2014 FALL FEATURE: Caelum Lex
Caelum Lex is a self-published open access space opera that is reminiscent of “Firefly.” The story is the product of collaboration between two dedicated individuals, a technical writer and a visual artist, and a new chapter is released each Friday. Like “Firefly,” Caelum Lex focuses on a group of ordinary people just trying to get by and does a good job of presenting likeable characters that viewers/readers can get attached to. However, unlike “Firefly,” the universe of Caelum Lex is built to last beyond a mere handful of episodes and the experience does not include analogs of annoying characters such as River and Shepherd Derrial Book. Chapters are available on dA fav.me/d5gro6q but Caelum Lex also has an excellent website www.caelum-lex.com/ complete with an interactive table of contents www.caelum-lex.com/category/pa… a wiki-style encyclopedia lexicon.caelum-lex.com/doku.ph… and illustrations. There is also a fan group here on dA caelumlexfans.deviantart.com/
Year One fav.me/d6n9lyw
The first thing that impresses me about Caelum Lex is the shear “going for it” passion of the creators. Chapters keep coming through each week, and the art complements it in a way that is quite effective. Basically it’s a great example of an indie sci-fi project that actually works. Both creators have successful full time careers but they make the most of the time they have in order to produce the best reading experience possible. But as Geordi La Forge—I mean—LeVar Burton—used to say on “Reading Rainbow,” you don’t have to take my word for it: fav.me/d5noop1 www.universeeventual.com/2013/…
Below is an interview that I conducted with khronosabre and jennerally:
1. In your Literary Compass interview you said that your goal was to write the most epic space story ever. Before you two began writing Caelum Lex, what what were some things that you felt were lacking in TV and book-based science fiction stories?
Hayley: I wouldn’t necessarily say there was anything missing in the grand scheme of science fiction. Sci-fi, in fact, has always been a genre well-suited to hit so many story elements, it’s difficult to point to something and say ‘yeah we don’t have enough of that’. Caelum Lex, rather, was meant to just be everything that we personally wanted out of a sci-fi, a lot of which was drawn from pre-existing media we liked. The spaceship action of Battlestar, the character development of Firefly, the core fantasy epic of Star Wars, the romantic chemistry of the X-Files, the list goes on. Caelum Lex isn’t looking to fill any void in sci-fi, it’s just looking to be an ultimate hybrid of love.
Jenn: A writing teacher told me once that you should "write things that you personally would want to read." I'm always looking for sci fi stories with a wide cast of diverse, interesting characters with a complex smart female protagonist in the heart of it. So that's what we went for! We drew inspiration from all of our favorite classics, like Star Wars, Firefly, Battlestar Galactica ...
2. When you plan out chapters do you go in with the intention to make something that would work well as a one-to-one text-to-motion picture conversion, or do you prefer to exploit advantages inherent to text-only formats?
H: I for one am a primarily visual person. When I write, I definitely see everything in full cinema which I think comes across most in our scene changes and POV shifts. In my head it’s less a literary page break and more a hard film cut. But there are definitely text-only advantages that we utilize as well. It’s a lot harder to get details about someone’s feelings or pasts or what have you from an image than a paragraph.
J: In the beginning, I wrote like I was writing a book. And my writing suffered for it. It was overwritten and crappy. Now that we are 100 chapters into Caelum Lex, I have a better understanding of writing concise description & dialogue, and capturing images in my head. So I write it more like a webcomic / movie now, I think.
3. dA versus Tumblr: Which one has been the most useful as far as bringing in new fans?
J: Definitely DA. Moreso than Tumblr, DA's format lends itself to understanding what Caelum Lex is: a story with words and drawings. It's not a webcomic and it's not a story, it's something in between. Explaining that on Tumblr is hard.
H: Probably dA simply because our Tumblr isn’t exactly...maintained. Both, however, are a little problematic in terms of really drawing in audience though as dA and Tumblr (especially Tumblr) are catered to a very fast consumption of information. People on either aren’t necessarily looking to read hundreds of thousands of words of text as they are browsing around for cool imagery. Frankly, we get most of our audience through webfictionguide.com If you like reading free online serials, check it out, there’s a ton of great work there.
4. As with Firefly and Battle Star Galactica, I did not come across any aliens or strange ecology. As a general rule, do you feel that artifacts, lost civilizations, and talking squids just get in the way when it comes to writing compelling character-based fiction?
H: Eh no, not really. Not as a general rule. I love aliens and strange worlds and uncovering mysteries about both (I grew up on Stargate, it’s kind of my jam haha), but that’s just not what Caelum Lex is about. I’m definitely not opposed to one day doing a sci-fi that does include that sort of theme (there was some discussion about a possible “sequel” to Caelum Lex that sort of did, but shh), but it’s just not this one.
J: I don't think aliens get in the way necessarily - I just think creating races of aliens and civilizations is a HUGE undertaking and I wasn't ready to consider it for our first sci-fi story. We wanted to create characters that felt distinctly human who just happened to be far in the future.
5. Unlike Firefly, I did not come across any River analogs as I was reading. What are your thoughts about the use of telepathy and its limitations within the context of a fictional universe?
J: Who says none of our characters can read minds?!
H: Hah yeah that’s true. Perhaps they can. But they don’t because actually no, I really dislike telepathy and that was among my least favorite parts of Firefly. I’ve never been big on the whole ‘gifted’ or ‘powers’ thing. I enjoy a good superhero movie as much as the next person, but telepathy? The human experience is already complex and interesting, why throw in the ability to circumvent the best part: communication. Not my thing.
6. Unlike BSG, in my reading mentions of robots and AI were virtually nonexistent. From the standpoint of World Building, do you feel that technological plateaus are useful, and if so what are some specific restrictions that you deliberately implement?
J: Technological plateaus are essential. Imagine if everyone in our story could teleport - they'd do a lot less running and fighting!
Generally, our goal in writing future tech has been to ask ourselves, "is this a device that is easy to describe, that the reader can understand? Is it feasible to see this device in the future?" Nothing too outlandish, I don't think. Which is unfortunate - some of the tech we give the Society runs parallel to current events.
H: There’s actually an in-world reason for why CL’s technology isn’t mind-blowingly futuristic. When the First Colonists traveled from the Origin to the Span they now inhabit, they were forced to dismantle most of their tech in order to make the trip and start the colonies and after the First Division War, much of that technology was simply lost for good. As for why we chose to do that. I like space-y future-y gadgets, but Jenn’s right, it needs to be easy to understand and simple. Also, we’re working with struggling space pirates. Some of the bigger planets have some cool tech we haven’t really delved into, but for the Dionysian? Gadgets would just make things easier for them. And we don’t want that.
7. From what I read people in the universe of Caelum Lex have similar lifespans to what you and I could expect. Do you feel that widespread immortality has a numbing effect on the intensity of science fiction narratives?
J: Who said none of our characters are immortal?!
Just kidding (maybe). They do have similar lifespans, but we can bend the rules a bit. For example, Leta's only 24 when the story starts, and she's already a doctor. Technology advanced medicine as such that she didn't have to be in school studying medicine forever.
H: I think this goes back to the answer above. These people are supposed to be struggling to survive and (later on in the story) make something out of their lives. If those lives were unending, why worry about it? It also ties back to the telepathy thing. I don’t have any desire to make things easy for them. They’ve got some hundred years to figure their shit out and that clock is and should be ticking and loudly.
QUESTIONS FOR THE READER:
1) What are your thoughts about technological plateaus in science fiction?
2) What are your thoughts about including or excluding robots and AI in science fiction?
3) What did you like about Firefly?
4) What did you dislike about Firefly?