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Monthly Archives: November 2014

The World of Dreadship Omnipotence

I have spent the last few days living in another world, in my final push to finish the first 50,000 words of Dreadship Omnipotence in time for the end of National Novel Writing Month. I have succeeded in my goal, and Dreadship Omnipotence currently stands (in digital form) at about 53,000 words – and I feel as if things have only just gotten started. On that front, it seems like the final novel will come in at around 250,000 words (my estimate), and that in all likelihood this will become a trilogy, with the other two books being Dreadship Omniscience and Dreadship Omnipresence (spoilers!).

But, all of that aside, NaNoWriMo 2014 was a success! Alas, for the time being I need to make up for lost time spent on academic pursuits, so progress on the novel will be a little bit slow for these next two weeks. But for this week, for right now, I am going to talk (or write, rather) about the world of Dreadship Omnipotence, carrying over from my discussion of the characters last week. And of course, world-building is my favorite part of the writing process, so I have a lot to say.

Like a great deal of science fiction, Dreadship Omnipotence takes place in the distant future (there is deliberately no explicit date), when humanity has left Earth and colonized the stars (or rather, the planets orbiting them). If I had to summarize the world in a single sentence, it would be ” distant future in which the human race has colonized other planets and begun to evolve into something more, with different groups traveling different evolutionary paths driven by various types of rapid technological change.”

What does this mean, though?

The fundamental factor underlying this world is that technology has changed what it means to be human. The different and varied effects of this technology on mankind is most readily seen in the various different “branches” of mankind, who have changed their bodies and minds to adapt to their technology.

There are two groups of transhumans (“normal” humans are exceedingly rare, now), known as the “Twin Tribes of Man.” The Srivans rely on robots to perform the most meaningful tasks and were the first to create a post-scarcity society. In this society, personal cultivation is key, and the Srivans devote themselves to science and culture. They travel in nomadic “courts” through space, seeking new experiences. Over the course of their existence, they have developed superhuman abilities through genetic manipulation and technologically-enhanced training regimens. From this group have evolved the post-human “godlings;” individuals who have developed an ability to control matter on large and small scales.

The second, and by far the larger, group of transhumans are the Jayns, who are also the focus of Dreadship Omnipotence. Instead of relying on robots, the Jayns rely on advanced nanotechnology which has allowed them to live much longer, develop new, non-human creatures, and connect everyone together into the ironically-named “wire” (the galactic internet).  Along with these advances, Jayns have also developed the means to “digitize” consciousness, and thereby switch consciousnesses between bodies, albeit at a hefty price and much inconvenience. The defining feature of the Jayns is their connection to the wire, which they can interact with via computers, small phones, or most commonly, by nanobots which are passed down by parents (in the rare case of live birth) or inserted into fetuses (in the more common case of artificial birth) that allow individuals to manipulate a “digital overlay” over their vision that lets them view content the nanobots receive from the wire.

The Jayns inhabit planets, and are not nomadic like the Srivans. They are roughly divided into various sociopolitical entities; the totalitarian Dominion, the theocratic Imperium of Man, the free-wheeling and fluctuating Communes, and the Seven Nations (the most powerful Communes). The Communes are the largest part of Jaynic society, and are generally small, sub-planetary groups that live however they see fit, creating various types of sociopolitical systems. They defend each other against the Dominion and Imperium, and rally behind the more structured Seven Nations.

But the Jayns have also begun to develop post-human life forms as well, somewhat along class lines. The wealthiest Jayns have begun to develop telepathy, which they use to further cement their position. Certain investigations into telepathy yielded the creation of artificial transhuman beings known as “psiks,” which are consciousnesses that can possess human bodies.

The members of certain Communes also managed to diffuse their consciousness among millions of self-replicating nanobots, and thus created swarms of nanobots united by a common consciousness. These Communes have become known as the Nanopublics.

A third, and the most dangerous, post-human created by the Jayns are the “wyrdlings,” which are being that exist beyond space and time. Like psiks, they are artificial, and (spoiler!) are the subject of Dreadship Omnipotence.

Of course, thrown onto all of this evolution is the wire, which is really a conglomeration of different “sub-wires” and ansibles linked together under the “all-wire” that connects most of humanity with each other. This allows for nearly instant communication between individuals across huge distances of space, and also has created a crutch upon which many Jayns rely. This aspect of Dreadship Omnipotence was inspired by Eclipse Phase, and thus has many similarities to it. Related to this, virtual reality is also a major part of the world of Dreadship Omnipotence, but to say too much on this subject would, alas, spoil too much.

So there you have it; an introduction to the world of Dreadship Omnipotence.  Next week, I’ll talk a little bit about the plot. Ta-ta for now!

(c). Z. M. Wilmot

 
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Posted by on November 26, 2014 in Writing

 

The Characters of Dreadship Omnipotence

It’s been over a week since National Novel Writing Month for 2014 began, and I’m currently ahead of the curve. After a rough weekend in which I was forced to bury myself in my academic work and fall behind, I managed to pull through and jump ahead again on Sunday night. Alas, I am still (almost 10,000 words) behind on my reverse NaNoWriMo plan, but hopefully I can make that up soon (despite a wave of papers that need grading)!

So, this week, I wanted to talk (or write, rather) a little bit more about the characters of this year’s NaNoProject and my current central WIP for the forseeable future. I am very excited about this project – more excited about it than I have been about any project in a long while – and part of this attribute to the origins of the story, which I briefly described in last year’s post. Most importantly, unlike most previous works, I actually started this project with the characters, and then fused them with a world I’d been thinking about separately, and I absolutely love both world and characters (I love the plot, too, but it’s rather convoluted and not as “set” as the characters and world are).

So, who are these brave souls that will be exploring my grand cyberpunk universe? Why, they’re the crew of the spacefaring vessel Lysandra (at the moment), and are a group of smugglers, pirates, assassins, and mercenaries willing to do whatever shady job you want! If this cast sounds familiar, it’s probably because it is; as I mentioned before, part of the character set-up for this novel is based on Firefly and other similar shows. However, unlike the crew of Serenity, the crew of the Lysandra do not quibble too much about what jobs they take on, and cover a much wider range of them. There are no war heroes with strong senses of justice on this crew to keep them in check; all that keeps them together are money and a shared sense of camaraderie developed over a long period of putting up with each other. Unlike the crew of Serenity, they have only a very slight moral compass.

This is not to say that the main cast consists only of cruel and vicious characters who would sell their own grandmother for a penny. They’re not heartless; they just care about themselves and those in their social networks significantly more than they care about anyone else. They will not hesitate to kill or do unsavory jobs, even it means hurting a lot of people. They stay afloat at the bottom of society, and don’t have the luxury of being too choosy. They do what has to be done, and have no regrets.

So, in some ways, they’re like a nastier version of Firefly’s crew. But who are they, actually? They come from all walks of life, but here’s a brief teaser of each of the main cast:

Idim Jyn – The charismatic captain of the ship and an insufferable prankster, he acts like a bumbling idiot most of the time to hide his true intelligence. He has an incredibly disciplined mind and is capable of mental feats few can master, and on top of that is a master of both strategy and tactics. He does have a warm heart beneath his cold, analytic mindset, but it takes a lot to bring it out, and even then he reserves it mostly for people he knows or people he thinks will be useful. Idim is always willing to give everyone a fair chance to prove themselves to him, but he does not believe in second chances. He remembers little about his childhood, except that it was awful, and briefly held a post as a military analyst and mercenary for a short-lived and little-known terrorist group before it disbanded. He despises most forms of virtual reality, though is more than competent with other technology that lets him interact with the digital networks of the universe, known as “wires.”

Tathal Litenz – The ship’s first mate and pilot, Tathal is a very troubled woman. She doesn’t remember who she originally was, as she digitized her consciousness long ago and has had it transferred between a wide variety of bodies before losing all of her wealth and getting stuck with the semi-reanimated corpse of a drug addict on the planet of Utopia. She looks like a mess and needs a rather constant supply of drugs to fuel the broken body she currently inhabits, and she strives desperately to gain access to one of the rare facilities where she can change bodies again. She is gruff, easily angered, blunt, and unwilling to compromise. She tolerates Idim Jyn and respects his intelligence, but is somewhat distant from the rest of the crew. No one understands why she is the first mate, and not Krisval Orteck.

Krisval Orteck – Krisval hates his name, and when he was old enough had it changed to “Melkorh” after his favorite evil entity in his favorite holodrama. He also has a pet robotic mouse named “Soron.” Melkorh is the ship’s engineer, and is not comfortable with the digitization of the world, and was only dragged into the realm of organic nanobots and the wire kicking and screaming. He is brilliant with hardware, however (and some of the relevant software), and possesses a mechanical arm that not only houses a huge variety of tools, but can also be used as a dangerous weapon. He is insecure and quiet, yet extremely competent. He is one of Idim’s closest friends, and understands him on a level no one else does.

Marek Syonda  A short, plump, heavily bearded man dubbed the team’s “Demolitions and Distractions” specialist. He is a brilliant hacker of local wires, as well as an expert in demolitions. He speaks very formally and thinks of himself as an artist and gentleman. He is an infamous media bomber, and is wanted under numerous identities for “hazards to public knowledge,” not to mention terrorism. Despite his mild-mannered and kindly appearance, Marek has little regard for anyone he does not know personally; to him, everyone he doesn’t know is just an abstraction and could even be a false creation in an increasingly digital universe. As such, while he is kind in person, he has no problem with killing large quantities of people to achieve his ends or unseating entire media systems to distract people from what his friends are up to. Problems are only real when they affect him and those he knows; otherwise, he could not care less. The digital and social experience of mankind, to him, is a blank canvas.

Bygorj Vishtahl – A former Druidic priest of the Empire of Man, he was cast out for his unorthodox ways. He inhabits an inhuman body, being a ten-foot tall, green-furred minotaur/satyr hybrid. He believes that all life and matter is linked together through quantum resonance, and so that death is largely meaningless, and is merely a reordering of the great god Pan’s affairs. As such, he has no qualms about killing and feels no remorse, no matter the victim. He serves as the crew’s doctor and cook (he used to get those two jobs mixed up, but he’s better now), and is also extremely devoted to spreading the word of Pan to anyone who will listen – and many who won’t.

Lemi Forsath – An orphan from the planet Utopia, Tathal picked her up to force her to repay a debt, and Lemi now works as a cabin-girl on the ship, performing odd tasks and helping where she can. She is very young, being only about ten years old, but spent her whole life on the streets. She is a brilliant digital artist, and is a master of projecting images into other peoples’ heads. She dreams of being a big holodrama producer some day. She gets along well with most of the crew, save for Idim and Melkorh, who both have a distaste for her digital art and find her more annoying than anything.

Fitnaya Almakry – Introduced under the alias Khoresh Eylkaum, Fitta is one of mankind’s most feared assassins, most wanted criminals, and a sniper beyond compare. She is also a very skilled hacker, though has trouble hacking on the fly, and so is very fond of careful planning. She makes use of ubiquitous security cameras to line up her shots after hacking into their feeds, and uses surprisingly small, yet powerful, pistols to do her job. She joins the crew initially as an extra hired hand on a mission, but circumstances later force her to join them permanently and reveal her true identity. She is very intolerant of incompetence and is rather caustic and sarcstic. She strongly dislikes Idim, but comes to eventually recognize his competence.

Obri Hathorken –  The crew’s part-time intern, Obri handles mid-range planning and is an expert in both nanotechnlogy and superlocal wire hacking. While Marek hacks the small stuff, Obri hacks the big stuff. She works at a prestigious laboratory as her day job, and uses a holographic projector to work with the crew when she’s not working there. She is extremely intelligent – quite possibly the smartest member of the crew – and teases everyone around her mercilessly. Though she’s relatively new to the crew, she’s already made herself home there and is relied upon by them all.

Priva-Dynaj Matory – The crew’s “handler,” Dynaj (or “Dynnie” as Idim calls her) is an older woman who is obsessed with rediscovering her “analog” self. While extremely competent in the virtual world, Dynaj enjoys spending her time free of the wire whenever she can. She is an avid roleplayer and phenomenal accountant, and is in charge of lining up jobs for the crew. Like Obri, she does not physically travel with them, but calls and texts them frequently to keep them up to date on their accounts and upcoming jobs. Dynaj is very well-organized and always several steps ahead of the crew in her planning.

Syon Q – No one knows what the Q stands for, not even himself. Syon Q is an old man whose previous crew wired him into the Lysadra‘s weapons system, which drove him slightly insane. He identifies more with digital entities and artificial intelligences than with “meatbags,” and can hear the voices of even the smallest pieces of software. He is very attached to the Lysandra and communicates with the rest of the crew on her behalf. He is prone to childish fits of rage and a very shaky conception of reality; he drove off the previous crew of the Lysandra by constructing mobile turrets and literally chasing them off the ship. He was subdued by Idim’s crew and converted to Druidism by Bygorj, who has become his best meatbag friend.

So, there’s the crew of the Lysandra. They won’t all last through the story (I already know at least two will die – but whom?), but for now I am enjoying them. As for other characters – like the antagonist – they’re identities will remain secret, as their faces are important twists in the story’s planned plot. But, just for teasers, here are the names of a few of the major antagonists, human and not: Methuselah Charmandrius, Zigur Zanzak, the Spider, and of course the overarching baddy, the Basilisk.

Until next time, happy writing, and wish me luck!

*goes back to scribbling*

(c) Z. M. Wilmot

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2014 in Writing

 

NaNoWriMo and Dreadship Omnipotence

As always, I’ve been busy slaving away for my PhD program, this time mostly focusing on my Master’s project and my teaching assistant duties. Unfortunately for my sanity and free time, however, November also marks National Novel Writing Month, when I sit down to try and write 50,000 words on a single project in thirty days. If you haven’t come across the event before (abbreviated NaNoWriMo), I highly recommend you visit the site here. If you’re interested, you still have time to hop in and go; all you need to do is make an account and start writing!

This year, I’m hoping to get a huge chunk of my current main WIP, Dreadship Omnipotence, done (so far I’ve got 5,100 words written). By no means do I think I’ll come close to even finishing it, especially seeing as how it looks more and more like the story will become a trilogy. I have neglected to post any information about this work yet, though, so I’ll take a few minutes from my writing time to sum up this year’s NaNo project, and the current focus of my attention!

The basic plot, in blurb form, is simple: Idim Jyn is the captain of a crew of space pirates and smugglers in a transhuman future where the disparate factions of mankind have begun to journey down very different evolutionary paths, and the very nature of humanity is uncertain. When Jyn’s crew steal an experimental starship from a secret laboratory, they uncover a terrible truth and find themselves in the middle of a war against an unknowable godlike being from the far future.

My idea for the story began about a year ago, when I tried to imagine what it would be like to write my own spaceship-roaming-through-space novel (a fairly common trope, particularly in television shows such as FireflyLexxBattlestar Galactica [to an extent], Farscape, and manga/anime like Cowboy Bebop and One Piece). I developed the character of the captain (who was then called Adam Jayne), heading a ship he arrogantly called the Dreadship Omnipotence leading a band of space pirates, who plundered and pillaged the galaxy as they willed and had a good time. My original conception of the captain was actually based on Jayne Cobb from Firefly, which was where I got the name Adam Jayne (the first names of Jayne’s actor Adam Baldwin and Jayne himself). In the current incarnation, this was altered to Idim Jyn and his personality is rather different, but there’s still something similar about Idim and Adam.

Alas, I shelved this idea for a while as I focused on other projects, until I ran across a neat roleplaying game called Eclipse Phase through one of my (far too few) friends. The game is set in a transhuman solar system, and it fired my creativity drives more than anything had in a while. I let the basic ideas of transhumanism, horror, and the black void between planets and stars guide me, and soon I came up with a rather detailed transhuman future, with an attached cyberpunk space opera plot and a cast of wild characters.

For the rest of the month, I’m going to try to post once per week with a short novel excerpt, and a brief description of the characters, the world, and the plot; the holy trinity. For next week, I’ll be writing a bit about the characters, so stay tuned! For now, you can check out the excerpt posted on my Works in Progress page if you’re interested, and then read this small excerpt below. Until next time, ta-ta!

***

“Have you been saved today?” the thing said to another man as he dangled a pamphlet in front of him. The man held a fry in one trembling hand as he slowly stood up and backed away, with one last longing glance toward his meal. “The great god Pan knows what to do! Submit to your inner nature and follow the three-fold path of the Druid! First, come to terms with who you are-”

The man was gone. The big figure frowned and turned to his friend, sitting across the table. “And you, ma’am, have you heard the word of our Great God Pan?”

“We don’t need your imperalist religion here,” the woman sneered, crossing her arms. “Religion is the opiate of the masses. You priests just use it to control the citizens of the Imperium.”

“No, no, no, you’ve got it all wrong,” the figure said, not unkindly. “I am no longer even a part of the glorious Imperium; I am an ambassador of my own free will. My unorthodox interpretations of the scripture led to my banishment, you see. But that just goes to show how truly great and flexible the great faith is! For even though I have been cast out from its noble ranks, I am still able to consider myself a true servant of Pan! I know that I have found his shade, and I am equally sure that soon my imperial comrades will join me!” The being cleared its throat, then continued. “The noble faith of Druidism can never control then, you see, but only liberate! It will help you connect with your innermost self, and help you find your place within the universe-”

“Eh, fuck you,” the woman said.

“Oh, indeed, that is one of Pan’s greatest teachings! ‘Men of the universe, be virile, and women, be fertile, so that life can ever increase and the universe will be filled with the vitalitous bounty of untold children, and thus may the cosmos come to know pure joy in richness and diversity!’ I would be honored to, as you say, fuck you.”

The woman stood up, edged away, and then fled without another word.

(c) Z. M. Wilmot

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2014 in Writing