Influences

Science Fiction image from Futurism com
Science Fiction image from Futurism com – How Has Science Fiction Changed Over the Decades?

 

Bernard of Chartres used to compare us to dwarfs perched on the shoulders of giants. He pointed out that we see more and farther than our predecessors, not because we have keener vision or greater height, but because we are lifted up and borne aloft on their gigantic stature.” — John of Salisbury, 1159 (Wikipedia)

 

The following are some of the more important influences that have shaped my two projects Paraspace Universe (= original Alcioneverse) and Starsiders

 

Alpha, the City of a Thousand Planets, (advanced multi-species civilisation) in Luc Besson’s Valerian – youtube trailer,  another youtube trailer – influenced both

 

Babylon 5 (TV) – J Michael Strazinsky – TV series story arc about humanity and other races dealings with each other aboard a huge space station. Features the Vorlon and Shadows as sinister contending elder races. Perhaps the most intelligent scifi to ever appear on the small screen. .  – mostly influenced Starsiders

 

Badass Babe: “Hey Vasquez, have you ever been mistaken for a man?” “No, have you?” (Aliens Space Marines)

 

Badass Monk – “I Am One With the Force and the Force Is With Me” (Chirrut Îmwe, Rogue One, Star Wars)

 

Bel Dame universe (books) – Kameron Hurley, God’s War and sequels, –

“On a ravaged, contaminated world, a centuries-old holy war rages, fought by a bloody mix of mercenaries, magicians, and conscripted soldiers. Though the origins of the war are shady and complex, there’s one thing everybody agrees on… There’s not a chance in hell of ending it. “

–  Goodreads a bizarrely imaginative vision of a war-torn future-islamic planet that uses insect-powered biotechnology and germ warfare, and bio-filter bubbles to keep out plague. Because most men are sent off to the battlefield, the society is ruled by women. In it’s own way as grimdark as WH40K But also, like Ribofunk and Schizmatrix it incorporates “biopunk”

– mostly influenced Paraspace Universe

 

Big Fucking Ship – because every space opera needs gigantic hunks of metal and fullerene studded with guns and greebles

– mostly influenced Paraspace Universe

 

Cthulhu mythos – H.P.Lovecraft – like Tolkein, Lovecraft’s work transcends mere fiction for the metaphysical and the mythopoetic. And that’s about all the two have in common. Yet Lovecraft’s cosmic horror and his powerful evocation of a universe that cares nothing for man (or, one might say, intelligent life in general) and in which no heroic victory is possible, is the necessary counterpole with the epic quest in which the hero saves the universe in most fiction. Lovecraft descends into farce only when he tries to describe his monsters; the best things are left unsaid.

– mostly influenced Paraspace Universe

 

Eclipse Phase (rpg) – Posthuman Studios – a transhumanist hard SF roleplaying game (rpg) that takes place in a near future interplanetary setting in which the Earth has been rendered uninhabitable by malevolent AI called Titans  Some very good concepts regarding space habits, future society, etc. The concept of “sleeving” of swapping bodies the way you would change clothes, is typical of the transhumanist obsession with virtual reality and alienation from the body (as with uploading/downloading). This was also the case with GURPS Transhuman Space and Orion’s Arm, altho if anything taken to an even greater extreme. One reason I made the Alcioneverse more visceral and body-centered, with consciousness tied to the body, as a reaction to this transhumanist nerd body-negation.  See also Ghosts of Tommorrow for a more pessimistic take on uploads.  – mostly influenced Starsiders

 

Ghosts of Tomorrow – Michael R. Fletcher – in this near-future setting, children and soldiers killed in combat are destructively uploaded as scans to inhabit and control fighting machines.     Goodreads 

A real crapsack/grimdark world.  What I especially like is the bleak approach to Scans, as a counter to the platonic-gnostic-spiritualist dualism of Transhumanism.  – Influenced both.

 

Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkein (book, and movie adaptation by Peter Jackson) – if there is one single work of mythopoesis (it transcends fiction) that has influenced me above all else, it is this one. Although High Fantasy, every theme translates perfectly to Space Opera (compare for example Star Wars and Guardians of the Galaxy).  – mostly influenced Paraspace Universe

 

The Matrix – Wachowskiis. While not space opera (more like Cyberpunk), it incorporates a number of mythopoetic and Gnostic themes, pretty grimdark too, especially when the optimism of the first movie is negated by the sequels. A lot of the ambience of the Nebuchadnezzar fits the Freehauler setting, and especially at the start you’ve got the full Ragtag crew.  – mostly influenced Starsiders

 

Mechwarrior/Battletech (rpg) – FASA – set in a medium-term future, interstellar, human-only wargaming/roleplaying universe, later with tie-in novels and video games, this now defunct franchise features Japanese-anime inspired, laser, autrocannon, and missile armed, nuclear-powered giant robot war machines called BattleMechs (or ‘mechs for short).  In terms of hard science this is pretty unrealistic; not only (as with Star Wars) is the rest of the tech incredibly primitive (no computer aiming, no cyborg interface), but the mechs are far too large to by practical from an engineering point of view, and any dropship powerful enough to transport a whole squadron or army of them across interstellar space unbalances the worldbuilding so much that suspension of disbelief becomes very difficult.  – mostly influenced Paraspace Universe.

 

Motley Crew / Ragtag Bunch of Misfits https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motley_crew / http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/RagtagBunchOfMisfits – e.g. Blake 7, Red Dwarf, LEXX, Farscape, Firefly, Cowboy Bebop, Guardians of the Galaxy, Rogue One, et-cet-era (you can also tie this in with Rogue Trader for the more upmarket version).  Influenced both.

 

Of Men and Monsters – William Tenn –

“Giant, technologically superior aliens have conquered Earth, but humankind survives – even flourishes in a way. Men and women live like mice in burrows in the massive walls of the huge homes of the aliens, scurrying about under their feet, stealing from them. …. For the aliens, men and women are just a nuisance, neither civilized nor intelligent, and certainly not a worthy adversary. In fact, they are regarded as vermin, to be exterminated.” …

Goodreads page.  Just convert to Space Opera,  – mostly influenced Starsiders.

 

Orion’s Arm – a web-based transhumanist, hard SF collaborative worldbuilding project I co-founded, that takes place in an interstellar setting ten thousand years from now, in which the colonised part of the galaxy is ruled by transcended AI called Archailects in a wormhole linked interstellar nexus  Many OA themes have been incorporated intro the Hard SF reboot of the Alcioneverse

– mostly influenced Starsiders

 

“Redspace” – chapter 1 of Gavin Smith’s Scorpio Rising –

“Of all the captains based out of Arclight only Eldon Sloper was desperate enough to agree to a salvage job in Red Space. And now he and his crew are living to regret his desperation. In Red Space the rules are different. Some things work, others don’t. Best to stick close to the Church beacons. Don’t get lost. Because there’s something wrong about Red Space. Something beyond rational. Something vampyric…”

Goodreads   The Church beacons become “logic beacons”.  This first chapter was a big inspiration for the Zoneverse (but not the rest of the book)

– mostly influenced Paraspace Universe

 

Revelation Space/Galactic North universe by Alastair Reynolds – can there be anything cooler than Lighthuggers? One of the main inspirations for the Hard SF reboot of the Alcioneverse.  Unfortunately, relativistic travel turns out to be ridiculously expensive for anything less than an Alcubierre ship, and for the latter there is no relativistic effects.  Nevertheless, Ultras in their giant ships, as a breed apart wielding great influence through their possession of starships, were, like the Rogue Traders in WH40k, an important early inspiration.

– Influenced both

 

Revenger – Alastair Reynolds. Actually the synopsis and totally badass cover image is better than the actual writing. I love these themes, but I’d explore them differently –

“The galaxy has seen great empires rise and fall. Planets have shattered and been remade. Amongst the ruins of alien civilizations, building our own from the rubble, humanity still thrives. And there are vast fortunes to be made, if you know where to find them.
Captain Rackamore and his crew do. It’s their business to find the tiny, enigmatic worlds which have been hidden away, booby-trapped, surrounded by layers of protection–and to crack them open for the ancient relics and barely-remembered technologies inside. But while they ply their risky trade with integrity, not everyone is so scrupulous.
Adrana and Fura Ness are the newest members of Rackamore’s crew, signed on to save their family from bankruptcy. Only Rackamore has enemies, and there might be more waiting for them in space than adventure and fortune: the fabled and feared Bosa Sennen in particular.
Revenger is a science fiction adventure story set in the rubble of our solar system in the dark, distant future–a tale of space pirates, buried treasure, and phantom weapons, of unspeakable hazards and single-minded heroism and of vengeance…”

Goodreads page.  I replace the poorly worldbuilt interplanetary setting with an interstellar one, solar sails and old 19th cebntury nautical speak (sailpunk) with reactionless drive, and the single antagonist in favour of any number of dangers. But apart from that I keep the overall ambience

– mostly influenced Starsiders

 

Ribofunk – Paul Di Filippo. Because it sucks to be a human-animal chimeric (“Splice”) slave in a society that doesn’t give a fuck about your rights, and where there is no hope of a better world https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/729731.Ribofunk like Bel Dame and Schizmatrix this is an example of “biopunk”

 

Roadside Picnic – by Arkady and Strugatsky, –

“Red Schuhart is a stalker, one of those young rebels who are compelled, in spite of extreme danger, to venture illegally into the Zone to collect the mysterious artifacts that the alien visitors left scattered around. His life is dominated by the place and the thriving black market in the alien products…”

the inspiration for godtech artifacts left by transingularirtan civilisations in the HardSF version of the Freehauler ‘verse., while in the FTL In the Zoneverse I have a single Stugatsky Wave.    Just add space opera tropes  Goodreads page.  – mostly influenced Starsiders

 

Rogue Trader – spin off of the Warhammer 40K universe, worth it’s own entry

“Rogue Traders are unique and powerful human individuals who serve as a combination freelance explorer, conquistador and interstellar merchant for the Imperium of Man. They are hereditary Imperial servants and nobles, given a starship, a crew, and sometimes a contingent of Space Marines (in very rare cases) or troops of the Imperial Guard and carte blanche to roam those worlds of the galaxy that still lie beyond Imperial control or knowledge. In their task of exploring and exploiting the still-uncharted regions of the galaxy for Mankind, Rogue Traders might come across worlds harbouring long-forgotten human civilisations which will be later incorporated into the Imperium by official Adeptus Mechanicus Explorator fleets and expeditions of the Imperial Navy and Imperial Guard. Other times they find empty or alien-dominated planets ripe for colonisation, conquest or exploitation by the Imperium — and themselves.”

– mostly influenced Paraspace Universe

 

Schizmatrix universe – Bruce Stirling – decaying near future interplanetary scenario in which humanity has spilt into two diametrically opposite and conflicting clades, the mechanists and the shapers (the latter masters of biotech). Contact by an alien race throws a spanner in the works, but I feel depreciates the purity and focus of the setting. Themes include future clades of humanity, each evolving in different directions Goodreads.  Like Bel Dame and Ribofunk this is an example of “biopunk”

– mostly influenced Paraspace Universe

 

Scum and Villiany – “You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.”

 

Space Marines – because. (see also, Badass Babe)

 

Star Wars – George Lucas – still the classic Space Opera universe. See Scum and Villiany, Big Fucking Ship.  Nevertheless this is a flawed masterpiece, mainly from a  worldbuilding and plothole perspective, although this is necessary for the low realism swashbukling setting. Eessentially Buck Rogers / Flash Gordon matinee space pulp with World War II style battle scenes; the original movie, with its astonishing visual imagination and elements derived from Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces, compares favourably with, even if it doesn’t reach the heights of, Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings. In my opinion it qualifies as the greatest science fiction movie ever made, and changed science fiction forever. The first third (the scenes on Tatooine) of the original movie has been more influential on my own space operatic imagination than anything I’ve ever seen anywhere; the rest of the movie, including the bumbling stormtroopers, not so much. The sequels of the original trilogy also have their moments. Who among those who there when The Empire Strikes Back first screened can forget the gut-wrenching moment of Darth Vader’s famous line “Luke, I am your father”? Of course teddy bears taking down the empire’s elite fighting force had rather the opposite effect on fans. Yet for all its flaws, the original Star Wars trilogy remains the definitive Space Operatic epic. Gave rise to a huge franchise including sequals and prequals, tie-in novels, video games, animated TV shows. The prequel filled in Darth Vader’s backstory; though it’s unfortunate that Lucas later switched from mysticism (science fantasy) to (bad) Hard SF by trying to explain The Force in reductionist terms (“midichlorions”), the Keystone Cops-like Trade Federation Droid Army (“roger, roger”) actually made the bumbling stormtroopers of the original trilogy look competent, Jar Jar Binks gave fans a figure even more hated than ewoks, and Princess Amilda who began as a strong and feisty Princess Leia like character ended up as just another women crying for her husband. Led to a proliferation of tie in novels, games, and graphic novels as well as an excellent animated cartoon series, Clone Wars, which is often better than any of the movies. The result is an extraordinary worldbuilding enterprise, the “expanded universe” mapped out in various DK picture books (the DK Star Wars Atlas has been one of the major inspirations for the present work) that present a vast edifice of the imagination, even if the continual 25 thousand year Jedi vs Sith feud does get a bit tedious and repetitious after a while (aren’t there other important factions in this universe?). Almost all of which has been scrapped (even Clone Wars looks uncertain), that is, consigned to the realm of fiction or “legends” within the Star Wars Universe itself, with the announcement of a series of new movies.

– mostly influenced Paraspace Universe

 

Terminal World by Alastair Reynolds – along with Vinge’s Zones of Thought this gave me the idea for a stratified reality, with technologies dependent on the laws of physics of each zone. In the Zoneverse I have Merus which are giant structures that span zones and allow ships to traverse FTL without a hyperspace “jumpdrive” (the structure itself converts the ship to paraspace). See notes for more. –

“Spearpoint, the last human city, is an atmosphere-piercing spire of vast size. Clinging to its skin are the zones, a series of semi-autonomous city-states, each of which enjoys a different – and rigidly enforced – level of technology. Horsetown is pre-industrial; in Neon Heights they have television and electric trains . . . But there is far more at stake than just Quillon’s own survival, for the limiting technologies of the zones are determined not by governments or police, but by the very nature of reality – and reality itself is showing worrying signs of instability . ” –

Goodreads

– mostly influenced Paraspace Universe

 

Transhuman Space (rpg) – GURPS – a transhumanist hard SF roleplaying game that takes place in a near future (2100) human-dominated interplanetary setting

 

Warhammer 40K – Games Workshop – gothic horror scifi fantasy wargaming minatures and hundreds of tie-in novels, takes place in a “grim dark future” galactic setting 40 thousand years from now, in which a neo-medieval humanity battles hopelessly against hordes of alien invaders.

A short fanmade movie The Lord Inquisitor captures the medieval gothic fascist aesthetic  See also Rogue Trader

WH40k began as a very standard space opera Traveller-esque rpg called Rogue Trader, in spite of or because of the rather bland fantasy adapations, dwarves for example became people who live on high gee plantes, this was remarkably good.

Later the space opera element was lost, and gave way to all neo-medieval gothic horror, concerning a neofeudal future galactic civilisation in a dying galaxy fighting a hopeless battle against hordes of alien invaders. Most of the alien races here arn’t bad, even of they are derivative, the Tyrannids or Genestealers for example are based on Ridley Scott’s Alien, and the Eldar represent a pretty good adaptation of tolkeinesque eleves to space opera. But I find the almost indestructable, yet predictably savage and stupid, orks which somehow also have really advanced (equal to the best human level) tech – thanks to their mekboys, whose extraordinary technological prowess is never explained – to overpower the rest of the setting (this seems to be the problem with the original Warhammer as well, but it doesn’t require as much suspension of disbelief because of the iron age setting), especially since superstitious humans, despite their thousands of years of technological history, have to make do with fading remnants of past glories. Why don’t humans have mekboys as well? But the real genius of this setting is its approach to ftl.

Ftl is only possible via a terrifying dimension called “the warp,” thus rejecting the concept of a benignly rational Star Trek/ Star Wars type hyperspace in favour of a more lovecraftian cosmic horror approach, by which any ftl is a sanity-risking enterprise.

A few novels like Scorpio Rising (Redspace) take a somewhat similar approach. In In the Zoneverse a more nuanced concept of Paraspace is presented that combines both rational hyperspace/warpdrive and lovecraftian warp in a kitchen sink approach, see Paraspace and related entries in the glossary.

– mostly influenced Paraspace Universe

 

The Zero Theorum (movie) – surreal scifi movie directed by Terry Gillam, in which the autistic protagonist (name) is given the task of solving the Zero Theorum, in which “Zero must equal 100%” hence proving the meaninglessness of existence. The portrayal of a crazy dystopian world overrun by advertisements that is so similar to what I’d already written for Madverts when watching the movie that it strongly suggests that creative writers tap from a common wellspring or universal zeitgeist. In other respects, so much of The Zero Theorum is in line with my own new weird approach that it ended up influencing me more than any other work of fiction to .. See opening scene on Youtube  (especially 0.36 to 0.57) Madverts differs in that there would be holographic ads, floating drones, etc

– mostly influenced Paraspace Universe

 

Zones of Thought – Vernor Vinge –

“Thousands of years from now, a mind’s potential is determined by its location in space—from superintelligent entities in the Transcend, to the limited minds of the Unthinking Depths, where only simple creatures and technology can function.”

Goodreads Same basic theme (technology and stratified reality) as Reynolds Terminal World, which I also use in the Zoneverse

– mostly influenced Paraspace Universe

 

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