Category Archives: novel

AeroQuest 3… Canto 90

Canto 90 – Little, Medium, and Big Are All the Same (the Blue Thread)

Unlike other impending revolutions, the upheaval of the planet Djinnistan was so far overdue that the inequity and inequality between races was laughable.

The gigantic Afrits were all treated as machinery rather thinking, feeling, sentient beings.  The Faulkner Genetics executives who ruled the star system felt that someone with artificially limited intelligence didn’t have to be treated as equal to anyone.  They continued to follow orders blindly because they were simply not smart enough to question them, although there was no doubt about whether there was suffering going on in the Afrit community.  No one bothered to suggest to them that they might vomit lava on their oppressors and be easily done with them.

The tiny Peris had an opposite sort of problem.  They were child-sized even as adults, and though they were highly intelligent, some of them more intelligent than their corporate masters, they were easily frightened and intimidated by the security beasts (basically genetically enhanced primates in Nazi uniforms who were excessively violent, limited in thinking ability, and fond of the taste of Peri children).

The security beasts themselves enjoyed conflict and violence.  They understood two-word sentences like, “Kill Peris,” “Eat children,” “Throw this,” “Scare Peris”, and “Hit that.”  A few were genius enough by comparison to understand, “Hit that hard!”  But they, themselves, were unjustly tormented by bosses that starved them on purpose to make them fiercer.  And they were not smart enough to realize they could do to their corporate masters the same things they did to Peris and Eaglemen because they were so physically more powerful.

The winged Djinn, also called Eaglemen, were of average intelligence.  They were mostly manipulated by the genetic coding that made them docile unless their masters needed them to be warlike, and then code words could instantly turn them into crack shock troops.

This was the situation Arkin Cloudstalker found himself in as he, Lazerstone, and Black Fly sat down to a meal with the leaders of Djinn Rebellion.

The meeting was held in a huge light-blue desert tent.  In the far corner sat a group of three Afrits, keeping their distance from everyone to avoid choking them with the natural Afrit corona of sulfur and black smoke.  A smoke-hole had been placed in the tent roof directly above where they sat.

The head table held a party of Eaglemen, ten male and five females.  There were exactly two Peris at the table, a male and a female, both of indeterminate age.

The head Eagleman stood and introduced himself.  “I am Alsama’ Alzirqa’.  I am the sultan of the enslaved ones.  I lured you here because agents of the White Duke have been urging me to rebel.”

A second Eagleman stood and spoke also.  “I am Mutasabiq Alsama’. I am the sultan’s adversary.  And I am disappointed that you did not arrive with an army.”

Arkin didn’t have much of an idea what was expected of him, especially in the matter of what to say next.  Both bird-men stood looking at him expectantly.

The male Peri then stood.

“Ahem!  I am Another Danged Boy 152.  And, yes, that really is my name.  I am brother to the famous Another Danged Boy 143, may he rest in peace.  What the sky-guys are trying to get across in their bird-brained way is that we know the White Duke wouldn’t have sent you, specifically, the three of you, unless he thought you could solve our problem.”

“Ahem, also!” said the female Peri.  “I am Pretty-in-Patches.  That is also really my name.  I am the sister of the famous Uggo Uglygirl.  And I am here to come up with a creative solution if you goony birds fail to figure it all out.”

“Um, yes, I see,” said Arkin.  “We are supposed to help you rebel against your corporate masters.  The trouble is, I really don’t know anything about you people or your world.”

ADaB (Another Danged Boy 152) then spent twenty minutes recounting all the information about Djinnistan that I have already explained earlier, so you don’t need to worry about his recitation of it.  Besides, PiP (Pretty in Patches) spent considerable time and effort in contradicting and correcting him, so I will try not to bore or confuse you more than I already have.

“So, if I understand everything rightly, you outnumber the bad guys by a thousand to one, but you simply can’t take the fight to them because you are scared of the security beasts.”

They all looked at Arkin with some surprise registering on their faces, partly because Arkin had understood ADaB perfectly, and partly because PiP didn’t believe she hadn’t worked hard enough to fudge up ADaB’s explanation.

“Okay…  But you still don’t seem to have an army to solve our problem with,” said ADaB.

“We do have an army,” said Lazerstone.

“We do?” asked Arkin.

“Plenty of harmonic crystal out there in the sand, yes.  But also, look at them.” His sweeping gesture took in all the Freaks present.  “They can take this planet by sheer force.  They just have to be willing to try.”

“We can trap Dr. Bludlust in his lab easily, if we just don’t have to worry about the security beasts,” said ADaB.

“Would the Afrits be willing to aid us in battle against the security beasts if Lazerstone and I took them on by ourselves?” Arkin asked.

“You are powerful enough to do that?” asked Alsama’ Alzirqa’.

“Are we powerful enough?” Arkin asked Lazerstone.

“Definitely.”

“Uggo Uglygirl?” Black Fly asked PiP.

“Daddy had just endured a twenty-five-year run of only daughters, and he was desperate for another son.” “Okay, then, let’s get this battle underway,” said Arkin.

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Aeroquest Art So Far

These are the pieces of art and illustrations that are going into the re-writing project of my novel Aeroquest.

I decided to totally rework the novel and illustrate it more fully because it was always supposed to be a science-fiction satire and parody that was more cartoonish than literary.

It is a story about a teacher conquering a space empire. It arose from a science-fiction role-playing game that filled my days in the 1980’s and early 90’s.

It parodies Star Wars, Star Trek, Flash Gordon, Buck Rodgers, Dune, and much more besides. And it includes many of my own wacky inventions about what the future might hold in store.

Here is the original teacher in space and some of his first class of students.

Many of the main characters are based on the actual role-playing characters made up by the boys and young men who played the game with me. Many had to be re-named, however, because, like Tron Blastarr above, they often had movie-character names.

This important character was a parody of Professor X of the X-men, from the comic books and well before the movies.

It was a simple matter to give him psionic powers and transfer him into outer space. Oh, and get him out of the wheel chair too.

The character’s creator was the son of the local high school science teacher.

Ninja powers were a thing with teenage boys in the 80’s.

Combat is an important part of the role-playing game.

We became well-versed on weapons and tactics… and how to manipulate the rolls of the dice… by cheating if necessary.

How else do heroes overcome impossible odds?

Two more player characters that play a critical role in the novels.

Again with the parody characters that came from player-character ideas stolen from TV and the movies.

Aliens are necessary to this kind of story.

I am near to completing this third novel in the series.

The Nebulon aliens, though very human-like, are blue of skin. That is not easy to depict in a black-and-white drawing.

The initial idea for the fourth novel’s cover.

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AeroQuest 3… Canto 89

Canto 89 – Back to Darker Skies (the Blood Red Thread)

            Ham finally had the Leaping Shadowcat reloaded and ready to return to space.  It was a pleasant thing to take part in celebrations for a new government, but the reality was that soon the rot warriors and death commandos of the Galtorr Imperium would be descending.  Admiral Tang would hear about Ferrari’s victory and wish to turn it into an ultimate defeat.

The Imperium could bring far more warships and troops to bear than a single planet like Farwind could possibly hope to possess.  The only real hope was to activate alliances with other planets. 

There was always Coventry.  The high-population world was Ferrari’s home planet, and likely to be even more easily swayed to Ferrari’s cause than Farwind had been.

            Ham’s crew was reassembled.  Duke Ferrari would return as astrogator and navigator because he knew the routes to Coventry better than the rest. 

The two Lupins, Sinbadh and Sahleck Kim, would continue to serve as stewards.  Sinbadh would be the cook and sometimes the copilot.  Sahleck was the cabin boy and did the cleaning. 

I was back aboard as the ship’s engineer and chief mechanic.  I could also lay claim to the job of Science Officer, though nobody really took a Star-Trekky job like that seriously in the modern universe.  Space travel had never truly been imagined right by the movies and TV.

 Besides, I was one of the few that really took Astrophysics and Xenobiology seriously.  Most spacers would much rather kill it than study it, regardless of what it was.  The Kritiian Bugbright was left in charge of the revolutionary government, and we took off on a new mission.

            The Leaping Shadowcat rose smoothly through the bright blue skies of Farwind.  It was basically a water world, only a few small islands showing on the surface of the ocean-covered blue planet.  I watched the planet become smaller below us as I looked out through the viewport on the bridge. 

I knew that Coventry would be far different.  It was a planet with practically no oceans.  Ninety per cent of the water there was underground, or contained in sealed water systems.  When you looked at a smoggy brown high-population world like that, all you really could see was a vast, seamless cityscape.  I didn’t relish the idea of going there.

            “Are we gonna have to make another commando raid against impossible odds when we get to your homeworld Duke?” Ham asked pleasantly.

            “I hope not,” Ferrari answered.  “You probably noticed that I am no good at such things at all.”

            “How do you plan to reconquer it?”

            “I don’t really know.  Maybe we can luck into something as we get there.  Like we did on Farwind.”

            “I think…” I said, offering vast wisdom on the matter, “I think we should seriously list those who are on our side in the area.”

            “Well,” said Ferrari, “I know we can’t count on Galtorrian or Fusion troopers to aid us this time.  Coventry has three different Imperial Training Academies on the planet, all of them fiercely loyal to Slythinus.  The local pirate or corsair forces are the Monopoly Brigade, and we’ve learned from Tron Blastarr that their leader is dead set against us.”

            “Well, that’s two definite no’s,” I commented wryly.

            “How about the White Duke?” offered Ham.

            “He’s powerful throughout the sector with gamblers, smugglers, and thieves, but do we really want them on our side?” 

            “Are there many Unhumans in the system?” asked Sinbadh innocently.

            “Mostly as part of the downtrodden under classes.  The Imperium treats sentient aliens almost as badly as the Classical Worlds do.”

            I had to shake my head on that one too.  Genetic freaks were also abused in the area as far as I knew.

            “Are there any allies for us there?” asked Ham, concerned.

            “Not really,” said Duke Ferrari.  “The people loved me when I ruled there, but I championed them and alienated all those who had power.  It was the beginning of my downfall.”

            “I thought the Imperium was not a republic or a democracy,” offered Sahleck.  He was a bright-faced boy for a Lupin.  I had always thought Lupins were thoughtless brutes before.

            “That’s true,” said Duke Ferrari, “but even a cruel tyranny like the Galtorr Imperium has to have the consent of the governed to rule.”

            “Maybe,” said Ham, “that is precisely what we need.  The people are behind you, Han, not the current rulers.  We just have to let them know what the Imperials tried to do with you.”

            “Well, I be hornswoggled!” said Sinbadh.  “Ye have found a solution Ham-boy!”

            The simpering Lupin lackwit had suddenly reversed my opinion of Lupins once again. The Shadowcat, now fully prepared, but not fully confident, embarked through jump space for the next fateful destination, the planet Coventry.  If only we had failed to tell Captain Dalgoda and the First Half Century where we were going!

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False Steps and Fortune

I finished another re-read of my most recent book, A Field Guide to Fauns. In spite of this being an experiment expected to fail, I read into it a growing sense of my ability to write well. The issues it deals with, mental health, body shame, self-image, and dysfunctional families, are all things critical to my own understanding of myself. All of these things have deeply affected my life and my family’s life. And, being set in a nudist park, it has a certain aura of comedy about it that you can really only achieve with characters who are naked (figurative or literal are both funny).

Ironically, two of my five best books have nudists in them. Six of my fifteen books over all have nudist adventures in them at one point or another. That’s four more more than have Nazis in them. Four more than have werewolves in them. Four more than have zebra puppets in them, as well as four more than have literal clowns in them. And two more than feature aliens from outer space. Five more than have rabbits who are changed into people by science.

If nudity is not funny, then I have seriously miscalculated the appeal and gone entirely down the wrong garden path of humorous story-telling. So, since I now believe The Field Guide to Fauns is one of the best novels I have done, I may have actually laid an egg. (Who knew that farm boys could one day grow up to lay an egg themselves?) For balance I need to plant a few more carrots of irony in that garden that the garden path of humorous writing leads to.

Mandy Clarke, Pinky Pithers, and Tandy Clarke

I am planning to make my newest novel this month’s free-book giveaway sometime next week. I have a few more corrections to make on it before I do, so stay tuned. I don’t like it when I find bugs in the writing on the fourth re-read. But I think I may have sprayed them all with anti-bug proofing spray (figuratively speaking again, because with Mickey, you never know.)

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Slow, But Still Progress

The new book cover, finished this morning

I have not yet finished AeroQuest 3 : Juggling Planets, but the groundwork is being laid already for part 4 in the AeroQuest Saga. The series is, after all, the rewrite of my out-of-print, 2007 novel, AeroQuest. So, the overall structure of the story already exists. I am merely expanding and revising that 350-page book into a better series of four or five books. In fact, there might have to be even more than that. I basically am too inventive for my own good, and there are just too many characters and plot threads for one book. And it may take six books to work it all out correctly.

This, then, is not so much a novel project as a hobby. Or maybe an artifact of an old hobby.

You see, AeroQuest was a story made from the notes I kept of my ongoing Traveller Role-playing game of the 80’s and early 90’s. Hamfast Aero, a main character, was a player character created by one of the first gang of players I had in the 80’s. In fact Ged Aero, Trav Dalgoda, Tron Blastarr, Xavier Tkriashav, Vince Neill (the player’s misspelling, not mine), Cold Death, King Killer, and Duke Han Ferrari were all player characters and strongly reflect the personalities and style of their original players. The plot is bizarre because of some of the creative problem-solving decisions made by the group of nerds who played the game. It had to be a comedy because we always had that over-the-top jokeability as a guiding principal of game play.

I am past page 100 in Book 3, and I have passed 27,000 words. It will end up being at least 135 pages and at least 35,000 words when it is finished. Book 4, if it ends the series, will have to be more than twice that. That’s why I am thinking five books instead of four.

The inspiration for the book was the foolish idea of combining Douglas Adams’ Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy wackiness with Frank Herbert’s Dune huge-book-with-many-short-chapters style. I guess the rewrite has given up on the Herbert format, if not the multitude of characters and subplots that went with it.

Anyway, I will have Book 3 published before I move on to the next writing project. The goal has never been to make money and be famous as a writer. But telling stories and writing them as novels has never been a choice. And, as painful as some of it is to give birth to, there is fulfillment to be had just from the simple act of writing.

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AeroQuest 3… Canto 88

Canto 88 – Monkey Men (the Green Thread)

Lemurians were shaped like human children except for the thumbs on each foot and the long prehensile tail.  Most sentient aliens and Unhumans treated them like mere animals mostly because they wore no clothing and spoke no discernable language. Of course, nakedness made them much more like the Classical Worlders rather than apes.  They were covered in soft tan and chocolate fur, but it covered up no more of their bodies than the oil that a naked athlete from the planet Mantua might wear. 

And lack of language didn’t necessarily make them any less of a person than the vast numbers of humans that fell under the general heading of “stupid people”.  Emperor Slythinus, though, the deposed Emperor of the Galtorr Imperium, had discovered a telepathic ability that he shared with the monkey people.  He called it the “shining” because it was more a matter of reading colored auras and electrical impulses around the monkey people than reading actual words from their minds.  It was a primitive brain-to-brain language that served as a sort of pre-telepathy.  It allowed him to translate for the Lemurian people.

Ookah, the Lemurian leader, now stood in front of King Killer, Dr. Hooey, and Slythinus naked as the day he was born and radiating green-colored lies.

“How could you not tell me about this?” raged Slythinus.  “You have been my most trusted friend.  Better than my top advisors on Galtorr.”

The monkey man shined an answer that was intended to be soothing and conciliatory, but ended up being a transparent form of lie.

The blind Emperor turned to King Killer and Dr. Hooey.  “They found the device when they first came through,” he said, interpreting.  “They found it from the other side because they did not originate here.  Ookah and his friends sought to keep the knowledge of it from me because they feared I would be hurt by the place’s guardian, some villain they “shine” at me as being a “white man”.”

“Interesting!” cooed Hooey.  “These little monkey people have developed a real fondness for you, a man mostly snake by nature.  Tell me, did you have your eyes when you first met them?”

“No, of course not!  Prince Ali blinded me before he marooned me here.”

“I wonder if they would’ve had an atavistic fear of those eyes if they had seen them.”

“What I want to know,” said King Killer, “…is where is the dang thing, and how do we use it?”

Slythinus took a moment to “shine” back at Ookah.  The little simian looked quite agitated as the answer came back.

“He says he will take us to the place.  He has no other way to tell us.”

Ookah turned and gestured to the monkey people who surrounded the tree house sitting in each and every one of the trees around it.  They began jumping up and down on branches and shouting raucously, sounding more like upset children than alien primates.  Eerily, it almost sounded like a series of swear words.

“They don’t like it,” interpreted Slythinus, “but they promise to take us there and help us defeat the white man.”

“Natives defeating the white man?” said King dubiously.  “That doesn’t sound like something that happens too often in History.”

Hooey laughed aloud.  “Now the skeptic thinks he knows History better than a Time Knight!  Wait and see.  And remember the Little Bighorn.”

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AeroQuest 3… Canto 87

Canto 87 – The New Star League (the Multi-colored Thread)

Ged was still a bit stunned when he made his way the next morning to the meeting in Shen Ming’s Hall.  But he knew it was going to be important as Shen Ming claimed to know nothing at all about it, which always turned out not to be true, and Tkriashav said it was about the direction the Prophecy would take next.

He entered the Masters’ Study to find Shen Ming sitting behind the desk, contemplating the desktop with his off-kilter stare.  Tkriashav stood behind him with his arms crossed, looking disgustedly at the two guests standing before them.  One was a clownish-looking fool in a scout uniform.  The other was a young boy wearing tights that bore the insignia of Tron Blastarr’s Outpost.

“So, Liz was right.  A scout ship has come to Gaijin.”

“You knew about the prophecy?” Tkriashav asked him.

“Not until she told me about it last night.”

“Did she tell you this little incident will require the founding of the New Star League?”

“No, she must’ve forgotten about that part.”

“We should kill her, Ged.  She’s a spy for the Imperium.  We don’t know who she’s meant to help in the working out of the prophecy.”

“But she’s the mother of my son.”

“Ah, gave you the egg, did she?” said Shen Ming with a grin that could kill a bear.

“Oh, for heaven’s sakes, Shen-sensei!” swore Tkriashav with a very mild swear.  “Why do you insist on never telling me about the things you read in the prophecy?”

“For one who can read minds, you really don’t understand much about thoughts and feelings, I fear.”

Tkriashav’s glare had shifted fully to the back of Shen Ming’s spotty old head.

“Ah, so you must be Ged Aero, the famous White Spider of Prophecy.” The clown in the scout uniform wiggled his thick, black eyebrows weirdly.

“Who’s asking?” Ged asked.

“I am Captain Spaulding, the African Explorer.”

“No, you’re not,” said the boy.  “You are going by the name of Bill the Postman.”

“Oh, right, right.  It’s hard to forget sometimes.  And easy to disremember.”

“Since when does the Imperium send messages and videos to Gaijin?” asked Tkriashav.  “Gaijin is an unknown planet to the Imperial Scout Service.”

“The ISS don’t pay me enough to come here.  Fortunately, the Star Nomads do.”

“Star Nomads?” Tkriashav asked.

“The Star Nomads?  What are they?” Ged echoed the Psion.

“I thought you knew everything, old Zaranian spooky-dude.  The boy can explain later.  He’s a gift to Ged Aero from Tron Blastarr and the Magnificent Wanderer.”

“A boy is a gift to me?”  Ged didn’t like the idea of people as property, let alone as gifts.

“Oh, not quite a boy.  Take your head off and show them, Tiki.”

To Ged’s horror, the child peeled all the flesh and hair off his head, revealing a silver face that looked like Artran if it weren’t bald and made of metal.

“You are a Metaloid?”

“Yes,” said Tiki.  “Your Metaloid from now on, Ged-sensei.”

“Even programmed with Gaijinese honorifics, he is.”  Shen Ming smiled at the child as he put his head back on.  “You will accept this boy, Ged, as a gift to the White Spider and an honor to own.”

Ged nodded consent, since he really had no other choice.

“Now we need to settle some details about the New Star League,” insisted Tkriashav.

“Like what, for instance?”

“Well, we have worlds to sign an alliance with to finally form the League.”

“What worlds?”

“Well, I was thinking of proposing Gaijin itself as the capitol world.  Then there is the world you still own at Don’t Go Here.”

“I don’t really own that world.  It’s a democracy now.”

“Yes, as is the world of Zarane which I have already secured in an alliance.”

“Three worlds against a thousand?”

“We also have treaties in our possession with the former Psion world of Phoebus IV.  Tron Blastarr has pledged the forces and star system of Outpost, as Razor Conn has the system of Dancer.  We may still take back the world of White Palm.  And we have word that Duke Ferrari now reigns over Farwind.”

“So, seven worlds… maybe eight.”

“Yes.”

“Against a thousand.”

“Well, minus Dancer, Farwind, and White Palm, so more like 997.”

“Ah, comforting that sounds,” remarked Shen Ming.

“You will go with this Bill the Postman today as he leaves here?” Ged asked.

“Yes, as I seem to have no choice by the Prophecy,” answered Tkriashav.  “Although it makes me worry to leave with this scout whose strange mind I cannot read.”

“Are you suggesting, sir, that I have no mind to read?” asked Bill who was really Scarpigo Snarcs but had first claimed to be Captain Spaulding.

“Certainly not.  But you are not human.  You are some sort of time-traveling being.”

“Ah, my mind is an open book, then,” said Bill Spaulding-Snarcs.  “You just have to live with the fact that all the pages in it are blank.”

“You see what I mean about him not being human?”

“Yes.  Where will you go?”

“What other choice is there?  I must go back to Don’t Go Here.  And when I go there, I must work out plans for the New Star League with Frieda.  Ancient Technology has a large part to play in the Prophecy going forward.”

“At least you don’t have to go to Don’t Go Here alone,” offered Shen Ming with an inscrutable grin.

“Who is going with me?”  Tkriashav seemed startled, an unusual state for one who reads minds so easily.

“Lizard Lady,” said Ged.  “The Prophecy told her to leave too, just as it told you.”

“That’s a good sign,” said Shen Ming.  “You are going to a planet called Don’t Go Here with a woman you would rather not go with in a space ship piloted by a man with a mind like a book with blank pages in it.  Poetic to say the least.”

“And the least said, the better,” said Scarpigo-Bill Spaulding.  “If you ask me, that is.”

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