Random Thoughts – The Problem with Time in Sci-Fi

Time brings an interesting problem to sci-fi. In any other genre, time can almost be ignored. Either it matters to the story or it doesn’t. This can be its own issue, but that is mainly a logical or consistency thing. In sci-fi, though, time becomes integral to the discussion. This has to do with the fact that so much of sci-fi has to do with space.

I recently read two books that highlighted the problem of time and the two solutions to it. The first book was Orphans of the Sky by Robert Heinlein, and the second was Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky. The solutions were a generational ship and hibernation/stasis respectively. That’s right, this is a double book review and random thoughts. And warning, there will be spoilers for both.

In Orphans of the Sky, Hugh is part of the crew of a ship headed to a far off galaxy. It’s been an unknown number of generations since the ship took off, but it has been long enough that everyone has forgotten what their mission is. They know they are on a ship, though they don’t understand that it is a space ship or that anything exists outside of the ship. The ship is all of reality and all that there is.

The external conflict is a fight between the humans that Hugh is a part of and mutants who hide in higher levels of the vessel. Hugh is captured by a group of these mutants where he is taken to Joe-Jim, a two-headed mutant who leads one of the strongest gangs. Hugh manages to befriend Joe-Jim and is exposed to the true nature of reality, the ship, and its mission.

He attempts to convince the humans to ally with the mutants in order to accomplish their original mission. Everything seems to work towards this plan, but a sudden betrayal by the Captain reveals that the humans want to maintain the status quo and their new society. The mutants are all killed while Hugh, his friend, and their wives are barely able to escape to settle on the planetary goal of their ancestors.

Children of Time starts with a group of scientists over a terraformed planet. Their goal is to introduce a group of apes to the planet along with a virus. This virus is designed to improve evolution among the apes. As they are about to launch the apes and virus, a terrorist plot is revealed that destroys the ship.

The virus is just barely launched where it crashes to the planet and finds a suitable host in several of the insect and arachnid species. The virus works in the spiders, causing them to grow larger and smarter over hundreds of generations. They form a complex society, battle and domestic ant colonies to serve as biological computer systems, and become the dominant species on the planet.

In addition to this plotline, there is another that follows a group of humans from Earth. Earth has been used up and has become uninhabitable. Scraping together the technology of a lost past, they are able to create a ship to carry the remains of the human race to a new planet. The crew is placed in stasis for the trip, though several members of the key crew are woken up periodically to address various problems such as attempted mutinies, god complexes, and finding a suitable planet to settle on.

Ultimately, the solution to the humans’ settlement problem rests with the world the spiders have claimed. Pushed by the existential dread of extinction, the humans and spiders clash for control of the planet.

Both books are great. Orphans of the Sky does have some very problematic issues with how it views women, and I completely understand any who can’t get past that. The only good thing is that it is only brought up maybe twice in the story, so it does not act as a huge distractor. It is fun and thought provoking despite this, and I give it the Silver Stash.

Children of Time is amazing. Really, if you are a fan of sci-fi, read this book. It tackles interesting questions, sets up it plots well, and the spiders aren’t that bad. Trust me, I’m an arachnophobe and I’m saying read this. My only issue is the actual resolution to the conflict. Ultimately, this book gets the Steel Stash. It’s amazing.

Now that the books are out of the way, let’s look at how they handle time. Like I said, time is one of the most important aspects of space sci-fi. To paraphrase Hitchhikers’ Guide, space is big, like really, really big. Space is stupid big. Distances in space are so great, they are practically meaningless. They become measured in how long it takes light to travel to them.

Think about that. Distance is measured by how long it takes one of the fastest phenomenons we know of to travel. We don’t do that on a planet. We can see and imagine distance on a planet. You can conceivably walk from one end of a continent to the other. You can travel around the Earth. To travel to another solar system, you have to find some way of accelerating to the speed of light and then it will still take you decades.

This means that the only solution to space travel, well without a handwave of faster than light travel, is to either have a generational ship or to use stasis. Find some way for your grandchildren to reach the planet or freeze yourself.

Orphans of the Sky uses the first approach. With generational ships, you end up with some interesting problems and questions. What happens if the crew forgets? What happens to society? What about concepts like free will and democracy?

Of course, the last question is probably one of the most important. Unfortunately, it is one of the easiest to answer as well. A generational ship can’t be a democracy. People have a habit of not always choosing the best solution for the whole. With a ship, you only have what you have. You are severely limited on resources. Democratic and capitalistic models are not likely to work unless you massively over-design everything. Of course, that has its drawbacks as well in terms of cost of construction. So everything needs to be rationed.

Even if you have the ability to provide abundance for everyone, there is still the issue of maintenance. It is a ship after all. It needs to be repaired. It needs certain actions. Over a short timeframe, that may not be an issue, but what happens when you need more engineers, technicians, and specialists? Do you let society decide? Do you beg? Or do you put the mission and survival of everyone onboard above individual wants and tell people what they need to do?

Of course, another solution to the people issue is to alter the society to place a higher value on these jobs. This can be accomplished through extra perks and incentives, or it can come on the form of veneration and deification of the command. This is the direction that Orphans end up going in. The original captain, Jordan, became a god to the people of Hugh’s time while the mutineer Huff became the devil. The Captain wasn’t just a job, but a position of honor and power, not for the common man.

One of the values of Orphans is that not only does it ask these questions, but it also explores the issues that they can bring up. Jordan’s writings, ship manuals and technical logs, become holy documents. One must be initiated into the grand mysteries of a scientist to even read them, and even then, these things aren’t for question. They are merely to be followed.

This, of course, leads to the problem of the power-hungry. Hugh wants to complete the sacred mission that Jordan set out on. In attempting to do so, he works with several key members of the scientists to overthrow the Captian and install a new man who will finish the mission. The new Captian, however, just wanted power. He found an opportunity and seized it, using Hugh and the mutants to gain his position before disposing of them.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have Children of Time. The crew was all put in stasis. For many members of humanity, they fled a dying Earth, went to sleep, and woke up on a foreign planet. For some, however, they kept waking up throughout the trip. The eyes of humanity during the trip is a scholar named Mason. He was a student of the past and knew the old languages and programming. Any time the ship encountered some piece of old tech, he was woken up to help translate and provide advice.

This led to some interesting questions from him. Objectively, he was hundreds of years old. Subjectively, he was only a few decades. This was a thought process that his mind continued to struggle to comprehend. How do you reconcile those two thoughts? How do you realistically rationalize the idea that you aren’t eternal? Or insignificant? How do you face the endless march of time when you constantly blip in and out of it. How do you reconcile time itself when even time becomes meaningless do to your constant jumps forward?

For the humans of Children, distance is a meaningless concept. No matter how far anything is, it is only a single night’s sleep away. For those who kept waking up, time loses its value as well.

Of course, these questions are the reason why sci-fi is such an influential genre. It is one of the only genres that can ask questions like these, that can explore the human psyche and experience through them.

But what do you think? Do you feel there are different ways to approach these problems? Different questions you want to explore? What answers do you have? Let me know your thoughts. And as always, I mustache you to stay fantastical.

Advertisements

Rose Nexus Updates

Whew. Draft 1 of Rose Nexus is complete. In fact, I am about halfway through my first draft edits on it.

This story turned out to be a bit more than I had originally intended. I thought it was going to be just a simple little short story. Instead, I managed to get it into somewhere around 24k words currently. Of course, that is making this first revision a bit of a challenge. After all, when I started writing, there were several things I glossed over because they weren’t really that important. Now I have to go back and fill those parts all in.

In addition to the general growth of the story, it has expanded the scope of the world as well. For those of you who follow me on twitter, you have a bit of an idea. For the rest, here is a little taste of the world.

The Romulean Empire was blessed with a mysterious substance known as oraculum. This moss-like substance allowed them to create flying ships and conquer all of Terra. In addition, it was discovered that oraculum would allow the Romuleans to extend into the heavens and explore the cosmic sea itself. They quickly began to colonize planets and extend their influence into fourteen provinces.

Another boon was the discovery of magic. The gods blessed Lord Caesarium with immortality and magic. Caesarium, in turn, granted his people with its uses and long life. Of course, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t struggle. Colonies revolt, pirates raid the Cosmic Seas, and unknown horrors lurk in the darkness.

This is the backdrop that our hero Brennus finds himself in. A relatively young magus (mage), he is sent to find the source of a mystic illness. Will he succeed or will he be crushed by foreign magics?

Of course, with the expansion of the world and setting, Rose Nexus is likely to only be the beginning. I have several other stories planned for the Romuleans as they attempt to control their empire. The current plans right now are for those stories to stay in the 20 to 30 thousand word range. Nothing intimidating. A good afternoon read (hopefully).

Of course, the motivation to get these out quickly does need your help. Follow me here or on twitter. Beat me up on facebook. Heck, with enough interest, I might even figure out the whole newsletter thing. Or just keep an eye out on Kindle Unlimited.  Regardless, I’m excited about exploring this universe, and I hope you will be as well. (Here’s another taste, a flash fiction I put up a while ago.) And as always, I mustache y’all to stay fantastical.

Book Review – Raze by Dakota Krout

Book: Raze

Author: Dakota Krout

Genre: Fantasy, LitRPG

Part of a Series: Yes, The Completionist

Summery:

Raze is the third? Fourth? Book in the Completionist series. (Technically, the third book, Rexus, follows Jaxon, one of the supporting characters.) Joe has successfully revived the king of Ardania following the Wolfman War and is continuing his quest to unlock the mysteries of the ritual class.

Unfortunately, back in the real world, monsters start to appear and attack people. President Musk orders everyone to transfer their minds to a data core and be transported to the world of Eternia. This mass influx of new people leads to many problems, the most pressing being the supply of basic necessities such as food and housing.

Aten, guild leader of the Wanderers, asks Joe to figure out a way to feed the town that the guild is trying to raise. This quest takes Joe to the other side of Ardania as he seeks a solution in the form of a magical greenhouse. The surviving members of the Wolfman race have fled to that side of the kingdom and are in possession of the blueprints for just what Joe needs, but they ask him to clear out a nearby temple before offering him the plans. Unfortunately, the temple is controlled by a powerful player whose mind was trapped by a mage during Joe’s time in the city dungeon in Regicide.

While all of this is going on, the guild is trying to increase their rank by improving their town with more than just a greenhouse. Their building efforts, however, draw the attention of members of the kingdom, and plots are put in place to end the Wanderers growth.

In addition to all of this, Joe finds himself the target of more assassins, this time from the city Zoo who are holding a grudge from way back in Ritualist when Joe sold a unique bunny to a pet store. This threat to their entertainment cannot go unanswered. Failure to find the zoo a rare animal will result in continued attempts on Joe’s life. Success, however, will grant Joe access to the Zoo’s main income, the black market of unique items from its Bloodsport Arena.

Luckily, Joe is not alone anymore in his ritual study. With the help of a new team member, Jess, Joe is able to recruit several members of the guild to become ritualists as well. With a ticking clock, though, will this new coven and Joe’s team be able to solve all of the issues facing the guild and Joe personally?

Review (Spoilers!):

Raze is another solid addition to the Completionist series. Joe continues to be a fun and engaging character who seems to constantly draw the short end of the stick when it comes to getting along with people.

The threat to Earth in the real world is a little whatever. The one effect that it does have is that it means no one is able to log out from the game. This is their new reality. Of course, this was never an issue for Joe as he sacrificed his body back in book 1. Heck, it hardly matters to the rest of the team as well. Alexis was drawing in debt in the real world, Bard fell hard for Alexis so being “stuck” in game was no issue for him, and Jaxon was an old man who found a new body. The only member really affected was Poppy who ended up leaving his three-year-old daughter back in the real world. Luckily, the game communications to the outside world still work and he was able to have his parents get her and themselves into the game.

The biggest “threat” that the sudden influx of people poses is the issues of supply. Food scarcities become a danger, prompting Joe’s determination to find the magical greenhouse. His motivations to try and continue to help everyone are the biggest reason he agrees.

The city building quest that the guild starts does offer some nice tension. While the guild is intent on growing as quickly as possible, they use Joe’s ability to make better buildings faster. Luckily, some laws on the use of magic were changed following Joe’s actions with the Mage College in Ritualist, circumventing previous laws that enforced a monopoly of the Architect’s Guild. This helps because it offers a counter to Joe’s protection as being considered “extended family” to the royals. There is still a way for the NPCs of the world to get back at the players.

The Zoo storyline was the only real meh part of the main story. Finding the black market and discovering that it was being run in an arena that artificially elevated rare loot drops was a neat addition. The ultimate conclusion of it, though, just felt a little rushed. There was plenty of other things going on in this story to really not need that one aspect. The major effect of this side quest was a massive changing of laws at the end of the book that will likely have major repercussions later. Still, it was kind of a weak addition.

Despite all of that, Raze is a great book. It was fun, light, and never took itself too seriously. It didn’t slow itself down with building harems, including random sex scenes, or too many side quests. Dakota Krout continues to write tight storylines that are a real credit to the litRPG genre. All in all, I award Raze the Silver Stash.

What are your thoughts? Have you read it yet? Anything else that you think I should check out? Let me know in the comments and as always, I mustache y’all to stay fantastical.

Book Review – The Dark Citadel Omnibus

Book: The Dark Citadel Omnibus

Author: Michael Wallace

Genre: Fantasy, YA

Part of a Series: Yes, The Dark Citadel

Spoiler Warning.

Sorry if the books run together. I did read them back to back.

The Dark Citadel Omnibus is the collection of five novels about a fantasy war. They are The Dark Citadel, The Free Kingdoms, The Golden Griffin, The Warrior King, and War of Wizards.

It starts off with the main protagonist, Darik in his home in the khalifate of Balsalom. His house is raided and he and his sister are sold into slavery in order to pay off his father’s debts. Through luck, they are bought by a local baker at the request of two other slaves Markel and Whelan. Before long, Markel, Whelan, and Darik manage to escape their master and Darik learns that his two companions are spies from the Free Kingdoms, a neighboring country.

As they escape, the city comes under siege from the dark wizard Cragyn. The sultana, Kallia, is captured, forced to marry, and raped. Despite all of this, she bides her time until the majority of Cragyn’s forces move out to continue their conquest. At that point, she launches a counterattack and reclaims her city.

Darik and company, meanwhile, travel just ahead of the enemy army en route to the Free Kingdoms to warn Whelan’s brother, King Daniel. While traveling, they are forced to escape a mountain fortress on the backs of griffins where Darik meets the griffin rider Daria. She helps him soar through the air and delivers him safely to the other side of the mountains.

As Cragyn’s forces approach, Whelan must convince his ailing brother to gather the armies of the Free Kingdoms. Unfortunatly, he is being opposed by the wizard Chantmer, Markel’s superior in the wizarding order. Eventually, forces are gathered near the town of Sleepstock where an epic battle is fought between men and wizards, griffin riders and dragons. The people of the Free Kingdoms are betrayed, however, as Chantmer helps to summon a great magical beast to battle the dragons only to have it turn on the armies instead. The Free Kingdoms are forced to withdraw to the capital where they hold their final defense.

Good prevails in the battle and our heroes defeat Cragyn’s army. Chantmer is bested by his order and forced to flee as well. The Free Kingdoms ends with Daniel abdicating the throne in favor of Whelan, Markel finding himself at the head of the wizarding order, and Darik able to join the Knights Temperate, an elite group that offers him forgiveness for the crime of escaping slavery.

Flash forward a few months and The Golden Griffin sees our heroes attempting to clean up after the battle with Cragyn. The dragons are still a threat which Daria and her griffin riders are trying to fight. Darik rides with the Knights Temperate to clear out the remaining pockets of resistance who didn’t flee. While doing so, he discovers a new threat. Not only are the dead rising to fight against the living, but Cragyn was merely a host for the wizard Toth, a powerful dark wizard who nearly broke the world centuries ago.

When Whelan hears of this, he gathers his armies and marches towards the Dark Citadel in order to put an end to this threat once and for all. Markel, meanwhile, continues to chase down Chantmer with Darik’s help. Darik finds that he is able to use magic and spends the journey learning his new skills.

In Balsalom, Kallia is reorganizing her city for the war effort. She has married Whelan, both for love and politics…and as an attempt to hide the fact that she carries Toth’s child in her womb.

In her attempts to end the threat from the dragons, Daria is presented with an unlikely opportunity. While escaping from a horde of dragon wasps, baby dragons, she leads them into a pack of wild, golden griffins. One griffin is injured in the fight, and Daria takes the opportunity to try and tame the creature while helping it heal. When she does, she becomes the first of her people to ride the powerful golden griffins.

The Warrior King sees the armies of the Free Kingdoms and khalifates marching towards the Dark Citadel. As they fight through Toth’s armies, Markel and Darik close in on Chantmer. The betrayer is hiding in a rival khalifate, learning the khalifate style of magic while also planning a coup that will place the long-lived wizards in charge of society. Politics and intrigue abound in the khalifate as the Free Kingdoms attempt to negotiate a treaty while Chantmer prepares his move.

As Whelan approaches the Dark Citadel, he finds that his brother Roderick was killed and reanimated by Toth to lead the dark wizard’s forces. The two brothers are forced to fight, unfortunately for Whelan, his sword Soultrap, a magical blade that traps the souls of the people it kills, is struggling against him. The evil influence of the souls of Toth’s armies are trying to turn the will of the blade against Whelan. During the fight, Roderick is able to temporarily resist the commands of Toth and manages to sacrifice himself on Whelan’s sword. His soul, now trapt in the blade, tips the balance and allows Whelan to use it for good.

War of Wizards is the final fight against Toth. As he sits atop his Dark Citadel, Toth sacrifices the innocent people of his kingdom in order to fuel his dark ritual. This ritual raises an army of wights, tortured souls who seek to avoid the Harvester and kill the living.

Darik has returned to Balsalom and helps to manage the defenses of the city against the wights that are coming to claim Kallia’s child for Toth. With the aid of Chantmer, they manage to hold out against the undead army, hoping that Whelan can end the war on his front.

At the Dark Citadel, Whelan and Markel lay siege to Toth’s fortress. They manage to breach the walls just as the dragon reappears. Daria swoops in on her golden griffin with the rest of her griffin riders to battle the dragon while the armies burst into the city. Whelan and Markel climb the Dark Citadel where they meet Toth and kill him.

Unfortunately, that was part of Toth’s plan. His soul flees his body and travels to Balsalom where it tries to take root in the child Kallia just gave birth to. Through powerful magic, the Harvester is summoned to the room where the god of the dead is able to gather Toth’s soul and end the threat. In a moment of compassion for the living, the Harvester grants a new soul to the child so that it can grow and live a normal life. Darik leaves fighting behind him and travels north with Daria to find a new land for the griffin riders to settle.

So first off….the first two books in this series were pretty good. The last three kind of plodded along. All in all, it was fine, but it felt like Dark Citadel and Free Kingdoms ended the story only to have the author keep it going. It really didn’t pick back up until the second half of War of Wizards minus a few scenes throughout.

This series also felt like it could belong in the young adult category. It was a fairly simplistic writing style, the arcs were decent enough, but most of the struggle seemed to be about the boy Darik finding his place in the world and who he was. I don’t say this to be disparaging of it, just that it felt like it was being billed as more than what it was.

Of course, there are issues with the main focus being on Darik and his struggles. The biggest one is that Darik was a pretty passive protagonist. On the one hand, I kind of like the fact that he wasn’t the big hero, that he was secondary to the larger characters. That works well in some stories. It didn’t really fit with this one though.

The best example I can think of where the protagonist wasn’t the hero was The Ten Thousand by Michael Curtis Ford. With that book, the hero was Xenophon, while the protagonist was more of an aid. That book also stuck with one point of view. We saw the events solely through the protagonist’s eyes. The Dark Citadel follows multiple points of view. This makes Darik’s story weaker because we spend just as much time with the actual heroes, with actual power, that we don’t really need Darik’s experience. He is usually just along for the ride.

Of course, there is also the elephant in the room of Chantmer feeling like a Saruman rip off. Powerful wizard, turns evil, betrays his order. I mean, reading the book, my image of Chantmer was of Christopher Lee wandering around the desert.

Despite all of that, the books are fun. Yeah, they end up being a tad formulaic. Yeah, it follows a lot of the epic fantasy tropes of put everyone in the worst situation for a last-minute save, but it was still a fun journey. Ultimately, I recommend The Dark Citadel and the Free Kingdoms. The last three books you can read if you want.

I award The Dark Kingdom and The Free Kingdoms the Iron Stash (4/5) and The Golden Griffin, The Warrior King, and War of Wizards the Bronze Stash (3/5). I award the Dark Citadel Omnibus the Bronze Stash (3/5).

Let me know your thoughts. And remember that I mustache y’all to stay fantastical.

D&D Story – The Beginning of Bob

Ever wonder how a wood elf becomes a cleric of a tempest god in a port city?

Spring came and Bobalietha celebrated his fifteenth year. It was a year of decision, of elfhood. As with all wood elves of the Shaythean Woods, it was time to choose his purpose in life. While it would still be decades before he would be allowed to sit before the council, his physical maturity was at the point where he would be able to start developing the skills he would give the community.

Life within the Shaythean Woods were uneventful, especially for a young elf full of vigor and energy. The spiritual practices felt empty and hollow to his mind, lacking in some aspect. There was something missing from them that Bobalietha could not place his finger on. As such, he could not imagine choosing a life inside the confines of the village.

When he was called before the council to announce his intent, there was little surprise when he volunteered to join the Southern Garrison. The outpost rested on the southern end of the woods, just north of the city of Waterdeep. It was an important post for the Shaythean Woodelves as a point of information and trade with the many cultures who frequented the port city.

Upon arrival, Thurodan, the garrison’s captain, assigned him various duties. The garrison was staff by volunteers, limiting its number to a mere twelve, and all members had to do their part. Bobalietha fletched arrows, ran messages, and helped with the maintenance of the barricades and palisades. Most of the buildings and the barracks rested within the trees on the edge of the woods, though a single, fortified building sat on the ground to conduct business and as a final defense.

Bobalietha admired Thurodan. The elf was pragmatic and fair. There was no duty that he did not help perform, a true example to the elves underneath him. Once, a group of goblins attempted to raid the garrison. Thurodan thrust himself into battle, felling three of the five himself with a mighty swing of his hammer. Since that raid, Bobalietha put down his spear and attempted to teach himself the warhammer.

After staffing the garrison for six months, one of the famous coastal storms swept past the wards of Waterdeep and drove towards the Southern Garrison. The elves scrambled from their treetop outposts towards the safety of the ground building in order to protect themselves from the winds and hail. Outside the building, the winds roared, tearing saplings from the ground and blowing away the defenses of the outpost.

The earth trembled in the storm and the building shook. The central crossbeam, a mighty oaken log, cracked and began to slide down. The walls leaned drunkenly inward and the roof sagged. Thurodan strode forward and placed himself under the massive beam, bracing it against his shoulders and holding it in place. Thunder crashed from outside, ringing in their ears. Hail drove through the weakened roof and struck the ground around them. Despite it all, Thurodan held that beam, seemingly immovable as the oaken support had been.

Alas, like the crossbeam, Thurodan began to waiver under the weight and ferocity of the storm. His knees trembled. Sweat streamed down his face. Bobalietha, in his youthful excitement, darted forward and reached out towards the beam in an attempt to help his captain. Within moments, his arms trembled violently. The weight was too great for him to manage, and he was unable to provide any meaningful help.

Suddenly, a bolt of lightning crashed through the roof and struck the ground at Thurodan’s feet. The world disappeared in a flash of white, the sound like so many metal objects striking the ground. When his vision cleared and his senses returned, Bobalietha found himself laying on the ground and staring up at a giant man.

His physique was near perfect. His biceps bulged like boulders on his arms. His back rippled with each movement. With seemingly no effort, he took the beam from Thurodan’s shoulders and held it in both hands, pressing it above his head.

He turned his head towards Thurodan and smiled. “Kord smiles upon you.” The divine accent was unlike any Bobalietha had heard, the very words sounding thick and muscular. “Your strength has called to him and saved your people Thurodan. Accept his call. Become his messenger to the people of Waterdeep.”

Thurodan said nothing, was unable to say anything, in the presence of this divine creature. All he could do was nod. The man reached out and placed his hand over Thurodan’s head. His giant grip engulfed the elf’s face. Energy crackled in the air and Bobalietha saw Thurodan’s body tense.

Pushing himself to his feet, he ran towards the creature. He had no idea what he would do, just that something had to be done. Pain ran through his shoulder as he felt like he crashed into a rock. The rock rumbled with laughter, looking down at the scrawny wood elf. “Easy boy. I would never harm a cleric of Kord and temple master.”

Thurodan’s body relaxed and he motioned for everyone to move outside. His eyes had become as gray as storm clouds, a flash of lightning playing over them. Before Bobalietha could follow, the divine man grasped his shoulder. “You have spirit boy, but you are too scrawny right now. Behold! The blessings of Kord!”

Electricity shot through his body and his felt it grow and expand. When the pain passed, he gasped and looked down. Before the storm, he was short for an elf, with a lanky frame. Now he stood at six feet, his shirt drawn tight against his arms and chest. Thighs and calves bulged within his leggings.

Even more impressive than his new physique was the feeling of electricity within him. He felt the rumble of thunder within his chest. His own heart pumped lightning, causing the hairs on his arm to rise. He laughed softly at the gifts, the laughter driving out the remaining pain.

“No gain, no pain bro,” the herald said. Bobalietha left the building and the herald disappeared. With the absence of anyone holding the beam, the building collapsed behind him. The storm still raged about them, though neither Bobalietha nor Thurodan had any fear of it. There was no reason to fear a display from their god.

“Bros,” Thurodan began. His voice was a deep boom, the touch of Kord changing its tone as well as his speech. “Kord saves those who lift! Join me bros, to spread the message. We will establish our gym temple within the city and teach the people the prayers of the bench, the squat, and the deadlift. They will pray with every curl. They will pray with every lunge. We shall guide them along the path of brodom. From brotoges to bros. From gym rats to brofessors.

“Brotoge Bobalietha.” Thurodan turned his stormy gaze on the boy. “You have been blessed with Kord’s gainz. Will you answer?”

“Master Brofessor,” he answered. “I will follow the path of the Iron Church…and call me Bob. It is a stronger name.”

“Very well Brotege Bob. Let us go spread the good news. A new gym is open.” With that, they led the way to the city of Waterdeep followed by the other ten wood elves. Over the years, the temple grew, a haven for wood elves seeking another path. Bob discovered the missing piece of his spirituality was action, movement, the ability to overcome what was impossible yesterday.

He rose from brotege to bro and guided others along the paths. He taught the ways of the Iron Church. He spotted them on the holy lifts and motivated them through the penitent’s path of cardio. He worked tirelessly in his devotion to be worthy of the gifts Kord bestowed upon him.

Then one night, he sat in front of the temple, deep in meditation, the smoke from his pipe curling about his face. His spirit called out to Kord, and a whisper answered him. Thunder rumbled in the distance and the wind changed directions. The signs pointed to a new path for him. Opening his eyes, he looked out into the darkness and saw a small group dragging the body of a dragonborn through the streets.

“Bros. Come closer. Let me help your friend…”

Content Creation, Timelines, and Rants

Its funny looking back. I ended up taking a long hiatus from everything meaningful when it comes to writing and stories.

Now I could justify it all. I moved across country. Hell, I just moved to a different country. I read a book that was just so far outside of what I liked, not only could I not finish it, but it took me months to get the desire to read anything.

The truth is, though, that this content creation wheel we have to ride is a giant pain in the ass. Tweet thres times a day. Post regular blogs. Get a newsletter and shoot that out monthly. Engage with both your audience and with other writers.

Screw that.

Don’t get me wrong. Everyone who does well with indie publishing does these things. But with Twitter? Well established authors just tweet whatever they want. Politics, retcons, rants. As for non-established? Well, they just post things to the writing community. They following are other writers.

Good for them. Really not trying to discourage. I’m not trying to write for other writers though. I don’t care what my MC would do if they were thrown into GoT or the Potterverse or at high tea with the high queen of such and such.

Its why I barely engage with the Facebook groups anymore too. Most the posts are things like that. The few posts that do ask questions and seek advice, most of the comments are “well my chars…”

Look, like I said, if these things help you, great. Some people love exploring what their chars would do in situations outside of the book. They like the mashups. Those questions are probably why they became writers in the first place.

For me…I had stories I wanted to tell. Of course the rub is that i spent so much time trying to create content to engage that I never had time to work on my stories.

So here is what I am going to do. I’m hoping off the regular timeline train. When I finish a book, I’ll post a review. When I get bored and write a flash fiction, I’ll throw it up. If I have random conversations with myself like this one, well I’ll toss that up as well.

My tweets will still be related to my worlds and stories (at least as much as 280 characters will allow). And probably sales and giveaways as well…at least when I add new short stories to Amazon. Or books. One day I’ll finish one of those.

As for now, I have this really weird idea in my head about witches and multiverses and magical detectives. So follow on here or Twitter, @steelstashwrit1, if you want mostly story driven things. Or don’t. And feel free to comment support or arguments. I’ve been wrong before.

But whatever you do, I need y’all to stay fantastical.

Book Review – Eisenhorn by Dan Abnett

Book: Eisenhorn

Author: Dan Abnett

Genre: Fantasy, Thriller, GrimDark, Warhammer 40k

Part of a Series: Yes, Eisenhorn

Spoiler Warning.

Eisenhorn is a trilogy by Dan Abnett that follows the life and career of Imperial Inquisitor Gregor Eisenhorn and set firmly within the Warhammer 40K universe. It begins with Xenos and the investigation of a mass murder on a remote planet in the Helican Sector. Using his position as Inquisitor to inspire fear and gather information, Eisenhorn tracks the clues of the murder back to the capital planet of Gudrun. There, he uncovers a plot by the ancient family  Glaw to resurrect one of their ancestors, Pontius, through dark rituals, and their efforts to make contact with an alien race in order to secure a copy of an ancient text of destruction. Along the way, Eisenhorn gathers a team of companions to aid him, fights a daemon from the warp, and eventually saves the day. The dangerous and heretical text is destroyed, the Glaw family is broken, and Pontius’ soul is still trapt in a mystic orb.

The second book, Malleus, sees Eisenhorn come under a charge of heresy. The daemon he fought with in Xenos returns to wreak havoc while dropping Eisenhorn’s name to another Inquisitor. Eisenhorn learns of this after surviving another mass murder and assault on Thraxcian Prime. In attempts to track down the perpetrators of that assault, he uncovers another daemon as well as the evidence of what was assumed to be long dead Inquisitor attempting to perform a grand act of heresy. With Eisenhorn also labeled heretic, he must track down this rogue Inquisitor alone. This forces him to turn to Pontius Glaw in order to learn the secrets of the daemons and their weaknesses in exchange for creating Pontius a robotic body. With the help of a friend from the Adeptus Mechanicus, Eishenhorn fashions a staff that will amplify his psychic powers. Armed with this new weapon, Eisenhorn obliterates the second daemon, severely weakens the first, and kills the rogue Inquisitor. He is found innocent of his heresy and reinstated as Inquisitor. The book ends with Eisenhorn in secret possession of a dark text for controlling daemons and creatures of the warp as well as the first daemon trapt in Eisenhorn’s bunker.

Hereticus is the final book in the trilogy. While presiding over a trial, Eisenhorn learns that the man who killed a friend of his was on the planet. Eisenhorn abandons the trial to track the man down only to find himself confronted with a battle titan. With very little time or good options, Eisenhorn summons the daemon he trapt to kill the titan. While recovering from the event in his home on Gudrun, his entire organization is attacked by mercenaries. He manages to escape with a handful of his people, flees the planet, and pieces together the fact that the attack was conducted by non-other than Pontius Glaw. Glaw seems to be searching for some hidden treasure of a daemon king and wants the dark text Eisenhorn saved while also eliminating all evidence of Glaw’s continued existence. Through much sacrifice and the loss of friends, Eisenhorn is able to defeat Glaw with the help of his daemon and disappears from Imperial record.

In addition to these three books, there are also two short stories of various adventures and investigations Eisenhorn had. They are fun and fine for what they are, but as a whole, they are not necessary. These stories merely explain some of the plot points of the following books. The explanations are not necessary for understanding, but including them in the main texts would have likely killed pacing and been non-important.

First things first. I know that there are going to be some Warhammer fans who are going to disagree with calling this book fantasy. Just because it is set in space doesn’t make it sci-fi. It has all the trappings of a fantasy story. Like Star Wars, it is fantasy in space. This is not to detract from the book, and at the end of the day, label the genre however you want.

That being said, I have always been fascinated with the lore of Warhammer. It is a dark world where millions can die in a cold, unforgiving universe. The works of The Black Library, Warhammer’s publishing house, are proof of the fact that when anything is an existential threat to society, any means are permitted to eliminate that threat.

This philosophy is exemplified in the Inquisitors. Agents of the Holy Emperor, they have near unlimited social power. Many of them are extremely strong psychics. Through the use of the law, fear, and psychic will, they impose the moral right and fight against the corruption and heresy that would destroy mankind in whatever way they see fit.

Eisenhorn is a great case study. He says he begins as a puritan, but in reality, he is more of a moderate. True, Eisenhorn destroys the first dark text in Xenos, but even other moderates within the Inquisition agreed with him on that. As he progresses through the stories,  Eisenhorn makes decisions that pull him more in line with the radicals and closer to a true heretic. The trilogy ends with the reader wondering if he is still the hero that they have followed or the threat that was shown in Malleus.

There are some thematic oddities to this trilogy, however. First, it is definitely a thriller. The mystery aspect does not feel like it is played well enough to warrant calling it that. Yeah, the surprises can be figured out, but they aren’t what provides the underlying drama. The tension and threats are. It also feels very strongly of a noir type story. A private detective in search of truth in the world of corruption.

The problem is that those stories work best when the detective is just outside the system. Everything Eisenhorn does is within the scope of his authority. Sure, he spends long parts of one book labeled a heretic, but that did not affect how the rest of society saw him. To the world outside the Inquisition, he was still an Inquisitor. With the sheer enormity of the universe presented, the ability to disappear and still maintain one’s lifestyle does little to impart the impact of the character’s decisions on his fate.

All in all, though, these books are a fun romp. They are tense, well-paced, and tell a continuous story. The details are interwoven well and despite the massive size, over 770 pages, nothing is really out of place or forgotten. Eisenhorn is great if you enjoy a good thriller or intrigue, as well as a non-threatening introduction into the world of Warhammer and its books. The generally depressing nature of so many people dying so unceremoniously does make it hard to give universal recommendation. And so, I award Eisenhorn with the Iron Stash (4/5)…(really a 4.5. Like I said, tough to give more when I can’t tell everyone to read it.)