sci fi

States of Independence and a new book

There’s a new book! Wait, what? Read on…

I should have open with an apology for being silent for so long. I’m sorry. Now let me tell you the exciting reason. I have been hammering away at the next book. Second novels are infamous in the writing world for being hard to do. It has taken longer. It is a bit shorter but people who have read it agree it is even better than the first! Now it is with my publisher who is considering what to do with it.

It’s in We Bleed the Same but you will not have needed to read it to enjoy the story. This one happily stands alone as well as enriching the universe. My aim in this saga is for the books to be readable in any order.  This time we meet a Freedom Protection Agent, called Jaq Pilakin, who is investigating an apparent accident of war and hoping it turns out to be a murder. Where the action in We Bleed the Same takes place over a whole year, this book’s action is over in three-and-a-half days. And yes, several of the characters you have already met do turn up.

So, I know you have been waiting for me to explain this somewhat strange post title. Well, States of Independence is a one day literary festival in Leicester, specialising in the independent press. It is free to get in and runs from 10:30am – 4:30pm in the Clephan Building, DMU, LE1 5XY.

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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.

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).