Category Archives: novel

AeroQuest 1…

Canto 2 – A Bit of Blue

The two spaceships finally locked together belly to belly in the middle of a barrel roll. Dalgoda’s fireball was tearing itself apart from inside. Flaming projectiles tore free on every side of it, sparking out in airless space. Meanwhile, Tron’s Pinwheel Corsairs were bathing the two spiraling space dancers with hot laser fire. Two of the six corsairs had a pretty decent lock on Trav’s ship and were peeling more chunks off the drive core.

“Ged!” hollered Ham, “can you get the Goofer out of his ship before it blows?”

“I can try,” said Ged, more to himself than to Ham.  His brother was busy trying to fly the ship in a carnival-ride maneuver.

Ged scrambled down the hatchway ladder to the ventral docking port.  The metal around the port doorway was already glowing red from heat.  With a moment of panicky concentration, his hands grew fire-lizard scales all over them, like gloves that appeared out of nowhere.  How did he do this thing?  Well, he had to admit to himself that as a safari leader, he’d skinned more than a few of the fire-resistant xeno-beasts in the past twenty years.  He knew the feel and look of the skin quite well.  He had even tasted fire-lizard flesh.  His protected hands could spin the locking wheel of the heated door and throw it open without singeing his fingers off.

“Goofy?  You there?”

“Atta-boy, Ged-boy!  You’re a hero.”

Ged expected to see the thin, eye-patched face next, but instead he found himself looking into the beautiful blue face of a Nebulon woman.

“Who are you?” Ged asked with open mouth.

The blue-skinned young lady with the yellow hair just shrugged and eyed Ged like she didn’t understand.

“She’s part of my treasure, Ged!” called a goofy voice from somewhere behind her.  “Pull her into your ship.  Not all Nebulon slave girls speak Galactic English, you know!”

Ged pulled her into the Leaping Shadowcat.

“Here’s more,” called Trav.

An elfin blue-skinned boy with bright yellow hair was held up next to be rescued.

“Another slave?”

“He’s the son of the Nebulon Princess.”

“Your son?”

“No way!  I’m greedy, not perverted!”

Ged couldn’t argue that.  He pulled the boy in too.

“Where’d you get the cool lizard gloves, Ged?” asked Trav as he clambered through the doorway and eyed the scales with his one uncovered eye.

“I kinda made them,” Ged answered sheepishly.

“Is our boy, Ham, ready to jump out of this mess?”

“I hope so.”

“Good.”  Trav hauled a huge anti-gravitic cargo-bag into the ship after him and slammed the portal door.  “Eeyow!” he cried as he burned holes through the fingers of his own gloves.  It was fortunate the Goof always wore those stupid white gloves.  They saved him from burning flesh off his fingers.

“Ham, you can let ‘er go!” hollered Ged into his commo dot.  The communicator was glued comfortably to his throat.

They heard a rumble as the Leaping Shadowcat released her grip on Trav Dalgoda’s nameless ball of flame and melting hull.  The rumble was followed shortly by a huge boom and jarring shockwave.

“Ged!  Get the Goofer up here.  We’ve got big problems with his corsair friends.”

Ged’s eyes widened.  “What happened that made that shock wave?”

“Goofy’s ship exploded and took out two of the trailing corsairs.”

“Jeez!” moaned Goofy, “I hope Maggie and Tron are all right.  They’re good friends of mine.”

“Do I read the situation right?” asked Ged.  “If they live, they are going to kill us?”

“Well, yes, but I still love Tron like a brother.” Ged nodded unhappily.  He wished he lived in the same alternate universe as Trav Dalgoda.

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Impending Publishment

By the end of this week I will republish my rewritten novel AeroQuest as part one of a trilogy, or possible quadrilogy, or even, maybe, a quintology.

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Notions About Novels

I am a novelist. In the same way that a pianist is a pianist because he plays music on the piano, I am a novelist because I have written 12 novels and published eleven of them. I am not a professional novelist. I have made $1.75 in royalty payments for August 2019. But not being a successful writer for money does not prevent me from being a novelist.

So, don’t be surprised when I say that I have strong opinions about what a novel is and what it should be.

Yes, I have already published more than just these.

First of all, a novelist must also be an avid reader. Not merely a reader of other novels by other novelists, but of anything and everything. Essays, plays, non-fiction books about a wide array of factual things, and pseudo-factual things, and conjecture, and conspiracy theories, and poetry, and science books, and Mark Twain, and Isaac Asimov, and Charles Dickens, and Ray Bradbury, and comic books, and graphic novels, and more, and more, and more… for as long as your brain shall work. A novelist should try to read everything, because to be a good novelist, you must know everything. Certainly you must know far more than what you actually write down into novel form.

A good novelist must be good at short fiction as well. Because a novel is more than just one story. It is made up of parts. I call them Cantos. Most writers call them Chapters.

But whatever you call them, or even if you don’t give them separate titles or sections in the novel, they are like short stories in themselves. They must have their own lead sentence, their own beginning, middle, and end. They must have their own end line, or punch line, or thesis statement. And they must have, by their end, a point to make about setting, plot, character, or theme.

A novel is layer cake of little stories, each layered upon other layers, and all baked together into the same over-arching cake.

And a novel, when it is published, is never really done. Sequels, prequels, and serialization are always possible and sometimes even necessary. Rewrites and new editions are also a thing. And even in the mind of the reader, the novel never really ceases to have an effect. I still carry around A Tale of Two Cities in my head everywhere I go, and through everything I do, even when I am writing my own novels. Sidney Carton is very much alive to me, even though he dies at the end of the novel.

So, there you have it. A bunch of burbling about novels from an unsuccessful novelist. For whatever it is worth, I am truly a novelist. And I do not apologize for being that sort of low-down, despicable sort of human being.

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AeroQuest 1… Canto 2

Adagio 1 – Googol Marou

Sometimes a good historical tale requires the right story-teller to really explain it correctly.  Sorry, you are stuck with me, Professor Googol Marou.  I am an astronomer and physicist, not the kind of story-teller I knew so well when the events I will try to relate to you actually happened.

I am not calling this bit “Chapter Two” like an ordinary writer with writing sense would.  No, I am following the unscientific metaphors that Ged Aero himself always used when telling a story.  He talked about the universe as if it were a symphony played by musical instruments that don’t make sounds.  Their musical notes are actually lights and energies, physics, if you will, or some such nonsense as that.  So, the first chapter was called a “Canto”, a section of poetry or lyrics, intended to be sung out loud.  This little pile of narrative nonsense is primarily exposition, a part that is probably good to know about, but it won’t kill you if you skip it.  It won’t kill the story either… hopefully.  I may also use “Nocturnes” in the course of this tale, classical movements of romance and sensual beauty.  And I am looking forward to the “Scherzos”, the short interludes of comic musicality and brief relief from the heavier fare.

My over-all plan for this tale is to tell you how a group of teachers were able to make history and change the Galtorr Imperium of a Thousand Worlds, turning it into the New Star League, even though the stars in it were billions of years old.

Now, you might wonder how it is that a group of teachers were able to conquer and realign the very stars, especially since they didn’t know they were teachers at the outset, but I swear it is true.  I’m not the liar Trav Dalgoda was.  And, even though I didn’t personally witness everything I intend to tell you, I did participate a bit.  And, I was able to learn even more through my special telescope.

Space in the era of this history was already partially colonized by human beings who originated on Earth. Four branches of Earthers had reached out to the stars and planets of the Orion Spur of the Sagittarius Spiral Arm of the Milky Way Galaxy.  The Texans had created the Coreward Union of Inhabited Worlds, also known as the Pan Galactican Union.  Those fools in their plasticized cowboy hats had a way of running roughshod over the galaxy until they met forces more determined and self reliant than they were.  I don’t apologize for Space Cowboys, there really is no excuse for them, but they were a necessary part of the cultural mix that preceded the New Star League.

The Japanese had reached out to the Trailing Area of the Spur and their colonies disappeared from known space. Many thought they had run afoul of a powerful alien menace.  In some ways, it was probably the truth.  Still, the inscrutable Space Samurai would come back to haunt us in a new incarnation.  It would prove to be the right thing at the right time.

The Southern European Union had branched out towards the Nebulas of the Leading Edge of the Orion Spur.  There they founded an exclusive humans-only Empire called the Classical Worlds.  They were so pig-headedly convinced of their own perfection and superiority, that they took to living everywhere as Space Nudists, shaping the environment to accommodate the human form rather than making any adaptations themselves.  These descendants of the French, Italians, and Greeks adopted Greco-Roman dress and culture, and I mean the Ancient form that had served the original Greeks and Romans back on Earth, the culture of social nudity and reverence for the naked human form.  They were very enlightened about philosophy and science, but as buck-naked people, they had absolutely no fashion sense.  They were also unusually prejudiced towards any intelligent being that wasn’t human.  They never seemed to figure out that most humans weren’t really intelligent beings.  Still, in the long run, we needed them too.  Good thing we didn’t have to look at them often… well, unless we really wanted to.

And finally, the Eastern European Space Initiative had made maximum use of their discovery of the humanoid lizard Galtorrians found in the Delta Pavonis Star System on a planet known as Galtorr Prime.  They established their Imperium in the center of the Orion Spur.  Something about the Germans and Russians just naturally dove-tailed with the lizard peoples of Galtorr.  The Galtorrian lizard-men and humans became the first genetically altered, melded race in known space.  They were able to take advantage of the many genetic similarities between humans and reptiloids for the purposes of making the two species into one, the Galtorrian Imperial Lizard Race.  They were like humans in every way, even mostly blond-haired and blue-eyed, but their snake-like eyes had vertically slitted pupils. They discovered they could thrive in Earth-like worlds and hostile Galtorr Prime-like worlds equally well.  They used their supposedly superior breeding to field vast space armies and navies of powerful starships and began conquering their neighbors.  This, of course, included the conquest and devastation of the Earth itself.

The Galtorr Imperium had been established almost 500 years before Ged and Ham Aero started the Great Outworld Expansion of 5526 C.E.  People would come to call the Imperium the “Thousand Planets” because of the 1,212 inhabited worlds in the 882 stellar systems it had conquered or colonized.  It was not the securely settled Orion Spur that I am sure you enjoy now.  It was necessary to keep an active scout service even in the heavily populated center of the Imperium.  Information traveled only as fast as the fastest starships, and one end of the Imperium rarely knew what was happening in the other end.  There had been a need for the Galtorrians to fight three Jihads and five Unification Wars.  Pirates and Privateers were everywhere.

No merchant traveled safely. New colonies often disappeared without a murmur.  Delivering goods meant risking life and limb.  Of course, some of my best friends were pirates at one time.  You shouldn’t really hold that against them.  But it is no wonder that an outworld expansion required someone of great courage and character to step out of the general darkness.

Now, I’m sure you are wondering, “Who are you, Professor Googol Marou, to be telling us about the distant past over so many light years of space?”  Well, that would be a good question.  I’ve been described as a “total nut-job” on many occasions. I know what I’m talking about, though, because I’ve studied history in action through the Marou Ancient Light Holo-Assembler Telescope (the MALHAT).  It takes the collected light from the stars and planets we see, and reassembles it in a holo-recording that shows what happened at the moment those light particles reflected off the event.  The true genius, of course, was in finding the quantum shape-memory in photon particles and building a re-assembler.  That means that to view the past as it was 500 years ago, all you have to do is look at it from 500 light years away and gather 500 year old light.  This I could do from the relative safety of a space platform or space ship.  I mostly preferred a scientifically-oriented lab ship, but also found Ham Aero’s quaint little hunting ship serviceable as well.  And, I invented this wonderful thing.

I won’t lecture you now on the fierce repressions of the Galtorr Imperium.  Most of that goes without saying, and if you’ve heard of them at all, you know it is true.

I know you are probably still marveling over the simple brilliance of the Marou Ancient Light Holo-Assembler Telescope!  I can’t blame you.  I’m still amazed that I invented it.  It makes me have to stop in the middle of my thesis just to marvel at myself.  Wow!  Aren’t I wonderful?

What I will tell you, though, is that the Aero brothers left known space because Ged was slowly transforming into a rare form of Psion known as a Shape-Changer.  Like the telepaths, pyros, savants, teleporters, and telekinetics who made up the usual run of Psions, shape-changers could make use of their entire brain system in a conscious way to control the universe around them by mind power alone.  That is not to say that they were any smarter, wiser, or more moral that the rest of us, just unusually gifted with special brain powers.

The Imperium hated Psions because they were so much harder to control.  They actively hunted, persecuted, and, often, even executed Psions.  I, myself, am not a Psion, but you will note in the course of this history, when I come into the picture to play a key role, that I have a real affinity for Psions and their way of life.  So, as the story continues, please don’t doubt the veracity and mental stability of my observations.  I’m a genius, after all.  My inventions prove it.

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Waiting for the Curtain to Fall…

Firefang

The Amazon rain forest is burning. It filters our atmosphere, removing carbon, and producing about 20 percent of our breathable air. The Latin Trump, newly elected leader of Brazil, wants it to burn to make arable land for growing soybeans to sell to China and profit over the Pumpkinhead President’s stupid trade war.

I already worry about having a heart attack at any moment. I can’t afford insulin for my diabetes, or another trip to the emergency room. The next concerning chest pain may well be the onset of the end of everything for me. If it is just another mystery pain caused by the inflamed joints in my rib cage, or the arthritic bones pressing on my spinal chord, I will not be able to pay for the inevitable surgery I discussed with doctors before. Better for my heart to go boom and the suffering to end.

But I believe in the Dylan Thomas solution. “Do not go gentle into that good night, rather, Rage! Rage! Against the dying of the light!”

So, how do I do that? How do I rage against the end of days? Whether for the entire planet facing heat death and a destroyed environment, or just for myself?

I will write the next home-town novel about the boy who cannot die. I am calling it A Boy Forever… at least for now. That’s a working title.

The Paffooney for today pictures Firefang, a girl who comes to the little town of Norwall, Iowa, against her will with her adoptive oriental father. She is not the protagonist. Young Icarus Jones is that. Rather, she is the antagonist, the fire-breathing troubled teen dissatisfied with life and longing for chaos and escape.

This will not be a teen romantic comedy. Well, not only that, anyway. It will be a book about an imprisoned dragon, the undying, and the undead. It will be about murder and the quest for immortality. I am working on the plot of it as an epistolary novel, made up of letters, interviews, and first-person accounts. And it will be both funny and sad, both an allegory and a farce, a parody and a prose poem.

Okay, I know it’s a tall order. But when faced with imminent death, you gotta do something, right? I intend to write another novel.

The picture is modeled after a girl from Brazil that I met over the internet, on Twitter. The character is not based on her. I barely know her. But I used her internet selfie to draw the picture portrait of Firefang.

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AeroQuest 1… Canto 1

Canto 1 – Escapade

When you look out the portal of a space craft, especially a large portal like the main view-port of the Leaping Shadowcat, you get a glimpse of the great orchestra of light and silence that has been playing its music in space since the dawn of time.  The diamond-bright stars glow with an electric melody in a great sea of black, littered with the silent notes of the Galactic Symphony written on the face of the universe, and being conducted by God himself.

Ged Aero stared at this silent music as he contemplated his brother’s plan.  Ham Aero had proposed the impossible.  How could it be the only solution?

“You can’t deny it any more, Ged.  The Galtorr Imperium is no place for a man like you.”

“…but the unknown, Hamfast?  How can you expect to get by beyond the edges of known space?”

“Others have done it in the past.  You know that civilization still has not absorbed even half the worlds that Martin Faulkner visited five hundred years ago.”

“Yes,” said Ged, pulling at the front brim of his dirty brown fedora as if to hide his eyes and the doubt that was in them, “but he was an explorer.  He knew how to live in space without any human contact for years on end.”

“What he can do, we can do.”  Ham pushed a fall of thick yellow hair out of his eyes.  It had been far too long since he had had a haircut, but only their mother had been allowed to do it, and she was now gone.  “We have to.  Prejudice against you has reached the point that it will be fatal.”

“Okay, I know that.  But I’m learning to control it.  I don’t have to change all the time.  I can stop it when I need to, and maybe even start it myself.  I don’t know why it happens, but I think I can make it work for me instead of against me.”

“Yes, well, mutations like yours are almost always fatal in the end.  You’ll slip at the wrong moment, and the Imperials will have your head on a platter.  What did they call your disease?”

“Lycanthropy.  Werewolf disease.”

“That’s my point exactly.  We both know it’s really something else, but the torches will come out to burn you the next time they see you change even a little bit.”

“Unknown space, Ham?  Does it have to be unknown space?”

“Yes, Ged.  Unknown space.  It’s my spaceship.  The decision is ultimately mine.”

It was a beautiful space ship.  It was a safari cruiser of the Xenomorph Class, a smooth airfoil shape with silver skin and a photon drive that could leap across parsecs of space in practically no time.  It could land on planets with atmosphere as easily as it could glide through the electric sparkle of space.  It had a good, sturdy ground ATV and accommodations for as many as twenty-five people.

“So how do you plan to navigate the unknown?”  Ged knew Ham was a capable starship captain, but they had no reliable navigator.  And the third member of their minimum crew of three, the engineer, was not even aboard.

“Goofy can do it.  He’s more gifted than you believe.”

“Don’t tell me your friend Trav Dalgoda is the engineer we’re waiting for!”

“Okay.  I won’t tell you.”

“Are you insane?  You’re going to jump out into unknown space with that Lunar Tick as our only means to fix the ship and set our course?”

“Yeah,” said Ham, grinning.  “It doesn’t sound too smart when you put it that way.  But he is an original thinker and a good problem-solver.”

“He’s also wanted on four planets and owes ten million Galtorrian credits to the biggest Vice Lord in the Thousand Planets.”

“Yeah.  It was easy to talk him into jumping out with us.”

“Oh, I’m so glad it was easy.”

The two brothers had started calling their boyhood friend, Travis R. Dalgoda, “Goofy” when, as an academy graduate, he started wearing an eye patch over his left eye even though he could see through it perfectly.  It didn’t hurt that he always wore that silly Donald Duck sailor’s hat that he got on his one and only leave on the Disney planet.  He also had a thing for ties with weird pictures or sayings on them.  Trav was one of a kind.

“I guess I understand your plan finally,” Ged said morosely to Ham.  “You’re going to bring an end to my suffering by committing suicide in deep unknown space.”

“Yeah,” said Ham staring out the view port at the silent music of the stars, “Something like that…”

At that moment, a blazing piece of space junk trailing sparking debris came fluttering toward them like a wounded sparrow.

“Oh, gawd!  Get to the co-pilot console, Ged!”

Whatever it was, it was maneuvering, using powered flight.  It was apparently seeking them out.

“Any bets that this burning space-ball is Goofy?” Ham asked as he strapped himself into the pilot chair.

As if in answer, Trav’s voice came over the ship-to-ship commo.  “Ham-boy!  You gotta help me.  I picked up a band of followers on my way out of system!”

“Yep.  That’s Goofy,” moaned Ged.

“I’m pickin’ up bad guys!” shouted Ham.  He flipped on the commo.  “Goof?  You got six of them on your tail?”

“Oh, is that all?  My sensors are out.  I figured it was more like fifty.  Pinwheel Corsairs, ain’t they?”

“Yes.  I make them to be Tron Blastarr and Maggie the Knife.  What’s your beef with them?”

“Oh, they’re friends of mine.  I helped them loot a cargo out of Mingo Downport.  They just didn’t like the ninety-ten split I left them with.”

“Typical,” muttered Ged.  “They got the ten, right?”

“Could I split it any less fair than that?” Trav answered. Ham launched the Leaping Shadowcat into an arching intercept course.  Ham had never done a high-speed docking maneuver before, that Ged knew of, but the young pilot was about to learn fast.

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What Next?

So, now that I have finished another novel that I have been working on for more than twenty years, I have decided to turn away from the hometown novels and take up some science fiction/humor again.

And I, of course, am not smart enough by any stretch of the imagination to avoid choosing my disastrous first novel from 2007, AeroQuest. This particular novel is spectacularly in need of a serious overhaul and re-write.

First of all, it has too large of a cast with new characters introduced in almost every Canto (what I inexplicably re-name chapters). Likewise they are interacting in too many different settings and planets and spaceships without enough individual explication of each. It screams out in agony to be divided into smaller chunks and both expanded and simplified.

The first book, Stars and Stones, will be centered on the planet Don’t Go Here. That, of course, is a bizarre world populated entirely by sentient beings who were marooned on the planet by pirates and space wolves. Even more bizarre, the populous has responded to a growing population with limited resources by adopting a caveman culture based on a lone cartoon holovid of The Flintstones.

The characters and the plot-lines will be pared down and simplified.

And, having done some work on AeroQuest 1 already, I also got a headstart on AeroQuest 2 by creating a cover for it.

My daughter, the Princess, created this space background for me.

So, you can clearly see that my daft plan is to re-write that simply awful book as a trilogy. A Sci-Fi trilogy? Wherever did I get a foolish idea like that?

Well, I always claimed that the original was half-inspired by Frank Herbert’s Dune trilogy, and half-inspired by Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. So, that should make for one seriously off-kilter mutant amalgamation of a book series.

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