Worldbuilding: Atridia

© Elsa Sjunneson-Henry (aka @Snarkbat)
© Elsa Sjunneson-Henry (aka @Snarkbat)

For me worldbuilding is the most fun and best bit about writing (it’s also my Achilles’ heel, my one weakness). Of course, Atridia has been around a while (it even gets destroyed in my short story “The Breaking of the Circle”, albeit briefly) and it, or rather some of its inhabitants (Amel, Kella and others) had a role to play in The Parting of the Waters. Writing that told me several things about Atridia and its culture for later use:

  • They are beginning to explore the universe, the Juran Elaspe being a prototype ship and the first one to leave the Sirian solar system.
  • Taborin is the centre of Atridian culture but it’s not a democracy. The best comparison would be North Korea.
  • Same-sex relationships are taboo and Amel, in particular, has a really big issue with his daughter, Kella, being gay (oddly falling for an alien doesn’t seem to bother him at all).
  • Homosexuality is a mental illness on Atridia, treated with crude attempts at conversion therapy and, if the subject isn’t cured to the satisfaction of the auditors, they can be euthanised. It’s also believed to be communicable, like an idea, but also genetic and travels in families.
  • There is a translation matrix (the beginnings of what will eventually become the Union’s neural rig) but it’s hit and miss.
  • The Atridians are a curious people, looking for others in the sea of space but they also want to be important and powerful.
  • Science is their religion, administered by the Directorate. It strictly controls information, censoring anything deemed inappropriate.
  • There are three genders, with the Ubani, or progenitors, vital to the continuation of the species but segregated and strictly controled by the Directorate. No one remembers why, at least not regular folks like Kella.
  • Creativity is viewed with suspicion and strictly controlled.
  • The neighbouring planet, Arcadia, is simultaneously Occupied and also independant and known for its medical advances/export of doctors.

So I started expanding on things. I wanted to know who Juran Elaspe was and why Amel was so upset by Kella’s choice to live amongst the Kashinai, unable to interbreed with them but finding family regardless. Time to worldbuild and write.

The awesome @snarkbat posted this photo of a statue in a Swedish park and the colouring of the metal/the dress immediately pinged my ‘hey, Atridians look something like that’ sensor. I had this image of a humanish race with copper-coloured skin, maybe a little lighter (Kella, for example, tailless as she is being not-Kashinai, can pass for one of them in a temple hakashari). There’s a difference in the odd organ, the number of fingers (I need to check the specifics/hire an assistant) but as photo-inspiration goes this is as close as is.

The dress just seals the deal.

I’m assembling a Pinterest board with imagery and also thinking about music. For example I’ve found two tracks which really jumped out of me (I get a lot of them via Spotify’s Discover Weekly feature, it’s actually really useful). The first I told you about when talking about expanding “When the Stars Fade” into a longer piece, probably a novella. This song makes me think of Jaada, specifically due to a lyric which talks about rewriting scenes, something she as an author is able to do—except she’s writing what amounts to historical fiction and the Narrative demands honesty, even when writing about things she’d rather change (in this case specific to her past life as Kadjat).

The second track is below:

In my head, this song perfectly sums up Jaada’s relationship with Tobai Estus, a narssasistic who slowly takes over control of Jaada’s life, attracted by her fame and her creativity but envious of it. He eventually gets his revenge after ‘suggesting’ the pair return to Atridia from the Ceipheian city of Serani where Jaada has spent her entire life so he can take up a specific post. Atridia doesn’t pride creativity and though Jaada is able to work as a teacher, it’s not the same. As she tries to reprioritise her life, he gets upset and the deterioration of their relationship ends a month later when he burns her books (a symbolic act as well as a physical desecration of her work) and then reports her to the auditors of the Hall of the Mind, which leads into my currently unsold story “The Mystic of Room 316” (which I plan on expanding into its own second person ‘chapter’ of the book).

Jaada’s incarneration then forces her to confront and learn to control her abilities, something she’s not able to do until Bry and Chaya break her out (mentioned briefly in “The First Day and the Last”, sanctioned by the highest powers due to Jaada’s ability to create unstable micro-realities). It’s in the two to three-ish years between that and the establishment of the Union/Atridian Commission to look into the Directorate that she has to learn to wield her abilities. As a teacher on Mnemosyne, she learns to inspire others but that’s only half of her ability and getting broken out of the Hall of the Mind, it wasn’t just to save her life and soul, Jaada is needed and her abilities, well they’re rare.

The true learning, that happens during The Broken World as Jaada works for the Commission. It forces her to learn about the Narrative (her name for the thread of reality that passes through linear time and allows her to tell true history from the fiction created by Atridia’s fallen government) and access historical information that no one remembers, except for the universe. This ability, it’s not oracular like the Voices of Aia on Coronis, but it’s a similar ability except governed by words rather than sight. The Divided Land (and a more formal report) is the result because, on most world, fiction is easier to believe than cold, hard facts.

By the time she publishes When the Stars Fade, Jaada’s in full command of her abilites (and will probably write more stories about other lives suppressed and whitewashed from history) but this is the one which important to her. Because it was hers. This is her way of healing, as writing “Constructed Mind, Reforged Soul” was mine.

Now to find more music, more images and write more words. Wool and Fallout are big inspirations for parts of both The Divided Land and The Broken World. Oh and everything about viruses that Seanan McGuire has ever written. On that note, it’s time to get back to the words!

Please follow and like us:
error

Blurbs: The Fractured Era and The Broken World

1385075617-shutterstock_102362062

This morning I officially started the next draft of The Fractured Era and actually the 40k I have is a solid basis. I know exactly what happens and when/how. It’s quite reassuring actually.

Oh and here’s the blurb: 

Everyone in the Union knows the name Juran Elaspe.

Everyone knows he was the father of intergalactic space travel, a polymath, an engineer and architect of the first artificial intelligence. They know the ship he created, bearing his name, was there when the waters parted and the races gathered.

No one knows how he died. Not really. Or how he lived.

Born on a planet segregated by sex, Juran is raised to believe that male, female and progenitor make family, no more, no less. He excels in school and makes important friendships which will last his entire lifetime. And one, fatal, mistake: he falls in desperate, hopeless love with the wrong person.

In an attempt to save himself, Juran buries himself in building the first interstellar ship, a vessel capable of going beyond the Sirian system and into deep space, far beyond even their greatest telescopes. In the process he will lose his mind and himself, for love, for his creation, for his species and their future.

And it won’t be enough.

There’s a lot less of The Broken World but I do know the plot. Also I know it includes a cameo from Kella, who appears in The Parting of the Waters. This book takes places maybe ten to fifteen years after the Gathering. I know Amel Denium (also of Parting and TFE) dies and it’s not in a pretty way.

He’s one of the big witnesses for the commission trying to find out exactly what the Directorate got up too. Going from ambassador to a criminal in the span of a few days. He’s also the lynchpin in the Commission’s case, one of several people, living and dead, who become figureheads for the corruption.

His daughter Kella serves, right at the end, to help Jaada come to terms with her abilities and her role in what is, by anyone’s estimation, one of the great stories of the Union, and Atridia’s, history.

Here’s the blurb:

Jaada Serani cannot forget and forgiveness is bitter on her tongue.

A talented author, her past is stained by incarceration in a madhouse where she almost lost control, creating worlds and universes from the ether. For a single moment she tasted transcendence and now it haunts her every time she picks up a pen.

Though freed, she lives in terror of losing control and is trying to live quietly, teaching others how to spin words into stories. In the aftermath of the Union’s birth, when she is asked to return home to Atridia, her first reaction is fear. She has run to the heart of the known universe and yet her species’ past continues to chase her down.

Once world-spanning, the Directorate has collapsed; it’s death-rattle echoing across known space. A century’s worth of crimes have finally laid in the bare light of day and no one is sure of what is truth and what was manufactured to suit the Directorate’s control.

Lies were told, a gender subverted and people erased from history but the Directorate did a good and thorough job. Now the past is muddied, faces obscured and countless made to disappear in the name of the greater good. 

A natural muse, sensitive to the flow of reality, only Jaada can retrace the truth path of the history the Directorate tried to alter. Only she can restore what they tried to expunge.

But doing so might just destroy her.

Sounds good, yes?

Oh and The Divided Land, I’m pretty sure that’s going to be the name of one of the novelettes or novels Jaada writes during the second book, even if it’s going to appear in the first (maybe it’ll span both). Jaada is, first and foremost, an author so framing fact as fiction is going to come more naturally to her, especially as she’s sensitive to the narrative and great stories of reality.

I’m pretty sure the second book will echo the ‘story within a story’ narrative of the first, though I’m not sure what it’s going to be called or even what the story is. I like the idea of the balance though, of current events and a fictionalised, but accurate, past.

I bought a sketch pad this morning so I can draw maps. I like having something to refer to, plus there are a couple of locations I need to work out, like Taborin, the capital city of the Directorate’s continent-spanning empire. I just need to be in the right mood to do it, and finish timelining. Just writing this post has revealed a couple of new things I didn’t know which is just exciting.

Wish me luck.

Please follow and like us:
error

The Juran Elaspe Project (AKA The Fractured Era)

1385075617-shutterstock_102362062

I need to get back into novel writing. I’ve been focusing on short stories since January but novels are my true calling. Specifically the Juran Elaspe project, The Fractured Era, my novel about an alien genius who creates his world’s first artificial intelligence as part of his work on a starship which will eventually bear his name (and features heavily in The Parting of the Waters).

The picture above popped up on my Facebook feed a couple of weeks ago and I looked at it and went: “That’s Atridia!” I eventually found it on Shutterstock and am determined this image will make it on the final cover once the story is done. I know it’s fake but it’s also beautiful and the fact that someone made it, it doesn’t stop me from loving it any more.

I’m still trying to decide on a name for this novel (though The Fractured Era is the current front runner) but I know it is set during two time periods, the main one follows Juran Elaspe as he balances his personal and professional lives in a society that has decided he has a sickness, just because he loves someone of the wrong gender. The fact that the other person refuses to admit his feelings are mutual and that his own career is more important … well, that’s the interesting bit.

Interspersed is the story of a bureaucrat who lives through the Singularity, a cataclysm which sees the power of a world change hands, heralding the beginning of a scientocracy. I’m not yet sure if this person was Juran in a previous existence or if Juran finds some record of this person while researching forbidden texts (maybe he hacks the Directorate’s servers or sneaks into their Archive of Forbidden Things). I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a box of letters found in an attic from his grandparents, some deep family connection that could—if revealed—be the final nail in Juran’s coffin.

There’s a conspiracy. Of course, there is and, sometimes, not even the determined can win. But this isn’t a story about defeating a big, bad government. It’s much simpler than that.

Though I’ve written a large amount already, I really do need to go back to the beginning and sketch things out. I have a large Moleskine in which to draw maps, to map out a timeline of events (both past and ‘current’), plus a smaller one in which I first started scribbling a few months ago.

I’m quite looking forward to getting started on this, it’ll be nice to have another long project to do. The outline is there, it’s all about getting the words down and seeing where we go with this. I do know, however, that it’s one of two stand-alone novels set in the period before the Gathering (also featured in Parting).

The second book is called The Fourth Race and focuses on the Willan diaspora and their attempts to find a cure for the plague which is sending their race to extinction. Neither are connected, except by where they’re going to end up and that’s another book I’m hoping to get written this year.

But until then, it’s time to worldbuild.

Please follow and like us:
error

The Ashteraiverse: Writing Aliens without the Alien

Screenshot 2016-04-25 18.45.20

I’ve been writing a lot of short fiction lately, some of which I knew from the start were set within the Ashteraiverse, except it’s not obvious unless you recognise certain characters. Most of the time I try to avoid giving characters recognisable species or appearances, it’s just not important and I’m not a very visual person anyway. Many of these stories could pass as secondary worlds or futuristic sci fi but I never once reference these characters as human because they aren’t.

I’m being careful not to send them to anyone who might think they’re secondary worlds because that would be misrepresentation. This is an important thing to me because I want to make this stories stand alone but also be part of a larger canon. So while the civilisations and planets are definitely not Earth, it’s not always obvious if the protagonists are human or not. I like it that way … the species isn’t important, the stories are.

“When the Stars Fade” is the story I’m currently working on. It started out purely from referencing Kadjat Suru as the first Atridian to go into—and die in—space. I mentioned her as part of Teiru’s litany of names in “Constructed Mind, Reforged Soul” and she’s one of the many pioneers of technology and science that Juran Elaspe thinks of during The Fractured Era (my next novel project). I just had this line in my head which said:

My name is Kadjat Suru, I’m the first and I’m alone.

Until she started talking, I didn’t even realise Kadjat was female. I did know, however, that this story is set maybe a hundred plus years before the colonisation of Arcadia and perhaps two centuries before the Singularity, the cataclysmic event which sees Atridia embrace technology and sees their governmental system subsumed by the nefarious Directorate. This is how my characters tend to speak (and why I’m sure I’m just channelling people in another dimension or something), telling me the story as we go.

Kadjat is remembered almost like Laika from the Russian Space Program—except she was never supposed to die. The story is a meditation on life and death, especially as Kadjat only became an astronaut after losing her wife, Hesri, who was brutally murdered by a former boyfriend. Becoming the first person to go into space gives her something to focus on and her progenitor, her birth parent, raised her on stories of the stars which have lingered through her life. Now she gets to be the first person to go beyond, to where the stars shine.

“The Mystic of Room 316” is set on Atridia. I want to say it’s a contemporary story but I’m not all that sure, even if the final scene takes place on Mnemosyne (and so after the Gathering of the Races). In truth, I’m not one hundred percent sure but it feels like it could either be set in the period just after the Gathering or far into the future around the time of Contact with Earth (or at least a little before). It doesn’t matter, it’s not about that, it was inspired by my Bipolar diagnosis and my—albeit misguided—fear of sectioning.

The main character, Jaada, isn’t mentally ill, at least not when she was was admitted thanks to the malicious conniving of her ex. The problem is that she has abilities which don’t place nicely when medicated (she’s a Muse, albeit a wild and mortal one). Being confined to a ward and medicated makes her abilities turn inward and rather than inspiring others, she begins to lose the ability to tell reality from the worlds built in her head … and then begins to create unstable realities of her own, albeit ones unable to last more than the span of a dream.

“The Technopath and the MMO” is the only story so far actually set on Earth, it’s also straight sci fi set in the period after the Esper Registration Act is brought into force (and just after Contact in August 2015). I’m still writing this and it’s a lot of fun as I’m an old school MMO player. Daniel, the protagonist, is a normal kid who doesn’t realise he’s a technopath and gets hooked on an MMO called Empires of Eternity. Oh and he starts leveling his character in his sleep which means I have to finally figure out how a gaming server can tell the difference between a computer logging onto the net and a human brain.

“Constructed Mind, Reforged Soul” is set on Coronis and Elara, the smallest world of the Alcyone system of the Pleiades. This one is definitely the most recent of the tales and I’m pretty sure, regardless of the ending, Teiru is going to reappear somewhere along the way. This was one of those stories I wrote to exorcise demons and, stuff like this, it helps. Plus I really wanted to write another story featuring Kalafia (the computer program from The Parting of the Waters), this time fully sentient.

I have other stories in mind, these are just the most recent. Also, I really need to get back into writing something novel length before I lose the skill entirely. Next week, I think, and we’ll start The Fractured Era. I have a larger Moleskine all ready for it. Yes, that sounds like a plan.

Please follow and like us:
error

New Short Story: “Constructed Mind, Reforged Soul”

Screenshot 2016-03-23 18.14.47

Yes, I’m still on a short story streak but an anthology call is a wonderful time to experiment, the themes spark ideas that would never otherwise bubble up. This one was a particularly personal story, as well as one set in the Ashteraiverse (fans of The Parting of the Waters will recognise Kalafia, the sentient computer who also appears in The Fractured Era, my stand-alone sci fi novel featuring Juran Elaspe, her creator).

I’m definitely getting better at stand-alone and loved writing this story, even as it was a particularly emotional to do so. It was definitely one of my most cathartic stories, the best ones always have some strand of auto-biography in it.

This story had a particular slant because of the call: survival. “Constructed Mind, Reforged Soul” is well named, I think, and I’m pretty sure it’s my story of the year (“One Quiet Night” not withstanding).

The subject matter, specifically, is about a girl called Teiru who was born with a physical disability. Oh and she has a terrible family life. As a child, she falls in love with an ancient, sentient computer who helps her adult self find the strength to try and escape the cycle of abuse. I wrote this story as a result of the specific anthology call, though I have ideas about other places to submit it if Survivor don’t take it. I remain hopeful, however, even as I’m reworking another story I’m planning on submitting to the same call.

I will talk about the story’s creation but I’m going to wait until I place the story first. In the meantime, this song makes me think of Teiru and Kalafia (plus I love Babymetal):

Please follow and like us:
error

A Star Filled Sea: The Final Covers

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000446_00061]

So I did this Kickstarter a year ago (holy crap, that’s a long time ago) for a novel projects called A Star Filled Sea and am now waiting on the final ebook/print version from Polgarus (they’re due to start the project today).

This is my first novel under my new byline and doesn’t it look snazzy? Scarlett did an amazing job (as always). This project has taken longer than I planned but it’s well worth it. I’m just looking forward to getting it done and dusted so I can focus on new stuff (and fulfil my obligations to my backers).

You can get look at the variant (not quite finished) paperback cover which uses a similar image but horizontal:

image

Oh and, as a bonus, here’s Ben Adams’ interior art:

Ben Adams made me this for the novel.

I’m not yet sure on a release date but it won’t be long. I’m really looking forward to seeing the cover for this one and holding the print proofs. Next to The Parting of the Waters, this is my favourite cover so far. I’ll update you with more when I have it but for now, this feels like the homeward stretch and I’m glad to be nearly done. I want to move onto more projects, different things, and there is, of course, a trilogy of Josh and Chaya to work on.

Please follow and like us:
error

Reconciling With Myself

Screenshot 2016-02-02 16.37.21
Betwixt and Between: Scarlett is updating the cover of A Star Filled Sea.

Scarlett, my awesome designer, is in the middle of updating the cover of A Star Filled Sea for me so I can get the final ebook and print versions to my ever-patient backers. I’m woefully behind but the edits on the manuscript won’t take too long, it’s just a matter of sitting down and doing them, then sending it off to Polgarus.

Except I’ve been trying to reconcile my past self with my new persona in the form of trying to decide if I need to update The Whispers in the Desert, The Changing of the Sun, The Parting of the Waters, Beyond the Stars Beneath the Sea and republish them under my new name. I’ve decided not too for two reasons: it’s a bit of work (aka, right now, I cannot be arsed, though this may change) and I wasn’t Asha when I wrote them. Going forward, everything including the Ashteraiverse novels will be published under my new name beginning with Star. This includes any short stories I publish or sell, any other series I write and by the end of the year Asha Bardon will become my legal name (and I can’t wait!)

I’m not burying Lesley, I’m just not her anymore but mine is an interesting quandary. When I have the time, I may well update the novels to reflect a unified brand but at this point it doesn’t really matter (especially as I have a number of short stories up on Amazon under ‘Lesley Smith’).

The thing is she’s not quite done yet. Last year I had five manic episodes, at least three bouts of depression and don’t even get started on my Generalised Anxiety Disorder. But, thanks to upping my meds, for the first time this year I feel in control. I’m taking steps to sort out my debt (which is going to take me the better part of the year to clear) and I realise now I over-reached myself with the Kickstarters. My intentions were good, my planning and budgeting not so much.

The good news is A Star Filled Sea will be going to layout this week and then I can order proofs, order in BTSBTS and get everything shipped off, hopefully by the end of March. It shouldn’t cost me more than £500 at most (worst case scenaro) and I’ll be glad when it’s done, if only as fulfilling orders calms me. I know people will be getting their books and that I’ve done what I promised. At the same time I’m taking steps to deal with the financial consequences of promising people things without thinking about the physical costs or not budgeting with enough wiggle room.

I suppose, at least, I won’t do this again. I’m lucky in that I have a good credit score and still have options for, at the very least, not being saddled with interest on my credit card repayments. So, for now, I’m focusing on finishing thing,

Then … I don’t know. I want to do more Kickstarters but the stress aggrevates my condition. Part of me just wants to spend this year writing and go from there but, at the same time, I want to be productive and so stuff. I want to get more books into the world, though it seems Asha is more of a short story writer than Lesley ever was.

So, for now, at least I have things to focus on.

Please follow and like us:
error