From contrivance to reality

So it’s been a while since my last proper blog post.  I haven’t been doing much writing lately, more sort of plotting.

So tonight I’m going to tackle the issue of gender balance in my stories.

Initially my thinking was that I wanted to have female characters in roles that are traditionally filled by males.  But that’s a bit contrived.  It’s all very well to say that I wish there were more female ‘knights riding to the rescue’ but what am I actually trying to accomplish by this?

So for a while now I’ve been trying to explain why most of the cast of Servant of the Siphen and the rest of the series is female.  Years, really.

Then as I was walking home tonight I found the missing piece of the puzzle.

Human life, when you think about it, is quite fragile.  It doesn’t take much to threaten our existence.  Never mind the aliens armed with electric death rays though, it’s the smallest most microscopic enemies that we need to worry about.  That’s right – alien germs.

The irony is that in reaching out to the stars, ensuring that human colonies will exist and multiply for some time to come, we may unwittingly bring about changes in our very own nature that will force us to adapt or die.

So in the stories, the basic premise is that during the great expansion, something or someone caused widescale alterations in the development of unborn children.  Perhaps it was aliens seeking to curb the human infestation on their dorrsteps, or maybe it was an accidental result of alien fauna interacting with human physiology.  I’m not telling… spoilers!

Whatever the cause, the result is that some humans in the 25th century will require hormone treatment to begin puberty, and may be unable to conceive children without medical intervention.  Naturally-born males will account for less than a percent of births.  The balance between female and male genders is going to shift quite considerably, and possibly a quarter of human colonists or Earth-born may consider themselves to be transgender.

That sort of brings me back to my original idea, which is that human life is so fragile.  When faced with this realisation that the way things used to be may never be so for thousands of years if at all, humans would have to embrace their altered reality.  Never again can they look down on or discriminate against people who do not fit into one of the binary genders.  There will be billions of brilliant humans who are capable of something just as wondrous as their distant ancestors who landed on the moon, and they cannot be scorned because of their differences.  The continued existence of humanity is at stake.

I would like to think that this story does not begin when humans arrive on other planets.  It begins today, with people like you or me.  We are the mentors of those who come after us, passing on our values to the next generation, and the next and the next and so on.  If what we do and believe and how we act towards those who are different helps future generations to overcome adversity, then we are never forgotten.  They will tell tales of us, much as we imagine and relate to their perilous and arduous journey to distant worlds.

The greatest strength of humans is to communicate ideas and to share knowledge and experiences.  By doing these things, we create a future in which humans are prepared, if not forewarned of the dangers it may face.

So it’s quite possible that some of the crew of the Orion, though they take female names and look feminine, don’t necessarily identify as female.  I haven’t made distinctions yet because as I said, this came to me tonight and I’m still thinking about it.  Does it make a difference to you if one of these leading ladies is transgender?

I’m not looking to score points, mind.  I’m telling a story, and sometimes that means explaining why things are the way they are, or even what that is.  If as a result it improves the human condition for those future generations, I won’t have been forgotten.

No fancy cover for Servant of the Siphen

So I’ve come to a decision regarding the cover for Servant of the Siphen and future works.

Basically, until I can afford a nice-looking image created by a professional artist, I’d rather go with something simple which works well even when shrunk down to a thumbnail.  I’m pretty sure I can manage that on my own.

I can’t really photograph a futuristic spaceship or a dimensional portal or a dark sorceress down here on Earth so, sorry but I can’t do that.  I’m not going to rip off someone’s artwork and throw it on the cover of an ebook either.

If and when the writing starts to pay off (which may not be for some time) then I will invest in better artwork as a thank-you to the readers who have bought my books and, thanks to the wonder of modern digital distribution, it will not cost them one penny more than they have already spent to download the new version.

Bear in mind, Servant of the Siphen is already available to read here on the site.  It may receive further edits (when I hear back from beta readers) but it is basically and always will be free, as a preview for readers who want to know what my work is like before they buy, or just to enjoy for what it is, an adventure that can stand alone without the rest of the novel.

Thanks for reading and if you have an opinion please feel free to air it here or on Twitter. 🙂

Revisiting old projects and sanity

So I didn’t hit my target of Thursday for Part 4 of The Rescue.

It’s a bummer, but sometimes things will not always go the way I want, and I need to accept that and try to move on.

Part of the problem is that I’ve got to this point where I’m a bit anxious about how well the next part works.  So I’m going to take a little break from it and try something else for a change.

I’m still going to be working on edits for Flight of Passion over the next month with a view to putting out a new version in February.  I’m a third of the way through and enjoying doing that so I don’t think it will be a problem!

Last night I dug up Pegasus and re-edited it with the intention of turning it into a regular story on Wattpad.  So I’ve posted that and I have some ideas for the next few parts already.  Fantastic!

I do want to avoid getting too many projects going and then finishing none of them, but I think if I want to preserve my sanity I’m going to have to allow myself to work on more than just editing one thing and writing one thing.

Thanks for reading, if anyone is actually reading that is, and I hope you enjoy some of the work I’m going to be putting out there. 🙂

Update on updating

Okay.  I’ve pushed the update clock back a week.

The reason is so that I can have a one week buffer.  If updates start to become easier and more frequent, all well and good, but for now I want to have something to put out there even if I have a crap week.  Besides, it’s early days and nobody’s guilting me into updating but me, so there. 😉

I’ve also added a couple of links to the Downloads page, Flight of Passion is now available on Barnes & Noble and Diesel eBooks. 🙂

Introducing Andrea

Dr. Andrea MacNeil is the Orion’s computer systems specialist.  The Orion’s computer core is the subject of her ongoing research.  She aims to learn more about the people who originally built it and to understand the sophisticated software which enables many of Orion’s automated systems.

When an advanced city built by the same race is discovered on a planet within the nexus, Andrea spends some time unlocking its mysteries as well.

In Flight of Passion, Andrea has determined that the city also acted as a sort of servicing hub for Orion-class ships, as evidenced by a laboratory specialising in crystal fabrication.  These power-chanelling crystals take about six weeks to grow, although more than one of them can be grown at once.

Introducing Caroline

Caroline Trueman is the commander of the Orion.  She and her crew were chosen for the exploration tour because of their ability to handle long assignments in deep space, although they were not the only crew to request the Orion.  They’re going out further than any humans of their time have ever gone, so their abilities to cope with isolation will be tested throughout the story.

In Lonely Caroline and The Rescue of Princess Irena, we discover that Caroline has a fondness for fantasy stories (such as Tara Morgan and the Mausoleum of Mordilon) and brought along at least two virtual reality headsets which are soon put to use.  She also has a wife named Wilma back home on Earth.

Understandably then, when the dimensional portal leading back to Earth is damaged during the battle with the Siphen, she is preoccupied by the thought of never seeing Wilma again.  She is frustrated to find that the portal is a complex bit of technology that for the moment, is beyond their ability to repair.

As Flight of Passion begins we discover that she has taken Isamura as her lover.  She has regrets about her infidelity, even considering the circumstances.  Isamura tells her, “Wilma is lucky to have taken a woman such as yourself to be hers. You will be hers again when you find a way home.”  It remains to be seen if this will be the case.

Introducing the Siphen

The Siphen are an alien race existing as and subsisting on high forms of energy. They have brought about a state of catastrophic entropy in their own universe and now seek to escape through the nexus to another universe.

The crew of the Orion encounter the Siphen shortly before the events of Flight of Passion, and in the ensuing battle the Orion is damaged as well as the dimensional portal leading back to Earth. Though the Siphen are defeated, more of their kind will surely follow.

The red pen comes out for Flight of Passion

There’s a new EPUB version of Flight of Passion on the Downloads page.

Well, it’s new in the sense that it has a slightly different cover and it has all twelve existing parts. I have a bunch of edits planned that will make significant changes so you can expect to see another version possibly Feb next year depending on how things go.

Here are my plans:

1. Instead of having Erica spying on Caroline and Isamura, she simply walks in on them and tells them to get dressed because there’s a big problem (the loss of power). This requires edits to remove the references to this as well.

The reasoning here is that it’s a bit contrived and I can be more subtle.

2. Cut the part with Tegan and Erica running off together and having sex.

There’s actually something that Tegan needs to tell Erica first, so I’ll be writing a new scene to do that.

3. Cut the stripping around the board game.

Again, it’s contrived and seems to come out of nowhere. I have something in mind that moves the plot along faster.

4. Reduce Isamura’s perception of the ninth member of the team.

It just makes things confusing. Easier for her to have just an inkling.

So if you want to make an argument in favour of keeping the parts I’m planning to cut, you kind of need to make it soon. I am always open to criticism, but it can take a while for me to come up with something on the drawing board to fix things, so sooner is better than later. 🙂

Introducing Tegan

On the Orion, Tegan Brown is the Chief Security Officer.  Her presence on an away team is an advantage in combat situations.  She is skilled with the plasma rifle and by necessity is proficient in unarmed combat as well.

Tegan was assigned by her request just before the Orion mission began.  During the exploration phase of the mission she didn’t get out of her quarters very much and only made a few friends among the crew, one of them being Erica Reed.