Retro Review: A Circus Of Hells by Poul Anderson

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A couple of weeks ago I reviewed Ensign Flandry, the first of the character of Dominic Flandry, and I was so impressed with the space opera that I found myself eagerly awaiting the second book. Been actually rereleased these books as 3-book omnibuses in a seven volume set a few years back, so I was able to pick up the entire series relatively inexpensively.

A Circus of Hells takes a drastically different tone than Ensign Flandry. Where Anderson set up the Imperium and the human structure against this giant Merisan structure as an epic in the first, this is much more localized. It also takes much more of a “James Bond In Space” feel. Whereas Ensign Flandry surprised me when he was suave with the ladies, in this one he is unabashedly out to get some action.

It starts out where he’s assigned on a backwater planet, and he gets pulled into some mob scheme to investigate the planet Wayland, completely off the radar to see if there’s mining potential for profit. A woman, Djana, is assigned with him. She’s a hooker, but a very noble one with a passion for Jesus. It’s an odd character, but she works.

They go together, get shot down on the planet which they find is infested by robots. It takes a 180 as they go and get captured by Mersians on another planet where there is intelligent life that some only awaken during certain climates of the year–a very interesting concept. Anderson likes to explore the hot/cold environmental aspects of what makes civilization tick, like he did in Fire Time, and that theme is developing here.

I gloss over Wayland because though he presents and interesting planet there, he drops the thread for the Mersian plot. I found the development of the new world after Wayland a little boring for awhile, it takes a bit to get jump started as if it’s a completely separate story. However once Flandry forms his escape plan, it starts to get interesting again.

The ending is really interesting, if unfulfilling. Djana gets left in the cold to some degree, and we see a flaw in Flandry’s character, which he blames on the job, but it’s a little more than that. It made me lose my liking for Flandry a bit, but, if he’s going to be a James Bond, he can’t be tied down.

Overall, I liked it, but enjoyed it a lot less than Ensign Flandry.  It’s a solid book, and it’s actually standalone so if it sounds more interesting to you, you can actually start here without any trouble. There’s no much reference to the first book beyond in passing.

It’s also very short. So it’s a quick read, despite the slowed pace when it shifts gears in the middle.

8/10

If you like Poul Anderson’s space opera, or my thoughts on it, you’ll probably like The Stars Entwined. It’s got a spy with a bit better of a moral compass when it comes to women. Check it out here.

 

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Why Disney Can’t Make A Good Star Wars Film To Save Their Soul

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Disney just can’t do Star Wars. They don’t understand it. And there’s a big reason why—they’re a soulless monolithic corporation trying to recapture nostalgia in a property that is really about intense spirituality. You can’t create spirituality if you have none.

Star Wars really fell off my radar after The Last Jedi, which I found not only to be a bad movie, but an insult to everything that Star Wars was. On the spirituality front, the whole message was a slap in the face to the religious, the spiritual. No matter what you do, evil will rise anyway, it’s pointless. You will fail. Nothing you do matters. Nihilism.  Those were everything we got not just from the movie universe all around, but from Luke Skywalker, who as a character in prior films, was all about being wide-eyed and child-like in his thirst for enlightenment and the spiritual. It’s a big 180 to the point where it doesn’t’ make sense from a character perspective, and that’s a big reason why the film comes across as such garbage. I know they technically explain it in the interactions with Kylo Ren in the past, but it’s thin, and Luke’s not shown as being very heroic in the past example either—he pretty much lies about the encounter. It’s all very messy, and anti-spiritual.

And the problem is you have an entire Hollywood who doesn’t understand spirituality. Nor do they understand religion. They act like the imperial officers who mock Lord Vader in the first film, calling it superstition, a hokey religion, etc. Vader just responds through action. Look at the power of faith. He says by choking them with nothing other than the force.

While Disney doesn’t understand faith from a business-side, the directors and their nihilism come at it from an even worse vantage, as mentioned before. The combination is a complete train wreck when it’s dealing with mythology. The Force Awakens sucked the soul out of the series, and The Last Jedi took that soul out back and beat it in an alley and left it for dead.  It’s frankly a worse mishandling of the properties than the prequels ever were.

But that perspective doesn’t understand Star Wars at all.

What brought this to my attention was a tweet by author, Scott Lynch, who is a very solid writer, but definitely comes from the dark-fantasy nihilism perspective, one that very much isn’t Star Wars. Someone mentioned “If you strike me down, I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine” being an iconic line, but didn’t pay off—a person who doesn’t understand spiritualism. Lynch’s analysis is this (source, twitter):

I think it did, but you have to bear with me for a moment here. When Obi-Wan says this (IMHO), he’s not talking about anything he’s going to do himself. He’s not even talking about becoming a Force ghost and an afterlife tour guide/apologist. He’s talking about Luke, and he’s maneuvering himself quite specifically so that Luke will have a clear view of everything when Obi-Wan lowers his guard, closes his eyes, and gets cut down by Vader. Note the meaningful sideways glance before he gives in.

Let’s dissect this. One, he is talking about becoming a Force ghost, though putting it in accurate humanistic terms like that is missing the point of what he’s really becoming there. He is attaining pure enlightenment, becoming one with the force, or one with God as you will.  His concerns are not about Luke beating up Vader in a human sense. Those things are below enlightenment, below anything Obi-Wan or any Jedi is trying to accomplish. It’s off the mark because it ignores spirituality and religion as important to the movie’s messaging and subtext, which is because those aspects of life are not understood by Mr. Lynch.

It’s very similar to how Rian Johnson approaches these subjects, and it misses the point so far that it creates films that just feel completely wrong in the context of the originals.  Obi-Wan is not concerned about being an afterlife tour guide/apologist, this is true. He is becoming more powerful than ever because he’s removing his temporary earthly shell. If one can’t understand that basic premise of religion, of ascending, of complete transformation and glorification, one can’t understand the soul of what makes stories like the original Star Wars so great and resonate with so many.

The Guardian put out an article today saying there’s red flags on the new Han Solo movie. I could have told you that from the minute one was announced, because though Han plays the skeptic in the film, he deep down understands truth and righteousness, and comes to admit that to himself over the course of the trilogy – through the help of Luke and Leia guiding him and forcing him to reconcile that with himself. It’s a beautiful arc, but a new movie making him devoid of that spirituality is going to only end in disappointment, unless the people producing the film have a very real come to Jesus moment themselves.

If you like my perspective on character and story, you’ll probably like my books. Check out The Stars Entwined, a space opera that has characters who will grip you throughout the story.

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Space Opera Talk With David V. Stewart

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I went on author David V. Stewart’s youtube this weekend which did really great, over 1000 views.  We delved deep into writing and genre, and I think it was one of the more interesting streams I’ve recorded.

Now we’re about one week into The Stars Entwined‘s launch, which has gone really fantastic. Though I didn’t have as many guest blogs and the like as I did with For Steam And Country, the release was on par with it — and for Steam itself went crazy over the weekend, up to #2 in Steampunk, which is the highest it ever has been. So thank you everyone for checking out my books. Reviews have been stellar (pun intended) on The Stars Entwined also, which is really exciting. This universe really is my baby.

A lot more work ahead both with marketing and books, but the SF Elites out there are fast finding they can’t stop the signal because I produce too good of work for them to shut it down. And my readers are the best!

Here’s our chat if you missed it:

 

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Jon Del Arroz’s Epic Military Science Fiction Extravaganza

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On Tuesday, March 20th, I’m releasing my new Mil SF book, The Stars Entwined. A book reviewer sent this to me:

A welcome window into a new sci-fi space opera from the pen of John Del Arroz, After reading both his previous works I was honored at the chance to get a review copy of The Stars Entwined opening at a frantic pace it drops you into a fully fleshed out universe without missing a beat expecting you to land on your feet and take off following the main characters of Lieutenant Sean Barrows an Internal Affairs agent with the Interplanetary Navy tasked to uncover the mystery of a lost ship within the space of the Aryshan Empire. While on the side of the Empire we have Commander Chavi Tamar di Aresh. As much of the enjoyment I got was from experiencing the story unfold I won’t go into much more detail on the plot, just know that if you enjoy space opera of Babylon 5 caliber you owe it to yourself to give The Stars Entwined a try.

I welcome the comparison to Babylon 5, certainly, as that’s what I was going for 100%.  Glad to hear it worked.

To celebrate the release, I also planned something special, which is going to be a marathon broadcast with the who’s who of the Military Science Fiction writing world. I was able to secure 66% of the 2017 Dragon Award nominees for Best Mil SF last year, and other great guests. The full list is here:

2:45 Yakov Merkin – A Greater Duty
3:00 Richard Fox – Dragon Award Winner, The Ember War
3:15 Robert Kroese – Rex Nihilo and Saga Of The Iron Dragon
3:30 C.J. Carella – Warp Marines
3:45 C.T. Phipps – Lucifer’s Star
4:00 Cedar Sanderson – Tanager
4:15 Amy J. Murphy – Dragon Award Nominee, Allies & Enemies
4:30 John F. Holmes – Dragon Award Nominee,
4:45 Mark Wandrey/ Chris Kennedy – Dragon Award Nominee, Four Horsemen Universe
5:00 Jason Anspach/Nick Cole – Galaxy’s Edge

These are the pacific time they will be appearing at the link below. Tune in, check out great books, most importantly, have fun!

And of course, you’ll want to make sure to grab The Stars Entwined, out Tuesday!!!

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Book Review: Dream Of The Iron Dragon by Robert Kroese

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I’ve been a fan of Robert Kroese for a couple of years. I discovered him with The Big Sheep, which is an excellent novel, and went into his Rex Nihilo adventures, which are a star wars-ish parody that really is a love letter to sci-fi. What they have in common is a lot of comedy, and I almost would think of Kroese as the Terry Pratchett of Sci-Fi (if that weren’t already Douglas Adams).

He launched The Saga Of The Iron Dragon as a kickstarter last year, to a lot of buzz. Vikings in spaaaaace! I thought I might find something ridiculous and off the wall as his other concepts, but the more I read into it, this was more of a serious venture.

Kroese did a lot of research on this as well. He took a trip to the Nordic countries last year, and I saw the stacks of books he posted when he was reading up on Vikings. He put the work in, had a cool concept, and is definitely a very smart guy to be able to piece together some cool history and make a story. But would he succeed in a more serious venture with his work?

The Dream Of The Iron Dragon opens in modern times, a prologue of people investigating what appears to be a space ship crash in Iceland in modern times. Not what I expected, but I was interested in that perspective. It set up a mystery, and just as I was getting comfortable, we shifted to the future.

In this future, humanity is at war with a single alien race, who’s been kicking our butts. Earth is all but uninhabitable, and humans are struggling to survive. There’s alien jump gates that allow us to go from system to system, and we find our story taking place on a science vessel who is investigating an asteroid out in the middle of nowhere. They come across the alien race and something mysterious, and it’s a really awesome space opera war set up that takes a good portion of the book. As much as I’d been waiting for vikings, this surprised me how much of the book this took up, but I was very invested in this greater world by Kroese’s expert characterization and gripping suspense. As this part drew to an end, and i knew what was coming–they were being flung back in time, I almost didn’t want this portion of the story to end– and i hope he gets back to it in future books.

Without giving too may spoilers from this point, a shuttle from the ship crash lands on Earth in viking times, and hijinx ensues. The crew is trying to survive, and also to get back, but plans go desperately wrong. We switch perspectives to crew we met before, but didn’t have intimate time with, as we were dealing with those running the ship, which I was sad for at first, but I quickly became just as attached to these characters as any of the others. The vikings get a few perspective points as well — and they’re just as deep and intricate of characters. I really can’t speak too highly of how well Kroese did on that front.

Kroese teaches us quite a bit about the history of the Nordic countries from this time too, just in little snippets so it’s never too overwhelming. There are points where there’s a bit of infodump, but it’s interesting, and mostly history we don’t hear a terrible amount about, so it’s a learning experience that almost feels like earlier Heinlein novels when he drifts into his scientific concepts.

Through the first half of the book, it’s about perfect. There’s a big battle mini-climax at a point which is just awesome. I will say from about half to two thirds, the pace bogs down a little bit. I’m still trying to avoid spoilers, but there’s points when goes into montage-explain mode where the crew needs to perform a task, they use some science to do it, and they complete it. This is done three or four times and along with the history lessons, slowed down this portion of the book to where maybe some of it could be cut or glossed over. I understand the necessity of most of it, but it did make for some skimable material.

It picks right back up for an epic climax… and ends on a cliffhanger. We aren’t resolved at all beyond getting past a single hump in this history section that was set up about 30% into the book, which is a big one, but it leaves this feeling like a part of a book rather than complete because of it. Now, Kroese never set expectations otherwise, so it’s very much as advertised and is imminently forgivable — it was billed as a trilogy going in, and the way the books are titled it’s kinda obvious they wouldn’t just get back into space and come back into the present in this first installment, so I don’t feel cheated as a reader. but I hate cliffhangers! That’s just me. Some people won’t have a problem with this at all, but definitely go into this knowing you’ll need 3 books for the complete story.

It did work, the cliffhanger. I’m interested. I’m hooked. I really want the next one to come out. That last battle in the book was epic. The stakes were high throughout, and the danger is real to the characters. I can’t offer more without massive spoilers, but even with the slow down in pacing and my lack of closure, frankly this is the best book I’ve read this year and I think it’ll be hard pressed for me to find one in 2018 that I”ll enjoy more. Of course, now he has to top this for the next one.

Overall, the complaints are minor, and this book is solid science fiction. World building is A+. History A+. Characters A+, can’t really ask for more than that. I haven’t firmly concluded my Dragon Awards list yet, but it’s currently my frontrunner for Best Science Fiction category.

You can check out Dream of the Iron Dragon here. 

5/5

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Space Opera and Spirituality

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Yesterday I had a good question from another writer about characters with spirituality in space opera making for something important to the genre — or better stories. I thought about it over the course of the evening, and in context of the discussion with DS9 and Babylon 5.

Deep Space 9 was the first Star Trek to really offer an in depth religion of a race. Though there was the one original series episode that definitely confirmed Jesus Christ was God and savior, most of Star Trek until DS9 proved religion-less, which did give the show one of its more interesting angles overall. Like most Star Trek, the Bajoran “gods” weren’t “gods” but wormhole aliens. The big difference was – they acted like gods in a lot of ways. Sisko being their emissary, even reluctantly (what real prophets aren’t reluctant though?) gave his character a very interesting dimension which other shows lacked, making for a more interesting program overall. The spiritual element played a big part in the show, and because real religion, not mocked, is something a lot of science fiction writers are afraid to touch, it differentiated it.

Babylon 5 was also differentiated. the Narn religion, the Minbari religion, they were all based on the Shadows and Vorlons acting as actual gods over the aeons.The prophets and the like were all real, and all had truth spanning millennia–yet the religions were false in their own way as well once we found what the aliens were truly about. It was presented as something for an intelligent race to grow out of, albeit subtly. Still, when monks or pastors arrived, they were mentioned and treated as what they were — as real people, and their convictions were presented as true and not in a biased way like we usually see on TV, this made for better storytelling as well, and gave another reason to connect with the show.

Sheridan/Sinclair in B5 also had almost a prophet-status by the end of the show. It was a little different, however. Some people took them as saviors, but really the men were about a sacred purpose for the human race, and living purpose was what made them appealing characters.

Living purpose is what’s important to focus on. Everyone has a sacred purpose, whether they realize it or not. When you do realize it, and live toward it, your life becomes far more fulfilling and rewarding. Likewise a character living such a purpose will become easier to attach to, because it triggers something in us we desire to have, or desire to execute. When it’s presented heroically and accomplished over heavy odds, it serves to inspire us.

In The Stars Entwined, I don’t focus so much on religion. Sean is really just your standard guy thrust into a job in over his head. He’s lost to purpose at the beginning of the book, but by the end, he starts to find it. It’ll become more clear over the next couple of books as well. The Aryshans talk about Overseers and stormwraiths in passing, which stem from their world and their mythology, but I don’t go further into that as we’re mostly focused on one military ship over the course of this novel. Both the main characters have very clear purposes though from the Aryshans, and those make them into more dynamic characters.

In Justified, which will be my next released novel, I have a very spiritual sacred purpose for Drin, the main character.

Which one works better? I think having that purpose is what’s important in a story, and the specifics give variety in storytelling. Making sure your religiosity feels real, whether it’s personal religiosity in what someone wants to accomplish in life, or someone following a god via their actions, will help to create epic tension throughout the storytelling, and is necessary for space opera. Connect with a purpose, and make your character serve a purpose that feels worthwhile, and you’ll have a better work.

The Stars Entwined is out March 20th, and you can check it out here.  

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What I Wanted From Space Opera

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We’re about 15 days out of The Stars Entwined‘s release, and I want to shift gears to talk about space opera.

1999 saw the end of an era on TV with both Babylon 5 and Deep Space 9 going off the air. Those shows really were the blueprint for great space opera on TV, with overarching storylines that swept across the galaxy. Alien races, who, some were not too dissimilar from us, navigating through the stars as well. Overwhelming threats to humanity’s existence — but what differentiated those from what I’ll call the “Post-Battlestar Galactica Era” was that through all this, our main characters really kept their souls. They were cheerful, optimistic people. They were real heroes. Sci-fi after this went dark, where in efforts at first to make characters “more real”, plunged shows into nihilistic dreariness, from which the genre hasn’t really recovered.

Part of it was Hollywood’s lives being so corrupt and nihilistic. When you’re in that environment, you tend to write what you know. That’s why we see even Straczynski’s later work as he became more of a militant atheist, drifting from the beauty of Babylon 5 — which truly the theme of it is “one man can make a difference” — to his later work which is devoid of beauty or meaning.

But in 1999 we were left with a hole in the zeitgeist for humanity’s push to the stars. I felt that hole, really delving into online roleplaying in sci-fi/star trek-based environments, where, while many of t hem were fun, didn’t quite fulfill in the way watching those beautiful stories did. Some books nearly scratched that itch — Lois Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga did well in several of the books — but it still didn’t quite have the feel I was looking for as it waded a bit too far into dark territory at times.

That was the real origin of why I turned to writing writing. I, during this period, wanted to set up and recapture the feel of those two shows in the 90s that really to this day are unsurpassed in their storytelling excellence. I set up a station of my own, which is now dubbed Palmer Station in the book (named after David .R Palmer whose Emergence novel is amazing — and very hard to find!). My intent was to create episodic building narratives that pushed the world like DS9 or B5…

…and then my characters had different plans.

I think I still captured the feel of DS9/B5. The sense of wonder of doing something different, the aliens who are cool, not too distant to us — some even sexy, but the sprawling events of The Stars Entwined couldn’t keep someone confined to a station. It took me from 2001 when I started writing this to 2012 to finish the first draft, which looked VERY different than what you’re going to read at this point (I will be putting up pieces of that over on my patreon for those curious as to what it looked like). But I needed to not just copy that which I loved, but come into my own with my own voice to tell the story that was burning in my head.

As I reflected more on those shows, what made them different was the characters. The characters who wouldn’t give up. The characters who wouldn’t lose their souls even through immense troubles. Those were what was missing from modern entertainment. And those were what I feel I created with Sean Barrows, Tamar, and Tol (who you will meet in 15 days!). As this expands into a series, more characters will come into the limelight. I’m very proud of the way these characters turned out and the progressions they had within the story.

Did I succeed in capturing the feel of what I was looking to? You’ll have to tell me in 15 days! Let me know.

The Stars Entwined is available March 20th and is up for pre-order now.

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Richard Fox’s The Ember War: Comic Adaptation!

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Yesterday, Castalia House made a big announcement,  which is going to make a much bigger splash in the entertainment world than a lot of people might realize. I’ve signed with their new comic imprint to adapt Richard Fox’s bestselling military science fiction novel The Ember War into a graphic novel. Fox is one of the biggest science fiction authors in the field right now, including having won the Dragon Award for Best Military Science Fiction last year.

The Ember War itself is a masterpiece of military science fiction. When I first read the book I immediately messaged Fox with, “Wow, this reads just like a movie.” And it does. It’s fast paced sci-fi action with an incredibly epic plot and memorable characters. If I were in Hollywood, I’d be optioning this for a film immediately. It’s really that good.

I’m not in Hollywood, but I am in comics.

Vox Day and I have been talking about Alt-Hero, brainstorming for our co-written work in the universe for the last couple of months, and as he’s ramped up his new comic publishing house Arkhaven Comics, he was looking for additional content to keep the ball rolling while they’re building up the brand. Both being huge military science fiction fans, we started talking what genre books would be the best to adapt over several conversations. Between Vox and I, we have access to a lot of the greats, and you’d be very surprised as to some of the books we could get the license to and were in our discussions. But The Ember War kept coming up in those conversations as one of the best, and being so hot in the modern market, it made a lot of sense to pursue adapting this book in comic form.

We both contacted Richard Fox independently, and he was about as gracious as possible with the idea of his world being turned into comics. We’ve had several great conversations about a lot of things he’d like to see, and questions I’ve had to make sure we create the most faithful adaptation possible.

I’ve actually had the news for a couple of weeks, all the while I’ve been working on diligently on rereading the novel and starting on the script. You might have seen my social media posts about my “super secret comic project”. This is it. My paper copy of the Ember War is dog-eared in more than a hundred places, highlighted all over the place, I’ve pulled direct lines and descriptions from it. We’ve also got all the descriptions for the physical appearances of the main characters done, which Richard Fox worked on with me. It’s been a lot of work so far but it will be well worth it!

Right now issue 1 is on track to be written script-wise this week. We have a phenomenal artist who’s one of the best in the industry lined up for this, who has also worked on a lot of books you’ll probably recognize. I can’t wait for that to be announced. And it will be soon. His work is absolutely beautiful and will be great on this series.

As Castalia House mentioned in their announcement, this book will break down into 5 issues, about perfect for graphic novel form. We expect to have the first issue ready to go by summer, and barring any timing issues on the art front, the full graphic novel complete by the end of the year.

For now, you canhttps://www.amazon.com/Ember-War-Saga-Book-ebook/dp/B010PSY6YW/delarroz-20 if you want to get in depth with the universe. Or if you’re new to me, check out my book, For Steam And Country. 

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The Book 20 Years In The Making

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Last night I finished up my edits on what will be the first in what I hope will be many space opera / military SF novels set in this particular universe. It’s titled The Stars Entwined and follows an Internal Affairs investigator for humanity’s Interplanetary Navy as he navigates a powder keg of a political situation with the neighboring alien Aryshans, and a parallel story of an Aryshan Commander who has her doubts about war with humanity being a good option for her people. As their lives cross path, the war escalates to new heights. These characters really shine for me, and I hope they will for you too!

In Jan-Feb I first-drafted a second novel which overlaps with this one, which I’ll hopefully get edited and ready for you all mid-next year so you can see other angles of The Aryshan Wars. Needless to say, I’m very excited about bringing you a space opera with 100% my own world-building, and keeping in the rich tradition I’ve created in bringing fun novels through Rescue Run and For Steam And Country.  

As the blog title says, The Stars Entwined has been in the making for about 20 years. It’s the first book I ever wrote, which started in a high school English class when I wrote down the opening volleys of what would have been one Admiral Conley’s perspective (you’ll hear about him in the book) in fighting a war against an alien species. That assignment sparked my imagination where I began writing. Over the next several years, I wrote in spurts, pinning down the origins of the conflict and how the war escalated. I don’t have the original paper with Admiral Conley’s epic battle anymore (and I would probably cringe if I saw it!). My story ended up with a completely different cast of characters, with a completely new angle on interstellar war which hopefully will be fresh for you when you read!

I finished my first draft of this book, which at the time I had titled These That Twice Befell, a line from an Emily Dickenson poem. I liked the poem and the line, but as a title, didn’t feel quite sci-fi enough for me. The poem is:

My life closed twice before its close—
It yet remains to see
If Immortality unveil
A third event to me

So huge, so hopeless to conceive
As these that twice befell.
Parting is all we know of heaven,
And all we need of hell.

The poem still fits the theme a little bit as you’ll see when you read the book. The book really has a lot of internal death and rebirth of the characters as their preconceived notions of their worlds and who they are get turned upside down.

I redrafted the book a second time in 2014-2015, still not quite there in terms of honing my work. At the time, I called the book Starcrossed — which felt a little better for sci-fi, but there’s a zillion books titled that. I set the book aside when I started writing for Doomtown: Reloaded, which eventually led into my Star Realms novel. For the time, I set aside my own worlds and works to focus on the game-related material. I learned a ton about writing in those years and pushed myself to the next level.

With Star Realms being such a huge success, nominated for multiple awards and having so many amazing reviews, I knew I wanted to stick with Mil SF/Space Opera as my primary genre for writing. Both because I grew up reading mostly this genre, but also because my fans already were acquainted with my writing in the genre. For The Stars Entwined, I definitely drew heavily on my influences: Babylon 5, Deep Space 9, Lois Bujold, Elizabeth Moon, and Sharon Lee. If you’re into their work, I know this will appeal to you, and hopefully I was able to come across in the same tradition.

After my game work was complete, I saw people finding me online and beginning to read the blog and my books regularly. I had a choice to make to try to get work out faster — did I rewrite what would become The Stars Entwined, or did I try to release a Steampunk book I’d drafted as well. For Steam And Country was much closer to being a complete, finished work. It needed a lot less overhauling than my space opera did to be worthy of your read. I knew I needed to get something out a little faster than working on The Stars Entwined would allow, and so I chose For Steam And Country, nervous about releasing a more YA Steampunk with my audience.

When I finished the book, I immediately started work on The Stars Entwined, which I retitled it during its third major overhaul around May this year — and I actually wrote most of it from scratch. I threw out almost all of the prose from the first iterations. The overall scenes changed by about 30% of the book, which is unusual for me as I usually have the plot points worked out very tightly by the time it gets out of outline form (I work hard on my outlines, which I’m doing for Von Monocle 2 right now!). I may one day show the first draft of this to let everyone compare but it was a ton of work to get this done over the summer.

While I was doing that, For Steam And Country ended up being a bigger hit than my first book. It’s a great problem to have, but I do have the issue now where people are waiting for a sequel on my Steampunk, and now I’m about to release yet another first book for a series. I didn’t plan it that way, but the cards fell as they did based on what I had ready.  At the time I was releasing my Steampunk, The Stars Entwined was my priority to get done. I wasn’t sure a steampunk would resonate with my crowd at all, and I wanted to wait and see before committing to a series there, especially as For Steam And Country works very well as a standalone. For those readers, fear not, I’ll be spending NaNoWriMo getting book 2 of Baron Von Monocle written for you with lots of updates on its progress on this blog. I did get a little bit distracted by my Deus Vult In Space concept, which I wrote because I had to get that out of my system when I had the idea, so I apologize for the delay there, but hopefully you’ll forgive me that one digression. 🙂  That book is going to be a ton of fun.

I finished this draft of The Stars Entwined in early August, and did a clean up pass on it during that month. It’s been with my editor since then, and I just completed fixing the notes he gave to me. I’m extremely excited to get this into your hands. It’s in proofreading and cover art design right now. I haven’t decided when to release it yet — it largely depends on those efforts and their timing.

But there’s a lot of stories to the background of this book, how it developed, and how it changed. I’ll share as much as I can with you in the coming months so you can see the process of how this evolved into the fun space opera story it is for you to read.

Right now the books release schedule is probably going to be this:

  1. The Stars Entwined
  2. Reach For The Stars (Overlaps with The Stars Entwined, needs an edit)
  3. Baron Von Monocle 2 / Deus Vult – depends on which is going to be faster/easier to edit as to which is first.
  4. Alt-Hero 1
  5. Alt-Hero 2

As I’ve committed to co-write those Alt-Hero books, I may need some time before I return to these universes. It all depends on speed and also my co-writer Vox Day’s schedule in working on those. But it’s going to be an awesome 2018 at the very least. I’m about one year being in this business, and it’s been phenomenal. I’m really grateful you’re reading and giving me time to do a few series (it helps from keeping things from getting stale on my end!)

That’s all for now. I could ramble about all this for hours, and I might on periscope at some point so stay tuned for in depth looks!

If you’re liking my releases so far, have you checked out my novella, Gravity Of The Game? It’s being talked about for Hugo consideration for best novella by many people. Read it now here! 

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Retro Review: King David’s Spaceship by Jerry Pournelle

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Last week, like many, I was saddened by the news that Jerry Pournelle died. He was one of the giants of Science Fiction, so prolific and really having done so much for the genre. I hadn’t in the course of my readings, read King David’s Spaceship, however, and so I figured I would honor his prolific and fruitful life by remedying that, of which I spent the last week doing.

King David’s Spaceship is a story about a fallen human imperium which is slowly reclaiming worlds that have lost technology, been disconnected, in an effort to never have a devastating war between humanity again. All new worlds get monitored and brought in according to 3 classes: class 1, class 2, and colonies, and the colonies end up getting flooded by imperial merchants and the like who take over society. King David wants none of this so he sets about a team of people to figure out how to get to the class 2 status.

They’ve determined the way to do so is build a spaceship, but they don’t have the technology to do so. Colonel Nathan McKinnie among others are sent off to another planet to go find some sacred library that is supposed to have information on the ship.

The opening of the book was interesting, but it slowed down a bit significantly into discussions of how things were going to happen. I wasn’t sure about the book after part I as to whether I liked it or not, but it turns out Pournelle was just setting the stage for part II which is all epic adventure.

When it gets into part II, it really becomes a fantasy novel — kind of a book within a book. There’s epic battles, barbarians, pirates, great politics with the church, a lot of fun all around. The world building is so deep and so rich it’s incredible, some of the best I’ve ever read. Pournelle spent so much time working out every detail of multiple civilizations that it’s staggering, a true master of the craft.

And it’s all smooth sailing (or spaceship flying!) from there. The book becomes compelling, the side characters even get wonderful moments in the limelight and are well developed. It becomes very difficult to put the book down at that point, and when it ended, I found myself wishing it didn’t. I love the wrapping a fantasy adventure in a sci-fi novel and it does come back to the sci-fi elements.  Really a neat and imaginative work all around. If you haven’t read Pournelle and would like to, this is an excellent place to start.

9/10

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