned again, “but how soon can my constituents expect the oth’uh ninety percent to start chippin in? Five yea’uhs? Ten? Twenty?”

“Actually right away. My sources have informed me that a number of former Sierra Coalition members have taken a keen interest in this.”

Charhyyn grimaced. “Wait a minute. You mean to tell me that the other half of this startup fund is going to come from the guilds??”

“Why not? They can’t afford police their territories and they know it. Besides, you and I both know that unless the Feds invest more in your side of the Corridor, they’ll just do the bare minimum when things start heating up again.”

“Well now we’re talking. Fifty percent from us, fifty from the Commies; the fat cats jump in once the nerds finish the heavy lifting and then everybody’s happy! Sounds almost too good to be true, but, I suppose it might be worth the risk…”

“Sometimes politics makes strange bedfellows,” Diane said as she batted her eyes seductively.

“It does indeed, Miz Green. It does indeed,” Charhyyn leered at her, “Tell me, Miz Green, is there a, uh, Mister Green?”

“No,” she said coyly as she twirled her hair across her shoulder, “Green is my maiden name. But you can call me Diane.”

The congressman touched his intercom. “Hi Jan,” Charhyyn said, “Cancel my next three appointments.”



***



UZTARTH



The TriGalactic: Milky Way Galaxy: Chaan Region: Sierra Sector Block: Kanangar Sector: 1500 astronomical units away from the Kanangar Star System. A sleek bluish-grey transport, 70 meters in length, cruised toward a yellow star at maximum warp. Warp drive, not to be confused with hyperspace, which was much faster, was safe at speeds up to 0.25c. This velocity was a mere quarter the speed of light, but in the absence of detailed hyperspace charts—a rarity in the poorly explored territories just beyond civilization—long voyages at this speed were required prior to periods of rapid expansion. Pirates and ruthless military commanders often pushed their ships to 1c, which was moderately dangerous, and if a blockade runner were truly desperate s/he might travel at 8c, which was 50% fatal for a 24 hour time period, but even that speed would not allow a ship to completely outrun torpedoes. Torpedoes often traveled at 32c, which gave them a 90% chance of spontaneously detonating within 24 hours, (at 64c a torpedo would be destroyed within seconds) but given that most long distance battles occurred within 1000 AU, >55% of all torpedos traveling at this speed would reach the same distance as their respective targets 4.3 hours after being launched. But in regards to long distance probes, even swarms of unmanned ones, 32c was hopelessly unrealistic because most stars were >200,000 AU apart. Despite this impediment, in recent centuries the Federation had explored much of what now made up the Sierra Corridor; however, humans were not the only ones in the region who held expansionistic ambitions.  

Captain’s log, Day 184, Year 18,042 Post Reckoning:

It has been ten hours since the crew and myself were awakened from stasis, and twenty years have passed since the beginning of our voyage. Mission Control has informed us that a series of power struggles among non-Drall has changed the dynamics of our region. The Kanangar Sector, in particular, is now within the territory of a human dominated group that calls itself the Terran Mining Guild. Despite being somewhat speciesist in internal matters, the guild is apparently on excellent terms with the Hegemony, and, as a token of friendship, ownership of our expedition has been transferred to them.

There is not enough time to recalibrate the stasis chambers, so the lead scientist, my wife, has suggested a series of regimented exercise and intellectual development over the next month. Each day one of us will deliver a presentation of historical, scientific or philosophical significance. Given the circumstances, I have insisted that all ten of us speak the Terran trade language exclusively. It concerns me that a few of my crew may prove to be less compliant than others in this regard.


The vessel was heart-shaped, with a pair of ion engines for short ranged transit. The cockpit, just large enough for four beings, was at the top level, front center, followed by an open area functioning both as a command center and a data analysis hub, and then engineering. The starboard side contained captain and crew quarters, a virtual reality suite, a galley and mess hall on the top level, and a medical bay, exercise room and general storage on the bottom level; the port side contained a conference room, computer core and hydroponics on the top level, and liquid storage, life support systems and a biology laboratory on the bottom level. The central area of the lower level contained miscellaneous cargo, such as surveyor drones, packages of processed food and a couple vehicles: one four-wheeled rover and a hovercraft.

Why the rover, one might ask: The trouble with relying exclusively on hovercraft was that gravity manipulation systems relied on certain varieties of exotic matter that made them high maintenance commodities. The exotic matter in this case was not fuel, per say, but it was like fuel in that it required replacement after a certain amount of use—kind of like a poorly constructed light bulb. Ships used gravity manipulation as well, but in most situations the resistors did not wear out as quickly as those in hovercraft because the ship-based systems utilized a steady output. Hovercrafts, on the other hand, were constantly readjusting the amount of electricity running through the resistors in order to adapt to subtle variations in a planet’s gravity as well as the weight of its cargo. It sounds easy—just balance the weight with the lift force and fly far enough above the ground to avoid crashing into a hill or subtle slope in elevation—but, unless one adds some kind of thruster or rotor-based mechanism, which, by the way, requires a significant amount of combustible fuel—not just electricity—and, needless to say, is also required to keep the craft up after the initial lift because of the change in potential energy, one will either guzzle though quite a bit of fuel in order to power the auxiliary components, or, sooner or later, one will burn out the resistors needed for gravity manipulation. Most rovers, on the other hand, relied exclusively on lithium batteries.
   
Twenty-four hours after the awakening ten Drall gathered in the port side conference room and took seats at a rectangular table. Four subordinates sat on either side; the captain took the seat at the end closest to the door, and the lead scientist sat at the other end with a view port behind her. At a mere quarter the speed of light, the view appeared just like any other starry night. When the meeting began, a hologram appeared above the center of the table. The 3D image was a semitransparent polyhedron composed of eight equilateral triangles, four meeting at each vertex. One edge along the horizontal plane was red while its counterpart on the other side was blue; another edge perpendicular to the blue/red spectrum was white, and its opposite was jet black. The top of the polyhedron was grainy; the bottom was blurry; and the colors, shades, and texture spectrums merged together as one looked from one side of it to the other.

Unlike humans, Drall anatomy consisted of a hammerhead-like elongation of the head, twelve tentacles surrounding an avian-like beak, and three thumb-like appendages on each hand. The Drall were hairless, dressed in a silk robe and tunic combination, and under normal circumstances their language was characterized by a simple variety of gargled low octave chirping noises (E2-C3 for males, and G2-G5 for females). Millennia of cultural homogenization had bastardized what had once been a multitude of complex languages into a dull yet efficient brogue.

“No speaking in Drallian!” the alpha female shrieked at one of the subordinates, “Fifty percent of your success in the Mining Guild will depend on your ability to speak English. NOUN! VERB! OBJECT!”

“Uzrashti is right,” the captain said while looking at the four non-scientists to his right, “The Fourth Axiom states that in order to succeed in the Long War you must understand the ways of your allies.”

“Thank you, Uztarth. Now, can any of you explain what we all looking at.”

“Hierarch Uzrashti,” Uzrashti’s subordinate closest to her right began, “the hologram is depicting a regular octahedron. The depiction above has served as the basis for the Central Dogma of Drall philosophy, ever since the Seventh Reckoning—and humans refer to it as a Platonic solid, Hierarch Uzrashti.”

“Thank you, Uztoshen. I am relieved that at least one of you is in accord with the Fourth Axiom. Now, can some else explain why the humans refer to this as, a, ‘Platonic Solid.’”

This time the Drall to Uztoshen’s right spoke up. “Hierarch Uzrashti, um, uh, ancient humans, Play-Doh used. Abstract concepts, Play-Doh, express in. Similar commercial product to this day…um, uh, philosophers, to express idea of octahedron, used Play-Doh…um, uh—Hierarch Uzrashti—“

“NOOO!!!!” Uzrashti’s face flushed from the usual grayish white to yellow and then magenta, “Such ignorance brings shame not only to yourself, Uzcosh, but also to your colleagues, to House Uz, to House Cosh, to our expedition, to the Hegemony, and to the Terran Mining Guild!” While Uzcosh trembled tears filled Uzrashti’s eyes and she sobbed hysterically. “Oh, why has fate been so cruel as to curse us with such monumental ineptitude? Please, please, please, can someone else enlighten this bumbling Undrall as to what it means to be a Platonic solid?”

One of the non-scientists to Uzrashti’s left spoke up. “Heirarch Uzrashti, a Platonic solid consists of identical polygons merging together in a way that each vertex has the same number of sides. There are only five polyhedrons that accomplish this, and ancient humans associated each one with an element: tetrahedron for fire, cube for earth, octahedron for air, dodecahedron for Ether and icosahedron for water. Although this view was shortsighted, the Platonic solids do show up quite a bit within Nature, Hierarch Uzrashti.”

An awkward silence followed as Uzrashti wiped her tears away, so the captain spoke up. “Very good. Now, can someone reflect, in English, on why the octahedron is so important to the Drall.”

A female crewmember to Captain Uztarth’s right spoke, “Hierarch Uztarth, in ancient times truth and untruth were determined by the ruling class, and society stagnated for millennia. Countercultures were extinguished in most cases, and subverted by the ruling class in others. Control was maintained, in large part, by limiting information, especially mathematical literacy, from the populace. However, such a policy had interesting consequences. In a way, punishing commoners for engaging in mathematical discussions actually caused individuals to become much more interested in symmetry as an unbiased system for discerning truth. The octahedron, in particular, was especially useful for disassembling false dichotomies propagated by the ruling class prior to the Seventh Reckoning, Hierarch Uztarth.”

“Excellent. Now, compare and contrast the Terran Mining Guild with the Hegemony in a way that integrates the Central Dogma.”

“Hierarch Uztarth, as we all know, the Central Dogma consists of seven ethics: Hierarchy, Purity, Reciprocity, Suffering, Harmony, Discipline and Balance. Altruism correlates with Purity and Reciprocity while Selfishness correlates with Hierarchy and Suffering; Order correlates with Purity and Hierarchy while Chaos correlates with Suffering and Reciprocity; public policy emphasizing Knowledge infrastructure correlates with Discipline and policy emphasizing Culture correlates with Harmony.

“One thing that the Terran Mining Guild and the Hegemony have in common is a desire for Order, although perhaps for different reasons: the TMG seeks to establish an ordered economic system through central planning, and the Hegemony is opposed to what some euphemistically refer to as 'Eudaimonia,' which implies that we are also somewhat opposed to Chaos. Likewise, the TMG can also be characterized as somewhat selfish based on their aversion to environmental regulations in favor of what some of their detractors have referred to as ‘Mordorian’ approaches to resource extraction. The Hegemony, on the other hand, is neither selfish nor altruistic in essence, but seeks to strike a balance. Conversely, the essence of the TMG is balanced in regards to Discipline and Harmony while the Hegemony values Knowledge at the expense of Tradition, Hierarch Uztarth.”    

Uzrashti spoke next, “I think that is enough for today. Uztarth, I want you to present during the next session. Everyone else, COME PREPARED! Especially if you are a scientist. Uzcosh, your performance was the worst today. You are hereby banned from the virtual reality suite for the next 72 hours.”
The Chronicles of Kanangar: A Rising Tide
Word count: 4249
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Science Fiction - Space Opera

This story is an entry for Writers-Guild-DA's 2015 SS2 contest fav.me/d8mdyf4 The prompts were "I Wish" and "Only a whisper." I chose the later.

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The story is set in the OPaaT Universe one-planet-at-a-time.deviantar…

In compliance with the group bylaws, only planets already established within the project are specifically mentioned, no imposing declarations (# of planets, galactic population, etc) are made, and scenes in unspecified areas take place either in deep space or in interior locations.

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Grammar Nazi Critiques:

What impression do you get from it?
Are my characters believable? 
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Critics, any and all feedback is welcome. Do your worst :)
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:iconn0-username:
n0-username Featured By Owner Jun 10, 2015  New Deviant Hobbyist General Artist

um, hello. I was wondering if u were interested in joining my group omi-artists. it a general art group meaning it accepts EVERYTHING. omiartists.deviantart.com/

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:iconbeltminer:
beltminer Featured By Owner Jun 2, 2015
Hey man,
Thanks for the mention.
Hope your birthday was a great one.
g
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Jakeukalane Featured By Owner Jun 1, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
happy birthday! :)
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PUFFINSTUDIOS Featured By Owner Jun 1, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
happy birthday^^
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WorldBuildersInc Featured By Owner Jun 1, 2015  Student Traditional Artist
Happy birthday, my friend! :dummy:
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