The Arachne Saga

Contents:

Arachne’s Crime

Arachne's Crime cover

Book 1 of an interstellar saga in the universe of Among the Wild Cybers and Only Superhuman.

Is this a dream… or a nightmare? 

The crew of the interstellar colony vessel Arachne is roused from artificial hibernation to face a horrific reality, as an alien boarding party takes them into custody to answer for the deaths of tens of thousands of sentient beings.

But there is more to their trial than meets the eye, and the threads of intrigue weave a tight web as crewmates and friends are divided between those who feel they owe restitution for the actions of the ship’s AI in their defense, and those who refuse to bow down to a judgment they see as persecution.

What future can they hope to build among aliens who see them as mass murderers… presuming they have a future at all?

“Christopher L. Bennett is a master of words and worlds — readers of his books can always count on being carried away on a fascinating ride!” — John Jackson Miller, author of Star Wars: Kenobi and Star Trek: Discovery – The Enterprise War

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This duology has, in a sense, been more than 22 years in the making. Readers of my original work may recognize Arachne as the name of the colony starship from my first published story, “Aggravated Vehicular Genocide” from the November 1998 Analog, reprinted in Among the Wild Cybers. I always wanted to continue the story of the Arachne crew in the wake of that novelette’s outcome, so I eventually settled on the idea of doing a novel that would incorporate the original story but expand and continue it. It turned out that some of the science in the original story (concerning the feasibility of interstellar ramjets) was implausible, so I eventually decided I needed to break with my usual “Keep everything consistent” policy and do a whole new version that would replace the original story in my universe’s continuity. Once I made that choice, it freed me up to make other changes and really add depth to the story and characters. (Most of the original story’s events and dialogue are still in there, though. Consider it an inaccurate account of the same event, superseded by a much fuller and more accurate version.)

The expanded and corrected retelling of AVG is just the first half of Arachne’s Crime, though. The rest of the novel continues the tale beyond the verdict, as the crew of Arachne adjusts to their new status within the Chirrn’s civilization. Both halves let me flesh out the Chirrn’s culture, biology, and psychology much more richly than in the original story, as well as intensifying the human drama far more.

Arachne’s Crime was originally a single really long novel, one I began work on in 2009 under the title Exiles from the Human Race. I kind of got lost in the weeds, though, heading down a blind alley or two and finally realizing I needed to rework the plot heavily. I talked about my process in several blog posts over 2009-2012, with some key ones being:

Eventually I hit on the title Arachne’s Crime. I spend much of the decade revising the novel, submitting it to editors and agents, revising it again based on their rejections, and so forth. It went through many major changes as I tried to deepen and tighten the character focus, which was one of the big problems cited in rejection letters. Even so, I was still never quite able to sell the novel.

Eventually I started to think about submitting it to small publishers with word-count limits per volume, which would require cutting it in two, something I resisted for a while because I saw it as one story. But eventually I realized it had been trying to be two stories all along, that there were elements resolved in the first half and others not introduced until the second. Cramming them together probably kept the book from feeling properly focused. Splitting the tale into two distinct phases turned out to work much better, tightening the focus of each volume. Also, since the natural breaking point was less than halfway through, I needed to expand the first book to make it a suitable length, which let me flesh out a lot of Chirrn worldbuilding I’d glossed over in my rush to part 2, as well as adding a new climax to make part 1 more of a complete book on its own.

Arachne’s Crime annotations

Aliens of the Arachne-Troubleshooter Universe (concept art and description)

Alien worldbuilding notes


Arachne’s Exile

Book 2 of the Arachne duology.

Featured Image -- 6633

What a tangled web…

When the colony starship Arachne unwttingly destroyed a deep-space habitat of the Chirrn, her crew committed themselves to a lifetime of penance to repay their debt. But a brutal act of vengeance has now forced them into exile in a distant part of the galaxy.

Drawn into a cosmic conspiracy spanning millennia, the colonists learn that the Chirrn’s ancient choices have exacted a terrible toll on human history. Now, their only way to win true freedom may be to carry out a perilous theft aboard an extraordinary megastructure orbiting a neutron star.

Will Arachne and her crew pull off the heist of the millennium? Or are they being manipulated into committing a far more awful crime… one for which all humanity could pay the price?

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There’s not much to say here that I didn’t say above about Book 1, since I wrote them as a single tale. However, I did have to add new material to the start of Arachne’s Exile to reintroduce the characters and story threads. I’ve always felt that a story told in two or more volumes should be made of distinct parts that work somewhat independently, rather than just being one long story arbitrarily divided by length (which was why I resisted splitting Arachne until I realized it worked better as two connected stories). I didn’t know how far apart the books’ releases would be, so I wanted to re-establish the plot and characters in the first part of this volume. To do that, I had to write a few new scenes and resurrect and repurpose a deleted scene from an earlier draft. That meant I also had to cut a lot out, since the second half was already just about at the 80,000-word maximum for an eSpec manuscript, so I had to trim things to make room for every bit I added. It helped that the new climax I mentioned for Book 1 was actually a repurposed action scene from midway through what became Book 2.

Arachne’s Exile annotations


The Arachne Omnibus

Arachne Omnibus 6 x 9

What a Tangled Web…

The crew of the interstellar colony vessel Arachne is roused from artificial hibernation to face a horrific reality, as an alien boarding party takes them into custody to answer for the deaths of tens of thousands of sentient beings.

Her crew commit themselves to a lifetime of penance to repay their debt, but not everyone agrees. As tensions rise and opposing factions come into play, a brutal act of vengeance forces them into exile in a distant part of the galaxy.

Drawn into a cosmic conspiracy spanning millennia, the colonists learn that the Chirrn’s ancient choices have exacted a terrible toll on human history. Now, their only way to win true freedom may be to carry out a perilous theft aboard an extraordinary megastructure orbiting a neutron star. Will Arachne and her crew pull off the heist of the millennium? Or are they being manipulated into committing a far more awful crime… one for which all humanity could pay the price?

A deluxe volume available in trade paperback and e-book editions plus a limited-edition hardcover, collecting both Arachne’s Crime and Arachne’s Exile along with the prequel story “Comfort Zones” (for the first time in print) and the connected followup stories “The Weight of Silence,” and “Among the Wild Cybers of Cybele.”

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“Comfort Zones”

This short prequel story was written in 2020 as a bonus for the Kickstarter fundraising campaign for the Arachne duology. It’s a glimpse at how the two main characters met and got set on the course toward the events of the duology. It mostly just fleshes out things established in the novels themselves, but hopefully it adds some interesting detail.

The time frame of the story allowed me to have some fun by including guest appearances or cameos by characters from several other tales in the Arachne/Troubleshooter Universe, helping in a small way to tie some disparate pieces of the ATU together. Thus, as well as providing background for Arachne, it gives a small glimpse into the future of the Troubleshooters and fleshes out the background of Madeleine Kamakau from “Twilight’s Captives.”

“Comfort Zones” Annotations

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