Excised Lecture… Modern Athréak History

One of the difficult things about writing science fiction is sneaking in your world building without info-dumping or committing the heinous atrocity that is known in the trade as “author intrusion”. This challenge is compounded if, as in “We Bleed the Same” you are writing the entire book from a single character’s point of view.

When I was writing it and needed to get on without getting bogged down I would put in a gap with the information I wanted to convey and would return later to figure out how to get it in. However, on one occasion – almost as a joke – I got Danny (the hero) to attend a lecture on Modern Athréak History. Then to my surprise my cold readers let it pass without comment, so I left it in when I sent it off to the publisher. People kept letting it through; I assumed it must just be a fantastically written lecture scene…

It was the third editor who finally unmasked it for the info-dump it was. So, for those who want to know a bit more about how and why the Empire, Athréa, the FFAIO and the Simplaerosian Kingdom are all fighting over one muddy patch of land – here is the deleted lecture. (The start of it remained included in Chapter 37.)

“One of the lectures focused on how the current military situation arose. The lecturer was an elderly man with white hair and a twitch below his left eye, which got more pronounced when he became animated on certain points. He wore an old fashioned Alliance uniform and a cravat from where his Adam’s apple would bob up as he spoke in a supercilious tone of voice, peppering his speech with convoluted sub clauses.

Due to the prevailing political situation, the Angel City, Engalise to the modern amongst you, was a natural choice for the Federation in setting up its headquarters. When we became a significant threat to the Empire a few decades ago, the Emperor at the time, old Pastan Victorious it was, an oxymoronic moniker if ever I heard one, ordered an expeditionary force to invade and destroy the city. He reasoned that, as it was completely independent, it was not a part of Simplaerosia and, therefore, it would not breach the Alliance to attack it. The Simplaerosians concurred with that assessment but pointed out, bless their hearts forever, that there was no way to get to Engalise without crossing Simplaerosian territory and so, with all the ferocity that their advanced technology afforded them, launched attacks on all the Imperial forces breaching their borders.’

‘So, how did we get hooked up with Simplaero?’ asked a woman on the front row.

‘Ah yes. Well, the Federation was defending Engalise, which had encased itself in a huge sink field, and the two co-operated militarily to expel the Empire. The strange, and most would say expeditious, thing was both the Empire and Simplaerosia regarded Athréa as a localised matter and continued with their Alliance in every other corner of the Galaxy. So, we have the peculiar phenomenon of Simplaerosia fighting with us on Athréa and against us in other theatres, although, in reality, both sides try to avoid that as much as possible. It is entirely in Simplaero’s interest to have the Empire bogged down in fighting us.’

‘Bogged down?’ asked the man next to Danny with a snort of derision. The lecturer looked genuinely surprised at the sentiment expressed.

‘Why yes. The naval casualties we necessarily suffer are a classic guerrilla campaign. The resources the Empire must expend in keeping us down are out of proportion to the threat we currently pose. More significantly, Athréa has become a mincing machine. For decades Emperors who could not afford to lose face or allow the Federation to operate unmolested, poured troops on to the planet, only for them to be pulverised. An army unit that lands on Athréa never leaves.’

A murmur of satisfaction rippled around the room but the lecturer looked irritated.

‘Please, everyone stay focused on what is important. Remember the sacrifices of the Athréak people, the descendants of the ancients, who still called themselves Anjelican despite massive interbreeding with the human occupiers. They have to go about their lives with war all around them…'”

The East Midlands Book Award 2015

So, after a flurry of excited tweeting a few weeks ago, I thought I probably should mention here too that I have been shortlisted for the East Midlands Book Award 2015. This is one of the most exciting things that has ever happened. Well, I think so anyway. You can see the full shortlist and find out more information here:

http://www.writingeastmidlands.co.uk/east-midlands-book-award-2015/

In anticipation of the awards ceremony on the 30th June, there is going to be an authors’ panel next Thursday (18th June 2015) at West Bridgford Library:

http://www.nottinghamshire.gov.uk/learning/libraries/find-a-library/west-bridgford-library/events/?entryid139=495502

The reason I am so excited about this award is that it is for “Fiction, Creative Non-Fiction, Poetry or Plays” – it is not a specific science fiction award so this is an opportunity to lay our genre before a wider audience.

Reviews of We Bleed the Same

Okay, I’ve held off the narcissism as much as possible but it may be that you’ve found out about We Bleed the Same, like the look of it, and want to know if it is any good before you buy it. Well, here below is a selection of reviews, warts and all, that I hope will give you an idea of what people think about it.

I promise – the reviews on the links below, and the ones on Amazon (other online retailers available…), are all I can find as of the time of this posting. So, I am hiding nothing from you.

An excellent writer and reviewer called Siobhan Logan said: http://siobhanlogan.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/puny-and-angels.html

Interesting SciFi author who I met at LonCon3, Jessica Meats said: http://plottwister.blog.com/2014/08/30/review-we-bleed-the-same-by-david-wilkinson/

Physicist and gaming reviewer, Susie Cumberland said: http://wordofthenerdonline.com/2014/09/review-bleed/

And you can find 12 reviews (2 of which are the ones by Siobhan and Jessica) on the Amazon website: http://www.amazon.co.uk/product-reviews/1908600306/ref=cm_cr_pr_btm_link_1?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=0&sortBy=bySubmissionDateDescending

 

 

 

Dragons at Christmas

Dragons on Athréa?
Here is one of those posts that will let you peek behind the curtain of the editorial process. It has long been my belief that dragons live in the mountains of West Fvelln. In the primary draft of We Bleed the Same, they appeared in Chapter 38 but it was decided that their presence might confuse things a little. I experimented with replacing them with other giant flying creatures called Donnucks but in the end they went too. That’s why you may have noticed that Chapter 38 is so short.
Anyway, here are two passages. The first is the whole excised section, including the dragons. The second is shorter and shows the part where the Dragons are replaced. It starts straight after the current chapter ending.

Dragons:
‘Happy now, Danny?’

‘Much better, thank you.’

As if to mock him, the radio crackled into life.

‘Shuttle craft vectoring 84-degrees-319. This is an Athréak Defence Patrol. Identify yourself immediately or be fired upon.’

Scottsdale hit the transmit button.

‘Hi ADP. This is Free Federation Orbital Insertion Vehicle Four Nine.’

Danny caught a glimpse of a jet fighter slipping in and out of the peaks not so far away on their right. It bore Simplaerosian markings.

‘Oh, hi Scottsdale. Manifest and destination please.’

‘Two intelligence officers for Rim West. Flight plan has been filed.’

‘Yeah that all checks out. Have a good tr… Hang on my wingman wants me…Proximity alert! Three UFOs cutting in on us. You got any ordnance Scotty?’

‘Four heatseekers and a belly full of chaff and flares.’

‘Okay, I’ll form up on you. Black 2, get up above the peaks and see if you can eyeball what they are. Be ready to fight, both of you.’

Scottsdale pointed at two buttons on the console in front of Danny.

‘That one is chaff. That one is flares. Hit whichever one I shout at you. Clear?’

‘Clear.’

‘Major, you got the tracking console?’

Leda’s voice came through their headphones, ‘I’m on it.’

Danny looked out of the side windows in time to see a vicious looking Simplaerosian fighter jet pull up beside them and then drop back a little to cover them from above and behind. They tensely waited for a few moments and then the wing man’s voice came over the headphones.

‘Woohoo! Stand down guys. They’re biological.’

Scottsdale seemed ruffled for the first time. ‘Danny, you lucky bastard! I’ve been making this run for two years and never seen this but you get it first time out.’

‘Hey, what… ? What you talking about?’

‘Fvelln Dragons!’ said Leda as she appeared between their seats, her face beaming. ‘Dolphins of the sky…’

The Simplaeran pilot spoke again. ‘Okay, they’re headed to cut us off just as we enter the Goyrace plateau. I’ve heard their max speed is about 230. Our stalling speed is about 180, so can you do, say 190?’

‘No problem.’ Scottsdale began to throttle back.

‘Right, we’ll be hitting the plateau in about 85 seconds. Strict ‘V’ formation – no deviations. If they want to play we only get one shot at it and they scare easily.’

The two Simplaerosian fighters took up position, noses just metres away from their wings. As one they all turned around the last peak and a vast plateau opened up in front of them with another wall of cliffs and peaks in the distance.

The radio again. ‘It’ll take about 6 minutes to cross the plateau. Don’t get too distracted and forget to pull up!’

Leda leapt forward pointing, ‘There!’

Danny followed the line traced by her finger and could see two…no, three blobs veering in and down upon them. Moments later they were discernible as having wings and heads. Two were larger than the third but then, as they dived, they disappeared behind, out of view.

‘Stay in formation!’

Breathless moments passed.

Then the back of the head of a giant creature appeared right in front of their windscreen before dipping down taking the whole hump of a back with it, huge wings sprouting either side. Looking to the right Danny was just in time to see a shining sea of scales on the belly of another as it rolled away, its wings folded into low drag ‘V’ shapes. As he watched, it completed the roll onto its back before diving down and flipping, beating the powerful bat like wings hard and fast to make up the ground it lost.

‘Look at that!’

Scottsdale was looking out of his own side and pointing. The smaller dragon there was flying in the same direction as the aircraft but describing long leisurely spirals, like a corkscrew, with a mighty flap at the bottom of each one.

Leda ducked suddenly and as Danny looked up he saw that the two others had got above them and were just metres from the canopy. Powerful legs could now be seen, the front ones tucked beneath the base of each wing and the rear ones held tight against the root of the tail. They let themselves fall back a little on either side and drop until they were between the shuttle and each fighter. Danny stared out of the window at the one on his side. A high, wide snout fell back into a series of ridges that rose up to a hard shell, giving the head a wedge-like shape. But the eye… it was the eye that held his attention. It was large, black but with a core of red fire. It was staring straight into the cockpit. Danny turned round to look at the other dragon and it was doing the same. He was about to exclaim to Leda but stopped when he saw she had her eyes closed and her head tilted forward. Her lips were moving. She appeared to be at prayer.

Their shuttle jumped and Danny jerked around to see the dragons beating their wings hard to regain speed and altitude before folding them back and diving across the shuttle’s bow. The smaller one turned its head back to look at the shuttle a moment longer and then followed the others down.

The ADP leader’s warning had been prescient as the cliffs were now looming up in front of them. His voice was heard again.

‘Well, that was something, wasn’t it? Safe trip guys, see you later.’

With that the fighters turned away just as the shuttle plunged into another gorge in the towering rock.”

 

And now a shortened bit with Donnucks instead of Dragons:

““Fvelln Donnucks!” said Leda as she appeared between their seats, her face beaming. “Dolphins of the sky…”

The Simplaeran pilot spoke again. “Okay, they’re headed to cut us off just as we enter the Goyrace plateau. I’ve heard their max speed is about two-thirty. Our stalling speed is about one-eighty, so can you do, say one-ninety?”

“No problem.” Scottsdale began to throttle back.

“Right, we’ll be hitting the plateau in about eighty five seconds. Strict ‘V’ formation – no deviations. If they want to play we only get one shot at it and they scare easily.”

The two Simplaerosian fighters took up position, noses just metres away from the lander’s wings. As one they all turned around the last peak and a vast plateau opened up in front of them with another wall of cliffs and peaks in the distance.

The radio again. “It’ll take about six minutes to cross the plateau. Don’t get too distracted and forget to pull up!”

Leda leapt forward, pointing, “There!”

Danny followed the line traced by her finger and could see two…no, three blobs veering in and down upon them. Moments later they were discernible as having wings and heads. Two were larger than the third but then, as they dived, they disappeared behind, out of view.

“Stay in formation!”

Breathless moments passed.

Then the back of the head of a giant creature appeared right in front of their windscreen before dipping down, taking the whole hump of a back with it, huge wings sprouting either side. Looking to the right Danny was just in time to see a pock-marked, rubbery hide of another as it rolled away, its wings colourful delta shapes. As he watched, it completed the roll onto its back before diving down and flipping, beating the powerful moth-like wings hard and fast to make up the ground it lost.

“Look at that!”

Scottsdale was looking out of his own side and pointing. The smaller donnuck there was flying in the same direction as the aircraft but describing long leisurely spirals, like a corkscrew, with a mighty flap at the bottom of each one.

Leda ducked suddenly and as Danny looked up he saw that the two others had got above them and were just metres from the canopy. A series of powerful legs could now be seen, tucked beneath the base of each wing. They let themselves fall back a little on either side and drop until they were between the shuttle and each fighter. Danny stared out of the window at the one on his side. A high, wide snout fell back into a series of ridges that rose up to a hard shell, giving the head a wedge-like shape. But the eye… it was that which held his attention. It was large, black, multifaceted but with a core of red fire. It was staring straight into the cockpit. Danny turned around to look at the other donnuck and it was doing the same.”

 

So then. Dragons. Do they have a place in space opera?

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

 

Pronunciation Guide

I have been asked by a couple of readers now for a pronunciation guide. I’ve never got to grips with orthography and phonemes so please forgive the crudeway I portray the sounds below. The italics indicate emphasis.

This is hardly a comprehensive list – more of a start really. No doubt I will be adding to this over the coming months.
Athréa –      Uh-thray-a

Caluphas –     Ka-loo-fas

Cambouria –     Cam-boar-ee-a

Désa Imperieuse Propogacion di Liberté Sotsiolistke –     Day-za  Im-pear-ay-urz Prop-a-gass-ee-on  di  Lib-ur-tay  Sot-see-oh-liss-t-k

Engalise –     En-guh-leez (or) En-guh-lee-s

Englassia –     Englace-ee-a

Fvelln – Fv and Ln are letters in the Athréak language. Fv is pronounced by saying the “f” and “V” sounds simultaneously into a breathy sound. Ln is created by dropping the “L” sound right into the “N” sound.

Gallista –     Guh-liss-ta

Ijjalion –     Ij-a-lee-on

Kloghlgk of the Nngloglgh-ki –      I’ll let you figure out this one yourselves

Neuberg –     Noy-berg

Parque – Park

Rindall(ian) –     Rin-dorl (Rin-dal-ee-an)

Shupillier –     Shoo-pill-ee-ey

Simplaero (sian) –     Sim-play-air-oh-(zee-an)

Damu’us naee –     Dah-moo-us  nay-ee

Yai acquire dolibourt pappien ete dacourainsi –     y-I  ak-eer  dol-i-bort  pap-een  et  dac-or-ai-inzee

Who are the GSO?

A question I have been asked a fair few times is “What does GSO stand for?” My reply of “Peace and security or oppression and tyranny, depending on your viewpoint” does not seem to satisfy and in an earlier draft of the book, there was an explanation. However, it was redacted somewhere in the editing process. So, for lovers of acronyms explained:

GSO = Government Security Office

There. Fully informed. But then, what is the difference between this lovely bunch of lads and the various other Imperial henchmen in the Anjelican Universe? Well, here’s a very brief spotters’ guide:

The GSO – The Government Security Office. Their brief is to find and crush sedition at the personal level. Imagine Thought Police meets Gestapo. Each world’s GSO operates independently of the local government and reports to the Vice-regal Security Office (at Stella Sector HQ), which in turn reports directly to the Emperor.

The Imperial Navy – The Emperor’s principle military force. Each Stella Viceroy must maintain his own Navy, using the proportion of taxes gathered from planetary governors, known as the “Imperial Levy” (the rest of the taxes go directly to the Emperor). There is a whole lot more to the navy (the 11th united command, alliance forces etc), which I’m sure I will be returning to ad nauseum. Suffice it to say, they are there to fight military actions in space, invade planets (through the Imperial Marines) and police space against smugglers and pirates.

Naval Intelligence – A branch of each navy, gathering intelligence and carrying out counter-espionage against organised insurrection (as opposed to the GSO’s focus on individuals). There is an on-going and bitter power struggle between the Navy and the GSO.

The Proctorate – the Imperial Proctors are entirely concerned with monitoring and enforcing the flow of taxes to the Imperial treasury. This can be at any level from viceroys and governors, right down to an individual’s pay and business affairs. All proctors are technically equal and all technically report directly and individually to the Emperor. This is to ensure that all are in a position to report infractions, no matter how high the rank of the accused. Corruption within the Proctorate is almost unheard of due to extremely harsh disciplinary measures.

The Caluphas – Originally the 483rd Regiment of the 1st Imperial Army, its first commander – Colonel Calupha himself – could not raise the funds to recruit and pay his men. So, he recruited from long term prisoners and offered the results up as a semi-suicidal force. The resulting blood lust of the violent rapists and murderers was such that civilian populations in conquered areas suffered greatly. The Imperial Armies turned them into a terror force and now there are dozens of Calupha regiments.

The Imperial Armies – Armies under the central control of the Empire, they are used as cannon fodder and occupation forces. The vast majority of those on punishment service are sent to the armies. Unlike other branches of Imperial service, commands and commissions can be bought out-right.

The Imperial Marines – See the Imperial Navy, above.

The Militia – military forces raised and maintained from amongst the local population by planetary governors, and under their direct control.

Local Law Enforcement – All local law enforcement can be structured and organised by planetary governors. On LaMarque, for example, there are regional police forces and the LaMarque Investigations Office (LIO).

LONCON3

Wow!

Okay, you may need a little more than that. I went to LonCon3 at ExCeL in London, which some of you may have noticed was the WorldCon. Yes, that’s the big science fiction convention, still devoted to the written word, where they judge and announce the Hugo Awards.

And I mean, wow!

I am still buzzing. Not just because my publishers, Inspired Quill, put together a great stand with inspired authors and an inspired message, which they did. Not because I sold some books and took a selfie with childhood hero, Robert Silverberg:

20140814_155219

Not even because George RR Martin strolled past while I was working on my laptop and I didn’t even look up (#epicfail).

It was meeting all the conventioneers that made me feel wowish. The incredible diversity, friendliness, passion, knowledge and downright tolerance brought home to me the wonderful community I am trying to write for. Some who stuck in my mind were people I met again in civvies after seeing them in costume the previous day, the American lady who brought me a bag of M&Ms just because and the first ever stranger to tell me they liked my book. At one point I knew I was talking to a physicist, so mentioned that I had worked hard to make the science right. He bought it and then discovered that he works in astrophysics at Harvard. I twitched a little and considered snatching it back from him…

It was great sharing a stand with Sara (the supreme commander of Inspired Quill) and Matthew Munson and Ben Hennessy (fellow authors at IQ). There was a real sense of being in it together and between us we sold a respectable number of books as well as networking and promoting IQ’s social enterprise ethos. Here is a picture of my end of the table:

20140814_122509

Yes, that is a giant gobstopper in the middle of the sweetie solar system. I believe it is the largest one can buy in Ashby de la Zouch – watch out for a future blog where I break it up to see if it really is multi-layered inside. We also noticed that if you line up several of my books in that configuration you can make one big window.

The dénouement of the conference was the Hugo Awards, so I will sign off with this picture of the after-party. Can you see two TARDISs?

20140817_223923