A Whole New Novel!

Well, sort of, at least.

My last post was on the recent crisis in world-building I had been having with my current main work-in-progress, Dreadship Omnipotence. Since that post, the crisis has spiralled out of control, to becoming a plot-construction crisis, and then finally a character crisis.

It turned out I was telling the wrong story.

The moment of epiphany came shortly after my reworking of the plot and its central elements, and I turned to thinking about how the changes in the world and plot would affect the characters. I quickly came to the conclusion that the heart of the problem was that I had the wrong protagonist.

Why was Idim Jyn, dashing captain of the Lysandra, the wrong protagonist, you ask? There were several reasons:

-He was a walking cliche, and much of his personality was based off of Captain Korso from Don Bluth’s Titan A.E. (a great film if you haven’t seen it; go watch it now and come back to this post later) and Firefly‘s Mal.
-He was, ultimately, kind of an asshole/would develop into one, and while I liked some elements of his character, I could see other elements of it becoming huge annoyances for me as a writer, and potentially for readers, later on.
-He did not really fit in with the world I’d built; he was a little bit too much of an oddity.
-Perhaps most seriously, he was setting himself up to be too passive. The way his past was constructed, his lowly status, and his lack of ambition meant that he would be taking a backseat to the interesting stuff. And after my first (terrible) trilogy with a similar protagonist, I didn’t want to do that again.

So, Idim Jyn was bumped out of the main protagonist role. He’s still in the story, just not as the captain of the ship. Who replaced him, you asked? A character who was originally a villain: Seraph Gavriela Adenai, more widely known as Ghosteye Spectra, the captain of the Eidolon.

Seraph/Spectra is a much more interesting, and less cliche, character than Idim. Her introduction showcases that; she is much more willing to kill than Idim is, she has an interesting way of killing, a pair of pistols that allow her to shoot through walls and download the consciousnesses of those she kills, and she has a strange ability that will form part of the core of what will become the Dreadship Trilogy: the ability to see through everything. Unlike Idim, a low-life smuggler at the bottom of the social heap, Spectra is a feared and respected pirate and assassin, with a great deal of influence in the underworld. Unlike Idim, she is in a position to get things done. And, on top of all of that, she has a burning ambition inside of her. Unlike Idim, who was to bumble his way through discovering the godlike power he had acquired, Spectra will embrace that power, use it, and direct it. Spectra is not bumbling; she is much more competent, yet deeply flawed in a way Idim was not. She is, in some a much deeper and more unique character.

Unfortunately, this shift in character did entail a drastic shift in the plot and world of the novel, and also prompted me to reconfigure my characters. I previously had a main cast of between ten and twelve main characters, depending on what you defined as “main.” I have now cut it down significantly, to six and a half: Spectra herself, her first mate and navigator Tathal Litenz, her cyborg engineer Melkorh, her software specialist and resident hacker Idim Jyn (told you he was still here!), the orphan artist Lemi, their “temporary” sniper Khoresh Eylkaum (though she just might be cut as well), and the half-main character, the crew’s part-time intern Obri Hathorken. The previously larger cast has been distilled into these six and a half figures.

The plot itself has also changed, but I won’t say much on that at the moment. More dramatically, the world has changed significantly. It still has the same general outline – it’s still a cyberpunk space opera – but a few elements have changed substantially. The major change revolves around the plot’s central theme: human evolution and godhood. Namely, transhumanism and posthumanism are much more pronounced now, and instead of one god-type figure being present as the antagonist, the entire universe is set against the backdrop of a host of powerful “godlings” that mankind created to protect itself from… well, ultimately, from themselves. It’s quite a different world, and it feels much fuller and better put together now, and all of the pieces are falling into place!

This does mean, however, that I have to start over largely from scratch. I have, however, already completed the first chapter, and am working on the second now, and writing it is a lot easier! Before I leave you to get back to work, I’ll leave you with two things: the updates synopsis, and my rough sketch of the new protagonist, Ghosteye Spectra (excuse my poor artistic abilities!):

Humanity stands on the brink of the Third Godwar, a conflict that will end human history and set the race on a new evolutionary path. As the godlings that rule over humanity prepare for war, a powerful weapon capable of killing a god falls into the hands of an ambitious space pirate, who soon finds herself standing at the crossroads of humanity’s future.



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Posted by on June 15, 2016 in Writing


A Crisis in World-Building

As always, I’m horrible at updating this blog, and similarly horrible at updating my wordcount, on which I have fallen miserably short this month. The good news is I actually have written some things, so now the wordcount bar has a little bit of blue in it! The bad news is that total it’s only about 600 words, and it was in my secondary WIP, the steampunk short story collection currently titled Darke, about a gunmage named Fineas Darke.

This woefully low amount of words, and no words added to my main WIP, Dreadship Omnipotence, does not mean I haven’t actually been working on the project! On the contrary, I’ve actually been more active this month so far in thinking about what’s going in to the project than I have for the last three (months)! This work has been primarily in the realm of expanding the world, and recording the political and social development of the universe in more detail. I’ve also done a lot of thinking about the series’ (it will be trilogy) overarching antagonist, the Basilisk, as well as the minor antagonists building up to it. So, the backdrop against which most of the plot takes place is becoming more well-developed, which is a sort of progress, even if not in the form of words contributing to the draft!

Unfortunately, this progress has also somewhat paralyzed me with regards to writing. As I was building the world, it started to actually feel less and less realistic to me, and I began to doubt if it was really a good world. Some things stopped making sense, and I’ve rewritten a lot of earlier background, but I’m not even sure how much of what I have I will keep. I’m fairly certain about the antagonist structure I’ve built up; what I’m unsure about is the political entities of the world of Dreadship Omnipotence, and in particular their discrete nature. Hence, I’m having what I’m thinking of as a confidence crisis in world-building, that I want to resolve before I continue writing more in that world (and I still fully intend to do so).

As it is, there are four polities in the world: one hyper-surveillance state, one loosely bureaucratic theocratic state, one loose political confederation, and then a whole bunch of autonomous communities collectively grouped together. Though these divisions made some sense at first, they seem to me to be increasingly artificial and difficult to work with, especially given the interstellar-cyberpunkesque setting. The borders between polities seem a little bit too strong and real, I think is my issue, especially given the ubiquity of various internets interposed across borders, with real control over it largely impossible (save in the hyper-surveillance state). My issue, I think, is that I am clinging to perhaps an outmoded notion of “state” here; one that is tied to specific territoriality.

I think, then, that what I need to do is rethink what the state, in this world, actually would look like, and blur the boundaries between them far more. Part of the project of the series is now, I think, to reimagine the state and nation in a distant, cyberpunk, interstellar future. Rather than dividing up the universe into discrete polities with clear boundaries, I think it might be more productive – and might flow and fit in with the story better – if the entire universe of mankind was made to more closely match the “Communes” polities (the autonomous collectivities), with the other polities I had envisioned existing more as freeflowing “imagined communities” (to borrow from Benedict Anderson) or maybe some form of digital-political community instead, with the borders being largely social instead of physical. This would also give me room to play with the overlap of spatial borders (through space travel) with the social borders of states, which could be a lot of fun!

So, while I’m working through this crisis, progress will assuredly be slow, and once I’ve finished, I’ll need to rework earlier writing to mesh in with the new world; though I might wait until I’ve finished the first draft to come back to it. Though at the same time, the world is so thoroughly woven into parts of the story, that might not be possible. Whatever happens, we’ll see, and hopefully soon I can actually get writing again (should I be able to find the time)!

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Posted by on March 19, 2016 in Writing


Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen

On the heels of finishing SyFy’s Childhood’s End, I also managed to get through a novel: Lois McMaster Bujold’s latest Vorkosigan book, Gentleman Jole and the Red QueenI absolutely love Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga; I think it is one of the greatest works of science fiction, up there with Herbert’s Dune, Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos, and Brin’s Uplift Saga. However, it is a very different type of story from those other series above; while the above stories are all about meaning and grand-scale, universe-shattering changes, Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga is much more modest in terms of astral scale, but it more than makes up for it in its deep probing of social questions and development of characters. Her accounts of the interaction between a backwards, feudal society and the technologies of the more advanced universe are a joy to read and extremely thought-provoking, in particular the way in which she explores the gradual granting of autonomy to women’s bodies, and the forces that resist this.

Of course, the series itself also develops several of science fiction’s most memorable characters, from Piotr, Aral, Mark and (the titular) Miles Vorkosigan, to Simon Illyan, Ivan Vorpatril, Bel Thorne, Elli Quinn, and Ky Tung, and of course, to Cordelia Vorkosigan (nee Naismith). I had no idea what to expect from this book from the title, which is neatly vague, but was pleased to see a return to focus on Cordelia, a galactic stranded in the backwards Barrayaran Empire for love. Yet, Cordelia manages to avoid falling into the woman-who-does-anything-for-her-man trope, while still being able to love deeply. It is Cordelia’s love and love-life that make for the focus of this book, which is also the latest chronologically in the series.

Not much goes on in the book, until a sort of very short climax at the very end. This was surprising, given the relatively action-packed rest of the series (which, I should mention, also slowly changes genre, from military science fiction to political commentary to romance, while always having elements of all three), but in no way diminished it; despite the lack of a real plot, I was hooked from the first chapter. Bujold has an amazing ability to draw characters, and these characters I already knew well. While most Vorkosigan books can, I think, be enjoyed on their own without having read others, this one is full of enough references that you really need to have read almost all of the rest of the series to enjoy.

There is also surprisingly little of the series’ central character, Miles, who the series for the most part follows from childhood to old adult, in favor of his mother; a nice return to the old Shards of Honor and Barrayar stories (with plenty of references to the former!). It was fascinating to see Miles (grown Miles) from the point of view of someone who is smarter than him, which was a welcome viewpoint and helped expose some of Miles’ vulnerabilities that don’t come across as much when he is the center of attention. The book itself takes place on the Barrayaran colony world Sergyar (which Cordelia helped discover), and deals with Cordelia and a close friend, Admiral Jole, dealing with the aftermath of the death of Cordelia’s husband and Jole’s mentor. The story deals with the pair of them (re)-finding each other while trying to manage an expanding colony, and reveals a lot of surprising facts about the past relationship between Cordelia, Jole, and the late Aral Vorkosigan. The introduction of Jole – an entirely new character as far as I can recall – was a bit clunky at first, and I never felt he really developed much, but the discussion of the relationship between the three of them, and its evolution (despite one of them being dead!) was very moving and, as always with Bujold, thought-provoking. Though nothing happens, the book still somehow remains a page-turner due to Bujold’s great gift with the pen (or rather, the keyboard). Though not what I was expecting, Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen was still a joy to read!

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Posted by on February 12, 2016 in Readings


Childhood’s End

I just had the unique pleasure of watching SyFy’s adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke’s novel Childhood’s End into a three-part miniseries, and in what little free time I had, I wanted to share a few thoughts I had on it. Childhood’s End is one of my favorite novels (despite its drawbacks including clunky writing and potentially colonial apologetics), but SyFy has an unimpressive adaptation track record, and so I had high hopes but low expectations for Childhood’s End. As such, I wasn’t terribly devastated by the adaptation, but nor was I impressed.

Childhood’s End is a story of First Contact, in which the aliens (the Overlords) come to Earth, but do not “invade” to conquer, but instead bring mankind into a Golden Age, though ultimately do so for a purpose both beautiful and horrifying.

In my earlier review of the novel, I argued that the central character of the novel was collective not individual; the character was humanity itself, and Clarke, in the novel, made this so by drawing out the Overlord’s management of Earth over fifty years, so more than one generation. SyFy’s miniseries shortened this time to fifteen years in order to focus on the more easily relatable, individual characters they created by fusing other characters from the book. Thus, we lost sight of the character of humanity that made Clarke’s novel so interesting.

This is not inherently a problem, but the way in which SyFy did this in a way that created needless drama that made the story much less thought-provoking. A greater focus on the micro-dynamics of the Overlord’s occupation would have been very interesting, and the show clearly tried to go in that direction, but did a poor job of it. The needless sub-plots about Annabelle, Ricky’s (not Rikki, like in the original novel) sickness, and confronting Karellen about the loss of religion added nothing to the plot, distracted from the interesting moments, and seemed to me to dumb down the story a bit by focusing on human questions in ways that were not unique to this show or informed by the unique context of the invasion.

The one interesting and unique addition SyFy added was the emphasis on the loss of religion, and a waning of faith in God as these powerful aliens took over the planet. That was a very interesting angle they started to explore, but they did so in less than stellar ways, and the conclusion of this arc (with the confrontation of the Overlord’s caretaker of Earth Karellen) was very unsatisfying.

The other thing that SyFy lost in its adaptation was the character of the Overlords themselves. In the novel, the Overlords were sad and curious, excluded from the Overmind (also, SyFy’s blatant equation of the Overmind with God was a little heavyhanded…) while also serving it faithfully, giving them a sort of martyr-like quality that was completely lost in the SyFy adaptation (not to mention the absence of Rashaverak and, until the end, any Overlord aside from Karellen). In focusing on (and failing to effectively explore) the personal aspect of the Golden Age of Man and Earth’s occupation, it fails to capture the big questions and sense of grandeur that Clarke had managed to capture so effectively.

Regardless, it was still enjoyable to watch, and Charles Dance as Karellen was perfect. The Overlord visual design was fantastic; I just wish there had been more of them.


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Posted by on February 11, 2016 in Watchings


New Writing Goals for 2016!

Happy new year everybody! I know I’m a bit late, but January has been a little bit of a hectic month, and I’ve had very little time to myself all month! The hecticness is finally mostly over (though a new semester is coming up!), so I can finally get back on a semi-normal schedule.

In light of this, I have some writing New Year’s resolutions! I have added, on the sidebar to the right, a small word-count widget under “Monthly Wordcount.” I will update it as I write, with the goal of writing 20,000 words per month on any of my Works in Progress, excluding the web series The Eldritch Wastes. This means that I will add words whenever I contribute to Dreadship OmnipotenceThe Woodsman, any short stories, or my new collection of linked steampunk short stories Darke (more on this later)!

I am aiming to then, in addition to all of my other tasks, to write 20,000 words a month, and get myself out of the writing rut I’ve been stuck in lately! I will also do my best to update weekly, with excerpts and progress. I will start adding to the wordcount in February. Wish me luck!

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Posted by on January 23, 2016 in Uncategorized


NaNoWriMo and the Dreadship

Hi everyone! It’s been quite a while since I posted here (and I have failed to write anything about Ghost in the Shell as promised yet), and I am still incredibly busy with academic and teaching work (as my spotty Eldritch Wastes updates can attest to), but in the midst of all of that I still managed to find time for my favorite annual writing drive: that, of course, being National Novel Writing Month!

Usually I put up a blog post about NaNoWriMo before it happens, but this year I was so busy I did not know I was going to actually attempt it until November 1, when the event starts, and I attempt to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Before 2015, I’d tried and succeeded for six years (since 2009) to do so, and in 2015, I managed to pull it off again!

This year, I added significantly onto my major project, Dreadship Omnipotence, my cyberpunk space opera that I know think is a combination of Neuromancer, Firefly, Hyperion, and One Piece, following the adventures of a rather dark crew of pirates in a cyberpunk future when mankind has spread out among the stars and begun to evolve down different paths.

After about 86,000 words, the main plot finally got started (so the first bit will probably need substantial trimming), as the characters are established and all of the pieces are set in motion for the (planned) trilogy. I had a few moments of self-doubt during the process (the world is a little bit strange; how often do you see a Space Druid Empire?), but I am now confident in the overall direction the plot is heading in, though I still struggle with translating my master, overarching big picture into relatable scenes!

The draft of the novel is currently at 106,890 words, and is probably a little less than halfway done, so it needs a bit more work! I was greatly inspired by this year’s attempt, though, so I’m hoping I can keep some momentum going throughout the rest of the year, and am going to try – though perhaps fail – to write 20,000 words in it a month until I finish it (for a total of 5,000 a week and 715 words a day). Wish me luck!

And for your patience, dear readers, have an excerpt from Dreadship Omnipotence, introducing the first set of antagonists:


“I don’t see why we don’t just kill the Gaian scientists,” a voice said over the intercom. “They’re irritating thorns in our sides, and they won’t resist us at all. They’d die in seconds. In fact, all I really have to do is shut off their power…”

“Not until the boss says we can,” came the reply. This second speaker was leaning back on a couch, his body having sunk halfway through the couch, his arms resting on the couches back. He grinned, and his sunglasses glinted in the artificial light of the lounge, matching briefly his bald brown head. “They serve a purpose for us, Ugo; they keep even more prying eyes from looking for us here. Need I remind you that Sovstel is still trying to root us out. Us, the last checks to their authority and ‘voluntary’ domination over the Communes? The last hold of big-league piracy in all of jaynic space?”

“Yeah, yeah,” Ugo responded over the intercom. “But who knows our name outside of the Communes? The Imperium doesn’t consider us a threat, the Seven Nations ignore us, and I doubt the Dominion even knows we exist!”

“The Communes aren’t enough for you, Ugie?” the man said. He laughed deeply. “Galactic domination will come later, man. The Communes are the future of transhumanity, of all of the jayns. The Communes are where the most daring progress is made, where technology and science triumph, where new forms of social organization are tested, where societies are made and destroyed every day. The Communes are the laboratory of mankind, and they’ve produced their monster.” He grinned again, and showed a brilliant set of sparkling white ivories. “And we are that monster, Ugo. Our Pirate Queen will lead us to victory, first over the Communes as we build our power, and then the others will fall before they know what hit them. The Imperium will be crushed before they see or acknowledge our power, the Seven Nations will drown in their own blood as they turn to look behind them, and the Dominion will capitulate in the face of our endless might.”

“Very poetic, Edak,” came another voice from the edge of the lounge. The big man on the couch turned to look in the direction of the voice, and frowned at the sight of a small woman wearing a sparkling red dress. She sashayed over to him and plopped down on the couch next to him. “Have you considered a change of career? You could smash the market as a poet, even on Polymnia,.”

“Shut up, Emryn,” Edak growled. He moved his arms and slid away from her. “What are you doing here, anyway? I thought you were on Inarkus.”

“I have a body over there,” the said. “But I shipped my consciousness over here for our very important meeting with Mistress Syntha. Wouldn’t miss our little chat for the world.”

Edak growled wordlessly. Ugo snickered over the loudspeaker system. “Look, the gang’s almost back together again. Just missing Specs.”

“Yeah, she won’t be coming,” Emryn said, tossing her hair back. “Not sure what she’s up to; she wouldn’t say, and Syntha’s not talking much either. Something about the Dominion.”

“Probably a deep cover infiltration,” Edak rumbled. “Scoping out our final enemy.”

“Queenie’s pet,” Ugo said.

The door opposite the one that Emryn had entered through clicked. Edak and Emryn’s eyes both flicked over to it as it hissed open. “Seems she’s ready,” Edak said. He stood up with a groan. “Gonna need a new bod soon. This one’s getting old.”

“Oh, don’t complain,” Emryn said, still lounging. “That one’s got a few years left in it. You can’t just go hopping bodies every couple years.”

“Like you’re one to talk,” Edak said. He began walking toward the open door, and Emrn followed a few moments later at her own leisurely pace. A moment after her, a small floating camera followed. The door closed behind them.

The man, the woman, and the camera stood – and floated – above the floor of an enormous room. Ath the far side of the room was a throne on a raised dais, surrounded by a chaotic mass of pipes, many of which were spewing steam from half-opened valves.

A figure sat on that throne, wreathed in an impenetrable darkness that not even the most advanced cyberoptic filters could pierce. “Thank you for answering my summons,” a voice said from that darkness. The voice resonated and filled the entire throne room, echoing with vast amounts of power. “We have decided on our next course of action.”

Emryn stood, arms crossed, while Edak let his arms hang limpy by his sides. “And what is it that you want us to do, Queen Syntha?”

“It is not what you all will do, Secundus, at least not all at once. You and Tercerus will stay here, continuing to organize the Project here and acquire more resources for our future empire.”

“And Primus isn’t involved, is she?” Emryn asked.

“No, she will not be,” said the voice from the darkness. “The first task will fall to you, Quartus.”

Emryn blinked and laid a hand across her breast. “Me?”

“Yes, you. You have a body on Inarkus right now. You are to return to that body. And then you are to steal a certain ship.”

Emryn looked puzzled. “A ship? Just one ship? Not a fleet?”

“This one ship that you shall steal will be worth thousands – nay, millions – of lesser vessels.”

“O… kay,” Emryn said. “And how am I supposed to take this super-ship?”

“That is entirely up to your discretion, Quartus.”

“Alright, so what’s this ship called? Where is it?”

“It currently goes under the name of the Lysandra, under the command of one Idim Jyn,” Syntha said from the darkness. “And it is currently guarded only by one man; their engineer. It lies in orbit above Goldenspire, while the rest of the crew is down on the surface.”

“That shouldn’t be hard,” Emryn said. “I’m on Silverstar now, so I’ll take a quick shuttle-ride over to orbit. Is there a way for me to identify it?”

“It should already have been sent to your consciousness,” Syntha said.

“Oh, thanks!” Emryn said. “And should I bring it here when I get it?”

“Yes,” Syntha said. “And when you do, then we can finally emerge from hiding.”

From a speaker in the camera, Ugo laughed. Edak grinned, and Emryn smiled.

“You are dismissed until then,” Syntha said. “Be gone.” The two humans bowed and the floating camera lowered its altitude.

“As you wish, my Queen,” Emryn said, eyes glinting.

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Posted by on November 28, 2015 in Writing



Hey everyone! Sorry it’s been a while, but the last couple of months have been rather busy and often hellish. I tried (and spectacularly failed) at Camp Nanowrimo this summer, but I’ve continued outlining and planning the plot for Dreadship Omnipotence, and I think the final product is going to be much better with this planning! I’ve also started trying to consistently set aside writing time (with limited success thus far), but we’ll see how that goes. After a three-week hiatus for a huge exam I took, the Eldritch Wastes is also again updating! I’ve also sketched out a plan for a fantasy world I’ll be running in a roleplaying game, with the potential of using it as a world to explore through novels and short stories. I’m quite proud of it!

But I have also tried to develop my artistic talents (or lack thereof) in another, visual form! The results of my efforts are below.

This first picture is something I drew a while back while trying to teach myself shading. I’m actually somewhat proud of how it turned out, especially considering this was my first serious attempt at drawing well.

This second one is actually my renditions of three of the characters from Dreadship Omnipotence in a space station! I know it isn’t a great picture, but I think it’s good for a first effort! The woman on the right with the absurdly long glaive is Tathal Litenz, navigator and first mate. The man on the left with the cybernetic arm and the glowing ball of energy above it is Kirsval Orteck, a.k.a. Melkorh, the engineer. The robotic mouse in his pocket is named Soron. The man in the middle with his head behind his head is the captain Idim Jyn. I had a lot of fun drawing them, and I will probably try again in the future, and try to hone my art skills (which, as you can see, are rather lacking).

Hopefully I’ll have more writing-related news for you in the future (as well as possibly my thoughts on Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex), but for now, later days!

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Posted by on September 13, 2015 in Uncategorized