One of the fun things about science fiction is extrapolating possible futures. When you play with long enough timelines (or jump forward to a time when humans can take control of their own evolution) you get to play with some pretty cool ideas. What will human mean in ten thousand years time? What about one-hundred thousand or ten million? Will we continue to get bigger and stronger, or perhaps smaller and more intelligent. Or will we do both and become a split society of Morlocks and Eloi? Will we upload our consciousnesses to the matrix to form an electronic hive mind or augment our physical bodies with cybernetic and robotic enhancements and become a super-race of artificially-enhanced hedonists?
Winston Churchill once said … something or another, but he didn’t post it to Facebook so who cares?
People talk a lot about how technology shapes society. It can’t be denied that the world has changed; we’re all connected all the time, information travels at the speed of google, entire industries that couldn’t have existed two decades (or two weeks) ago are worth billions of dollars and have more influence than your quickly-becoming-irrelevant democratically elected what-are-they-called-again? We no longer have to visit public libraries and pick up dust mites or paper cuts in the search for knowledge. Wikipedia has replaced the Encyclopedia Britannica and the only people who are worse off are door-to-door dictionary salesmen. Kids are being taught (or at least they should be) how to do cool things with information instead of remembering stuff so that they can be tested later on how well they remember stuff. My own kids refuse to take “I’m sorry, kids. I don’t know how to do that,” for an answer. They tell me “Google it, dad” and roll their eyes in that special way only 6 and 7 year olds can (I taught them about google because I want them to know information is only a few clicks away; they weren’t supposed to use it against me).
Now that I’ve got a couple of books in The Bastard Cadre series out, I’ve been surprised to learn what reader’s expectations of the series have been and in some cases how that differs to what I’m doing, so I thought I’d talk about the story design of the series and how it came about.
For our purposes, story design means how the individual books have been designed to work and how the books in the series have been designed to interact with each other. There may be other definitions of “Story Design”, and that’s cool, but that’s not what I’m talking about.
I’m almost done with the first draft of The Lord of Frake’s Peak: The Bastard Cadre #4. As always, it has taken far longer than I wanted or expected (maybe one day it’ll work the other way, but I doubt it), but finally, thankfully, the end is in sight. For a while I wasn’t sure it ever would be. I talked about the trouble I had with this story when it was originally planned as the second Bastard Cadre story and how I chickened out then and switched to The Godslayers’ Legacy when I got stuck. (Though for what it’s worth, I think that was the right decision.)
That previous post asks some questions about why I get stuck at the two thirds mark (not long before the third plot point/reversal in the three act structure). I even made some suggestions in that last post, but now I’ve had more time to think about it and I have a deeper understanding of what’s going on.
The Bastard Cadre is a fast paced series of futuristic, epic fantasy stories that includes elements of science fiction, mythology, and magic. The stories are set in post-apocalyptic Newterra where the True Gods treat the people like pieces on a game board in their never ending wars. The world is populated with immortals, shape-shifters, dragons, and a host of science fiction and fantasy villains, anti-heroes, and heroines who are all out to get each other.
The stories are shorter than your typical epic fantasy novels, clocking in at around 150 pages each, making it easier to slot them into even the busiest schedule.
The rise to prominence of self publishing has changed many things, however, gatekeepers have always been with us and will always be with us. As I said in a previous post (and the new gatekeepers are…) it is readers who should take on the role of gatekeepers through social media: GoodReads, LibraryThing, online retailer review sites, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Just as authors no longer need publishing companies to tell them what they can publish, readers no longer need professional reviewers to tell them what they should read.
It’s a brave new world, and I for one, think that is a beautiful thing.
Now, however, we have organizations trying to establish themselves (not readers) as the new gatekeepers. These organizations will anoint the books they find worthy with their official seal of approval. A seal that says nothing more than, we find this book adequately meets the criteria we have decided a good book should meet. They should be more honest and call their little club what it is, a book club for people who agree about the characteristics of a (technically) good book. After all, how will they measure creativity, originality, and connection with the reader? On what scale and for which reader? If they measure these things at all, it’s a subjective opinion and nothing more than that.
The third book in The Bastard Cadre is available now.
The Dead God’s Shadow starts where The Godslayers’ Legacy ended. Avril Ethanson is on the road again and dealing with the consequences of the convergence that centered around him at the end of the previous book.
Avril is still finding his feet, even if he does get knocked off them now and again. We get to see part of Newterra that wasn’t affected by the Cleansing, meet a character who’s been working behind the scenes (and is one my personal favorites), catch up with some familiar people and meet new ones. There’s technology, magic, dragons, and a very persuasive priest.
Each book has been more fun to write than the previous ones as I get to develop the characters and the world and reveal (hopefully) tantalizing hints of the bigger picture and what is still to come.
The Dead God’s Shadow comes in at a shade over 40,000 words, so only fractionally longer than the previous books, but it’s a quick read and will hopefully leave you wanting more.