Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Free story idea – In the Victor’s Footsteps

I have a lot of ideas for stories.  Like, if I wrote a novel’s worth of them every month, I’d still most likely die before getting through them all.  I will admit that some of the ideas probably suck, but I think there are some that a good writer could make something of them.  I’ll just never get a chance to.  So, I give them to the world.  If you can make something of these, go right ahead.  And if these are the ideas I’m giving away, maybe check out the ones I keep.

Several years ago, I had an image of a guy walking through a castle carrying a severed head.  (Like, your story process is “normal.”)  So I wrote a short, little story about it that ended hinting there was more to the story.  I recently reposted this little story, but if you don’t want to read it, the basics are that Nallog the Third, after generations of fighting has finally conquered the planet by taking the castle of the last holdout.  While toasting his victory – with the severed head of his enemy – his son comes in to complain that the troops are running rampant and burning all the books.  Nallog the Third says that his son could just write more, but the prince says they need the knowledge in those books to continue.  When Nallog the Third asks where they can continue to since they’ve conquered the planet, the prince just looks to the stars starting to come out in the twilight. 

This was to be the prologue to a massive story.  It eventually grew to seven trilogies.  When I say idea, I mean I had some outline for the first book, and then a few sentences on what the following trilogies would be about.  So here goes.

The background of the series, slowly pieced together, is that thousands of years ago people on Earth discovered some type of faster than light (FTL) travel, in the sense that it might take you an hour or two to go a lightyear.  Which was great, but a downside was you needed very accurate and up to date gravity maps.  So you couldn’t just go out a hundred lightyears right away.  You had to go out maybe one lightyear at a time and map everything.  Once that was done, then you could make the hundred lightyear jumps.  What developed were a few travel lanes between Earth and the few Earth like planets out there located thousands of lightyears (months of travel time) away.  Colonies were started on these planets, but the initial focus was on things like food and basic goods.  Do they want to ruin the pristine landscapes to build the factories to make the things, that make the things, that make the FTLs, or just import them from Earth that already has everything set up?  Everything was going great, until the ships from Earth stopped showing up.  And the ships sent to investigate, didn’t come back.  What happened?  That’s the story for the sixth trilogy.  On this world, things collapsed as the super high tech stuff either wore out or was hidden away and society fell to a medieval level.  Then the first three Nallogs set out and conquered the planet.

Chapter 1 of the first book of the first trilogy begins with Nallog the Seventh taking a shuttle up to a space station.  By reverse engineering the few FTL ships hidden away and spending decades industrializing, they’ve managed to get to the point where they’re going to the surrounding star systems.  They do have the files on how to plot a course to Earth, but they are millennia out of date and utterly useless.  If they want to go back to Earth, they basically have to find it.  But they knew there was another colony relatively nearby them – only a hundred lightyears or so – and they found it on the last mission.  The current scouting mission was to gather intel on them, but it is late returning.

The Nallog’s are military authoritarians, but Nallog the Seventh is … not entirely terrible.  Like if you screw up, you’ll be demoted.  You really have to screw up for him to have you summarily executed.  He’s worried that maybe the scout was attacked, and hostile forces may be on the way there.  They do have some fighter ships, but most of them are out on mapping missions.  The scout finally returns and the pilot apologizes for being late.  They were supposed to stay in a high orbit to avoid detection, but the pilot realized that the planet was far less advanced.  So they went low to get some really good images, and it appears that colony also collapsed but hasn’t gotten out of the medieval stage yet. 

This changes things.  Nallog the Seventh was planning to invade that planet, but not for many years.  He needed time to get more intel on them, but also to build ships.  As it is, he only has one transport ship capable of carrying a hundred or so soldiers.  A second ship is just a frame.  But if it’s a primitive planet, then he might be able to take it with only a hundred soldiers. 

They put the hull on the second transport ship, and load it full of equipment and a skeleton crew.  The plan is it will also go the planet, but it would stay in orbit with his “reserve troops” in case Nallog the Seventh would need them.  The crew would use the flight time to try to install all the life support equipment in case something happens to the first ship and they need to evacuate. 

So they get all the ships and soldiers ready and they go to the other colony.  They land outside the largest castle, and a guy with a sword comes out and Nallog the Seventh shoots him with a plasma pistol.  He maybe does this a few more times at other castles, but the word spreads and the planet is soon his.

The book would deal more with the problems of taking over this world.  Like most of them thought that they had always been on this planet, and the idea that they had come from somewhere else is heresy.  Also, Nallog the Seventh assumed that once he took over the planet, the people would become the obedient followers like back home, but not so much.  You could probably also through in some love interest to spice things up.

The rest of the first trilogy would deal with the Nallog’s spreading their empire out thousands of lightyears.  They discover some other primitive colonies, some abandoned colony worlds, and maybe some new worlds.  All the while dealing with various problems, like putting down revolts and everything that would happen if you took a medieval peasant from a field and tried to put them to work building a starship.  The trilogy ends with a scout for Nallog the Ninth arriving at a planet only to find that it’s not a primitive colony, but part of an equal power.

The second trilogy would deal with this other power, showing their time from a collapsed colony to a growing power.  The third trilogy would do the same for a third power.  The power structure for each is TBD.  Maybe all three are some shade of military authoritarian, or maybe one is democratic while another is communist.  If you ever write this, you can figure it out.

So the first three trilogies give the backstories of these three growing empires.  The fourth trilogy is them going to war.  There is a lot of fighting, and a lot of people die, but in the end they are more or less back to where they started. 

The fifth trilogy is basically a Cold War where spies are sent out to try to destabilize planets and whatnot.  It ends with whatever happened on Earth coming back.

The sixth trilogy is the prequel that goes back to Earth pre-collapse and shows what actually happened.

The seventh trilogy is the three powers having to join forces to not suffer Earth’s fate.

That’s basically what I had.  Now there are two big questions that need answered: what about aliens and what actually happened on Earth.  My feeling is that there are primitive aliens out there, but they probably don’t show up much in the stories.  Like, the clichĂ© thing would be for these empires to use them as slave labor, but what would be so precious that they would risk a most likely toxic atmosphere to force the equivalent of cavemen to mine?  Once they relearn the technology, they can just have robots mine asteroids.  Maybe there are some 1940-equivalent aliens out there one of the empires is debating how to make contact with, but for the majority of the time, aliens don’t matter.

As to what happened to Earth, an obvious answer is some super advanced aliens thought Earth was becoming a threat, so they wiped it out and figured the colonies would just die out.  But such a power should easily handle three smaller powers and the seventh trilogy would be really short.  The same would be true if instead of aliens, it was an AI.  Also, why would an AI not take over the colonies?  Or was there some growing threat, and Earth just sent out all these colonies, but didn’t tell them what was happening and didn’t record where they were sent to try to hide them?  Or is Earth just fine, and they kicked the baby birds out of the nest to see if they would fly?

Writing about vast space empires can be fun, but I think for this monster series to actually work, you’d need to have a fantastic conclusion which can only happen if you have a well thought out explanation of what happened on Earth.  It would probably be better to figure that out first, that way you can drop hints in the setup trilogies so it doesn’t all come out of the blue.

Thanksgiving Sale!

So it’s Thanksgiving, if you live in the US.  Which means you only have a few weeks left to spend your hard earned money on mostly useless crap.  I know things have been crazy for the last couple of years, so as an early holiday gift, here are five of my ebooks you can download for free.  And the best thing is, you can get them instantly: you don’t have to wait for them to sail across the ocean and get through a crowded port. 

You can get this all for the price of a click from Wednesday November 24th, through Sunday November 28th.  I hope you all have a safe and happy holiday season, and I hope you enjoy anything of mine you read.


A Man of Few Words is a collection of fifty of my flash fiction stories. What would really happen if a “T-Rex on steroids” attacked a city? Why do science fiction writers make the best lovers? How does a company get to Second Base with VIPs? I explore these questions and more using less than 1000 words and in various genres from humor to horror and general fiction to science fiction.

The majority of the stories were previously published (most on my website) but all were revised for this collection. In addition, each piece is accompanied by some background information on the origin of the story or a funny tale about the writing of it to give a fuller experience.


Over the last few years a lot of people have caught Mars fever. It seems a week doesn’t go by without a report of some new group wanting to send people to Mars, or some big name in the industry talking about why we have to go to Mars, or articles talking about the glorious future humanity will have on Mars. All of this worries me. In my opinion, a Mars base is currently not sustainable because there’s no way for it to make money. A few missions may fly doing extraordinary science, but if it’s then cancelled for cost the whole Mars Project may just be seen as an expensive stunt.

Fortunately, there are other places in the solar system besides Mars. While bases on the moon and amongst the asteroids won’t be as “inspirational” as one on Mars, they will have opportunities for businesses to make goods and services as well as profits, meaning less chance of them being outright cancelled. This will make life better on Earth and secure a firm foothold in space for humanity. The essays in The Moon Before Mars: Why returning to the moon makes more sense than rushing off to Mars allow me to describe my ideas on what can be accomplished on the moon and with the asteroids, and why Mars isn’t the destiny of humanity its cheerleaders make it out to be.


Partway to a new colony world, board member Geoffrey Ames is woken from hibernation by the caretaking crew of the Lucian. They require him to look into the matter of their fellow crewman Morgan Heller. Morgan’s claims – such as being over 1500 years old – would normally land him in the psychiatric ward, except he can back up some of his other claims.


Brain for Rent and other stories is a collection of five of my short scifi stories to give a sampling of my writing. The collection includes: “Brain for Rent” about a ne’re-do-well failed writer with a conceptual implant who discusses his work with a young woman thinking of getting an implant herself. “The Demonstration” is about a different young woman wanting to show off her latest body modification. “Self Imprisonment” offers one solution of safe keeping the backup copy of yourself. “The Best Job Ever” is about a necessary – yet unpleasant – human/alien interaction. And the collection ends with “Why Stay?” which explains why, after years of fighting the humans, the robots just deactivate.


Like most people, Jason Fisher wanted to make the world a better place, but he doubted he would ever have the chance to make much of a mark. Then a “woman” came to him, asking his help to save humanity by threatening it.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Short story – “In the Victor’s Footsteps”

In the Victor’s Footsteps

Nallog the Third strode into the cavernous entrance of Saerons Hall.  The walls and ceiling were covered in too many paintings to count, but Nallog did not look at them. 

His armor – which had gleamed in the morning sun – was now dulled with the blood of countless men.  In his right hand he held Rienol, the sword his father had taken thirty years earlier from the dead hand of Raite the Sixth, the former ruler of the Southern Continent.  It had served father and son well for many years, but today the tip had broken off around noon.  He continued to use it because the battle was so fierce that he could not send for another.  He would not use the inferior swords used by the Tirseari, neither would he take a sword from one of his men.

In his left hand he held a severed head still dripping blood.  He raised it by the hair until he was looking into the dead eyes.  “Come Tember, take me on a tour of your palace.” Laughing at his joke, Nallog walked into the hall, leaving bloody footprints in his wake.

An hour later he sat on a balcony overlooking the Great Ocean with his feet propped up on the railing.  In the distance he could see his navy celebrating.  “Did you come here often?” he asked Tember’s head, resting on a small stool beside him.  “Probably not lately, didn’t want to be depressed at the sight of my navy.” Chuckling, Nallog pulled a bottle of wine from a case he had found in a cellar and drank half of it in a toast to his ships at sea.  The first three bottles from the case he had poured over himself in an attempt to wash off some of the blood.  It had only partially succeeded.

Nallog held the bottle to Tember’s lips, “Care for a drink?”

“Enjoying your company?”

Nallog dropped the bottle, which did not shatter but rolled away leaving a trail of wine, and glared at his son.  “I wished not to be disturbed.”

The Prince smiled.  “I dislike your presence as much as you dislike mine, but your soldiers are running rampant.”

“My soldiers have fought for decades, so you can read all your books and never have to lift a sword.” Realizing he should have been holding a sword as he said that, Nallog picked his off the floor and pointed the broken tip at his son.

The Prince slowly advanced.  “What books will be left if your soldiers burn them all?”

Dropping his sword and grabbing another bottle, Nallog answered, “You can always write more.”

“But we need the books that exist now in order to continue.”

“Continue?” Nallog stood and shouted, “My grandfather, father, and I have conquered the world!  What else is there to continue to?”

In reply, the Prince raised his eyes to the stars just beginning to show in the twilight.

***

This story began with the image of a guy walking through a castle with a severed head.  I wrote it out figuring it could be the intro to something else.  I ended up thinking of that something else, but it turned into this huge project of twenty some novels, which I’ll never get around to writing.  But I did have a short little story I posted on a site that’s more or less defunct.  So I decided to repost it here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Random Writing Tips – Love is weird

 

I’m in the process of revising a story about a guy whose fiancĂ©e dies.  The story covers from when he learns of her death to the funeral.  The writing group I’m in critiqued the first draft, and one of them commented that they wanted to know more about the relationship.  And I had realized that was something I had glossed over.  I think I just had one scene of him remembering how they met.  So I started looking at spots where I could add in additional details, and I realized that writing about love is weird. 

Part of it is that “love” seems to have been so overused that it’s losing its meaning.  Just saying you love someone now is just Step One.  Step Two is having to expand on that by explaining how much you love them.  Sure I could have my main character give a long, impassioned speech about how his love for her would be as eternal as the stars, and while that might have been something a couple of centuries ago, now it feels more like a ninth grader copying something off Wikipedia for their report due the next day.  Besides, real love – at least as I imagine it – is composed of ten thousand little details that by themselves are insignificant, but as a whole is something wonderful.  For example, someone could be having a bad day and a friend/coworker/stranger tells a bad joke that makes them laugh and five years later they’re married.  If you’re writing a story about this, you can’t just have, “I laughed at their bad joke five years ago, and now we’re married.” The reader would realize that a great deal was missing.  But on the other hand, just listing these ten thousand minor details that build up to love would be unimaginably boring. 

If this was an action movie love story, then having one character saying, “Our love grew after they saved me from time traveling ninjas,” would make sense.  But I wanted my story to be more grounded.  In the end, I’m just having him remember a half-dozen or so of these minor details and hoping the reader will understand that’s just the tip of the iceberg as to the reasons he loved her. 

***

Image from Pixabay.


Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Critiquing everything

I seem to have a knack at finding plot holes and inconsistencies.  That can be good if I’m reading someone’s story and I point them out so they can fix it before submitting it somewhere.  But it kind of sucks when I’m reading a bestseller or watching a blockbuster. 

There is this one book series that I love and have read at least five times.  It wasn’t until the second or third time that I noticed the huge continuity error in the last book.  Basically, Character A is talking to Character B who is over a hundred miles away.  Then there are a couple of chapters with Characters C and D, and when we get back to A – from story events it’s not even five minutes from when we last saw him – he goes outside and finds B standing there.  I know writing a series is complicated, but the last few times I’ve read it, whenever I get to that part, I’m grinding my teeth wondering why didn’t anyone catch this before it was published?

Or, there was this really big movie a few years ago that I’ve seen five or six times.  And there’s a part where the good guys – with long range weaponry – have to fight these creatures.  Logically, they should shoot them at a distance, but it’s more cinematic to have the good guys charge these creatures and … punch them.  The first time I watched it, I went with it because I was hyped on the story.  But every time since then, I want to armchair general and point out how they could have been more realistic in how they fought these monsters.

Now you can argue where the line is between critiquing and nitpicking, but I think it would be nice if I could turn off whichever I’m doing.  Of course, I have a lot of story ideas that began with me noticing an issue in a book or movie and wanting to do a “better” job.  I guess it’s sort of a damned if I do, damned if I don’t situation.