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Archive for January, 2019

Announcing CRIMES OF THE HUB, my second Hub book!

It’s time for my first new project announcement for 2019, for certain values of “new.” Fans who’ve followed my posts and notes about last year’s trilogy of Hub stories in Analog are aware that I wrote the three novelettes with an overall story arc, with an eye toward subsequently collecting them in a second e-book/print volume to follow up Hub Space: Tales from the Greater Galaxy. It took a couple of years to find a publisher for the first collection and get it put together, but since that relationship with Crossroad Press was already established, I’m able to get the second collection out much sooner after publication.

Crimes of the Hub will collect “Hubpoint of No Return,” “…And He Built a Crooked Hub,” and “Hubstitute Creatures” into one volume. As with the Hub Space collection, Crimes of the Hub adds new material within and between the stories to flesh things out and tie the stories together a bit more, and to offer something new for those who’ve read the original stories in Analog. In Hub Space, I inserted in-universe articles as interludes so that the stories would stand apart more, but this time, since the stories were written as a single arc, I decided to add bridging scenes to make them flow straight into one another, essentially merging them into a fix-up novel. And it is long enough (about 45,000 words, more than a third longer than Hub Space) to qualify as a novel, albeit a short one. Although the original stories are longer than the first three as well, so the percentage of new material is about the same for both books, roughly 13%. It comes out to a whole new chapter bridging the first two stories but only one scene bridging the latter pair (since there’s less of a time jump there), as well as some added or expanded passages within the stories. I also trimmed or rephrased some bits of redundant exposition and moved a few lines around here and there to make it work better as a continuous narrative. But it still tells the same stories with the same dialogue and events, just with more detail and interstitial material added, and with some overlooked typos corrected.

My decision to turn this into more of a short novel than a pure collection is why I decided to call it just Crimes of the Hub instead of Hub Space 2: Crimes of the Hub as I originally planned. Or Crimes of the Hub: More Tales from the Greater Galaxy. Or something like that. I admit I seriously considered calling it Hub Space 2: Galactic Boogaloo.

Since small-press publishing moves fast, it probably won’t be very long before CotH goes on sale. I’ll post ordering info and the cover art as soon as they become available. It will initially be an e-book exclusive, but a print-on-demand edition should be available in time. It takes the publisher a little more time to get the print editions done, but this time the two editions should come out much closer together than the 3-year gap for Hub Space (since print editions weren’t yet available when the book first came out and I was slow to discover they were an option).

So anyway, this will bring my count of original books to four: Only Superhuman, Among the Wild Cybers, and the two Hub volumes. That’s twice what it was nine months ago. I hope it won’t be long before I have even more to announce.

As for the Hub universe, I haven’t yet made any firm plans for a third set of stories, since I’ve been focusing on other stuff. But the better Crimes of the Hub sells, the more motivated I’ll be to work on a continuation, nudge-nudge.

STAR TREK: THE CAPTAIN’S OATH Cover Reveal!

January 13, 2019 4 comments

At last, the cover and blurb for Star Trek: The Original Series — The Captain’s Oath have been released!

Star Trek The Captain's Oath cover

Cover by Stephan Martiniere

The saga of James T. Kirk’s historic command of the U.S.S. Enterprise is known throughout the galaxy. But one part of the legend has barely been touched upon until now: the story of Kirk’s first starship command and the remarkable achievements by which Starfleet’s youngest captain earned the right to succeed Christopher Pike as the commander of the famous Enterprise. From his early battles with the Klingons to the rescue of endangered civilizations, Kirk grapples with difficult questions: Is he a warrior or a peacemaker? Should he obey regulations or trust his instincts? This thrilling novel illustrates the events and choices that would shape James T. Kirk into one of the most renowned captains in Starfleet history.

That’s right — once more, I’m filling in an unchronicled (or rarely chronicled) gap in Trek history. Indeed, I seem to have worked my way backward through Kirk-era milestones: the first mission post-TMP in Ex Machina, the end of the 5-year mission in Forgotten History, the transition between TOS and TAS in The Face of the Unknown, and now The Captain’s Oath covers both Kirk’s first starship command before the Enterprise (mentioned in The Making of Star Trek back in 1968 and alluded to in passing in the second TOS pilot) and, as a frame story, his first mission as captain of the Enterprise. Which means I’ll now have depicted both the beginning and end of the 5-year mission.

There have been a few previous versions of Kirk’s first mission on the Enterprise, but not very many, and not for a long time. The main ones were both more than 30 years ago — DC Comics’ first ST annual “All Those Years Ago…” by Mike W. Barr and Enterprise: The First Adventure by Vonda N. McIntyre. More recently, there’s been hardly anything — a few stories set near the start of Kirk’s ENT tenure (such as Mere Anarchy Book 1 and the flashback opening of IDW’s Mission’s End) and a brief flashback to the change of command in one of John Byrne’s IDW photo comics. And of course it was covered in David A. Goodman’s The Autobiography of James T. Kirk a few years ago. But I felt it was high time that the Pocket novel continuity got a new version of that first mission.

However, I was more interested in exploring Kirk’s previous command, which has hardly ever been explored in the tie-ins. A few stories have given brief glimpses of the beginning or end of Kirk’s first command — it was the Saladin in Mike Barr’s version, the Lydia Sutherland in McIntyre’s version, the Oxford in Howard Weinstein’s “Star-Crossed” in DC’s ST Volume 2, and the Hotspur in Goodman’s Autobiography. But it’s still largely a blank slate, so naturally I was drawn to it. Goodman’s book is the only one I’ve seen that shows any actual missions of that ship, though it only portrays a couple of them, mostly versions of events we already know from Kirk’s past, like the Dimorus incident mentioned in the second pilot. I was more interested in exploring things we didn’t already know about Kirk’s early career and how it shaped him into the captain we knew. This is a somewhat episodic novel covering several years, so it features a number of different missions and adventures of the fledgling Captain Kirk and his “forgotten” ship and crew.

Filling in the unexplored gap in a Star Trek captain’s career before the Enterprise is also something I’ve done before with Captain Picard in The Buried Age, which is why I’m pleased that that book’s cover artist, Stephan Martiniere, has returned to do this one as well. It’s a neat-looking cover that reminds me of the vintage Bantam Trek novel covers from the ’70s, with the Enterprise streaking past a vast, mysterious construct in space.

The Captain’s Oath will be released in trade paperback, e-book, and audiobook formats on May 28, 2019. Here’s the ordering link from Amazon — so far they’re the only site that’s uploaded the information as of this writing. But I’m told it’ll be showing up elsewhere quite soon.

Thoughts on GODZILLA: THE PLANET EATER (spoilers)

January 10, 2019 1 comment

Netflix has now released the conclusion of its Godzilla anime trilogy (Part 1, Part 2), under the English title Godzilla: The Planet Eater (Gojira Hoshi o Kū Mono, which is more literally “The One Who Harvests Planets/Stars”). While it’s the culmination of what was set up in the first two films, in many ways it’s a very different story, less action-packed and more philosophical — and not all that much about Godzilla.

The film opens with the crew aboard the Aratrum in orbit arguing over the events of the previous film’s climax, conveniently providing a recap. The Bilusaludo/Bilsards are outraged that Captain Sakaki Haruo, our protagonist, passed up his chance to kill Godzilla in order to instead stop the Bilsards’ Mechagodzilla City from becoming an even worse threat. The human crew argue he probably did the right thing, and it leads to a schism with the Bilsards seizing the engine room and trapping the ship in orbit. But that won’t amount to much, since the Bilsards’ role in this narrative is all but over.

Down below, Professor Martin tells Haruo that Yuko, his love interest from Part 2 who was infected by Bilsard nanometal, is brain-dead, her body only kept alive by the nanotech. It’s a rather ignominious way to drop her from the story. Meanwhile, the Exif priest Metphies (still pronounced “Metophius”) is convincing the surviving soldiers that Haruo was saved from the nanometal by a miracle (though Martin quickly figures out what was obvious from Part 2, that it was the Houtua natives’ healing sparkle-dust that immunized him), and the soldiers both on Earth and on the Aratrum are implausibly quick to be converted to the Exif’s cult, with Metphies and his priest counterpart on the ship using Haruo as his Messiah figure but controlling the narrative so Haruo can’t actually get a word in to refute it — and Martin’s too afraid of being burned as a heretic to point out the simple truth. It’s all implausibly easy for these soldiers to be turned into religious fanatics, even given their fear and despair about Godzilla.

Anyway, the twin pseudo-Mothra-heralds Miana and Maina both consecutively get naked for Haruo, your conventional “My natural role as a primitive tribal babe is to be sexually available for the hero” cliche, although for unclear reasons he rejects the former twin and sleeps with the latter. (Pretty short grieving period for Yuko there, champ. Her corpse is literally still warm, though that’s admittedly because of the nanotech.) That frees up Miana to confront Metphies and discover through her telepathy that he also has telepathy and is planning devious things with his priest buddy on the ship, so Metphies captures her, and Haruo has a fortunately symbolic dream about Metphy cooking her as soup. But there is real soup, which Metphy serves to his converts with a sermon about how the soup ceases to exist but lives on as part of something greater. (Somehow I don’t think “But we are not soup” is going to go down in history as one of the great philosophical statements.) The collective prayer of the converts, combined with Exif crystal techmagicology, draws the Exif’s extradimensional god, Ghidorah, to this plane. In perhaps the film’s most effectively chilling sequence, the soup drinkers are devoured one by one as the shadow of one of Ghidorah’s heads/necks intersects their own shadows, with the focus of the camera ending up more on the horrified reaction of the last one to go.

The impact up in space is more dramatic — a singularity opens up by the Aratrum and a golden Ghidorah head and endlessly long neck emerge, evidently made of pure gravitational energy and wrapping around the ship, causing chaos and distorting time (the bridge crew gets a message from the engine room 40 seconds after it was destroyed and reads their own life signs as ceased several moments before it happens), ending in an impressively rendered explosion that creates auroras in the Earth’s atmosphere below.

Somehow the folks on the surface never figure out what happened to the ship, just that they’re cut off, but they don’t have much time to wonder. Three singularities form in the clouds around the dormant Godzilla (remember him?), and a long, snaking energy neck emerges from each one. Martin watches in bewilderment as the Ghidorah heads latch onto Godzilla and start draining his energy while he’s unable to touch them in return. The instruments show nothing except gravity distortions, but the observers can see and hear Ghidorah. Martin figures out that the monster must come from another dimension with different physical laws and is being guided by an observer in our dimension — no doubt Metphies.

Haruo confronts Metphies, who has replaced his own eye with the Ghidorah-linked stone he’s been carrying all trilogy. He uses his telepathy (or the stone, or both) to overpower Haruo physically and show him mental visions explaining the Exif’s nihilistic philosophy: All civilizations advance until they invent nuclear weapons, which breeds their destruction and triggers the birth of a Godzilla as the ultimate life form, and then Ghidorah comes to feed on the Godzilla and complete the cycle… which somehow destroys the planet too. The Exif see death as inevitable and thus a blessing to embrace, so they worship Ghidorah, having deliberately sacrificed their planet to it and sending their surviving priests out to make sure other civilizations repeat the cycle.

But Maina and Martin give Haruo a hand, communing with the Houtua’s god — an unhatched Mothra egg — to counter Ghidorah’s influence. A vision of Mothra frees Haruo from Metphies’s control, and he remembers his parents’ love and optimism as a counter for Metphies’s despair and nihilism. He also realizes Metphy caused the explosion of his grandfather’s shuttle in the first movie. He overpowers Metphies in his mind and in reality, breaking the stone and the link to Ghidorah. Which, by what Martin said before, should have made Ghidorah unable to exist or interact in our realm, but somehow it makes Ghidorah sufficiently subject to physical law that Godzilla can destroy its heads one by one, followed by the singularities they emerged from. (If they’re connected to a single body, we never see it except in visions.)

We then get a pop-song montage of semi-still images of the soldiers burying their weapons and hooking up with the conveniently numerous primitive tribal babes (who, remember, are evolved from insects, yet evidently interfertile with humans), until Martin eagerly tells Haruo that he’s used a bit of nanometal from Yuko’s still-living corpse (remember her?) to restart the surviving Vulture aircraft, and says he can use the Bilsard tech to recreate all their advanced civilization — which gives Haruo a mental flash of Ghidorah’s screech and Metphies’s dying warning that Ghidorah would always be watching for humanity to destroy itself again. Haruo then has a final talk with Maina about whether she fears and hates Godzilla. She says she fears him like lightning and tornadoes, but her people have no word for hate. You don’t hate a force of nature, you just learn to live with it.

So Haruo takes Yuko’s body into the Vulture and sacrifices himself in a kamikaze run at Godzilla, asking the kaiju with his final breath to make sure every last bit is destroyed this time. Godzilla obliges and is hit by the wreckage, but probably survives. After the credits, we see the Houtua acting out the past battles in effigy and praying to Godzilla (or Mothra, or both?) to devour the things they fear.

Okay, so, that was pretty well-made, but pretty nihilistic and Luddite. The Godzilla series has always revolved around cautionary tales about the dangers of the misuse of technology, but this trilogy comes down a little too hard on the idea of technology being intrinsically destructive, and this film in particular takes some narrative shortcuts that don’t quite work. It’s also an oddly slow, somber, talky film for the finale of a trilogy — quite a change from the first film’s excessive action in its third act, but maybe a bit too far in the other direction. And what action it has is pretty static. It’s the only Godzilla movie I’ve ever seen where Godzilla hardly moves at all. He spends half the film dormant and recovering from Part 2’s climax, then moves exactly once to the location where he confronts Ghidorah, a battle that’s conducted with Godzilla staying in one place except when he’s briefly levitated by Ghidorah. While the design of this extradimensional-gravity-god version of Ghidorah is striking and novel, the kaiju action in this trilogy overall has been largely disappointing.

Still, in my last review I did express hope that this film would be the richest and deepest of the trilogy, and from a philosophical standpoint it pretty much is, if you like that sort of thing. But I think it falls short in other respects, from character to action to the extent to which it actually uses Godzilla as a presence rather than a concept. All in all, the Godzilla anime trilogy was interestingly different and in some ways impressive, but ultimately underwhelming.

eSPEC BOOKS AFTER-HOLIDAYS SALE

Reblogging this. For a limited time, you can get AMONG THE WILD CYBERS and many of eSpec Books’ other publications in e-book form for just 99 cents!

eSpec Books

What a year. From both a personal and professional standpoint, 2018 has been a jagged series of highs and lows. We have hunkered down and pushed forward, and in these final days of the year we rest and regroup, gathering our energy for 2019.

There are a lot of great things we are working on, and things we hope to get going again, such as the eSpec monthly flash fiction contest and Danielle’s personal writing. 

First, however, to kick off what we hope will be a year of amazing fiction for eSpec, our authors, and our fans, for the month of January we are having a sale on all our backlist ebooks at the ebook site of your choice. Because of the restrictions of when we can make price changes, the sale officially starts today, presuming the third-party vendors all make the updates in a timely manner. Below are links…

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