Tangent Knights

Contents:

Tangent Knights 1: Caprice of Fate

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GraphicAudio introduces a spectacular original Super-heroic Action Series available in no other format!

In the year 2046, on the artificial-island arcology of New Avalon, Corazón “Cory” Kagami is a bright but impulsive college student who follows her passions, resisting the will of her mother, Morgan Herrera, head of a tech conglomerate responsible for astonishing breakthroughs. Morgan controls Catchfire Industries, and is effectively the ruler of New Avalon through her near-monopoly of its technology and through the numerous government officials she keeps in her pocket.

In a world where communication with parallel Tangent Earths has brought a disruptive influx of new beliefs and scientific innovation, Morgan promotes a strong defense against threats from within and beyond this world, developing advanced personal armor and weaponry for her cyborg peacekeeping team Fireforce.

When Cory is accidentally empowered with the most advanced armor system yet, Morgan tries to renew her bond with her daughter and train her to be a hero, a decision she may come to regret. Cory Kagami, a fan of Japanese tokusatsu action entertainment, has her own ideas about what it means to be a hero.

© & ℗ 2021 Graphic Audio, LLC. All rights reserved.

Book Adapted for GraphicAudio by Richard Rohan. Directed by Richard Rohan. Narrated by Richard Rohan with Elaine Yuko Qualter as Cory Kagami, Bianca Bryan as Morgan Herrera, John Kielty as Alex Reading, Tony Nam as Branton Tseng, Daniel Llaca as Daniel Vajra, Yesenia Iglesias as Malika Ramos, Emilea Wilson as Erika Drake, Duyen Washington as Nalah Imani, Kay Eluvian as Karl Hauser, Nazia Chauhdry as Shakti Desai and Niusha Nawab as Kadir Azim. Also with Marni Penning, Rob McFadyen, Robb Moreira, and Triya Leong.

AudioFile Earphones Award winner, January 2022! “This is an aural treat for sci-fi fans everywhere.”

“[Tangent Knights] is a very nifty concept and is incredibly enjoyable.” — Keith R.A. DeCandido

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Tangent Knights is an original series which I created and wrote specifically for GraphicAudio. Like my previous GA releases, Only Superhuman and Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder, it’s a full-cast audio novel with music and sound effects. But while those were adaptations of prose novels, Tangent Knights is available exclusively in audio form.

Aimed at a general audience (age 13-up), Tangent Knights is inspired by the transforming armored heroes of Japanese live-action tokusatsu (special effects) series such as Kamen Rider, Super Sentai (the basis for Power Rangers), and Ultraman, embracing not only their distinctive approach to superhero action but their sophisticated story arcs and nuanced characterizations — yet grounding them in (relatively) plausible quantum theory and technological extrapolation, including a fresh approach to parallel-world narratives.

This project was a life-saver for me, coming along when I was desperately in need of new work to pull me out of the deep financial hole I’d been in for the previous few years. But when I first got the invitation from GraphicAudio to develop a series proposal, I wasn’t sure I could pull it off before the pitching deadline, since I was struggling with depression and writer’s block. Since this would be a work-for-hire project belonging to GA, I couldn’t use any of my existing published universes for which I held the copyright. Could I come up with something entirely new in the limited time available?

Or maybe something old instead? GA had suggested that I think along similar lines to Only Superhuman, science fiction with a superhero theme. Back in college in the late ’80s and early ’90s, my best friend at the time had ambitions to get in on the indie comics boom of that period and start his own publishing company. It ultimately turned out to be just empty talk, but he drew me into the fantasy and I ended up creating a number of my own superhero series concepts, even after we fell out of touch. Those concepts had just been sitting in my drawer for decades, literally and figuratively. I cannibalized a number of their characters for Only Superhuman and its followup story “Conventional Powers,” but I still had plenty of untapped ideas left over.

My other inspiration was my recent obsession with tokusatsu. Since Japanese superhero shows have taken up so much of my head space these last few years, the path of least resistance was to embrace that preoccupation (and not for the first time — Star Trek: The Higher Frontier was heavily influenced by Kamen Rider). Just as Only Superhuman had been a hard-SF riff on Western superheroes, at once celebrating and deconstructing the conventions of comic books, so this new project could do the same for toku heroes and tropes.

Fortunately, a couple of my old comics ideas lent themselves well to this. While most were just general concepts, characters, and worldbuilding with few specific plot ideas, there was one that I’d revisited occasionally over the years and worked out a whole series arc for (though I never settled on a satisfactory title). I’d already made tentative plans to rework my notes for it into a novel trilogy outline even before I got GA’s offer, and its story structure — centering on a young woman who gained extraordinary powers and was drawn into a conflict among parallel universes — was a perfect fit for a Kamen Rider-style arc that evolves and escalates in scope over the course of a series.

There was a problem, though. I’d already written a prologue story focusing on the potential trilogy’s supporting characters, and was shopping it to magazines when GA’s offer came. If it had sold, I wouldn’t be able to use that universe for the GA project. But it was still my best bet. What could I do?

I finally decided that the answer, fittingly, was to split the concept into two separate universes. Since the short story preceded the main protagonist’s involvement, I could rework the trilogy premise to separate out the characters and concepts featured in the story, leaving the main character and the broad strokes and themes of her journey as the spine of the narrative. As it happened, I’d revised the physical foundations of its multiverse premise somewhere in the early 2000s, replacing its quantum-based “phase worlds” with parallel brane universes based in string theory, which I thought was more novel. So I could divorce the trilogy from the short story simply by going back to quantum theory as the foundation for its parallel worlds.

As it happens, the story didn’t sell, but I’m still glad I ended up reworking the premise. My original plan would have been somewhat darker, the characters less fun, than what I ended up with. Maybe that’s why the story didn’t sell. But you can read for yourself, since I ended up publishing the story, “What Slender Threads,” on my Patreon.

Most of Tangent Knights‘ lead characters are derived from another of my unused 1990s comics premises, with their names and attributes reshuffled. This premise featured a team of transforming armored “Knights,” inspired by Power Rangers as well as the ’80s anime I knew as Ronin Warriors (the English dub of Yoroiden Samurai Troopers). These Knights included the free-spirited Cory Carrera, code name Caprice, whom I combined with the multiverse trilogy’s Asian-American heroine, renaming her Cory Kagami (“mirror,” to fit the multiverse theme and her silver armor) and promoting her to the lead role, modeling her on the eccentric, hyper-enthusiastic, unlikely heroes common as tokusatsu leads today. (As much as I like toku, one thing that frustrates me about it is the lack of female leads. There are a number of major female-led anime series aimed at girls, such as Sailor Moon and the Pretty Cure franchise, and occasional toku shows as well, but there’s pretty strict segregation between “boy” shows and “girl” shows.)

I don’t want to say what my full working title was for the “Knights” series, since some years later I Googled it and discovered to my horror that it was in use as the name of a hate group. I still liked the “Knights” part, though. I got “Tangent” from looking into quantum mathematics, probability vectors, and the like. It may not be strictly accurate in reference to interaction across timelines, but I think Tangent Knights sounds very cool.

Oddly enough, the arcology of New Avalon doesn’t come from my Arthurian-vibed Knights premise, but from a third unused idea about a team of cyborgs, whose origin story provided the foundation for Morgan Herrera’s Fireforce. Since the Kamen Riders of the 20th century were all cyborgs, that concept fit in neatly. Some key elements from a fourth premise became a major part of Books 2-3. But I still had to create a lot from scratch, and to rework what I had to fit tokusatsu story structure and character tropes.

Once I had an outline for Book 1 and a general idea of the rest of the trilogy arc, I had to write the first couple of chapters as a sample to complete my pitch. They were enormous fun to write, and I was very glad when GraphicAudio bought the concept.

Spoiler discussion and annotations


COMING JUNE 27

Tangent Knights 2: Tempest Tossed

Tangent Knights Tempest Tossed

GraphicAudio’s spectacular original super-heroic series powers on to new heights of action and intrigue, available in no other format!

In a world where communication with parallel Tangent Earths has brought a disruptive influx of new beliefs and scientific innovation, college-student and fangirl Corazon Kagami continues to discover astonishing new facets to the abilities she’s unexpectedly acquired in the accident that transformed her into Tangent Knight Caprice, the foremost of a growing ensemble of armored super-warriors very much like the heroes and villains of her favorite tokusatsu shows.

Earth-shattering revelations about her technology magnate mother Morgan Herrera and her cyborg security team Fireforce have put Cory on the side of Matrix, the interdimensional law enforcement agency tasked with bringing Morgan to justice. Daniel Vajra, the Tangent Knight called Tempest, is increasingly driven by his pursuit of vengeance against those responsible for his sister Meera’s death, and an astonishing confrontation with Fireforce’s powerful new warrior pushes him over the edge. Tempest’s desperate use of dangerous, largely untested cutting-edge tangent tech weaponry in his vengeful quest sends him out of control, a menace to foe and friend alike.

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Tokusatsu fans who enjoyed Caprice of Fate‘s homages should find even more to enjoy in Tempest Tossed. There’s a lot more Showa Era in this one, some classic tropes I had enormous fun figuring out how to pull off in Tangent Knights‘ reasonably plausible hard-SF universe, and some very familiar locations. In Caprice of Fate, I loosely based a few of the settings on filming locations used frequently in Kamen Rider and Super Sentai, e.g. the warehouse and stadium fight settings and the main Matrix office. By the time I wrote Book 2, I’d found the excellent Tokusatsu Filming Locations site at https://tokusatsunetwork.com/2019/11/tokusatsu-filming-locations/, containing photos and Google Maps links for many familiar, iconic locations. Thus, I was able to up my reference game considerably for Books 2 and 3, so that nearly every new location featured in those books is based on a recurring filming location in Japan. This was not only a fun way to plant Easter eggs that I hoped tokusatsu fans would catch, but a benefit to me as a writer, since one of my weaknesses is a tendency toward vagueness in describing physical settings. Having photos and 3D street views of actual locations to guide me was very helpful in adding detail and texture. They were also useful as references for the audiobook creators in designing the audio ambience for each location, and helped me think in terms of choosing acoustically interesting and varying settings.

I did hesitate to use so many iconic toku locations, though, since Cory Kagami is a huge toku fan and would surely recognize them. Wouldn’t it be an implausible coincidence that so many settings in her life duplicate those from her shows? But that kind of metatextuality and fourth-wall permeability is itself part of the character of toku shows, which embrace their theatricality and don’t take themselves too literally or seriously. Indeed, that’s a recurring theme I play with throughout the whole thing, the coincidence of Cory’s life now playing out in a manner consistent with the formulas and tropes of her favorite shows, and how she just takes it for granted. Besides, recognizing the frequently reused, iconic locations is part of the fun of being a toku fan, and Tangent Knights is an attempt to capture and celebrate that sense of fun. If nothing else, the fact that the scenes are only described in audio leaves room for the interpretation that they’re just similar to the iconic locations, rather than identical.

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