Wednesday, October 5, 2011

You have mail

I'm in the mood for space opera. So, here are two delivery runs for TransGalaxy Class D Freight crews -- the bravest, craziest, most desperate cargo haulers in the galaxy. Just add protagonists!


Summary: three TransGalaxy ships, three packages, only one of them legit.

Setup: the Silicon Sceptre is the symbol of the First Warlord of Aarn. Its bearer commands the Aarns, their armies and their glorious space navy. The current Grand Warlord, Hanaarn XXIV, has just died in his sleep. His son and heir, Hanaarn XXV, is across the Frontier Zone fighting as a mercenary in the Belt Wars. The old Warlord's brother, Hanaarn XXV's uncle, takes the opportunity to launch a coup, and seize the Sceptre for himself.

But the old Warlord's loyal batman sneaks the powerful artifact off Aarn, and rushes to place it in the hands of the rightful heir. Aarn security forces are in hot pursuit, and so three TransGalaxy ships are hired to hide the true bearer of the Silicon Sceptre.

  • Off to a bad start -- as the three TransGalaxy ship crews leave the briefing, Aarn security forces attack!
  • Sabotage! -- there's a traitor on board, and he/she/it has rigged the reactor to blow!
  • The exchange -- half way to the delivery point, the three TransGalaxy ships meet to swap cargoes, further complicating things for the pursuers. But one of the Captains is in the pay of the Aarns!
  • "You’re the traitor!", "No, you’re..." -- tensions are high on board the ship.
  • The Belt Wars -- the delivery takes the crew right into the middle of a war zone, in a dense asteroid field. Some fancy flying -- and fighting -- is required.
  • "Thanks, but no thanks." -- they’ve found Hanaarn XXV, but he refuses to sign for the Sceptre.


Summary: the Ghost Fleet is a myth. It isn't real. Nevertheless, the client wants a package delivered to its Admiral.

Setup: the Bandeth Sector is a shipping hazard. It's a complete mystery why ships go missing as they pass through it -- a black hole or other navigational hazard, or maybe pirates? The locals, though, swear it's the Ghost Fleet of Bandeth, led by the vicious (and long dead) Admiral Iron Xil.

In reality, the Sector is home to a huge Leviathan, a giant living creature attracted to radiation put out by fusion drives. Iron Xil is a crazy old Ahab, leading a small flotilla of ships on an endless hunt for the Leviathan. The myth of the Ghost Fleet is carefully cultivated to keep the galaxy's big game hunters away. Of course hunting a single beast for a hundred years will drive anyone a bit crazy...

  • The client -- just who is this guy anyway, and what could he possibly be shipping to a myth?
  • "We don’t talk about that here." -- the crew arrive on the borders of the Bandeth Sector and start asking questions. The locals don't like talking about it.
  • "Oh no, I’m not going back there!" -- the crew meet a survivor of a trip through the Bandeth Sector, with potentially useful information, but he's a little reluctant.
  • Ship graveyard -- there's three things about the ships in this graveyard: first, they've been smashed by something huge. Second, they've been carefully stripped for parts. Third, they're dangerous to navigate!
  • Leviathan! -- it's only a matter of time until the beast itself is attracted to the TransGalaxy ship!
  • Boarding action -- okay, now the crew have tracked down the myth, how exactly do they get him to take the package?
  • "Of course, now I can’t let you leave..." -- Iron Xil is revealed as just a man, and that's a secret he needs to protect.

Any comments?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Navigating NPR's Top 100

Just a really quick one today, in which I steal content from elsewhere. I posted a little over a month ago about NPR's Top 100 Science-Fiction and Fantasy Books. The folks over at SF Signal have quite rightly pointed out that the list is long, consists of books that vary greatly in style and content, and doesn't come with a handy guide.

So, T. N. Tobias has prepared a nifty flowchart to help you find the sort of book you're looking for. Shrunk down really small, it looks like this:

Useful, no? Even if you've read most of the books on the list, it's always interesting to see how someone else chooses to sub-divide books. For example, I'm not sure I would have defined Iain M. Banks' Culture series by its humour.  My favourite book in that series, Use of Weapons, was actually pretty grim.

Also: people seem to like their Military SF!