A Brief Treatise on Ilevan Culture and History

To mark the completion of my world-building work for the Ilevans in The Sword of the Princess, I’ve prepared the following overview of their culture and history for readers.  Enjoy!

Your Majesty, King Tsaroth:

In response to your inquiry on the history, culture, and disposition of the Ilevan Empire, I have scoured the scrolls in the royal library, searching for anything which might be of use to you in your negotiations with the Ambassador Rozma.  Unfortunately, I found very little detailing the Ilevan Empire itself.  Until little more than a decade ago, in fact, the Ilevans were a distant threat, beyond the borders of Archel and certainly beyond our concern.  How the world has changed in my time!

But I digress.  Your Majesty, the good news is that I was able to find out a good deal about the Zhoron peoples and their history, which I believe will give a good insight into that of the Ilevans since they are, as you know, related.

As Your Majesty may or may not remember from the history lessons I gave you so long ago, the Zhoron Empire was an ancient civilization that existed many centuries ago on the vast, hot Southern Continent of our world.  Some five hundred years ago, they expanded their territory onto the southern reaches of our continent, which were then peopled by a nomadic group called the Arnan, of whom we know very little for certain.  What we do know is that the Zhoron colonists fought extensively with the Arnan and, at length, wiped them out, taking the land for themselves.  This land they called “Ileva,” after their word for the north, and it’s colonists became the Ilevans.

How these Ilevans came to rule an empire stretching from the southernmost shores of the Southern Continent all the way to our doorstep is difficult to parse out.  The histories are incomplete and I confess that before these troubled times we Balnar never had any cause to concern ourselves with such distant affairs.  Judging from what I can piece together from various historical treatise, there was, roughly three hundred years ago, a Great War.  If the sources from this era can be believed, this war was so calamitous that it brought together kingdoms and peoples from one end of the world to the other to fight in its battles.  There are legends, even that the good king Galorndel and his faithful knight Tristan traveled far away to fight in this Great War—a story I am sure Your Majesty will recall.  It was one of your favorite tales as a child!  In any case, the pertinent point is this: many of the war’s fiercest battles were fought in the Zhoron Empire, on the Southern Continent.  Some sources claim these battles were so terrible that in their wake all the land for a hundred miles around was turned to chaos and turmoil.  Of this there is some disturbing evidence, for where the most ancient maps show rivers and cities, even the Zhoron Empire’s great capital, maps of the Southern Continent made after this Great War show nothing but barren marshland which no human soul can cross.

The effect of this disastrous war was to throw the Zhoron Empire into anarchy and civil war.  Claimants to the Imperial throne multiplied, but none had the power to control the vast empire, much less stop its crumbling into ruin.  None, that is, save a general who had seized power in Ileva.  The Imperial territories of Ileva, being located on our Continent, had not suffered the same horrors in the Great War as the rest of the Zhoron Empire, and so the Ilevan claimant was able to conquer his rivals and rebuild the Empire in his own image.  Little is known of this man, but much is speculated, especially by the pagan religion of the Ilevans, which worships him as a god.  All we know is that he called himself Arzemheba—which, being interpreted, is He Who Rules—and styled himself as the immortal consort of their pagan war goddess, to whom he owed his victories.  Certainly this Arzemheba cannot be the same as the Emperor Arzemheba who sent Ambassador Rozma to us, but in the Ilevan sources I can find no mention of his succession—or of any succession beyond that which formed the Ilevan Empire—and other sources offer only speculation.  Some have said the man is a demon who lives on forever in the flesh, others that he is a mortal taking up the mantle of his old predecessor in secret—a charlatan disguising himself as a god—, and others still believe that Arzemheba no longer exists as anything but a figment in the minds of the Ilevans and a figurehead through whom his descendants, Emperor’s Blood, rule.  Myself, I favor the second opinion: demons there may be, but I refuse to see them in every place, and as for the Blood, the fact that even are known to tremble at the Emperor’s decrees makes me doubt that the throne is truly their puppet.  In all of this speculation, I see no advantage for your current negotiations, except that it would be wise to keep in mind that authority does not rest with the Ambassador here and that deeper machinations may be going on in the Imperial capital than even he can know.

For the rest, we know a great deal about Zhoron culture, as it was before the war.  The volumes of Marcus the Wanderer originate in that period, and the royal library retains an excellent copy, if I may say so myself.  Marcus traveled extensively in the old Zhoron Empire, and wrote much of its people and their habits.  I will not bother you with the particulars, but I believe much of what he observed may still be relevant, even to the Ilevans of today, whose habits and even language have changed to adapt to the Eastern-speaking people who inhabit this Continent.

First, there is the matter of women.  Whereas our culture takes extremely liberal views toward women, even for an Eastern culture, theirs does not.  Zhoron culture held women in generally low esteem and they were regarded much as chattel, passed from father to husband with never a say in the matter and never any rights to speak of.  Their were exceptions of course, women who managed to be powerful through their influence on their husbands or women who found a place for themselves outside regular society altogether (their female mercenary companies are fascinating, though their devotion to the pagan goddess Inesvi is…unfortunate), but these were rare.  If anything, Ilevan views were even more repressive.  Their religion restricted the conjugal rights of Zhoron or Zhoron-descended men and women to highly ritual circumstances, but placed no such restriction on relations with foreign women.  This the Ilevans took full advantage of, and as a consequence became known even in the Zhoron Empire of old for their lewd behavior and unrestrained depravity toward native women of the land they occupied.  From what I’ve gathered from the servant’s observations, there is reason to believe this perverse streak in their natures persists to this day.  Some I have even heard say that there are, in the Empire, a class of female slaves, wickedly deprived of their tongues, which the Ilevans preserve solely for their base pleasures—and further that this practice is endorsed and even facilitated by their religion as an acceptable alternative to natural relations between a man and his wife, as God intended them.  I would therefore most strongly advise Your Majesty to take all due care to keep Her Highness, Princess Nicole, as far away as possible from the Ambassador and his staff, lest she fall victim to his depredations.

Second, there is the matter of family, which I think may have some bearing on the Ambassador in particular.  In Zhoron culture, the family was paramount.  The family, or House, was made up of several generations living together under a common elder or ma—the oldest man of the House.  It was to these Houses, above all else, that the Zhoron peoples were loyal.  They marked this loyalty in their very names.  Whereas we, as all Eastern peoples, place our Christian name before our family name, they have the reverse: putting their family name before all names—and it is by this name they are most commonly known.  I have seen little indication that the Ilevans changed this practice at all, though they may have abolished the use of the old words for it when they made Eastern the official language of the new Empire (the old Zhoron tongue, so far as I can tell, remains as their naming language).  The important insight for Your Majesty is this: I have gathered from some of the Ambassador’s guards that the Ambassador’s given name and family name are both alike Rozma (which is itself an auspicious name to them, meaning sun).  What this sameness of names means is quite simple, as Houses are most often named for the men who found or lead them: Rozma is a ma, the head of his own House.  Possibly his House is a new one, founded by a change of fortunes quite recently.  This means he will be ambitious, eager to establish his prestige not only for himself but also for all others in his House and all who may come after him.  He may also feel himself beholden to no one, not even the Emperor, in his quest for glory.  This can be a great threat, but knowing it can also be a great advantage in negotiations.  As they say, Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.

Of the Ambassador’s other habits, I can offer something by way of explanation.  Zhoron culture lived and died on showing proper deference to those above one in society.  Their language contains the most astounding array of honorific forms of address that I have ever seen or heard of.  While the Ilevans did away with the language, they most certainly did not do away with the deference.  This explains Rozma’s evident disgust at the casual manner of the castle servants and guards toward Your Majesty, and also his outrageous suggestion that you allow him to execute them on the spot.  I would take great care in allowing the castle staff to serve him and his men in the future, lest you not be there to restrain him next time.

Regarding his complaints about our meals, I can offer little more than explanation.  Marcus the Wanderer observed that rice was the chief dish of all the Zhoron peoples and that they supplemented it with a paste made of crushed peppers, which they called leroz.  Evidently this trend continues into our present day.  Rice of course, is not to be found anywhere in Balanne, nor, I’m afraid, are peppers potent enough for the Ilevan pallet.  However, the Zhorons are also said to have enjoyed game, and waterfowl, particularly their entrails.  If you could persuade the kitchen staff to prepare such a meal, distasteful as we may find it, it might at least…lessen his incessant complaints.

Regarding the curious repetition of numbers in his requests, statements, and routine, Your Majesty’s theories are correct.  Pagan numerology has a vice-grip on the imaginations of the Ilevans.  Nearly every number, to them is an invocation of their pagan gods.  Three, nine, thirteen, and twenty (or rereloreradozpere, and anla, as you may hear them in the old Zhoron tongue) are particularly highly esteemed numbers to them, especially thirteen, which they hold to represent their entire pantheon in its count.  To a lesser extent, 27, 30, 200 and one thousand also fascinate them.  Nineteen, or anlajodma, they consider to be as bad a number as can be.  To their pagan minds it is the equivalent of Eastern superstitions about thirteen combined with the Christian unease concerning six hundred three-score and six.  In their own language it means variously the fatherless man, the lawless manthe man without light, and the man with a missing appendage—they even use it as a nickname for their devil—any one of which it might invoke the attention of or invite as a fate upon oneself. This is why you observed both Rozma and his guards skipping over those particular steps on the stairs: which are the nineteenth from the top and bottom respectively: not even a pagan wants to invite the attentions of Satan or lose his father or a finger or toe!  The number fourteen is considered unlucky to a much lesser extent, though great care should be taken in how it is counted in Zhoron.  Should you find a man who names it redozperepema rather than the more common gedlorejodma (that is, if you hear them count in their old tongue at all) it is a man to take note of for a potential friend or source of trouble.  The use of that form of the Zhoron numeral 14 is associated with those who did not take kindly to Arzemheba’s ascension to the Imperial throne, and still worship their fallen sun god Arazma.

Regarding his staff’s reluctance to meet at night, this also is a matter of superstition, and also a telling one.  According to Marcus’ writings, the pagan Zhorons imagined Arazma to be both the sun god and patron to the old Zhoron Emperors (who were far less pretentious than their Ilevan replacement).  During the night, they believed that his law and order gave way to the chaotic rule of his outcast son, Mochazh (whose name I must warn you never to say in the presence of any of the Ilevans—they are very superstitious about it), whom we would call the Devil.  After the Great War, Ilevan mythology took over and wove a new tale, saying Arazma had died and been largely replaced by Arzemheba, who was no longer bound by light or darkness, having defeated Mochazh as well—at least in his boasts—and passed the duty of the sun to some other god.  Evidently, however, the pagans could not agree on their own lying legends and while the official position of the pagan priests is that the Devil is defeated and the night made safe, more common folk, especially in the old Zhoron lands of the Southern Continent, still fear the night as much as they all fear the name Mochazh.  If the Ambassador fears not the night but his guards do, that may be an important divide in regional and religious background to be conscious of.

Regarding his recountings of pagan myth and folklore, and those of his staff, I can only say that I do not believe they mean to offend.  Marcus relates that the telling of myths and legends was a common passtime among the Zhoron people.  If anything the Ilevan culture is more inclusive religiously than even theirs.  However their propensity for attaching our Lord Jesus Christ with their myths is not only blasphemous but…unfortunate, and may lead to further misunderstanding down the road.  The figure they refer to and with whom they blasphemously associate our Lord, is the pagan god Arazma, and when  Arazma, was supposedly killed by Arzemheba, his worship became a sign of rebellion.  Should the Ilevans persist in their blasphemous religious confusion of our Lord with their fallen pagan god, it may create further tensions in the negotiations.

Of the rest I can see little of use, so I shall give a few more small pieces of advice before I close.  Marcus observed that Zhoron peoples stood very closely when they spoke to those they trusted, and far away from those they disliked or else considered far beneath them in a social sense.  That Rozma maintains his distance as he speaks with you may indeed, as Your Majesty suspected, be an ominous sign for the negotiations.  His bluntness and his insistence on strict punctuality, however, are not.  While Marcus observed that the Zhoron were round about in their politeness, even in his time the Ilevans had a reputation to be more direct.  Evidently in the intervening centuries, that directness has come to the fore.  As for punctuality, both Zhorons and Ilevans have always prized timeliness as a high virtue.  They have even invested great sums of time, energy, and gold creating devises to tell time with great accuracy.  According to more recent sources, the Emperor’s compound of Itan in the Imperial city, has as one of its chiefest features a great clock powered by waterwheels, which rings out every hour like a church bell with unfailing accuracy.  Therefore,do try to be punctual and direct in your dealings with the Ambassador, Your Majesty.

The rest of my findings we may discuss at your leisure.  Your work with the Ambassador remains at the forefront of my prayers, as with all of us in the castle.

Your Faithful Scribe,

Edgar Scrivener

Triple Update on Lit Major Shoots Zombies

Alright, so I’m a little late in posting this notice, but I have a three-chapter update to the Lit Major Shoots Zombies story.  All three chapters follow the same narrative arc.  What begins as a simple trip to see if a local fortune-teller can help decipher Chris’ mysterious dreams quickly turns into a hunt for a mysterious entity that’s controlling the ravens around Kingsmouth.  Chris and Kaiyo will face danger as never before: and one of them will die!  No, honestly, one of them dies—I swear!

These chapters were fun to write and flowed naturally into one another for me, even if they did take some time.  They allowed me to do some good character development and to cover my favorite quest in The Secret World game so far.  “The Ravens” is a quest that, I think, does horror very well.  I think Extra Credits would agree (if you haven’t watched any of their videos and you’re interested in games, stories, or even history, you definitely should check them out).  “The Ravens” has the player doing fairly mundane tasks most of the time, simply following ravens around the map, but it uses those long stretches to build up tension as the mounting number of ravens signals increasingly to the player that something is not right about these birds.  Then you step in to circle of unnaturally-silent ravens, flying all around you, and then…well, I won’t spoil it in case any of you want to read the chapters or play the game for yourself!  Suffice it to say that is the only time a video game has made me truly jump out of my chair in fright.  The opponent you face is grusome or terrifying (well, unless you count the simple factor of the unknown as terrifying, which it definitely can be!), or even dangerous by the game’s standards, but the design of the quest works the horror in so well that it doesn’t need to be any of that to be one of the most memorable and frightening monsters a player will face in Kingsmouth.

Anyway, check it out if you’d like to see my tribute to such well-done horror, and read up on a dramatic turn in Chris’ adventures.  I hope you enjoy!  If you like it let me know.

Meanwhile I have other things I’ve been up to that need posting…

Future History Published

Well, as of 6:27 this morning, I am a published author.  My original science fiction novella Future History went live on the Kindle ebook store for $2.99.  It is a small step, but an important one.  It will definitely help me gauge the self-publishing waters and figure out how to proceed with further stories (such as Sword of the Princess, which is still in open beta), as well as beginning to supplement my income.

Future History is a Christian space-opera.  It follows the life of starship engineer Amelia Hanson.  In a distant future where mankind is fighting a desperate war against the Algolans–a malevolent alien race–, Amelia becomes a war hero, saving the lives of her comrades aboard the starcruiser Mizar with a final act of desperation and genius.  The cloaking device she improvises could be the key to winning the war and saving millions of lives, but unfortunately the secrets of its design die with her.

Five years earlier, Amelia is serving as a junior maintenance officer aboard the Terran transport Capella when her life is suddenly interrupted by memories from her future as a war hero.  As the story alternates between the future and the past, it becomes clear that the Amelia of the past holds the key to saving our future.

While the story is, in many ways, an obvious homage to Star Trek, it contains original elements.  One particularly unique feature is the way the story shifts back and forth from the future to the “present.”  This is made even more unique by the fact that the “future” segments are presented in reverse chronological order, meaning that each adds a little more detail than the last, bringing the two storylines closer until eventually they merge and catapult the protagonist and her friends into action.  The story is about 29,000 words and is divided into 12 chapters (called “sequences” which are further subdivided for a total of 18 short chapters).

Future History was one of the later products of my high school writing career.  I conceived it as a series of short scenes showing a character’s progression through field promotions in a Star Trek-esque universe, and eventually hit on the idea of using the creative flow of time through the story to make it interesting.  I originally believed it would be a short story that would take me about a week to write.  It took me about a month and ended up being my second completed manuscript-length piece.  After writing it, I conceived of and started drafts for two possible sequels, but never completed them.  I feel that the lack of a time-travel plot would have subtracted from them anyway, though I may return to them if Future History generates enough interest to warrant it.  In any case, after Future History was completed in 2007, it sat around collecting dust on my hard drive (which is possible).  I did not feel that it was my strongest story, and I knew that getting a novella published would be much harder than attempting to publish my short stories (which were themselves proving to be too long for the publishers I sent them to).  Now that I have some experience with non-profit self-publishing of fan fiction and have plans to introduce the start of my fantasy series, I thought it was time to test the waters by self-publishing on Amazon.  I considered a number of my past stories, works which I felt were the best they could be, even if they are not quite what I would write today.  I almost rejected Future History because it’s softer approach to science fiction (in Mohs Scale of SciFi Hardness, it’s a solid 2), but after considering that my dislike of the story may be colored by my resent attempts to make a much harder dystopian scifi, I gave it a second look.  After very light editing and some review of my self-publishing reference book, I loaded it up on Amazon and released it into the wild to see how it would fare.

I also created my own cover.  The artwork is original, by me, depicting Amelia in the foreground with an Algolan starcruiser laying into the Capella in the background.  I confess to having very little idea of what any of this should look like when I got started.  In the seven years since I finished the story, I completely forgot what I wanted anything to look like, though I remembered making sketches of a boxy Capella and wedge-shaped Mizar at one point.  I mostly went about looking up hints to the appearance of things in the story and expanded on them, making sure to concentrate on the three elements I knew needed to be in the cover: the protagonist’s face (covers with faces sell better and generate more interest) and a space battle.  I think the result turned out rather well.

With the release of Future History comes other changes.  As a published author, I will need a site.  For now, Starship Dragon will do, but I’ll need to expand it to accommodate my original works as well as my fan fictions.  Speaking of which, my current Star Trek Online story, Survivors of Yamatai, is now updating weekly on Mondays, which has allowed me to manage my writing life much better and will hopefully lead to me being able to pursue other projects while that story continues to completion.

Space Made Easy

Well, I previously posted about re-imagining the universe for Astrea Alexandra, my original dystopian science fiction.  Since that post, I’ve been busy crunching numbers with the help of the excellent Atomic Rockets resource for hard science fiction.  While I would not classify my story as “hard” science fiction (I use reactionless drives based on artificial gravity, which is nonsense by definition; I’m actually aiming for a 4 or 3.5 on Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness), the site still has a lot of useful information.

So I crunched the numbers for the sort of warships and technologies I mentioned in my previous post.  Even with the idea that certain types of circular particle accelerators cause artificial gravity and that antimatter can be contained in quantities large enough to be useful, I expected to come across some problems that I would just have to invent other kinds of nonsense to surmount.  For instance, while I was using nuclear reaction-based thrusters as the primary in-universe propulsion, I had to overlook the fact that calculations showed my ships would require several times their own mass in hydrogen to run at full burn for a second.  I was basically trying out all the realistic equations so I would know where I needed to plug in additional applied phlebotinum to keep the plausibility of the universe I was building intact, to keep things working as easily as I wanted them to.

But, as it turns out, I actually need to concern myself with the opposite problem!  Having crunched the numbers, I see that I’ve made space perhaps too easy.  For instance, I wanted my 1 kilometer long antimatter-missile-slinging battleships to be able to slug it out with their opposites for hours at a time.  Given rough estimates of the effectiveness of point-defenses and their shield strengths, this came out to about 4 hours, which I thought was a good time, but I worried about whether or not a 1 kilometer battleship would have enough magazine space for sustaining that kind of barrage.  I worried about the ammunition problem and was even considering whether or not it would be plausible for munitions ships to reload battleships in combat, like a semi-automatic pistol changing clips.  Then, I crunched the numbers for the total volume of the missiles.  For anyone who’s curious, those numbers follow.  Battleships fire three kinds of missiles: long-range ship-to-ship offensive missiles (Sidewinders), medium-range offensive-defensive missiles with variable payload (Interceptors), and short-range defensive-only missiles (Beads).  Like the ships, missiles use “grav drives” to accelerate, so they’re cigar or pill shaped (for the purposes of my calculations I assumed they were cylinders with semi-spherical ends, though I used rectangular prisms for storage volume, as that would be bigger and more accurate).

What kind of missiles?

  • Sidewinder/600-series
    • 2m x 0.8m
    • 0.87m3 actual volume
    • 1.28m3 rectangular volume
    • 1.92 metric tons
    • 1.16kg of antimatter
  • Interceptor/400-series
    • 1m x 0.4m
    • 0.109m3 actual volume
    • 0.16m3 rectangular volume
    • 272kg
    • 0.465kg of antimatter
  • Bead/200-series
    • 0.5m x 0.2m
    • 0.0136m3 actual volume
    • 0.02m3 rectangular volume
    • 34kg
    • ???kg of antimatter

What is the rate of fire at the launcher?

  • Sidewinder=5.5 rpm, sustained
  • Interceptor=40 rpm, sustained, 6 missile-revolving launcher
  • Bead=900 rpm, sustained, 10-launcher assembly, 3 assemblies per emplacement

What is the maximum sustained rate of fire of a battleship in a classic dorsal-broadside engagement?

  • Sidewinder=132 rpm from 24 tubes
  • Interceptor=1120 rpm from 28 turrets
  • Bead=9600 rpm from 6 fully-facing emplacements and 14 edge-on emplacements

A battleship engagement could take an hour or more to resolve, over four hours for a full engagement between opposing walls of battle. If a battleship carries enough ammunition for a 6 hour engagement, how many missiles is that?

  • 47,520 Sidewinders
  • 403,200 Interceptors
  • 3,456,000 Beads

What is the volume and mass of these missiles?

  • Sidewinder
    • 47,520m3 actual volume
    • 60,825.6m3 rectangular volume
    • 91,238.4 metric tons
  • Interceptors
    • 43,948.8m3 actual volume
    • 64,512m3 rectangular volume
    • 109,670.4 metric tons
  • Beads
    • 47,001.6m3 actual volume
    • 69,120m3 rectangular volume
    • 117,504 metric tons

Assuming storage requires 2.1 times the space, how large are the magazines?

  • Sidewinder=127,734m3
  • Interceptor=135,476m3
  • Bead=145,152m3
  • ·Total=408,362m3

Dimensions of a battleship.

  • 1000m x 400m
  • 108,908,545m3
  • 21,781,709 metric tons
  • 0.37% volume and 1.46% of mass devoted to the magazines

As you can see, there is absolutely no reason why a battleship so designed should need to worry about magazine space.  In fact, I wound up going with a larger coefficient for storage (I think it was 4 or something) and giving the battleships 12 hours worth of munitions instead of 6, but the amount of internal volume devoted to magazines is still very small.  It comes out to about 1.4% of the internal volume and 3% of the battleship’s mass.  Making large portions of the interior and exterior of the ship unusable for magazine space made this more of a limiting factor, but I still don’t think it’s going to make sense for me to write a story where battleships start running out of ammunition, unless they’ve already been in several long battles without opportunity to resupply.  Now, frigates on the other hand are about a third the length of a battleship and only have 3.6% of its internal volume to play with.  Squeezing a magazine capable of sustaining the frigate through the course of an entire 4 hour engagement would be a challenge (but it can be done, I’ve crunched the numbers), and anything smaller need not apply–battleships will certainly be the queens of space (at least until they meet the 2-kilometer long heavy dreadnoughts, with double their firepower and 8 times the internal volume…then they’re just screwed).

But this does bring me to some of the problems I had to address by applying phlebotium to make things in universe harder, so that I could tell the story I wanted, without having the logical implications of my universe running away on me to make the story just plain silly.

  1. Reactionless drives are superweapons: “Jon’s Law” of hard scifi states that “Any interesting space drive is a weapon of mass destruction.  It only matters how long you want to wait for maximum damage.”  In terms of grav drives capable of imparting tens of kilogees of acceleration, that isn’t long at all.  At 3 kilometer’s per second a vehicle carries as much kinetic energy as its own mass in TNT, and a “slow” battleship that can only pull 10 kilogees reaches that speed in 3 hundredths of a second–and (assuming a density of 0.2 tons per cubic meter, which is comparable to the realistic figure David Weber was convinced to settle on) a battleship weighs in at over 21 megatons.  Of course that’s nothing compared to what happens once you allow these things to build up some steam.  Two-kilometer long bulk freighters have to pull speeds of 60 PLS (Percent Light Speed, which is 179,875 kilometers per second) in order to jump through a very short-lived wormhole for FTL travel.  At those speeds the freighter is a relativistic weapon carrying the kinetic energy of over 900 Petatons of TNT (3.9×10^27 Joules–assuming the same density as a battleship, which may or may not be realistic).  That’s ten percent of the total kinetic energy of Earth’s Moon, ten times the total wattage of the Sun!  Hitting a planet with one of those would be beyond a civilization ender–it would obliterate all life on the surface and probably seriously alter the planet’s rotation and orbit…and that’s what a freighter could do simply by failing to brake!  To avoid a story where planets got flattened by careless pilots, militaries threw unmanned freighters at one another, or battleships had to worry about being shredded by debris or their own spent missile sabots, I decided to make them impervious to kinetic weapons as long as their shields were up.  I had already decided that shields in universe would consist of circulating envelopes of exotic matter that had special properties that allowed it to protect a ship from harmful radiation, temperature, and kinetic impacts and had already decided it should be better at taking kinetic strikes than energy ones, to encourage the use of antimatter warheads.  When I ran the figures for the kinetic energy missiles and freighters would have, I decided that, in order to prevent a take-over of ramming attacks and kinetic-kill missiles, I needed to make the shields perfectly negate the energy from kinetic impacts.  Since the shields are already made of exotic matter that doesn’t play by our rules to start with, I felt like this was an acceptable break from reality.  It also explains why planetary sieges would require actual strategy as opposed to, say, just lobbing an asteroid at somebody from a safe distance (the planetary shield would casually destroy the asteroid and then whoever owned that planet would come looking for you in a battleship).
  2. Grav Drives Have No Top Speed: On Earth, your top speed is determined by friction.  The faster you go, the more friction you generate and the more energy you need to overcome the force of friction and keep accelerating–and the thicker your skin has to be in order to withstand the friction you’re generating.  Go fast enough, and friction has enough energy to set off nuclear fusion in the air in front of you, and then you are having a bad problem (and you will not go to space today).  In space, there is no friction, so there are only two traditional speed limits.  The first is how much fuel you have to accelerate.  The second is how long you have to accelerate.  For grav-drive ships, neither presents much of a problem.  A grav drive is basically a synchrotron (a circular particle accelerator that runs at relativistic speeds), and a small synchrotron (using the Large Hadron Collider as an example and scaling down) does not take too much power to run.  At a few tens of kilogees, it does not take too long to build up to ludicrous speeds either.  The only possible limit is the speed of light.  However, as I understand it, that top speed works by increasing the relativistic mass of the vehicle (though I could be wrong).  As a spacecraft approaches the speed of light, it’s apparent mass increases, meaning that it accelerates more and more slowly under the influence of the same amount of force.  While it never quite stops accelerating, its acceleration does slow down to the point that actually reaching or surpassing the speed of light is impossible.  But mass is irrelevant when dealing with acceleration due to gravity.  Two objects of differing mass exposed to the same gravitational field will accelerate downward at the same rate, since gravitational force increases proportionally to mass.  This is why, in-universe concern will be given to conserving shipboard volume rather than mass, because the amount of volume a ship has affects its acceleration (bigger volume=bigger grav drive=larger synchrotron radius=smaller radial acceleration of particles=smaller acceleration of ship) but the actual mass it carries does not (except for reaction-control thrusters, but those aren’t a huge concern).  So when the universal speed-limit comes along to increase the relativistic mass of a grav-drive ship and get its acceleration under control nothing happens.  The ship just continues to accelerate at a constant rate.  It’s relativistic mass could be billions of times greater than its rest mass and it would just keep going because the gravitational force would be billions of times greater as well.  I have two ideas for discouraging my reactionless drives from breaking the light-speed barrier (the only thing that’s supposed to travel faster than light in the stories is tachyons, and humans haven’t figured those out yet).  The first is to make acceleration uneven, such that something at the center of the artificial gravity bubble feels a small amount of additional forward acceleration and something near the edge feels a small amount less forward acceleration.  This would amount to about 0.01% of the overall acceleration, making for a +/-5 gee difference on a drive capable of 50 kilogees (which would still be enough to black out any crewmembers who were in the wrong place at the wrong time–or outright kill them if they weren’t buckled up).  At high enough speeds, I’m thinking the relativistic mass of the spaceship’s components would exert too much force on the spaceframe, causing the ship to break up.  Of course, I may need to cause this mysterious effect to increase dramatically in severity if I want to keep my ships top speeds in the 70-60 PLS range.  Since the behavior of the effect and its existence both have to do with the totally fictional science of artificial gravity, I feel like I can make up a plausible-enough solution.
  3. Battleships Have The Internal Volume of a Small Asteroid, Without All That Rock in the Way: The internal volume of a battleship is staggeringly huge, such that even her massive magazines occupy only about 1% of her internal volume.  This of course, raises the question of what to do with the rest of that space.  Part of the problem was solved using the unevenness of grav drive acceleration from before.  I could figure part of that volume being generally unsuitable for humans or acceleration sensitive systems during maneuvers (say as section 20 meters deep into the hull).  On a warship, this area would generally be composed of armor, with the necessary gaps for hangers, weapons system, cooling systems and a myriad of other things.  That accounts for roughly 20% of the ship’s volume.  Figuring power requirements to be roughly twice the amount necessary to sustain environmental artificial gravity (which is 1,000 times more energy intensive than the grav drive itself, which I did not expect) and giving the ship a 90 day cruise time, another 20% of the volume goes to fuel.  Then there’s the grav drive itself, which makes roughly 20% of the ship at the core nigh inaccessable.  The remaining 40% of the ship’s volume is roughly 43 million cubic meters, which falls comfortably in the range of volumes occupied by Star Destroyer classes from Star Wars.  That’s plenty of room for all the other systems, storage, crew quarters, and everything else the ship might need, plus giving it the luxury of some extra space (in this universe, high-ranking officers that command battleships are considered nobility and would expect to be accommodated as such).
  4. There is No Range Limitation on Jump Drives: In universe, the only thing capable of traveling faster than the speed of light is a tachyon, which humans can detect and cause as a secondary effect of some of their technologies, but cannot put to any useful purpose (yet).  In order to make interstellar travel feasible, I’ve given them the Jump Drive, an artificial-gravity based device that allows a ship to create and navigate a stable-but-transient (existing for 10 or 12 microseconds) wormhole as a shortcut to cross hundreds of light-days of normal space instantly.  The problem was putting limits on this thing once I created it.  The fact that I’d established that artificial gravity didn’t work too close too natural gravitational fields (otherwise, we’d have discovered it by now, since we have plenty of synchrotrons). gave me a reason for making jumping into or out of an area too close to a planet, moon, or star technically impossible.  Handwaving complicated jump calculations into existence (plus the need to “align” the drive to match said calculations) gave me a reason why starships couldn’t just jump whenever they felt like it (which would make for some pretty boring battles: “Whoops, we’re losing, everybody jump out now!”).  The fact that synchrotrons in real life need time to spin up gives me another reason to make jumps time-consuming.  All of that is very well and good for limiting warships in most situations, but in positing a universe where humans have struck out among the stars using this technology, I came to a very important question: why didn’t they go further?  A warship has a good reason never to venture too far from its home port, but exploration or colonization ships would just keep moving out there until they reached the edge of their range.  And what was that?  The only logical limit I can think of is fuel supply, and allowing the ships to use fusion reactors makes refueling even in unexplored space a matter of stopping by a gas giant and skimming off hydrogen with a magnetic ramscoop or something.  As long as you’ve got hydrogen, you’ve got fuel, and as long as you’ve got fuel, you’ve got power, and if power is all you need to keep a synchrotron running, well, then, you can practically jump forever (or at least until your food runs out, but a large colony ship could circumvent that problem by growing their own food).  While outright stopping a ship from doing something like this is impossible, I wanted to discourage it, so that most humans would settle down close enough to later require warships to shoot at each other with.  So far my best solution is giving jump drives a secondary fuel requirement.  Instead of hurtling around electrons, I have them accelerating positrons (antimatter).  Since positrons are charged and the other antimatter I’m using doesn’t have to be, I’m saying that we’ve invented some kind of neutral antimatter trap for collecting and containing large amounts of neutrally charged antimatter, but are stuck with lower-volume traps for charged positrons.  Throw in the idea that jump drives have to spike at insanely high relativistic speeds in order to cause their temporary hole in spacetime, and a limit comes out.  It might just be easier and safer to vent the super-relativistic positrons into space after a jump than try to slow them down and recapture them (in fact, early designs probably would have found the latter impossible, since the synchrotron would already be strained and overheating from accelerating the blasted things in the first place, and would burn out and explode–antimatter being antimatter–if someone tried to use the drive to decellerate the positrons again).  I’m not sure what the numbers will be on this, but I know they’ll be somewhat arbitrary.  The question will always be “so, they can store 5 jumps worth of positrons in so many traps–why don’t they just put more traps onto their ship and extend it’s range?”  However, since extremely long-range interstellar travel isn’t anything the protagonists would be interested in, I hope to keep that question on the fringes, out of sight, out of mind.

That’s about it!  Thoughts are welcome.  You’ll be hearing more about this universe and stories in it as they develop.  Thanks for reading!

The Sword of the Princess: Open Beta Version Available!

While it took much longer than I anticipated, I have finally completed the Open Beta Version of The Sword of the Princess!

About the Book: The Sword of the Princess is the story of Nicole, princess of the kingdom of Balanne, who escapes the sudden takeover of the kingdom by the evil Empire of Ileva and must work with a small band of knights to unite the kingdom and lead a revolution–all while avoiding capture or death at the hands of the Imperial occupiers. Along the way, she is helped by a large cast of characters, including her best friend and handmaiden, a lanky young squire,  a court jester, and even a figure straight out of Balanne’s legends. This book is the first in a planned epic fantasy series (of which I have the next three books drafted and awaiting rewrites), but is itself light on the fantasy side of things.  The book is 293,982 words and 540 pages, which I think is moderate for its genre. The book is divided into 73 chapters with an average length of 7.5 pages or 4,000 words. The book is targeted for a Christian adult or young adult audience, as there are strong Christian themes throughout.

About Open Beta: “Open Beta” is a concept borrowed from the programming world, where an unfinished product is released to the general public for final testing and revision. This is something similar. Think of it as a peer review that anyone can participate in. The benefits for me are twofold. First, I get reader feedback before I commit my story to print. Second, I get a lot of really good editing tips. Already my “Closed Beta” release to a few close friends has been immensely helpful with everything from correcting typos to restructuring the plot.

What Open Beta Means for You:  Of course, Open Beta benefits you as well. As a reader, you get a sneak peek at an upcoming book. You also get to have a roll in shaping it. Finally, as I promised in a previous post, anyone participating in Open Beta will receive a free copy of the final version of the book when it’s released.

So, if you’re interested, sign up by sending me a message below! Just make sure to tell me you want to be a part of Open Beta in the comments and include a valid email address so I can send you the book (I will never share your information). I’ll get it to you ASAP!

Star Trek Online Origin-Story Fanfictions and Coming Attractions

I’ve completed two Star Trek Online stories and posted them to FanFiction.net.  Both of them serve as “origins stories” for my main Federation faction characters.

“The Best Revenge” introduces Carlin back before she became Carlin Drel (before she was joined).  As an Ensign fresh out of Starfleet Academy, Carlin seeks to prove herself worthy of the father who abandoned her and to humiliate him. But when a rescue mission goes horribly wrong, she is must face one of the most dangerous aliens in Starfleet history and decide whether or not her quest for revenge is worth it.

The story introduces several characters from or referenced in the story posted here, including Commander Antori Drel, Captain Sokar, Doctor Howard, and the USS Nautilus herself.  It also features Ferengi and Species 8472…I’ll leave you to decide for yourself which of them is the “most dangerous alien in Starfleet history!”  It’s set in May of 2405, four years before the events of the game.


“Airborne” introduces Carlin’s trouble-making friend, Sam Hayashi.  As a young Ensign aboard the USS Endurance, Sam’s mischievous ways threaten to end her career. But when an Orion agent exposes her and her shipmates to a dangerous virus that removes inhibitions, it’s up to Sam to contain the disease and bring them home alive.  It’s set in November of 2405.  You can tell because of the Stardates used in both stories, and this handy stardate calculator that was used to produce them.

Harking back to the Original Series and The Next Generation, this is the cumpulsory first-season “The Naked *something*” episode (one of the earliest episodes of both series was one involving the same inhibition-removing virus, the episodes were called “The Naked Time” and the “The Naked Now” respectively–and, as is the case with this story, no one was actually shown naked).  I suppose the writing reason for placing such a story so close to the beginning of a series is to introduce the character as you would normally only get to know them after quite some time, as they let their walls down (by, in essence, forcing their walls down faster), but this story really came to me as an Aesop responding to the modern notion that if one has a desire, one must (or should) act on it.  Honestly, once writing took over, I’m not sure the theme got through, but that was how it got started anyway.

The only recurring character I plan to take from this story is Sam herself.  Her character is an idea that occurred to me well after the writing of the original Vega Colony story.  She was actually first conceived as a supporting character for the upcoming Star Trek take on the 2013 Tomb Raider game.  In case you can’t figure it out, she’s Sam Nishimura, Lara Croft’s friend and the game’s official keeper of the distress ball.  That being said, she is not simply Sam Nishimura in the 25th century.  Since my plan was to make Sam more of an action girl in my Star-Trek-remake, Sam Hayashi appropriately has the talents and skills necessary to back up her daredevil attitude.  She shoots someone in this story (I won’t say who).  She is also an improbably good pilot who has only crashed one shuttle in her life, and that was on purpose (and if you read “Airborne,” you get to see her do it!)–which, considering how many Star Trek episodes revolve around shuttle crashes, that’s pretty amazing all by itself!  She owes part of these piloting skills to the other character who proceeded her, an Ensign Satori Hayashi who loved “ancient” (read, 21st century) Japanese culture and was exceptionally good with shuttles.

As for the remake, it’s currently in progress. I’m writing the second chapter as we speak, but it looks like it’ll shape up to be a pretty long story, so don’t hold your breath for it to come out.  It will be unveiled on FanFiction.net eventually, but you’ll probably suffocate first!

Speaking of stories on FanFiction.net, there’s also another author in the Star Trek Online section who writes a “Star Trek Justice” series.  He writes stories set in 2412, after most of the events of the game, while I write them set in or before 2409.  We’ve officially decided to start writing in a shared universe, allowing our us to reference each others characters from time to time or even do collaborative stories.  The first such crossover occurred in the latest chapter of his story “Justice: Vengeance,” where a “Captain Drel” of the “USS Wayfarer” is mentioned–as by 2412 this will be Carlin’s rank, name, and command.  Further crossovers should be forthcoming, even involving my non-Federation characters, which I haven’t written anything for yet except backstory.  Currently, we plan on making the rewrite of the Vega Colony story a collaborative story, since, in the game, there is a point where experienced players can go back in time to witness further events during the tutorial missions at Vega (the final chapter of the original story hinted at the time-travel).

While I’m very excited for all of this fan fiction stuff, I’m not losing sight of my existing projects.  The Sword of the Princess beta is still coming along.  The chapters should be finished soon, and I may be able to add in my maps.  Currently, I can only make a general map of Balanne (the kingdom the story is set in) available to readers, but I have hand-drawn maps for many of the towns, including Bath, Glen, Cleft, Armat, and Malca.  If I can get to a scanner in the next few weeks, I can probably make those available to readers as well, which will hopefully help…I mean, I like maps!

The Further Adventures of a Sentient Submarine

Before I launch into the further adventures of a Sentient Submarine, I have some good news and some bad news.  The good news is that I have my computer back and better than ever.  With a new video card (one that is technically more powerful than anything it ought to be able to handle) and max RAM installed, it can do some pretty awesome graphics.  The first thing I did after installing the card was played Star Trek Online and I was awed by how much better everything in the game looked!  However, the awesomeness does not seem to transfer to my 3D work with DAZ Studio.  Apparently, the limiting factor is the processor itself, and I don’t think it’ll be cost effective to replace it.  I will explore other options for continuing Dragon Hunt, but for the moment, it remains on hiatus indefinitely.

As for the titular adventures: last time I told you I would be playing a sentient submarine in a steam-punk RPG run by a friend at work.  The submarine was named Final Spark, in honor of League of Legends’ champion, Lux, whose combination of military brilliance and childish innocence inspired this character.  It was built by the rebels for use in sinking their oppressor’s shipping and was designed with an android disguise form (called Sieran Fin, which is “final spark” backwards in Latin).  To protect against telepaths (fairly common in the game setting), Sieran was designed with a mental block which kept her from remembering she was secretly a rebel submarine and from transforming at will.  She wore a bracer which, if removed, would trigger a transformation, but she believed that it would somehow cause her to lose control of her magic in a powerfully dangerous way.  The two forms were optimized for their roles.  Final Spark was built as a tank with enormously heavy armor, regenerative abilities, endurance, and (naturally) stealth.  She also had the ability to crawl out of the water and even along vertical or upside down surfaces on crab-like mechanical legs.  She could build bombs and turn them into naval mines, she could fire torpedoes or unleash ramming attacks…she was basically designed as a highly versatile fighting machine.  Sieran Fin, on the other hand, was totally inept at combat, but was gifted in talking her way out of a situation, had an enchantment for just about everything, and had the rare ability to teleport herself or others out of a situation in a pinch (in fact, she could pull of up to seven successive teleports and even had one enchanted on her mana pendant to send her home in case she ever fell in battle–and then a revive spell to bring her back to life far from danger).  Sieran was designed specifically to always be able to get out of situations that could not be solved through fighting.  These specialties came back to haunt me in the opening sessions of the campaign.

We started with my character in Sieran form, since that made the most since (she could be recruited by a press-gang, if she decided not to make a scene–whereas Final Spark would be killed on sight–supposing she didn’t kill the press-gang instead).  For the first few sessions, Sieran was mostly useless due to her total lack of combat abilities.  However, after a couple sessions, the other players and their characters figured out that Sieran could be made more powerful by removing that bracer–though they didn’t know what “more powerful” would mean.  Then, came the day of a boss fight we were totally unprepared for.  The GM, in all fairness, had done everything in his power to warn us against fighting this particular villain, who was legendary enough to merit mention in the “lore of the world” section of the rule book.  He gave us every opportunity to avoid the fateful encounter when we did incur his wrath.  The players then present, though, decided to engage the villain’s significantly more powerful ship anyway (I was late to this particular session, and by the time I arrived we were already fighting).  The battle was very one-sided, but suddenly, the enemy ship withdrew.  A moment later, there was the sound of a hole being ripped in the bottom of the ship, followed by screams, rushing water, the clash of battle, and then silence.  On the next deck up, we again heard screams, the sound of combat, and then silence.  We were on the very next deck and we discovered that we’d been boarded by the legendary boss himself–alone–and he’d just killed most of the crew.  The party responded quickly, but our best fighters were cut down in less than a round.  I waited anxiously for my turn, when I would use Sieran’s teleport to get as many of us as possible away from what was obviously a hopeless battle.  But the player whose turn was just before mine made the decision that now would be a great time to find out what that bracer did. *Pop!*  Sieran becomes a submarine.  Cue my screams of self-defeated frustration, for the submarine cannot teleport and stands no chance against Mr. TPK himself.  Fortunately, I was able to crawl out ahead of the boss by skipping decks (crawling up on the ceiling, bashing my way through, and going up to the  next deck).  I took one hit, which was not enough to kill something so tough as Final Spark, and I managed to grab one character on my way and save them…but every other player character died.  Fortunately, I grabbed the cleric, so we were able to revive everyone afterwards.

My character did manage to redeem herself.  It turns out that campaigns that involve a lot of travel allow an explosives expert (who builds so many bombs per hour of idle time automatically), to accumulate a truly staggering amount of explosives.  I wound up bundling the bombs (which did 1d10 damage a piece, the most of anything in the game, and additionally ignored the usual dodge stat that characters use to avoid incoming damage–though they could be evaded by another, less popular stat) into groups of five to make overpowered naval mines (one mine packed enough damage to kill the average player instantly, and all of them had area of effect).  Due to some foreshadowing, we knew that our final battle would be a massive clash of armies over our objective.  In accordance, I had about 60 of my mines enchanted with teleport spells and fire spells to set them off on teleporting.  I could point at a target, say a command word, and BAM somebody get’s a mine to the face!  When the battle commenced, I did that pretty much all the time and was responsible for fully 7 of the 11 kills (of major characters) that occurred in that battle.  In the end, I still had plenty of mines left!

Speaking of sentient ships with explosive weapons, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the Astrea Alexandra project lately.  It will probably be my next original fiction project as soon as I finish The Sword of the Princess.  I’m within five chapters of the climax of The Sword of the Princess and I expect to have a complete draft by summer at the latest.  I’m very grateful to my beta readers for their tips and critiques and encourage anyone who would like to help me out by joining their ranks to get in touch with me.  Thanks for reading!

Technical Difficulties Again…and a Sneak Peek

I was really excited for the update of Dragon Hunt this week, and I hope you were too!  Unfortunately, I’m having trouble with DAZ Studio again, just like last time.  This will delay the update till next week, but here’s a preview of what you’ll find next Monday (fingers crossed!).

  • A new setting!  Lia and Bill arrive in Port Haven!  Urban scenes enter the comic for the first time ever!
  • The “Tipsy Pixie”–it’s always exciting when the thing in the title actually shows up!
  • A new character–who makes quite the entrance!