The Veil War

"and then I was like, 'Holy crap, goblins!'"

Month: January, 2012

The Really Big Idea: Sean Poindexter

Sean Poindexter is still ahead of me on the Shorty nominations. But that’s okay, it’s how we were introduced and how he came to be this week’s Really Big Idea author. Sean’s big idea gave me a big garish flashback, causing me to remember in all-too-vivid detail a particular page in the old second edition Deities and Demigods book from Dungeons and Dragons.

To believe as our ancestors did, that there is a reality behind myth, is now beneath contempt. But in important ways, these things were more real to them than the everyday world around them. People need things to believe in. If you doubt this, ask your nearest progressive about global warming, or your nearest white supremacist about the global Jewish conspiracy. Another key fact about people is that they’re lazy. People rarely invent, typically they embellish. (There was a warming trend – it just didn’t end with boiling seas. There are rich Jewish bankers.) The idea that there is something behind myth is therefore a powerful one, and dragons one of the strongest myths.

To the Shadow of Tiamat 

The title of the first book in the Dragon’s Blood Chronicles refers to a being by the name of Tiamat. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because I didn’t make it up. Tiamat is an ancient name, older than any god or deity worshiped on Earth by humans today. The name has a very specific and significant meaning in my books.

If you’ve read the book you’ll notice that the dragons use the term “To the Shadow of Tiamat!” as a benediction. Several dragons also use the term “Praise Tiamat!” or reference her in some reverent manner. This would usually lead people to conclude that the dragons worship Tiamat as a god.

In fact, they do not.

In ancient Babylon, Tiamat was an important part of their creation myths and the mother of all monsters. Tiamat has been used in other forms of media as well. One of my favorite bands is called Tiamat: I’ve been listening to them since I was very young, and that is part of what sparked my interest in the name. Tiamat is also an important part of the Dungeons and Dragons role playing game, and even made an appearance on the old Dungeons and Dragons cartoon show. In this incarnation, she is depicted as a multi-headed dragon. She is also evil. My Tiamat is not evil, nor does she have more than one head. She is also depicted as being able to turn into a beautiful woman, particularly in the Forgotten Realms DnD setting (in Dragonlance, she is referred to as Takhesis). Since dragons in my world can assume human form, presumably so can Tiamat. Ancient Babylonians did not specify that she was a dragon, but they believed in dragons and that she was their mother:

When the skies above were not yet named

Nor earth below pronounced by name,

Apsu, the first one, their begetter,

And maker Tiamat, who bore them all,

Had mixed their waters together,

But had not formed pastures, nor discovered reed-beds;

When yet no gods were manifest,

Nor names pronounced, nor destinies decreed,

Then gods were born within them. (Dalley 233)

Apsu is not mentioned in the first book, but he was a dragon as well. He and Tiamat spawned the race. Where they came from is something you’ll just have to wait to find out. The mystery of how dragons (and, for that matter, all otherworldly beings) came to be is answered over the course of several books. I can’t just give everything away at the beginning.

In my books, Tiamat was a dragon, though a different kind of one. Her children were the dragons of Earth. They revere her as the mother of their race, and believe she will be waiting for them in the afterlife (the aforementioned “Shadow” is a reference to this) but do not worship her as a god.

If you looked closely at the names of some of the dragons in my books, you’ll see some other familiar names as well. Many of the older dragons were worshiped as Gods or other great powers by primitive beings. When humanity was in its cultural infancy, dragons and humans co-existed—relatively. They didn’t exactly live in the same neighborhoods, but primitive humans were aware of them, though they weren’t always aware that they were dragons. Often they were viewed as gods or demons. Since dragons don’t generally like being around humans—even though they can imitate them perfectly—some liked taking advantage of the reverence primitive humans payed them. Dragons enjoy works of beauty, hence their need to collect wealth. Having a cult of humans around to produce art for them, and to satisfy some of their other needs, was an enjoyable pastime for dragons. Eventually, a ruling body of dragons put a stop to this and forbade other dragons from doing this any longer. From that point on, if dragons were to ever interact with humans, they must do so in the guise of a human. Likewise, they were forbidden from interfering in human politics or culture.

Unfortunately, the “damage” was already done, hosts of pantheons and belief systems revolving around different dragons infested human spirituality. Some of the dragons even managed to pass their spiritual beliefs on to humans. As time passed and tales changed, Tiamat became a creator goddess to the ancient Sumerians. If you looked closely at the names of some of the dragons in my books, you’ll see some other familiar names as well. Many of the older dragons were worshiped as Gods or other great powers by primitive beings. Whether the humans based their gods on dragons with those names, or the dragons took their names from the mythology of humans they lived near, is up for the reader to learn…

Buy Book: amazon – kindle paper | barnes & noble – nook paper | indiebound

Visit the author’s website | blog | follow him on twitter | facebook | goodreads | read an excerpt

Publishing etc.

A few more publishing links:

 

What’s another word for Bigfoot?

Given Captain Lewis’ speculations on goblins, perhaps you’ll find this interesting:

Bigfoot. Sasquatch. Yeti. The Abominable Snowman. Whatever you want to call it, such a giant, mythical ape is not real-at least, not anymore. But more than a million years ago, an ape as big as a polar bear lived in South Asia, until going extinct 300,000 years ago.

Scientists first learned of Gigantopithecus in 1935, when Ralph von Koenigswald, a German paleoanthropologist, walked into a pharmacy in Hong Kong and found an unusually large primate molar for sale. Since then, researchers have collected hundreds of Gigantopithecus teeth and several jaws in China, Vietnam and India. Based on these fossils, it appearsGigantopithecus was closely related to modern orangutans and Sivapithecus, an ape that lived in Asia about 12 to 8 million years ago. With only dentition to go on, it’s hard to piece together what this animal was like. But based on comparisons with gorillas and other modern apes, researchers estimate Gigantopithecus stood more than 10 feet tall and weighed 1,200 pounds (at most, gorillas only weigh 400 pounds). Given their size, they probably lived on the ground,walking on their fists like modern orangutans.

From io9.

From evidence collected from the teeth, it appears that the bigfeet were probably plant eaters. But throughout the world, plant eaters are some of the most dangerous animals going. Hippos kill more people than lions, fer instance.

What other names do we have for very large humanoid creatures?

And Chapter Ten…

…is available for reading here.

One completely minor and irrelevant bonus of the rewrite – the Goblin prisoner thing takes up exactly one chapter. It is now latish, and I think chapter eleven will happen tomorrow.

New Chapter Nine

Okay, here’s the first of today’s reposts. I have wrestled with the suck, and I think I’m getting the upper hand. This is still raw in places, but nevertheless is going in the direction I want.

You can read the new version here. If you look at the “start reading” page you will see that I’ve moved the original versions of chapters nine, ten and eleven over to the right to make room for the new ones. Chapter ten should be up shortly, and eleven hopefully before I go to bed.

The new versions are, I think, better paced and more to the point. I hope you agree.

Embrace the Suck

Breaking news! Must credit Veil War! Veil War Thursday will be a Friday this week!

There will be a slight delay in the posting of Chapter 12. I am rewriting the last half of chapter nine, and most of chapters 10 – 14. This is because I detected (with a push from Ian Healy) that there was suck in there. I am excorzising the suck. There are dead chickens, crucifixes, and bloody entrails just everywhere… Getting rid of suck is a painful process.

What you’ll see sometime Friday are new versions of chapters 9, 10 and 11 to get us back current. If all goes well, also a new chapter 12.

In the meantime, you can read some awesome suck here. Suck.com remains one of my all time favorite websites. I was deeply saddened when they stopped posting. But happily, suck has not disappeared into the deep abyss of the internet, and you can troll through their archives for days.

The Really Big Idea: John Lumpkin

Today for the really big idea we veer back to space. As John Lumpkin describes the thought process behind his debut novel, Through Struggle, The Stars, he raises an important point about constraints. The obvious thing about having a structure is that it means you don’t have to reinvent the wheel at every point. You just don’t have to worry about certain things. But the more important effect of constraints is on the mind: they make you try harder. Look at the difference between Star Wars and Phantom Menace and tell me I’m wrong. Real constraints can force creativity whether you’re dealing with shortages of money or the lack of an FTL drive.

And as a side note, the website that John mentions is fantastic and well worth a couple weeks of your time.

A Big Rock

To tell the stories I wanted to tell, I needed a big rock.

Not too big – not the sort of rock that puts the roaches in charge or leaves people fighting over the last bit of go-juice using crossbows and football pads. But big enough to scare some of humanity into heeding the Dean’s warning that “Earth is just too small and fragile a basket for mankind to keep all its eggs in.”

So the asteroid strike that drowned South Africa was one bit of assumed future history among many that got us to the setting of Through Struggle, the Stars, a future in which the Earth’s nations are colonizing human-friendly worlds around nearby stars. It’s a future in which we haven’t achieved utopia nor slid into dystopia, but remained on the knife’s edge between them.

The assumptions necessary to engineer this setting – about events, ideas, technology, exobiology, you name it – all have second- and third-order implications that I had to consider. I found them to be maddeningly limiting at times. I couldn’t put habitable planets wherever I wanted; I needed to map out the nearby F, G and K stars where they were most likely to develop. Adhering to the laws of physics made it impossible to write the convenient scene in which two key characters 20 light-years apart are quickly brought together, or to employ sexy but silly things like manned space fighters, inertial dampeners or visible laser beams. (Getting the science right was much easier with the help of Winchell Chung’s incomparable web site, Atomic Rockets. Winch also served as the cover artist.)

But these constraints were also liberating. They kept the story grounded, and they required the characters to confront problems, not rely on some form of magic to get around them. They also implied strategies that nations would employ to advance their interests.

Fortunately, that includes building space navies.

Through Struggle, the Stars follows a junior American Space Force officer, Neil Mercer, as he shepherds a senior spy on a covert mission that throws them in the middle of a nascent war between Japan and China, Earth’s top two powers by most measures. Japan got there by being the first to really make it to space, in a major and permanent way, and China got there by being the economic powerhouse that it is. By 2139, the United States and Europe have declined, in a relative sense, settling into a reasonably comfortable tie for third.

But no one can figure out why the war is happening, or why the United States may be taking sides. What follows includes space battles, wormhole blockades and Marines dropping from orbit into enemy-held territory. It’s a story of how well-meaning leaders, believing they are acting in the interest of their nations, still manage to start wars, and it’s an examination of how wars are fought. Neil’s journey to new worlds forces him to confront what it means to be a good soldier, and what it means to be a good citizen.

This is my debut novel. It is a complete story but also the first of a series in this setting. I started writing it just as I finished a stint as a national security reporter in Washington, D.C., a job that had me there on 9-11 and took me on brief visits to Afghanistan and Iraq. The story interrogates some of the ambiguity I felt reporting on our wars during that time. The protagonists are sometimes heroic and sometimes screw up. They have distinct ideologies, pursue their own interests and sometimes disagree with one another. The antagonists are smart and learn from their mistakes. No meaningful choice is without its costs.

 

Buy The Human Reach: amazon (kindle) | amazon (paper) | barnes & noble | smashwords

Visit the author’s website | follow him on twitter | facebook | Read a sample

Goblins in Space!

Okay, not really. But in the interest of providing quality content and getting you ready for tomorrow’s really big idea post, here’s a link to an interesting and long discussion on war in space over at perfidy.

Orion Drive

The exception to much of the mass considerations discussed above is the nuclear pulse, or Orion drive.  This concept involves building a very large ship with a heavy base plate attached to the back of the ship by some very serious shock absorbers.  Then, you light off a small nuke behind the ship.  Repeat as necessary.  This is an over-the-top propulsion scheme.  With this, you could accelerate very large masses very quickly.  Ships using an Orion drive would simply have to be big just to make the acceleration survivable.  Since you need a big ship; adding armor, huge power plants, or anything else you want is not such a big deal.  An Orion powered warship would be a huge hulking brute.  It would not be subtle, and stealth would be a lost cause.

No other type of spaceship (based on current technology) could match the Orion for speed and payload.  It will be in a class by itself until and unless someone invents fusion or antimatter drives.  Meanwhile, the inherent limitations of the other propulsion types will limit the kinds of warships that can be built around them.  (As will the existence of Orion powered warships.)

Chapter Eleven

And so we come to Chapter Eleven. I’m running out of clever things to say about new chapters. I considered making a bankruptcy joke, but given the current economic situation that might be in bad taste.

I apologize to those readers who may have gotten accustomed to lots of explodey-choppy stuff for the relatively slow pace – trust me, it picks up again in a bit. Here’s your teaser:

Burhan translated for him, “I admit, your Highness, your pavilion is not so comfortable as my palace. But I am not so much older than when I traveled in the Ursene highlands, preaching the Word of God on little more than cold mountain water and stale marching bread. Your table is much more luxurious, and my companions now are not so likely to want to remove my head for a decoration on their fireplaces.”

can’t sleep, clowns will eat me…

Was talking to Russell Blake on Twitter about our mutual loathing for clowns. It occurred to me that I need to replace what was once my favorite tshirt ever. Now worn, faded and torn, this shirt was once my favorite article of clothing:

chalkline150.jpg

I got more comments in an average day wearing that shirt than ever I did with anything else over the whole time I owned it. Seems a lot of people hate on clowns. Which makes sense, seeing as how effing creepy they are. You can get your own shirt and an array of other anti-clown gear here.

And a heads up: Blake is giving away free kindle books. I can’t read, so there’s no point in me getting them. But you might enjoy them.

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