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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Rich Man, Poor Man



I'm Fred Warren, and I've been writing science fiction and fantasy for several years now, including two (soon to be three) books published by Splashdown and a smattering of short stories in print and online magazines. You can find the complete list on my blog at frederation.wordpress.com/publications. Feel free to wander about and leave me a note while you're there! I also write a weekly column for the online speculative fiction journal, Speculative Faith.

When Grace Bridges first mentioned her idea for the shared-world writing project that became Avenir Eclectia, I thought she was crazy. I've had some previous experience with collaborative fiction online, and it can be a real beast to manage.

Fortunately, she set us up for success from the outset, and I'm pleased to be part of this fascinating universe. There are enough rules and backstory to provide a firm platform for writing, but not so much that the stories feel constricted or are driven to predictability. We build the future history of Avenir Eclectia in tiny vignettes, like a mosaic mural that gains beauty and complexity with each tile we add.

Avenir Eclectia is a colony with a fractured memory, and I thought books might hold a special place in such a society. Some people would be named for favorite authors or characters, and certain books might even be treated with a reverence usually reserved for Scripture and used for personal direction or cultural guidance. There's also a deep chasm between rich and poor that spans the entire colony. So, when I thought about what I might contribute to Avenir Eclectia, I settled on two works of classic literature as touchstones for my stories: John Milton's Paradise Lost, and Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist.

John Milton and the Dreamers: My John Milton, named after the famous author, is a self-absorbed aristocrat who's made his fortune handling trade among the Avenir space station, the Eclectia colonists, and the spacers who transport goods and people. Despite his success, he's dissatisfied and pessimistic about the colony's future. When he's offered a chance to join the Dreamers, a mysterious cabal that John thought was a fairy tale but is actually the true power behind the scenes of Avenir Eclectia, he has the opportunity to change his fate and the fate of the colony forever--but is he willing to pay the price?

Smith, the Artful Dodger: At the other end of the cultural spectrum, Smith lives in the nether reaches of the Avenir space station, living by his wits and shepherding a community of ragged orphans with the help of his friend Kate and a well-worn copy of Oliver Twist. Haunted by a lost love and anticipating a dismal future that seems more inevitable each day, he forms a desperate plan that may be the last hope for himself and the children he protects. This Artful Dodger will need to pull a few more tricks from a nearly-empty bag if he's to avoid spending the rest of his life in prison, or worse.

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