world building

Introducing: Jaq Pilakin

In the summer I was delighted to announce that my publishers, Inspired Quill, had accepted for publication the second book in the Anjelican Universe – intended to be release in June next year. I won’t call it a series because I hope to write connected books that can be read in any order but will still build up to tell the story of Galactic revolution, human history, the role of the Anjelican and the future of the Earth. But that’s all still to come…

In the meantime let me introduce you to the main protagonist – Jaq Pilakin (pronounced pill-ay-kin). She is a woman who lives in the city of Engalise. Those of you have read We Bleed the Same will know this place but if you haven’t it doesn’t matter. The city has some problems. It is under siege and it has been for decades. It has no laws – only a code of individual rights; and there are only ten of those. And there is no government. Only a City Corporation that licences individuals to protect these rights. For example, City Engineers who protect the right to movement by running and maintaining thoroughfares and transport networks.

Jaq Pilakin is licenced as a Freedom Protection Agent. This is someone who investigates violations against an individual’s rights and she specialises in the 1st right: life. Unfortunately, due to a previous case, she was thrown out of her old job with the City Corporations own subsidiary agency. Now she is independent and has to search for cases that have been overlooked by big agencies or independent agents with an established reputation.

Jaq is not a happy person. She is wracked by guilt over her previous life and pursues justice as a way to atone for her past actions. She drinks too much, takes drugs and indulges in as many vices as she can afford. Unfortunately, the money is about to run out and her case is a plumber who was unfortunate enough to be buried by rubble from an artillery strike from the besieging forces. Luckily for her, it turns out to be murder…


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…'”

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).