Empires: An update (6/9/2013)

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Back in April, I announced an SF collaboration with fellow Gollancz author Gavin Smith: “Caught between battery-farming and annihilation, can mankind find a way out in the face of Gavin’s personal guarantee that at no point will any vastly technologically superior alien races be defeated by a single big shouty man with a large gun or by some sort of computer hack? Find out next year . . .”

I’m pleased to say that my Empires: Extraction is ready to submit and Gavin’s companion volume is going through the proof-reading. It’s been slightly delayed due to being gazumped by another project that affects both of us but it’s basically on schedule. When it actually comes out is up to Gollancz. The results, though are some sort of monstrous hybrid of my penchant for extreme physics and Gavin’s special forces expertise.

What we’ve ended up with isn’t quite what we thought we were going to do but I’m pleased with the result. I don’t think I can claim any great depth of commentary on society with this one, just snarky spacehips, aliens, deranged sentient hallucinations, sweary SAS men, lots of guns and explosions, I get to be rude about the Cleggeron and we just won’t mention what Gavin gets up to across the Atlantic (mostly because it’ll get cut in the edit ).

Here’s an (unedited) extract:

June 28th, 1600 hours, One hundred miles east of Damascus

The cloned Fermat construct approached from the east. It had become irritatingly difficult to conceal itself crossing the desert. It could cloak itself perfectly well from all the standard senses and sensors but moving at any kind of speed close to the ground would throw up clouds of dust that would then be hard to conceal. It could stutter in little wormhole jumps and the natives wouldn’t be any the wiser but then there was the matter of who else was in this system. The Shriven appeared to have exceptional sensor arrays hidden somewhere and they might pick up the muon trail the stutters would leave behind. It couldn’t allow that. It wanted to optimise its chances to take them by surprise.

It settled for riding in the back of a native truck, concealed and invisible. It had engineered a xeno-fungus whose spores made their way into human nervous systems and made them entirely suggestible. It was a calculated risk – anything more complex that would have allowed more reliable subjugation might have aroused suspicion from the Shriven but it needed pliable natives. It considered flying but again the elimination of its own signature would have been imperfect.

The truck was slow. The clone took the time to flit its consciousness among the several hundred tiny drones that now orbited the earth. Individually they were simply things, barely even self-aware, but the network they made was showing interesting phenomena that even the Irrational Prime wasn’t picking up lurking out among the moons of Jupiter and the rings of Saturn. Most of all, the orbital network was showing consistent steady signs of pion decay somewhere in Damascus. The network had it pinned down to a few dozen yards. The clone would do the rest.

It assessed the tactical options it had prepared for whatever it encountered. Shortly after it did that, the truck ground to a halt at some sort of native checkpoint and an exchange of conversation occurred. From the back of the truck, the Fermat couldn’t intervene without giving itself away. It seemed that the conversation went logically enough but it nevertheless ended with the soldiers at the checkpoint hauling the driver out of his truck, dragging him behind a shed and shooting him in the head.

The Fermat considered this for an instant then unshrouded itself and climbed out. It didn’t trouble to not to scrape its armoured limbs against the side of the truck. The two soldiers who’d shot its driver came running back from behind the shed. They took one look at the clone and started shrieking as they opened fire. The Fermat phased so the bullets passed straight through and ignored them. It swept its hand across the soldiers’ hut and the rest of the checkpoint. For a nanosecond, magnetic fields several quadrillion times stronger than the earth’s own ripped apart the atoms of everything in front of it. The checkpoint disintegrated.

The Fermat turned to the two soldiers left behind it. One had fallen to his knees and was praying. The other was trying to reload and shaking too much to do it. The clone killed both of them by stopping their hearts. It left the praying one and hauled the other body into the truck, propped it up behind the wheel and infected the corpse with a modified version of its fungus. While it was waiting for the body to reanimate, it rewired the truck and took control. The dead man just had to sit up and loll there, that would do. An hour later, that was what it was doing. Another six and synaptic decay would be too far advanced for the deception to work any more but that was more than it needed.

“So your idea of stealth is to set off a magnetic pulse they’ll feel in orbit and create walking dead men?” asked the Irrational Prime.

The Apprentice is a fun and rapidly moving fantasy novel with elements of coming of age and rite of passage, along with thieves, villains, pirates, rogues, wizards who seem to do nothing wizardry and pubs. Plenty of pubs. – See more at: http://www.nudgemenow.com/article/the-thief-takers-apprentice-by-stephen-deas/#sthash.CBGZZJ5n.dpuf
The Apprentice is a fun and rapidly moving fantasy novel with elements of coming of age and rite of passage, along with thieves, villains, pirates, rogues, wizards who seem to do nothing wizardry and pubs. Plenty of pubs. – See more at: http://www.nudgemenow.com/article/the-thief-takers-apprentice-by-stephen-deas/#sthash.CBGZZJ5n.dpufA curious did-not-finish review:  “The Adamantine Palace was difficult for me to walk away from, as the storyline was actually quite interesting – it kept me trying for about 100 pages. I liked the world, I liked the plot, and I liked the dragons.” at Nikihawkes.com. It’s nice to see a reviewer put up a review of something they didn’t like rather than quietly ignoring it. We could all do with more of that.

Book Giveaway: War in Heaven by Gavin Smith (2/9/2013)

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It’s been a summer of SF. I spent last week polishing up my half of my second collaboration with SF author Gavin Smith (the first being something we finished earlier in the summer but of which I cannot yet speak). I could say a lot about the pains and pitfalls of collaboration but I think we’re still talking to each other. The up-side is a whole different perspective, imagination and way of writing. I think we did a good job on the one we submitted in early August and that ought to be the hard one since we’re both writing one novel between us. We did that by setting up the structure between, alternating chapters (occasionally bits of chapters) and then swapping them back and forth. That seemed to work out OK. Our other collaboration, Empires, which we started last year but got overtaken by that-about-which-I-cannot-speak, being two separate novels that show the same events from different perspectives, should have been easier. In the end, I’m not sure whether it was or it wasn’t. There are certainly things we could have planned better. Like choreographing the destruction of Docklands before either one of us set down to write it. But we’re there now. I have a submission-ready draft waiting for Gavin’s comments, Gav’s close to finished and so it’s pretty much back to dragons for me in the next few days.

Speaking of dragons, Dragon Queen has a first review from Falcatta Times:

“If you love a book that has fantasy elements, political double dealing and proceeds to give manipulate the reader then you really have to read Stephen’s work. The story is dark, it has a cracking pace and when you add into this an author who knows how to manipulate not only the reader but also the characters to showcase both their strengths and their weaknesses all round makes this compulsive reading.”

Anyway, none of you came here to hear about that, so on to business. This week’s book giveaway War In Heaven by Gavin.

Usual deal – comment on this post before September 7th  and I’ll randomly select a lucky victim for a free copy of the series. This week we’re playing SF Supermarket again, so you need your comment to come up with something to do with SF and the comments have to be in alphabetical order. So for example, A is for Android,  B is for Bloody Hell, Lasers Are Not Visible In A Vacuum, etc… You get the picture. If you don’t play the game, your entry is VOID. HAHAHAHAHAAAAA. However, I’ll spice it up a bit this week: Not only do you get to win a copy of  War in Heaven, you get a brief cameo appearance in Empires: Extraction. Just be warned that there’s a good chance of being either shot or eaten by aliens.

Anyway, to enter the competition, you have to play the game. You can enter as may times as you like but I’ll count the first two entries – the rest are just for fun and showing off.  Extra points for humour and originality and just for once I’ll throw in an Angry Dragons mug if you make me laugh, smirk or otherwise amuse me.

Although, though no one has yet complained about how long it takes me to get to the post office and post things, it can take a while and if you live abroad then it can take even longer. Sorry about that, but they do get there eventually. Well, so far.

Empires – An SF collaboration (25/4/2013)

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Once upon a time there was an author who had an agent who liked the notion of shared worlds. The author quite liked the notion too but couldn’t for the life of him see how to make them work (yes yes there are examples I know). And it came to pass that the author mentioned these things to his editor and his editor stubbornly refused to acknowledge the difficulty and pitfalls in setting up any collaborative project never mind actually pitching it and marketing it and selling it and even came up with a suggestion that the author had to acknowledge might work and a possible collaborator and the author had to agree that yes, indeed, he might have some fun with that. In fact all in all the author walked away from that particular meeting with the distinct impression of having been set up, although apparently he wasn’t.

And so Empires was born, the monstrous hybrid that will be a Stephen Deas / Gavin Smith creation, a pair of interconnected SF novels to be released simultaneously in the summer of next year. In Gavin’s Empires: Infiltration, the Pleasure, the ultimate in galactic drug peddlers, have found a perfect drug in the neuro-chemistry of a retarded but sentient species on a small and insignificant world. Do they come in peace as they say? Maybe they do but they certainly want something. In the counterpart, Empires: Extraction, the coldly mathematical Weft have become aware of a compound that causes them a crippling and ultimately lethal addiction and they’d like to know where it’s coming from. They’d like to make it stop in a very permanent way.

Caught between being battery-farmed and annihilation, can mankind find a way out in the face of Gavin’s personal guarantee that at no point will any vastly technologically superior alien races be defeated by a single big shouty man with a large gun or by some sort of computer hack? Find out next year . . .