Category Archives: Characters

Update – Introducing the Alcioneverse

Hovergirl by Deiv Calviz
Hovergirl by Deiv Calviz

Update. I haven’t posted for a while because I’ve been waiting for something definite to write. So, here is the current status of the project

There is now only going to be one universe, the Alcioneverse.  Much as Starsiders would also be a fun universe, I want to focus on a single setting. The current scenario is as follows

Synopsis (of Book One, Hovergirl)

It is the far future. Humanity continues, scattered amongst the stars and the rubble of earlier civilisations, and, as always, its own worst enemy.

On the giant space habitat of Tarkron-B, one of many such habs in the theocratic-totalitarian Kalasteran Empire, 15-year-old hoverboard girl Freedai Moda shares a cramped apartment with her mother Racha and Racha’s petty crim boyfriend Wade.  Her home, school, and social life is taken up with hanging out with her gang of friends or “sibs”, obsessing over the “bafest” boys, and dreaming of a spacefaring life among the stars. 

All the while, Tarkron B’s environmentals are failing as the systems struggle to cope with the constant increase in thermal pollution, infestation by genetically engineered alien monsters, and a regime that, for all its big brother qualities, is struggling to cope with increasing social tensions.

When Freedai befriends a bullied reffie girl, she soon finds herself in a schoolyard war against the Shora Gang and their minions.

The setting:

The Alcioneverse is named after the eponymous rogue freighter featured in later books in the series

Humanity endures, scattered amongst the stars and the rubble of earlier civilisations, and, as always, its own worst enemy.

Humanity is divided into the following broad categories (there are also alien races):

  • Habitat dwellers – who live in huge, rotating, O’Neill Cylinders in which conditions are closest to those of Old Earth. They represent the bulk of humanity. Each habitat is a distinct polity, with its own laws and regulations, although some may be autonomous and others part of a larger empire such as Kalastera, Teviots, Salharb, or Asmari
  • Planetsiders – who live on terraformed planets, where environmental conditions, gravity, atmospheric pressure, length of day or year, etc may differ greatly, and in which travel offworld is the province only of the wealthy elite
  • Homesteaders – who live in small, isolated, fiercely independent communities on asteroids, comets, or Kupier or Oort bodies, often genetically modified for microgravity and other conditions. Politically they are the protectorates of the larger nearby Hab or Empire, although for all intents and purposes they are independent, and more closely aligned to other honmesteaders than to the habdwellers.
  • Shipsiders – who spend their whole lives, indeed whole generations, on ships, moving from star system to star system
  • Monsterdwellers – who live as squatters or opportunists in huge alien structures, whether abandoned or still inhabited. Hugely genetically modified, they may still trade with the outside universe

Civilisations are built on the rubble of earlier civilisations, spaceships are often grimy and old and look like the Sulaco, or else they’re alien bioships, most sentients are slaves, the regime can barely keep the peace, human alien sex is forbidden by the Church, the psychophanics of FTL means every hyperjump has a chance of driving you insane, and the fabric of space-time is falling apart due to paradox pollution. The protagonists however hear of a crazy scheme to repair creation; this is what distinguishes the Alcioneverse as Hopepunk from standard Grimdark.

The series follows a group of young people as they come of age and try to succeed in a grim-dark universe where FTL travel and other advanced tech is slowly causing the fabric of spacetime to unravel, while self-proclaimed messiahs and chosen ones run scams based on their claim to find the magic artifact that will restore creation. 

Think a YA version of Bladerunner meets WH40k.

The Characters:

Book 1: Hoverboard girl Freedai Moda, the head of the Sibs, who lives with her mother and her mother’s petty crim boyfriend, and imagines a life of adventure among the stars.  (This will incorporate some of the material previously intended for Madverts)

Book 2: Ardie the high school hustler, struggling to support his dysfunctional family with various schemes and scams. Circumstances bring him and Freedai together (they’re at the same school), and soon one drama leads to another. 

Book 3: Dione, a shy daydreamer with none of Freedai’s feistiness or Ardie’s quick wit, but is befriended by them at Spacer University, where they are all training to be apprentice journeyman for the mighty Bechtor-Verrol Corporation

(more to be introduced later)

Work in progress:

I’m hoping to get Hovergirl (Book 1 of the Alcioneverse) ready and published on Amazon by end of November.  Whether I will is another matter. 

Update

Freehauler Alcione,, by M Alan Kazlev. Lateral view
Freehauler Alcione,, by M Alan Kazlev. Lateral view. Each square in the background grid represents 50 meters

It’s been a while since I’ve last posted, so I thought an update is in order.

Of my two projects, the STL hard science one (tentatively titled Starsiders, but will probably change that title) and the FTL space fantasy one (Paraspacers, or Freehauler Alcione), I’m going to focus on the latter one for now, as I’ve written more for that universe. Even though the literally the same material and characters could be used with both universes. So in committing my characters to the FTL universe, I’ll have to come up with different characters for the STL universe.

I’ve been working on the Alcioneverse for some five years now, each new revision adding a further layer of complexity (as well as false starts and wrewrites). It can be disheartening since I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever finish anything. However I’m certainly not alone in this; there are other scifi enthusiasts who have been working on their own epic projects for 9 years, 16 years, 26 years… An epic project cannot be rushed.

I’m hoping to finally get the first book, Madverts, epublished this year. Being an autistic pantser, I simply am unable to come up with a complete (or even incomplete) storyline in my head the way plotters can. I can create universes, and characters, but plots elude me. For the most part, I don’t have a pre-planned story to tell, even though I have characters and a universe to put them in. Well, two universes actually.

So my current plan is an episodic approach, like a soap opera, in installments. My inspiration here is Hugh Howey who bypassed traditional channels by publishing his post-apocalyptic story on Amazon com in 60 or 100 page episodic installments.

Madverts introduces the two fifteen old protagonists, Kam and Marcinay. It sets the scene for by Mechacross, which follows the same characters one or two years later, and which actually does have a complete story plot, amazing enough. Then comes another plotless pantser installment, and then a story with something of a plot (Up the Well), and finally all my characters find themselves on board the Alcione.

I’ve just revised the design of the Alcione, shown above. I’ve gotten rid of the spiny mace thing, which really didn’t do anything, and the weapons module behind the cargo section, which made her too nerdish-military, and extended the cargo section. The cargo modules are build around a central backbone; it may even be possible one day to model the interior of the ship, although that would be a huge amount of work, and beyond my still rudimentary blender abilities.

If each square in the above graphic represents 50 meters, that gives a total length, excluding the forward struts, of 1600 meters, or one mile. This is about the length of a soft-scfi Star Wars Imperial Star Destroyer. But the long modular shape means the average width or diameter is only 60 to 80 meters (say equal to a large modern aircraft carrier like the Nimitz), and the crew spend most of their time in a 70 by 100 meter module. Most of the ship is dedicated to propulsion, cargo, and things like hanger space, biospherics, the machine shop, etc. In terms of popular space opera, crew space isn’t that much bigger than in Joss Wheddon’s Firefly Class, but for ten times as many crew (although cargo space is another matter). I would suppose an overall weight of half a million tons, because of the tower like design.

Real spaceships of course wouldn’t be anywhere as big as this. Arthur C Clarke’s 140 meter long Discovery One, by which I mean here the non-cinematic design with fuel tanks and thermal radiators is quite probably the most realistic interplanetary vessel ever envisaged in science fiction. I’m certainly not a fan of the grotesque skeletal movie version, either aesthetically or for any practical reasons. See also the excellent Atomic Rockets website for more on realistic interplanetary spacecraft.

If I wanted to go full-on munchkin I could always double the size; making each square in the above diagnostic 100 meters rather than 50. That would give a length of over three kilometers and an average width of around 130 to 150 meters, which would make it closer to the Nostromo in size (except much longer), and weight would now be about 4 million tons. I don’t know if there is any reason for such giant ships, apart from nerd appeal, but settings like Star Wars, Halo, Banks Culture, Reynolds Revelation Space, and Warhammer 40k do feature enormous, multi-kilometer-long ships, powered purely by handwavium. A simple rule of thumb: the larger the ship, the less realistic the universe.

In any case, the real center of my story is the human (and other sophont species) one, how a bunch of characters relate to each other and to the vast and dangerous universe they explore. No matter how amazing the tech, it is always in the background. That’s why I try to minimise info-dumps, and show the protagonists concerns to be no different to those of people today. I greatly enjoyed reading Becky Chambers’s book The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet for this reason, even if the science is pretty cartoonish.

The Alcione therefore will only come alive through the adventures of her crew, even though the ship, like all ships, has her own personality. For good science fiction it’s necessary to balance epic adventure, amazing technology, and the sense of wonder at a vast and beautiful yet uncaring cosmos, with the microcosm and warmth of the adventurers at the heart of the story.

Kam Sortnoi – Madvert fighter

Kam Sortnoi, professional shopper and madvert fighter
Kam Sortnoi, part time professional shopper, madvert fighter, and the central protagonist of Madverts. Artwork copyright David Leahey

Thanks to David Leahey for this superb portrait of Kam Sortnoi, teenage part time professional shopper, madvert fighter, and the central protagonist of my upcoming first Novella Madverts.

Kam will also feature in later installments, where she and her newfound friends on the Space Freighter Alcione travel a universe full of strange and unexpected mdangers and wonders, trying not only to survive but come out on top.