Quid Novi? | Gods of Terra Primer: Introduction

Vanakkam. After recently rebooting the setting, I’m beginning a new series of primers on my Gods of Terra SF universe, mostly but not entirely focused on a small region of space known as the Local Galaxy.  

The universe is vast, both wondrous and dangerous, and filled with alien beings and forces ranging from benign to dangerously indifferent to the human condition. Here, great interstellar empires vie for power and the wavetouched, Children of the Shard, struggle for survival and acceptance, while forces beyond human sanity gnaw at reality in the dark between the stars. Here there are worlds with cities made of scents, people with the powers of demigods, and ancient, monstrous beings with hearts of gold. Yet here, even those with mundane limits, skills, and talents can make their mark and change the universe forever. Here, even gods can die.  

In this series as a whole, I’ll offer a detailed picture of what GoT is all about, and in future, posts detailing the basic precepts on which everything runs, aliens and space-gods, creatures, superhuman abilities, exotic locations, and others. 

A list of topics includes: 

  • Setting precepts; what assumptions, laws, and logics operate, and what do they entail?
  • Supernormal abilities and powers, and the limits therein.
  • Aliens and other species, such as wavetouched, the Kai’Siri, the Rj’lt’ar, and their effect on everyone else.
  • Empires, worlds, and the cultures that dwell within and on them.
  • History and momentous events, including the Galactic Ripple, the Great Fear, and the Shutter, and these as influences on the setting.
  • Iconic characters and monstrous beings, including the Nine Who are One, the four Gods of Terra, their foes, and those who followed after them in the wake of the Shutter.

This post is a reminder for me to blog more often, and I’m asking you all for a favor: to hold my Troythuluness to his frickin’ word, to labor in the word mines more than I have! That, I think, will be a good thing.

Tf. Tk. Tts. 

Mr. Eccles Presents | OCC the Skeptical Caveman: A Lie by Any Other Name

Visit the Skeptics Guide to the Universe website and podcast:http://www.theskepticsguide.orgOn Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/theskepticsg…On Twitter:https://twitter.com/skepticsguideWatch Ep0 here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g1X1F…Watch Ep1 here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUca2…Watch Ep2 here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?

MetaCognitions | Fictional Plot Devices

I’ve noticed something worth avoiding in writing anything approaching good speculative fiction: never explain too much, be economic with any explanation you do, and only explain, by showing, not telling, what actually needs explaining.

I notice a failure to do that in some of my earlier fiction of even a few months ago, much less from years back, not consistently, but often enough to cause concern. Mostly it happens with a piece that I spend only a couple of hours on, in total writing, editing, and proofreading time; almost always a hastily written piece or two when a deadline looms. That’s bad form when it occurs.

But what sort of things ought not to be explained?

For example, there are the Heisenberg compensators of Star Trek used by transporter technology, that offer a nod to the quantum mechanical problems of teleportation without being explained as to how they work, which is good use of rubber science technobabble that adds to, not subtracts from, the feel of the story.

It’s good to acknowledge real science even when not strictly conforming to it. It’s one of the hallmarks of any good SF franchise.

Another would be the Holzmann effect of Frank Herbert’s Dune series, using variations of that phenomenon’s name in different books of the series. It’s cleverly never explained in any detail, but serves the background and feel of realism of the setting very well. Again, a nod to science without spoiling the fun with an explanation which would likely backfire as seeming contrived and even less consistent with real-world science. As a plot device permitting rapid space travel and personal force-screens, enabling the plot by fostering willing suspension of disbelief, it works well for that reason.

From my own writing, like my Gods of Terra setting, both old timeline and the current reboot, there’s the Kurtz-Dunar effect, named for scientists Raoul Kurtz of Terra and Ranan Dunar of Sirug, permitting cheap, safe, and efficient surface-to-orbit and interstellar travel, and personal teleportation via short-range warps in space-time, among other things.

It’s annoying when I see something over-explained elsewhere and annoying when I do it myself as well, especially the latter.

After all, if I really knew how the Kurtz-Dunar effect, or ancient relic technology like hypershards, actually worked, I wouldn’t be using them as plot devices in my fiction, but instead building and testing working prototypes under contract from DARPA! and I am quite obviously not doing that . . .

So, the more shone, not told, and the more economic that is, only what furthers the story, the better.

That’ll do for me, one story at a time, no matter what region of space-time, and which space-time continuum, is involved.

Gods of Terra | Aliens in Fiction: How Not to Design Them

As a science fiction fan who’s written fiction of my own, and this blog and elsewhere, I like to design my own aliens. Recently I got a comment on an older post of mine, and since I don’t normally respond to comments on posts more than two weeks old, I thought I’d instead respond here.

Here’s the comment:

I searched this topic to try to find a site that would tell me not what to do as I write my first alien contact book.
I have never been on this site before, and don’t know if replying is possible, but if so, can you reply and tell me what not to do? Or someone, anyone. I’m trying to create an interesting diverse alien culture for my already created human hybrid race to interact with positively, but with some difficulties. My main character is a language communication expert.

So, what not to do when designing aliens (plausible, however fictional)? Here are some quick tips:

  • Don’t succumb to humans-in-funny-suits syndrome: Aliens in looks should be aliens in mentality. At the very least, especially with obvious nonhumans, give them some sort of outstanding but plausible psychological or cultural distinctions from other species that will not only set them apart, but make them memorable to the readers of whatever fiction you’re writing. Remember: aliens will have evolved in a different set of selective pressures than humans, and this will be true of variant humans as well. This fact will shape their minds and societies as it shapes their bodies. Build them accordingly, but try to avoid stereotyping them (My, I wonder whose first mate and engineer that Wookie is?). This hold even if the aliens have a hive-mind, as there will probably be a functional division of labor in the species.
  • Unless for historical or other good reasons, like prior contact with humans in the setting, avoid having the aliens automatically know human languages. I highly recommend inventing the alien’s own language, at least a few useful phrases at start. It’s not only a good exercise, but fun as well. I’m currently designing the language of my own alien humans, the Kai’Siri, and it’s a blast!
  • Don’t give them too much in the way of  weird powers. Not only is this bad from a role-playing perspective, as it unbalances the species in play and relegates them to mostly non-player character status, and without limits it’s boring to readers. the alien tech should not be too rubber-sciencey and not over-explained — Remember: A good explanation is better than no explanation, but none at all is better than a contrived and implausible explanation. The Holtzman effect in Dune is a good example of a rubber-science plot device that was not over-explained nor implausibly so.
  • Aside from weird powers, avoid an otherwise implausible biology for your species, unless you are writing Weird Tale fiction where impossible Things That Must Not Be Named™ have good reason to exist in the story (It’s horror, after all.). Even in Lovecraft’s own fiction, like At The Mountains of Madness, the Old Ones were given reasonably plausible (using the known science of the time) traits and were relatively well thought out. They did, after all, make it into Barlowe’s Guide to Extraterrestrials! [an update] Also bear in mind that most alien species will not be able to breed with humans unless human variants themselves, and even that will be iffy with extreme deviations from the norm.

Conclusion: These are a few key things to bear in mind in creating aliens, and their use ought to take some of the headache out of the process. I hope this answers your questions, and if not, I can always write follow-up posts on this, one of my favorite topics.

Vampires, Lovers and Other Strangers (by Andrew Scott Hall)

I’ve known Andrew online for several years now, and find his blog, Laughing in Purgatory quite entertaining for both it’s humorous and its more serious content.
This book, his first release, is almost all about the Undead, the Leeches, the Nosferatu, in different settings and genre styles — almost all about — save the final story.
It’s good, with a varied mix of styles; Death Zone, a historical fantasy in iron-age Germany; Mr Z, a film-noir style tale of revenge; a story of failed romance between the Accursed in The Breakup and it’s surprising outcome.
There’s the urban fantasy tales Vampire Woes, and Knight Master. There too is Last Love, of a date gone horribly, horribly wrong.
My favorite of these is the last story, The Discipline of Forever, which stands out to me as a radical shift in gears, a story worthy of the original Lovecraft Circle in subject and tone as a twist on the theme of a mother’s love for her son.
Near the last part, there’s a preview of material for Andrew’s upcoming book, Redneck Vampires versus College Students, and afterward, a good selection of vampire related media links to click on.
This book is fun, and made a wonderful read in the wee hours of a fine dark morning. I give it five stars, and five tentacles up too. Ia! Ia!

Mongo Fiction | The Journal of Sergei Romanova (0)

I’m hunting Guggies, alone, because that’s how I operate. I am Sergei Romanova.

I’m a shinobi, better known, but incorrectly, as a ninja, destroyer and last survivor of my adoptive clan. At least, I think I am. I’m not certain of anything but my skill. My memory of my past is foggy, my origins a mystery. Part of me hopes they remain so, as my only recent memories are those of protecting my charge Marie, and travelling with the band of monster hunters I’m now part of.

But my skill, the empirical evidence of the trail of bodies I leave after a fight, bodies once belonging to those stupid enough to cause trouble for our band, and Marie, speaks more of skill than any amount of boasting will ever do.

The Guggies, horrid, filthy, cannibal giants, once attacked my fellow hunters and I. We made short work of them, unsurprisingly, despite their toughness.

Toughness is good. Even when it’s not mine. Things that are hard to kill make slaying them more challenging.

I’m looking for the hold the giants we killed came from. Surely there must be more of them, in this part of Dream. I’ll solve that problem once I locate and eliminate them. I come upon something else in my search, a group of scavengers feasting on their kill. Did I say scavengers? Yes. But these have no problems with making living creatures into dead ones, and they prefer their meat ripe after pickling it a bit in brackish water for months. I hate these things. The first monsters I remember killing upon meeting Marie.

Marie. The young girl I’m bound to protect at all costs. She looks oddly familiar, though I can’t place why. I resist the impulse to stop and destroy the scavengers, and press on, to save my strength for the Guggies.

I can feel the bond with Marie, and our sorceress Angel, in the back of my mind. I note it briefly and move on. I’ll reestablish full contact once my mission is accomplished. Both of them are out of danger right now, and even if not, neither could ever rightly be called helpless, not even by my standards. Angel is the older and more powerful of the two, and one of the few I know worthy of my respect, but Marie? Something about her, despite her youth, frightens me more than Angel does, even in the latter’s avatar of Kali transformation.

But fear is the drug of the weak, and I press further in my search.

I’m at a system of caverns now, with the tell-tale signs of Guggie occupation. Bones, whole skeletons stripped of flesh with bite marks on them, some of them Guggies eaten by their fellows. I wonder how the species given to such tendencies could continue to survive, then I note the malformity and lameness the skeletons show, along with rotting animal carrion, and more skeletons, freshly picked, and human. Those must have been victims of the town where we destroyed the giants, and their shaman. I look at a passage, recently excavated by giant paws.


I have found them. I reach to the twin blade sheathes on my back and draw forth my swords, blackened with special paint to prevent the glint of metal from catching the attention of my quarry before I strike, and procede along the trail of refuse…

Somebody shall die this night, and it very likely won’t be me. I hope they put up a fight before catching a blade to the throat.