Cake! And a free story!

Today is my birthday.

So all the cake (or in my chase hot pipping chocolate chip cookies) is mine.

But I will leave you with a small present. A free short story, “The Last Hero“, so you don’t miss me much.

See ya later, I will be out celebrating with my wife.

IMG_1277.JPG

(Image by the hilarious imagination and wit of Loading Artist)

Advertisements

Writing about bioethics in SPACE!

dna-1903318

I recall a time when I was a kid, during the height of the ‘Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles’ craze (of which I’m still part of), that I wanted to study genetics so when I grew up, I could create my own group of mutant turtles. I was a lonely kid back then so I wanted friends. Never came through because I suck at organic chemistry (much to the chagrin of my parents, both chemists). So I became the second best option, a writer (well, technically the third option, as you might know, I’m an industrial designer transformed into lecturer/researcher by trade and writer by passion, but I digress).

Beware, this might end being a rant.

Now that my science fiction story about bioethics in space “What Measure is a Homunculus?” is being published and available on Amazon on the 19th of October, in the Quantum Soul anthology, I can discuss about the topic of the story. No, I won’t tell what’s about beyond the rights of artificial humanoids used as weapons/foot soldiers, you need to buy the anthology.

But I can talk about what inspired me to do so. First, there was this article that talked about how scientists were trying to create a living being from stem cells without a father and mother (in terms of DNA donors whose reproductive cells create an embryo, not actual parents). From there to the creation of synthetic living beings we could a few generations removed, but it is still a possibility. And that made me think about the lack of legislation to protect the rights of such beings (even if it is just an amoeba).

There are few times when I can mix my day job, my Ph.D. and my real job as a writer in the same thing, which is the case of this particular short story.

Most of my sustainable design students know that I loathe Monsanto, as the epitomize most of what’s wrong with our current economic system. And that loathing is supported by the fact that companies like that think is right to patent the DNA of a living being. But it is not. It might be legal, but that doesn’t make it right, even if is the DNA of a mouse or a fly. DNA is what makes a living being it. It shouldn’t be beholden a property of a faceless company. For me, personally is tantamount to creating the precedent for a new form of slavery. Look, I’m not against researchers patenting stuff (I work as one after all), but while I see the case for patenting the technology to create such advances, I still think that is wrong to patent the DNA of a living being just for coins.

This makes me think that there is a need right now in literature and other media, one asking for more stories that put in the collective consciousness, on the debate table the discussion about bioethics. We need to sit down and discuss what we are doing, if we should be doing it, who should be doing it and for what reasons, instead of just using economic excuses. I think it is the time we redefine what we consider life and its intrinsical rights.

This whole rant, if you want to call it that, makes me recall what Michael Crichton wrote in the first pages of Jurassic Park, how the technological development moved from governmental labs into private sector labs and moving at such pace that there is virtually no oversight about what we are doing with this technological might. We don’t stop to consider that the question is not ‘can we do it?’ but ‘should we be doing it?’.

It’s not a discussion on technological progress. I think that progress is needed if we aim for a better world. But progress for the sake of it or the sake of the purses of people that don’t give a damn about the state of the world is madness. Science Fiction has always been a window to our potential futures, good or bad. Just like there is a recent wave of climate fiction, there is a need for a resurgence in bioethics fiction. Let’s as writers raise awareness of the topic because it relies upon society to do the changes needed. Let’s bring bioethics to the debate table before it is too late.

Upsss. I think I went into lecture mode. Sorry for that. My point was to explain from where it came to the inspiration for this story, so when you read it you know where I’m coming from. In any case, I invite you to acquire this new anthology by the fine folks of the SciFi Roundtable: Eric Michael Craig and Ducky Smith. I had the opportunity of reading several of these stories and I can assure you they are a good option for the science fiction fans looking for new voices in the genre. So go, give it a chance and read it.

cover quatumsoul

Buried Sins: of regrets and lost memories

coverunderground

This week is the official launch of the sixth anthology from Inklings Press (disclaimer: I’m a founding member and I usually do the cover design for their anthologies). This one is entitled ‘Tales from the Underground’, already available on Amazon. Unlike the previous anthologies were the theme was dictated by the genre (fantasy, science fiction, horror and so on), the theme dictated the stories and their genres. This time it was ‘Underground’ as if it wasn’t already obvious by the title. That kind of stories that take place in the worlds beneath ours, be it stories of adventure and exploration, or stories of space sirens, ghosts, and fairies. Or as in the case of my featured story, ‘Buried Sins’, of the titular sins buried both in ruined cities and inside the soul of the main character.

I don’t know if this is my darkest story yet (Bone Peyote might want to debate that), but I think it fits within the ‘dark fantasy’ subgenre. That said, this story has a special meaning for me, so let me tell you why.

For starters, it takes place in the same world of my WIP novel ‘Tempest Blades’, roughly during the time of the first chapter of the said novel, but in a different continent, with different characters. I know I have previous stories set in the same world (‘Silver Fang’, ‘Cosmic Egg’) but they take place in the past or the future. ‘Buried Sins’ is the first one that takes place at the same time of my novel. Second, it gave me the chance to recover and I would say, rediscover a character (or two) that I had liked from my very earlier drafts from ten years ago and who got cut from the latest iteration of the Tempest Blades story. I thought that character had got lost from that universe, but in writing this story, he got a new lease on life and also helped me to bring back another character that had suffered the same fate (such character doesn’t appear in the story per se, rather it is an ancestor). Why? Because of he will appear in the sequel of the novel as one of the main characters (so yeah, that’s a bit of a spoiler I guess).

Third, this story helped me to give him his own personality, backstory (which this story is) and unique abilities, rather than the generic expy of a vampire he was when I started writing in college. Now he has a really interesting take, I believe, on the ‘demon’ inside as weapon and means of protection. And he has as well a personality, several lost memories and a proper backstory, key ingredients for a good character I think. Even if he falls into the ‘broody’ side.

Joshua, the main character of ‘Buried Sins’, is a man with blurred memories. He doesn’t know when he was born or who he was before he was used in experiments that make him the ‘monster’ he thinks he is. But he does know where he was born and the dangers lurking in a buried city full of nasty things. And he has to return there if he wants to save a friend of his, coaxed by unsavory people, even if that means unearthing the sins that are hidden within the thing that makes him a monster.

And finally and fourth: this is the first story where I truly explore, in a subtle way my battles with depression. I’m by no means an expert on depression. I can only talk about my own struggles with it since I was a teenager.

I started writing as a mean to deal with my depression. It was my way to explore and deal with many of those feelings in a healthier way.  Depression, contrary to what many people believe, never truly goes away. It lurks, buried deep down in your psyche, waiting for the proper moment to spring a flood of memories, regrets, and anxieties to hit you back. It is the ‘beast’ that you learn to live with. Pretty much like Joshua.

Nowadays, thanks to my wife, a support network of friends and family, writing and some therapy back in the day I’m feeling a bit better these days. That doesn’t mean I don’t get depressed (and with the current status of the world no one could blame anyone for getting depressed and anxious), but now at least I have options to deal with it. Joshua is on his way to start that path and that experience in this story will color his interactions with one of the main characters of Tempest Blades that is going under his own struggles with depression.

So as you can see, this is a very personal story for me and I’m glad I have the chance to get it out into the wider world. I truly hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed it writing it. And if you think about it, it is a sample of what you can expect from my novel once I get the chance to publish it.

undergroundbanner richard4
P.S: If you want the full experience when you read it, I recommend listening ‘Hurt’ by Johny Cash for three-quarters of the story and the Theme of One Punch Man during the finale. Yes, it’s quite the mood whiplash, but I like the combo because it ends on a more hopeful note than intended. Joshua, like any of us that suffer from regrets, is a person in search of redemption. The story is just the first part of that journey.

Archery doesn’t work that way.

Here is a little secret not so secret: I actually know how to shoot with a bow. A recurve bow to be precise. While I’m not practicing it anymore due the lack of shooting ranges in my hometown, I did practice archery for three years, while I was doing my Ph.D. at Loughborough University. I had the fortune that a friend of mine was my archery instructor as well as a fellow comic geek. So back in the day, we used to chat about how bad comics, movies, and tv shows get wrong the basics. I will share a few of those chats here from time to time because I’m that kind of annoying guy and this is my blog and not yours.

For context, I’m an industrial designer with an engineering background and my friend Birm is an actual engineer that has worked in a couple of big gigs. At the very least, we think we know a bit of physics.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

A lot.

And I say this as a big Green Arrow fan. Let’s explain why.

Me: Birm, have you seen those comic images where the archer is doing acrobatics on the air while shooting his bow?

Birm: Shooting whilst jumping? Nope, can’t say that I have.

Me: They say that an image tells more than 1000 words… *shows picture above*

Birm: That’s more like it, In real life, Green Arrow would then be flat on his back.

Me: so many Brokeback Mountain jokes here.

Birm: *roll eyes*

Me: Anyways, here is a second image.

Birm: Oh good grief.

Me: What?

Birm: Do comic book artists know nothing of momentum?

Me: Considering that they work with a fictional world where a super powered alien can catch a girl in mid-air without splitting her into thirds and thus automatically killing her, I would say that No, they don’t.

Birm: That’s because Superman alters his own gravitational field dammit. It can be explained away by pseudo-science, but ‘Word of God’ states these guys have no powers.

Me: I take that you have been watching the same argument on ‘The Big Bang Theory’ and reading TV Tropes.

Birm: Why yes, yes I have done both of those things.

Me: I guess we are going down a whole new level of geekdom

Birm: Well TV Tropes provides an excellent resource for giving names to things.

Me: Also provides a good way to lose years of productive life just by browsing it. Anyways, what is more, possible to do, the previous image or this?

Birm: Shooting whilst on a motorbike is possible, with a sufficiently skilled driver.

Me: well Dinah is a skilled driver so that is not a worry (except when she is in an awful mood). Now flying bike must present the same momentum issues than before, then again we are talking about a universe where Batman could just breathe in space just because he is BATMAN.

Birm: This is true, regardless of what the situation is, simple mechanics specifies that momentum must be maintained, so firing a projectile pretty quick in one direction will lead to a force in the opposite direction.

Me: Basic Newton’s law: to every applied force there is a reaction of equal value but opposite direction or something like that.

Birm: Yup.

Me: In a normal shooting we don’t feel it as our weight overcomes the force that an arrow could generate, however, the bow does get affected, as we explained in last month’s column about how to hold a bow.

Birm: Yeah, the main principle behind it is that the bow is creating a force forwards which is transferred into the arrow. Some of this force is dissipated into the arrow but there is still a lot of force trying to force the bow forwards. This is why a lot of recurve archers use a finger sling, instead of trying to hold onto the bow they just let it drop and let the sling hold it, so the forward force is allowed to throw the bow forwards a little and is then dropped in the downward direction.

Me: And in a normal shooting we are flat footed so our legs transfer the effort towards the floor.

Birm: Yup, what happens on these images it’s not possible to do this with a longbow, you have to hold on and use your weight and stance to dissipate the force, which isn’t possible when you have nothing to brace against.

Me: Something that is lacking on these images. Basically, in these instances, Ollie or Clint would get pushed backward.

Birm: Hmm, I’m not convinced about that, I think they would get pulled forwards.

Me: Following the bow and the string vector?

Birm: Yeh, the bow enacts a force forwards of the archer, which is what is transferred into the arrow to make it move, the rest of the force is then transferred into the limbs and down into the grip resulting in a net force forwards, it’s usually up to the archer to provide a rearwards force to counteract this.

Me: So if you shoot while jumping you might as well use a pointy hat and become another arrow.

Birm: Yeh, pretty much.

Me: Arrowman!!! The Amazing pointy vigilante… or circus act. You know? I think the problem has its roots on the gunplay from action flicks.

Birm: Yes, it’s possible to shoot guns whilst firing through the air but they operate on completely different firing principles.

Me: Well they do still have the recoil, so you still get pushed backward isn’t?

Birm: The problem with a bow is that your arm is at its full extension already so there’s nowhere for the force to go to.

Me: But in movies, people shoot a gun at full arm extension. I guess the issue is that it looks cool, regardless of how possible it is and with archers, the problem is even bigger as there are just a handful ways to make the look cool in a comic. In a film/tv/cartoon is easier due to the fluidity of the movement, the speed and the dramatic moment, think Legolas in LOTR, Green Arrow in Smallville and JLU or Robin Hood in the Costner movie (and yet there the writer takes a lot of liberties).

Birm: Depicting the action of firing a bow is difficult in comics as you either show the bow at full draw which looks dramatic, or you show it with an arrow flying off it, which looks a bit rubbish because it looks like the archer isn’t doing anything. That’s why you have silly things like Legolas in the LOTR films, sliding on a shield down a staircase.

Me: I guess this is one of those cases where we might have to cut some slack to the artist and allow suspension of disbelief as in comic format it would be hard to do it unless the bow has some magical properties like the one you are trying to build and the FX of the arrow would do all the job.

Birm: It’s definitely a case for suspension of disbelief, it’d be pretty difficult to take an archery based superhero seriously if they fell flat on their face every time they fired an arrow.

Me: It would make comedy gold though… or it would be a bit sad as the BBC Robin Hood show.

Birm: I still think that would be comedy gold.

Me: I can’t stop picturing someone doing that.

Birm: That would be brilliant.

Me: Human Arrow, the acrobatic archer/arrow, he shoots himself to stop crime.

Birm: Priceless.

Me: Let’s call a major publisher, we might get lucky if we pitch this. Maybe even a movie deal with Will Ferrell as Human Arrow.

Remember, in real life -and as a writer, if you have an archer in the story- you need a good shooting positioning to make it realistic. And don’t drink while using a bow unless you are planning to share it with us.

Faith in the Tempest Blades Universe Part 4: Freefolk religion & lost beliefs.

For Part 1: Faith in the Tempest Blades Universe Part 1: an introduction

For Part 2: Faith in the Tempest Blades Universe Part 2: Samoharo religions.

For Part 3: Faith in the Tempest Blades Universe Part 3: Human Religions.

raven-2527145_1280

Freefolk religion.

After the fall of the last great Kingdom, the Kingdom of Ulmo, most of the organized religion of the freefolk fell into disarray, becoming a varied collection of ideas. It’s the less organized of the religions but probably one of the oldest if not the oldest. However, all the clans believe in certain core beliefs:

The Eight: the main gods and goddesses of the freefolk, of which the Trickster Goddess is the main one, not in terms of power but because she has bestowed her full attention on what she calls her children. Of her, we will talk later in detail.  The Eight are considered the first generation of the children of the Great Maker, the being that expelled chaos (as in entropy) from the universe. The Eight are the leaders of the Children –whom according to some legends from the Grasslands are the akeleth themselves- and each represents certain aspects and in turn, is represented by a mythical creature. This will be expanded in future posts, but of the Eight, the most revered are the Guardian, the Trickster, the Seer, the Healer and the Jailer.

Magick: is the gift from the Great Maker to the freefolk people, it is the blood of the planet and the stars and should be used for neutral or good aims. Magick is the innermost connection a freefolk can expect to achieve with the world itself. When it is corrupted then it calls upon the Eternal Ones, the eldritch beings living in the deepest of the Infinity Pits, or Hell.

Pilgrimage: Every certain number of years, a freefolk, a family or even a tribe is called into the Pilgrimage, a journey of self-discovery that makes that person or persons to walk the earth inside the World’s Scar from the Yumenomori Forest in the westernmost peninsula of Auris to the easternmost hill in the Grasslands of Ionis  and Balakef. In that journey, they are often tested by the Trickster Goddess herself in order to learn something about themselves and thus enhance their connection with the world –understanding that as reality itself- regardless if they possess or not the ability to channel magick.

The Tempest: the conflux of energies that separate the astral or spiritual plane from the living plane. Basically, the astral plane is where souls go after death but before choosing a final destination. The Tempest is that manifestation when the Veil that separates both planes is ruptured and travel between both can be done. The Samoharo dreamwalking is similar in that aspect.

The communion: the main goal of the freefolk religion is for its adherents to be in communion with the world around them so when they die, they go to the spiritual plane of the world, joining a network of memories that can be accessed through the Tempest and said plane.

The Long Moon: the mysterious object that orbits around Theia in conjunction with its moon. The freefolk believe that their erratic apparitions are omens from the Eight warning freefolk of events of magnitude.

The religious leaders of the freefolk are shamans that claim to commute with the world or reality itself through the use of special powder, storytelling, and riddles.

Lost beliefs.

The beliefs of the Akeleth and the Montoc Dragons:  Little is known about the religious beliefs of the Montoc Dragons or the Akeleth. It is plausible, based on the few records left behind in the Grasslands that they shared beliefs about the Great Consciousness of the Universe that begotten them. The Montoc Dragons claimed to be born from the stars themselves, while the akeleth apparently believed to be stars themselves in mortal form. Both mention the struggles against the Great Enemy, the Original Sin or mistake born from the same event that created the Universe.

Some scholars believe that the ancient religion that both species followed was the source for the rest of the faiths in Theia.  Each species -or individual groups- took elements that fitted their vision of the universe. This discussion comes from the fact that higher and lower dimensions are not only shared between all religions in the world, they share the same names and experimental proof that they exist. They are called Last Heaven and Infinity Pits. They are real and people have glimpsed them through history. The most common version is when an ‘incursion’ occurs. An incursion is when a creature from the Pits, usually through magick, materializes into the world to unleash havoc. Each religion and science as well have found ways to deal with them, with more or less success. But they all agree that the spiritual plane, Heaven, and Hell exist, even if no one can be sure what they actually are.

 

Faith in the Tempest Blades Universe Part 3: Human Religions.

For Part 1: Faith in the Tempest Blades Universe Part 1: an introduction

For Part 2: Faith in the Tempest Blades Universe Part 2: Samoharo religions.

 

cropped-cropped-kaana-proposal-cover23.jpg

The religions mentioned here are the current, modern ones and with more adherents. Or the one that has caused more mayhem through time. Others have existed, long gone or with little clusters over the populated world.

Universe’s Consciousness or Universality: The mainstream, modern religion in most human territories, particularly in Ionis and the Free Alliance. It has several branches and temples all over the world. Their core belief is that mankind can aspire to be one with the Universe Consciousness through acts that improve the Universe’s plan. Universality preaches that being parts of the legacy of the Universe it is the duty of a person to help others and create a balance of good acts that counter the evil or corrupt acts of others, often promoted by the Discord, the enemy of the Universe and source of evil. It preaches what it is called RAKs or ‘random acts of kindness’ to balance the scale. This balancing of the scales has the aim of cleansing the soul of the person so it can rejoin the Universe after learning about the reality. The main teachings were developed by the Wise Students, twelve followers of the two Great Masters that taught humanity about the universe in the past.  While the actual teachings of the Great Masters are lost to time, it is considered that the teachings of the Wise students codify enough of them. It is rumored that one of the Master later crossed the Core Ocean and developed the Kamisava of the Kuni, making it a distant relative.

The two mainstream versions of Universality are Gaian and Cosmo. Gain focuses their teaching in taking care of the planet where humankind lives, talking about some mysterious past that cost humanity’s their first world or paradise. This is the branch that has been more influenced by the Paths of the samoharo. Cosmo takes a more orthodox approach of balancing the scales in a general sense. Some scholars see a parallel between the Wise Students and the Eight of the freefolk. Other scholars conflagrate them with the so-called ‘Founding Fathers’, a mythological group that led humanity from their original land into Theia and from which most human nations arose.

The Kamisava of Kuni Empire: the official religion of Kuni Empire and the second most organized in the world. Similar to Universality in a few core concepts, the Kamisava preaches that living beings are already part of the universe and thus attaining ‘godhood’ is possible. In fact, they believe that some lesser gods walk among them as we speak. In ancient times, when the so-called ‘Mortal Gods’ -demigods of unclear origin- ruled Theia and mortals rebelled against them with the help of the akeleth, the Mortal Gods of the Kuni Empire sided with mortals. As such it is rumored that a few ones –including the Empress- live hidden lives with them. The most famous of such gods is the folk hero Storm God that lives in the God’s Eye volcano right in the middle of the Auris Gulf. Kamisava is also the religion with a more open approach to dealing with ‘incursions’, through the ‘demonhunters’*, warrior-priest that walk the land destroying any creature from or influenced by the Infinity Pits. Kamisava also believes in reincarnation although unlike Universality, in what one can reincarnate is more varied, the ‘Wheel of purification’. As result, they are more prone to carry out rites of the animistic kind as ancestors can exist as any part of nature, given that souls are already part of the universe and need only to be purified. There has been some overlap between Kamisava and the Paths of the stargazers due to the proximity between the Empire and the Hegemony.

The Straits’s religion: it doesn’t have an official name as in theory is a branch of Universality, given that the region was originally colonized by people from Ionis. However it is a very syncretic religion that adds elements from the Kamisava –the reverence to ancestors- and the Paths of the stargazers –mainly the dreamwalking-  and even the Tempest concept of the freefolk religion and mixes it with a peculiar outlook of the death –a few people from the Straits have the ability of ghostsighting- that makes them celebrate it during the days of the year when the Tempest manifest. Their approach to life and death mostly comes from the fact that the Straits are a dangerous place to live –due the extreme weather and the proximity to the Wastelands.

Assuran religion: in old times was one of the most important human religions. Now it is only followed by the inhabitants of the Western Wastelands and the Cursed City of Meteora. At its apogee, it was highly organized, with thousands of warlock priests carrying out rites in front of multitudes. It was polytheistic in structure and many of its deities have been compared to what other religions call creature from the Infinity Pits but the Assuran called the Great Gods. Major gods include the Crawling Chaos and the Golden King while minor ones included the Bestial and the Narsubanipal. It was the main human religion that granted its followers magick channeling abilities through the use of drugs such as the murcana. At some point in history, its priests called on a sacred war against the freefolk that caused a transcontinental war, which ended with the fall of the Empire from which Meteora was capital and transforming its territory in a wasteland full of buried cities, unforgiving deserts and mutated beings. Outside the wastelands, the religion is found in small clusters of cultists such as the Brotherhood of Gadol or the Cult of the Deep God in the catacombs beneath Portis.

Other humans beliefs: There are other religions, such as those from the people of the Chains across the Core Ocean or the strange animistic religion of the people from the Grasslands or the lost religion of the Iskandar, however, those will be explored in another entry under minority religions further down the road.

Interesting fact(s): in Universality, the Universe or the consciousness that created it and maintains it is referred as ‘Her’, ‘Mother’ or ‘Kaana’ and considers it an actual being. It also preaches reincarnation and rebirth into a second or third human life as a way to balance the scales across ages.

*Universality has their own version of clerical exorcists, but they usually work undercover rather than in the open as demonhunters and usually are less ‘physical’ in combat.

Faith in the Tempest Blades Universe Part 2: Samoharo religions.

For Part 1: Faith in the Tempest Blades Universe Part 1: an introduction

Pleiades_large

The samoharo, secretive as they are, live their reptilian lives mostly within the territory of the southwestern continent of Genis, naming their land ‘The Hegemony’. Few is know of their religious beliefs, but the generalities can be talked about.

Paths of the stargazers: the main religion (but not the only one) of the Samoharo Hegemony. It is deeply entwined with the magical beliefs of the samoharo and as such, their religious caste is as well their main –if not only- magical practitioners. It combines aspects of their more tribal customs such as pathfinding, dreamwalking and stargazing with the teachings of that who they call ‘The Prophet’ that in a far flung past united both samoharo races in a single nation in order to avoid extinction. Samoharos believe that they came from the stars, like the dragons before them and their destiny is to join the universe and the stars.

The prophet they follow, ‘the Child of the Wind’, also known as the ‘Feathered Dragon’ taught them the ‘Paths’, mostly composed of solidarity, honor and patience and communion with the planet as they see taking care of Theia (or any other planet) as part of the Path to reunite with the stars. Stars then take the role of deities, the ‘godstars’, of which the samoharo have several that represent certain aspects of time and space and thus have their own Path, explained by the Prophet. Some variants of the Paths found within the Hegemony practice bloodletting sacrifices -as in an individual offering a few drops of their blood to a particular star- as to empower certain spells.

Each samoharo tribe or clan tends to follow a particular Path of a godstar, each representing an element of nature. However, the Paths are flexible and individuals are welcomed to follow more than one. The Path or combinations of them tend to affect life’s outlook of a particular individual.

The Windstar or Star of the Morning: mostly followed by the royal clan, teaches flexibility, wisdom, and leadership.

The Rainstar: teaches foresight, healing, and cleansing.

The Firestar or Sun: teaches honor, combat prowess, and personal improvement. Most warriors tend to follow this path.

The Grassstar: teaches the value of handcraftsmanship, taking care of the land, fertility, and family.

The Ghoststar: teaches dreamwalking, lore keeping, respect to the death, the ancestors and the spirit plane. Most priests follow this path, mixed with the one of the Rainstar.

Cult of the Smoking Mirror: samoharos are by nature very secretive and reclusive, thus there is little information on what this religion practices, it is believed that most militaristic samoharo follow it, believing that blood sacrifices will awaken some hidden power within the samoharo genetic code. It is said to be taught on the principles stated by the half-brother of the Child of the Wind and a godstar by himself by the name of the Mirrorstar. It started as a Path unto itself, but a schism separated it and made it a secret cult.

Interesting fact(s): The Paths have influenced the religious beliefs of the humans living in the Straits, specifically the Ghoststar path, evolving in a celebration of the death.

Faith in the Tempest Blades Universe Part 1: an introduction

myanmar-2494826_1920

Talking about faith is always a tricky proposition, even if we are talking about fictional settings. However, I think that how a society relates to the greater mysteries of their world is a key element of world building because it affects how a character might react to certain events.

In the Tempest Blades universe, usually, there is little mention of religions and spiritual faiths, despite being a constant mention of a particular goddess. Even characters that don’t follow her cult mention her, but that is because she has been quite active in history. Other than her and perhaps the beliefs of fringe groups such as those sponsoring the villains, religion plays little to no role on how my characters act. There is a reason for that.

In most parts of Theia, religious beliefs tend to be a personal matter rather than something bigger. Religion is thus one of many defining characteristics but not a major one. There are, of course, organized religions and faiths. But in a world where magic can be used, where there are verified accounts of ‘demons’ & gods’, and certain degree of certainty about the existence of Hell & Heaven, religion takes a different role: instead of being used to explain random phenomena, it is used as a mean to find the place of a person of the universe or conversely, the relationship between a person and the universe. It doesn’t mean it has been always like that, in the past religious groups had a bigger impact in life, remnants of them can be seen in groups such as the Sisters of Mercy. However, by the time the stories take place, religion has become what I said, something more personal, even if a given person belongs to a particular congregation.

What defined the way a particular region or civilization of Theia developed a faith and later a religion depends on of a few factors: their ‘arrival myth’ & species they belong*, their relationship with the precursors known as akeleths**, how they fared during the age of the ‘mortal gods’*** and a few other factors as cultural mores, extradimensional incursions and the use of magic. In the following weeks, I will briefly explain a few of the major beliefs in Theia.

For Part 2: Faith in the Tempest Blades Universe Part 2: Samoharo religions.

For Part 3: Faith in the Tempest Blades Universe Part 3: Human Religions.

For Part 4: Faith in the Tempest Blades Universe Part 4: Freefolk religion & lost beliefs.

 

*Unlike our world, most of the species have arrival myths on par of creation myths. That is, along their myths on how the universe came to be, they have (and it plays a bigger role in certain sectors) an arrival myth that explains how that particular race got to be in Theia, as most recognize or at least begrudgingly suspect that none originated on the planet, but instead were transported there somehow, probably by the akeleth aeons ago.

**The akeleths (more on them in another post), are the mysterious precursor race that inhabited Theia in times beyond recording. It’s  fact they existed because their ruins still pepper the surface of the planet and some of the current technology the species have is derived from it. Freefolk believe they are as the forefathers, almost lesser gods related to their main Eight deities, with their ruins being sacred places for them; while humans find them an inscrutable mystery to be solved -especially when it comes to appropriate their technology-. Samoharos for their part find them strange and on par of the oldest beings in the universe.

*** The mortal gods is an age when certain individuals, probably demigods born from the younger species and the akeleth or the Eight of the freefolk, with the aim of protecting the younger species at the Dawn Age. However most became corrupted and regular mortals, helped by the Montoc Dragons and a few good Mortal Gods, hunted and killed them. The only mortal gods rumored to still be around -mostly inside Kuni territory- are the Storm God, the Shadowbreaker, the Twins of the Forge and the Makin.

Time to talk about ‘A Time of Need’

I haven’t done a book review before and certainly, this ain’t one. See, I have a peculiar relationship with this book and its author, as I was there bearing witness of its creation, the pains of editing, the search for a publisher and even the cover design travails. This book is like a nephew for me as I have the honor of calling his author, Brent A. Harris my friend. It

I have known Brent for the past decade since he and Leo McBride (pen name of my friend Stephen Hunt) made a habit of kicking my ass in Heroclix. With both of them, we created Inklings Press with the aim of polishing our craft as writers through short stories so one day we were ready to share our personal projects, out full-length novels with the world. That day is today for Brent.

A Time of Need, published by Insomnia, is an alternate history tale of the American Revolution. To put you in context of its quality, Brent was nominated this year for a Sidewise Award for the story ‘Twilight of the Mesozoic Moon‘ -of which I’m the coauthor, so yes I’m a nominated author as well-. This put us in the company of alternate history luminaries such as Bruce Sterling, Ken Liu and Kim Stanley Robinson. So yeah, when it comes to alternate history, Brent knows what he talking about. That kind of nomination is not given freely. You pay the iron price for it.

And he also knows enough of the American Revolution as to spin a tale of switched allegiances, unbridled ambition, and regrets that will make you look at that person in US history with a different look. I admit I’m not an expert on the time period, but that didn’t detract me from enjoying the book.

Yes, Washington and Arnold are greater than life figures that loom over the birth of a nation. And Brent does a sterling job humanizing them, giving them rational motivations for the decisions that in this flipped story changed the course of the conflict. But I believe that where he does his best is when he shows us the gritty face of war through the eyes of “secondary” characters. I quote unquote secondary because I think Stevens, one of the POV characters is as much better, more relatable one. It’s through his eyes that we see the struggles of the soldier to navigate an uncertain future while the big men take life and death decisions. It’s through his eyes that we see how history unfolds.

Now while I kinda subscribe to the ‘Great Men’ history outlook of some historians -as it makes easier to understand history- the reality and the more interesting part of the unfolding of history is to consider how the regular people faced it. History is not a fossil but a living thing created each day. And is this that Brent truly excels.

There is nuance, action, betrayal and passion, elements that make any novelization of history -real or alternate- a treat for the reader and the seed for a good tv drama *wink wink tv producers*.

It is frightening for an author, for any creator really, to release their baby for the first time into the wider world. If I were in Brent’s shoes I would be a mess, then again I’m anxious all the time. So dear reader, make us a small favor and support a new author. If you are an alternate history fan or a US history fan or even a Brent A. Harris fan -if those exist yet- then give A Time of Need a bit of your reading time.

Meanwhile, I will be bidding my time till I can kick Brent’s ass at Heroclix once and for all.