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Monday, October 31, 2011

Bugs! Giant Killer Bugs!

Tis the season to be spooky!

It won't come as a surprise to any of you that I love Halloween, so what better time to talk about the second monster-ific installment in my Avenir Eclectia saga: "Only the Strong"!


My initial concept for Dressler was always that of a loving father who could kick major butt. I'm a kid of the 80s and I remember Arnold Schwarzenegger from Commando, the muscled Father-Of-The-Year who saved his girl and didn't take flak from nobody. Dressler was certainly cut from the same mold, though he's a bit more morose than John Matrix ever was.

When it came time for my second story, I wanted to put Dressler in his element, to establish, right off the bat, that though he's heartbroken over his daughter's illness, he's still a cunning and capable soldier. I don't know anything about mining or archeology or exploration or any of that. What I do know is big guys shooting the ever-living bejeebers out of some giant killer bugs.

Making Dressler a bug hunter was a given. When I made that decision, though, I had no idea of all this wonderful backstory that Walt described! In fact, the only other bug hunter story I read (I think it was yours, Kat) had the hunter--Jax--stabbing a bug with a pointy stick. Now, I thought it was a great story, but I vividly recall running back to Grace and asking her clarify what she meant in her original AE backstory by "giant bugs". "Grace, are we talking the size of a football or the size of a car?" Because, when I think of "giant bug" I think--



Luckily, Grace--ever accomodating--assured me that there was room in AE for killer bugs of all sizes. I wanted Dressler to have a gun, because I was certain there was no way any hunter was going to go up against giant killer bugs with a stick, no matter how Schwarzenegger they are :p In fact, in my mind, I'd envisioned whole teams of mercenaries, with various automatic weaponry, blasting every critter in sight!

But, alas, while exciting, that's not very practical. I was dead set to respect the work of those who came before me and wanted to incoporate the spear. Thus I came to the conclusion that Dressler was a meat hunter, and filling a bug full of bullets would only ruin his main export. Plus, I decided that the loud bangs of guns might scare off the cuddly devils, thus leaving him empty-handed.

What I settled for was a compromise. Giant bugs, a spear when best (because nothing spells "tough guy" like going all toe-to-toe-Harryhausen against an oversized beetle with a sharp stick, now that I think about it), a gun for last-ditch-effort/protection, and a muscle bound action hero with enough guts and moral center to save Trebs, a guy he doesn't really like, from the deadly pincers of these giant beasts.

I was really happy with how that all turned out, in the end, and have to thank Kat for inadvertantly keeping me in some semblance of reality--otherwise we might have had a whole planet of deadly killer beetles, and a war with hunters! ...Wait, that actually sounds kind of cool... Perhaps a story for another day... :)

Now, in the spirit of the season, I leave you with a trailer of my personal favorite "giant killer bug" movie: Them! Happy Halloween!

The Levels and Sections of Avenir?

I have this faint memory that someone is working on that.

Is this true or was I dreaming?

Anyway, what do we know so far? Who is where?
The Wizards and orphans are at the bottom? So is the market?
Do we have a rough idea of how many levels there are and what is on these levels?
Anything else I need to know for a person going from level to level?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Email Discussion Group

It's been recommended that we start up a private discussion loop to hammer out some of the questions regarding Avenir Eclectia, without having to reveal spoilers here on the blog.

Note to all writers: This is on an Opt IN basis, so I will NOT be sending invites willy-nilly to all of our authors. Not everyone needs to be in on it if they don't want to be. I will initially add just the people who've expressed an interest already. But if you want in, let me know (or leave a comment here) and I'll do it. The more the merrier - I just don't want to annoy anyone with unwanted emails.

Thanks everyone for your commitment to making this work! I really appreciate it.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Ed Erdelac Signing In!


Greetings programs.
I'm Ed (ward M.) Erdelac and I wrote the deep sea procederual story Extraction. You'll likely see more from me in the near future.
I also write the Merkabah Rider weird western series for Damnation Books, which is about a Hasidic gunslinger tracking the renegade master who betrayed his mystic Jewish order across the demon haunted American southwest of the 1880's. Sort of a Jewish Solomon Kane, he encounters angels, demons, and Lovecraftian entities along the way. The series consists of two books, Tales of A High Planes Drifter and The Mensch With No Name, with a third installment, Have Glyphs Will Travel, due out December 1st.
I also wrote a historical no-ghoulies novel called Buff Tea, a coming of age story that takes place during the Texas buffalo hunt of 1874 - that's out from Texas Review Press this month, and I have three novellas, Dubaku (Damnation Books), Red Sails (Lyrical) and Night of The Jikininki (part of Comet Press' DEADCORE collection). Like fellow AE author Greg Mitchell, I've also done some writing for Starwars.com, including a short shockboxing story, Fists of Ion, which ought to be back on their site in December or January when they finish their overhaul.
T'was Greg who introduced me to Grace and the Avenir project. I've never written sci-fi before and am glad to give it a go. Love the shared world aspect, love the idea of co-creating. Should be fun.
My own arc will continue shortly.
If you're interested you can take a look at my other work and musings, and even watch the trailer of the indie movie I wrote and directed over at my blog, http://emerdelac.wordpress.com
Happy Trails

Friday, October 21, 2011

Trinity University

Trinity University is located in the Christchurch O-HAB beneath Eclectia's South Polar Sea and is a multi-discipline Catholic institute of higher learning. Its admissions are open to all and welcomes exchanges of instructors with other institutions. Its two schools are the School of Sciences and the School of Arts.

The School of Sciences is composed of the Departments of Applied Sciences (Spacecraft Power Engineering being a standout), Physics (which with the Jesuits, operates the observatories on Assisi), Materials (in which Alchemy is of note), Biology (known widely for its work in Gnomenclature), Magic (reputed to have one of the foremost Conjurment courses of any school of sciences), and Medicine (operator of Holy Family Medical Center).

The School of Arts is composed of the Departments of Cosmo-Geohistory (noted for its Xenoarchaeology and the Jones Museum), Literature (home of the Fabian/Bridges/Reinhard Competitions), Applied Arts (which hosts the Norman Rockwell Institute of Fine Arts), Languages (with its esteemed Rivera School), Criminology and Investigation (led by its excellent Lewis Course), Music (sponsor of the Annual Composers' Tag-Team Matches), and Psychosociology (with its Bedlam Clinic and Outreach).

Of course, one is quite unable to write or speak of Trinity University without mention of its championship mootsball team, the Blesseds. Aficionados of the “tender game” gather from all over the 94 Ceti System each year to thrill to that annual classic when Trinity University meets Zirconia Christian University. Regardless of their win/loss record each year, the winner is satisfied that theirs is a winning season with victory in that one game.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Salt Cathedrals

My first story "Evolution" takes place mainly on Sheba, an ore rich moon that has been split in half by a cataclysmic event. The rugged miners who pull the Iridium ore up to the surface have created a chapel 30 km below the surface called New St. Kinga’s.
The chapel was inspired by real world locations found in salt mines around the world. St. Kinga is the patron saint of salt miners, and there are hand carved chapels dedicated to her in Poland and Columbia. These churches were all lovingly crafted from salt as places of refuge and devotion for miners.
Pictured below are the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira, Columbia, the Bochnia Salt Mine and the Wielicza Salt Mine of Poland. Click on the name of each for more information.



Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Some Fundamental Contradictions

Hi everyone.

Travis Perry here submitting to the entire group some points I'd already sent directly to Grace, which she thought would be beneficial for everyone to see.  In addition to the recent comment I made about political institutions in AE being rather undefined as of now, I believe there are a number of areas in which differing Avenir Eclectia stories do not knit together well to form a unified universe:


1)  How rich or poor is this society as a whole in terms of technological abilities and material goods?  Some stories portray only a tiny elite having anything like the comforts most twentieth-century North Americans (or New Zealanders) enjoyed.  Others make material prosperity much more abundant, so much so that interplanetary trade is common (which is fairly expensive), as are many other institutions and technologically-based comforts we would recognize on Earth.

2) How much does this society as a whole reflect the institutions of Earth?  How much does it remember Earth?  Again, a number of authors, including myself, had made stories from the point of view that Earth is sort of a dim memory for almost all people in the Avenir universe.  Other stories portray certain individuals having specific and detailed memories of Earth as in quoting Earth literature, or being named from Earth literature, or in having named institutions with the same names they had on Earth (Walt referenced a "First Baptist Church" in one of his stories, for example). 

3) What is the relationship between magic and science, the natural and supernatural, in this story universe?  Do wizards really perform magic or are they called "wizards" in a linguistic misremembering of what scientists do?  Do they study angels for the science they can derive from them (as I portrayed them), or are they trying to actually perform magic?  More fundamentally, are angels intelligent aliens with psychic abilities, or are they actually supernatural beings, true "angels"?

4) How lawless or well-ordered is the Avenir society?  Some stories tend to portray all regions as basically lawless, with only a thin line of peacekeepers and enforcers basically ineffective to shape society.  Others portray the society as essentially ordered, peacekeepers running things much as law enforcement operates in First World nations today, with a relatively minor criminal sub-culture still prevalent.  Ironically, my own stories can probably be interpreted as coming down on both sides of this continuum. 

I wrote the above points in the order they occurred to me, but they actually fall into two different categories.  1, 2, and 4 are all issues where apparent contradictions could be fairly easily resolved by putting some distance and perhaps even time between differently portrayed characters.  The problem with all of these is that as authors are trying to build familiarity with certain places, the same places keep occurring over and over again.  Avenir, Zirconia, and a common unnamed hunting camp come up over and over again with different writers portraying the same places in contradictory ways.  You can sort of iron out contradictions by saying even a single place like Zirconia is big enough to have societal divisions within it, but that doesn't completely account for the differences in my estimation.
  
Point three is much more serious.  Angels are either supernatural or they aren't.  We can play with the idea that people mistake them for being one when they really are the other, but they actually have to be one or the other.  Or perhaps they are somehow neither natural nor supernatural--but whatever it is they are, they are that and nothing else as I see things.  As of now stories have gone: 1) Basically human, but telepathic and not understood by humans (Kat's stories if I remember right) 2) Definitely supernatural, as in responsible for healing and a message to a human 3) A benevolent alien presence, a sort of underwater ET (which is where my angel stories fall).  You could try to say the angels belong to different types in order to explain this, but the stories themselves don't divide the angels into types--except for one of mine, which split surface angels from deep sea angels.  But that was meant to indicate differences in appearance and lifestyle rather than fundamental nature.  Likewise the question of "what is the fundamental nature of wizards" is one in which the answers supplied by differing stories are actually in contradiction to one another, IMHO.  My Wizard Hobson uses the scientific study of angels to develop mental (psionic) abilities--Walt portrays a professor with a levitation problem, that is, performing literal magic.

In general I prefer to have a solution to any problem I happen to raise.  I certainly could create rules to resolve my points; however, that's inappropriate under the circumstances.  Avenir Eclectia belongs mainly to Grace but in a lesser sense to all of us.  I recommend we work together to resolve our issues.

Though perhaps a better way to deal with contradictions would be to deliberately choose to not to look too closely at inconsistencies and simply enjoy what's been written for whatever it happens to be...

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.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Question: What About Money?

What is the money situation in AE?

What are their units?

Is this figured out yet?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Capturing Emotion

In her first post, Kaye linked to a song by Rich Mullins, "Calling Out Your Name". I have always felt a connection to that song, since way before I even knew what a dulcimer was, and before I knew what the strange placenames referred to. The sights he described were also unknown to me. And yet - that connection was there. Something in the words painted a picture of that prairie like no TV show had ever managed to do.

I have had similar experiences with fiction at times. If you feel like humouring me - and I really hope you will, because it's worth it - go and look up this book: The Siege of Dome by Stephen Lawhead. The link will take you to its Amazon page; click on Look Inside and search for "fifty five". Start at page 323 and read to the end of the chapter if you can, but at least to page 328. If you have trouble getting the pages, let me know and I can email an excerpt.

My friends, that is the single most moving passage of fiction I have ever encountered. It fully engages with the universal human need within me, and blows me over by having comfort and empathy come from a source that is fully unexpected. In almost twenty years since I first read it, with hundreds of other books read in between, I have rarely found the like. Ask me anytime what is my favourite scene in fiction, and I'll answer gladly - it's Yarden and the telepathic fish. Even now when I read it, my eyes mist over and I have to pause and enjoy the stirring yet again. Just thinking of it makes me tear up at times, and it reminds me of everything beautiful about writing.

This has influenced me probably a lot more than I know. Believe it or not, I did not have that scene in mind at all when I invented Eclectia's angels - yet the way that some of you have written them is a very strong reflection of Yarden's experience. I love that! And it's proving that the Avenir project can become a very powerful force in fiction.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Abbeys of Jerome and Francis

Shortly after the first library disaster, when 60% of the holdings existent on arrival of Avenir in the 94 Ceti System were lost, the Catholic hierarchy decided to launch the Byblos Project. This consisted of the various Christian and Jewish texts, and those of some other religions, still in the collection being printed out on hard copy (plastisheet) and archived in libraries and caches in a number of places in the 94 Ceti System. This was done in spite of assurances from Administration and the Council that it was impossible that such a loss would again happen in the future. At the time, St. Gunther of Sheba, then Bishop Juan Hiro Gunther, remarked that his own experience and that of most people taught that it was highly unwise to believe in the concept of “impossibility” or to use the word, “Never.” As the library crashes of the next several decades showed, the churchman proved correct. After the second crash, part 2 of the Project was set in motion.

The Abbey of Jerome was founded by the Order of Friars Minor (OFM) in the worked-out shafts of a platinum mine on Sheba by St. Gunther, who stepped down from his diocese to become the first Abbot. As the platinum veins were exhausted, the Abbey grew to fill the empty space. The reason for the Abbey's existence was to train young men to memorize the various versions of the Bible that had been rescued before the final Terminal Crash.

In the Abbey, each boy memorizes a single version of the Bible, for instance The King James or the Ignatius, to mention only two. The students are referred to as “Manuscripts.” Upon entry to the Abbey, they are given or pick a name that they will be known by as long as they are in holy orders. After the required years of study, when they have mastered their Bible's version, they are graduated as “Bibles” in the Rite of Publication. At this point, they will be known by the name of their Bible and their religious name. Later, after retirement--some to return to teach manuscripts at the Abbey—they will be known as “Brother” and their religious name. Once “Published,” the new Bibles are sent into the outside world, to carry the Word of God to all who wish to hear it. Most are teamed with a priest trained in the seminary at the Abbey of Francis on Assisi. Others' services are rented by some Protestant churches—usually, the King James Versions, New International Versions, and Jerusalem Bibles.

The Abbey of Francis, founded on the asteroid, Assisi, by the Third Order Regular (TOR), produces priests in its seminary for the missions and some dioceses. The Abbey shares the asteroid with a Jesuit operated observatory complex noted for the massive optical telescope and radio telescope of the St Joseph Cupertino and Consolmagno Observatories. The feature that makes Assisi extremely suitable for astronomy is that its orbit is tipped at an angle of 78.654 degrees to the plane of the ecliptic. Thus, its is able to allow observations with less regard to the location of the other bodies of the system.

Breaking The Rules.

Hope it's okay just this once for something like this.

I'm sitting here listening to the Avenir Eclectia sound track by Eleon.

IT IS AWESOME!

Do you folks realize how blessed we are to have our own soundtrack!?!?

Not just our own sound track, but our own art too!

If you haven't listened to it, you are missing out.

It starts with the familiar song from the Introduction to Avenir. Then it moves into a bunch other pieces like "Dangerous Journey Ahead" and "In One Minute I Became a Hero" and many more. Listen to it when you get the chance, and tell others about it who get into music like it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-x7SYfRVxvQ&feature=BFa&list=PL0DB715F69080A1C1&lf=player_embedded

Friday, October 14, 2011

Inside--"Bedtime Stories"

I came on board Avenir Eclectia fairly early on in the process, but it was already an intricate world with room for many stories. Not being a hard sci-fi kind of guy, I struggled to find my place at first, but quickly decided on doing something with the underwater "angels"--sentient creatures that have the ability to telepathically influence humans. No one is sure where these creatures come from, or what their intent is, but those who believe they exist are fascinated.

However, just as there are angels, there are "demons". As a horror writer, I was intrigued.

But who would encounter these beings? That proved a little tougher. In AE, one of the selling points is that the fiction is short--like little "bites". Especially with that first installment, I had around 500 words to introduce a character and make you feel emotion for him and his plight. Before I could do that, though, I had to feel emotion for him and his plight. I hadn't even met this guy yet and I was trying to connect to him so that I could connect the Reader to him. I'm a "gut writer". I'm not very cerebral about the process. Coming up with a great "technical" story is just not me--I've never been gifted in prose. I've got to write from the heart, with just lots of feeling exploding on the page. I've got to feel passionate about the character first and foremost or I'll never make it anywhere in the story. But how was I going to feel passionate about this guy in 500 words?

My Batcave where I do my writing is across the hall from my daughters' room. As I write late into the night, I'm very cognizant of them. I can hear them sleeping, or sometimes I'll go and check on them, just to know they're safe. While trying to come up with that first story--"Bedtime Stories"--I thought of my girls. Writers have to tap into their own personal stories in order to connect to their fictional ones and a definite trigger for me is my kids. I can be watching the dumbest scary movie, laughing and rolling my eyes, but if I see a little kid (especially a girl, because I have daughters) in danger, I sit up straighter. I stop laughing. I get anxious. I'm invested. Since I had such a limited word count space, I needed something that would immediately get me invested in Dressler, and hopefully something that would do the same for Readers.

Putting his daughter in danger was the quickest and surefire way for me. Having her dying from an incurable disease connected with me and, as the author, I was prepared to believe that Dressler would do whatever he had to if he thought there was a way to save her.

I had my hook.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Herding and Shell Hunting in Eclectia's High Country

When one thinks of insects and Eclectia, the first thought that normally occurs is of the meat hunters, often criminals convicted of capital offenses. While not every meat hunter is in the profession for such a reason, the number that are ensures that meat hunters tend to be held in low regard. As an example of this, there are few faster ways to start a brawl than to refer to a shell hunter as a “meat hunter.” That the word “hunting” in “shell hunting” itself is a misnomer is beside the point.

Shell hunting grew out of a decorating craze that arose from spacers purchasing brightly colored chitinous (Chitin = bug shell material, light and flexible) parts of slaughtered insects while on shore leave on Eclectia. Originally considered a waste product by the meat industry, the “shells” were given away at first. After a few collectors evinced great interest in procuring desirable examples, the butchers began to actively set aside attractive pieces. Eventually, the market for shells of commonly hunted species became sated. Another problem for those marketing designer shells is that the methods used in meat hunting tend to do damage to the most desirable sections of the prey. The butchers met the problems by offering noticeably higher prices for undamaged shells from less known species. Thus began shell hunting as a business.

A first point to be made about shell hunting is that rather than shooting the prey, it is instead trapped. Once the insect is immobilized, it is carefully dispatched in such a manner that the valuable chitinous shell can be removed without damage. The next operation is to thoroughly flesh or remove all meat from the piece. Besides reducing the weight of the shell to be transported, this also removes residual meat whose scent might attract large predators. The meat scraps thus obtained are either added to the stew pot or used as trap bait for certain kinds of prey. After cleaning, the shell is cached with others until the shell hunters move down to the trading post at the end of the season.

While there are a few individually owned trading posts, the most popular are those of the Palmer Company. Smaller hunting operations often meet traders at rendezvous held up in the hunting areas. Here the small trappers can trade their harvested shells for supplies and credits. These gatherings can become quite boisterous and it is not unknown for almost all the trapper's profits to be spent on drink and drugs, or lost in gambling. The wiser traders generally hold back some credits of the trappers so as to ensure that once the party is over, their customers will have the supplies to see them through the next season and the trader can profit at the next rendezvous. It is noted that alcohol and recreational drugs are not supplied nor tolerated at Palmer Company trading posts, and only “friendly” games of chance are allowed on the premises. Opinion is divided on the reason for this. Some maintain that the rules originate from Floyd McKenna-Hosho, the owner's, personal religious beliefs or his philosophies, while others argue that its just good business.

A second group are the bugherds. These usually family-based operations produce insect products by protecting smaller, more docile insects such as the dermestid beetle family and aphids from predators such as doodlebugs (Myrmeleontidae) and “spotties” of the Coccinellidae and moving the herds to fresh pastures when needed. To aid in this, bugherds have bred a form of watch animal from the mantids. While somewhat less than completely domesticated, these “shepherdbugs” can generally be trusted around the herd if kept fed regularly and will attack other predators to defend their “prey” (i.e: the herd). A main product is honeydew which is milked from the aphids. Besides local use as a beverage (usually thinned with hot water), the sweet syrup is in demand as a base for foods and is fermented to produce honeymead, a wildly popular drink among the wealthy.

After the eggs are laid, the herds are moved to market. There, dermestids and surplus aphids are sold at auction for their meat and other products and as breeding stock. The auctions are held in various small villages scattered throughout the High Country stock areas. At the village--which often consists of a Palmer Company trading post, a tavern or two, several places of worship, and stock pens—the buyers arrive in their hoppers. There is a festival air as different families and parts of families come together, often for the first time in a year. The auctions take about five to seven days, in which time betrothals are made, weddings are held, and brawls are enjoyed. At the end of the auctions, the stock is loaded aboard jumpers (the heavy-lift version of the familiar hopper), purchases of supplies are completed, farewells are said, and by the next morning, the village has shrunk back to its normal population.


  • A note on High Country etiquette:

    In the High Country, when served any liquid whether hot or cold, it is proper to blow on the liquid before the first sip. Before refrigeration became widely available, hospitality dictated that the host serve his guest a drink as hot as possible. The guest was expected to automatically blow on the drink to cool it as a way of acknowledging the thoughtfulness of the host. Today, this has carried over even to cold drinks. Anyone at all familiar with the culture takes great pains to adhere to this custom, as to not blow on one's drink is a deadly insult and has led to brawls, murder, and blood-feuds.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Introducing Me (Kat) and My Characters

I was fortunate to be involved in Avenir from pretty early on. I got to contribute to some of the world building and write stories before the actual release of the magazine, so it's all very dear to me :).

About me:

My name is Kat Heckenbach and I write fantasy, sci-fi, and horror. I've been writing for several years now and have short stories in multiple online magazines and print anthologies.

My first novel just released last month from Splashdown Books, Middle Grade fantasy Finding Angel. If you want to know more about it, visit www.findingangel.com. And if you want to learn more about me and dare to wander around in my head a bit, visit www.katheckenbach.com.



My Avenir characters:

Jax is a bug-hunter, but not a typical one. He committed some serious white-collar crimes on the Avenir station. He was offered a deal--turn in his accomplices and be released on Eclectia. His death was staged to keep his family out of danger.

Mary is Jax's wife. She was pregnant when Jax was arrested and never had a chance to tell him. They have three other children, so she has no choice but to be strong.

Mary's friend Tomika comes to visit and reveals evidence she has found that Jax is alive--after taking a tour of the "lower level" with her friend Xavia.

Gavin is a young urchin who is taken under the wing of a Wizard named Spiner. He believes in the underwater angels and wants to learn more about them. Spiner and Gavin quickly begin to develop a father-son relationship.

Robynn is an urchin as well. Tall for her age, she pretends to be older and "befriends" the tougher kids in order to keep from being the victim of their bullying. She knows Gavin and in my last story involving her, she discovers that Gavin has been spending time with Spiner.

Piper is a girl who escaped human trafficking on Eclectia thanks to the help of a small rodent that led her to a perfect hiding spot on a cargo vessel headed to Avenir. I've only written one story with Piper, but hope to delve into her life a little more.

I love so much about writing for Avenir. The shortness of the stories make them easy to finish, yet the fact that they are so character-driven allows for real depth. And I adore being able to tie stories together :). It feels like a real community.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Couple of Plants on Eclectia

Well, the plant life on Eclectia, besides being very hardy, must be able to withstand extreme temperatures and the 5 day summer to winter cycle. They just about all have to be of some sort of evergreen plant like, pines, firs, holly, or boxwood, etc.

But I thought of a couple made up ones that would be fun to have. One is a succulent spiral shoot that is called a Spring plant, because it is shaped like a spring. And there could be fields of them. And those fields would be called Spring fields because many of them would grow together interlacing and blocking out other plant including the tenacious lava brush. When it's a winter day, the plants contract down together close to the ground for protection and to insulate the roots from freezing. On more tepid days, the spring plant loosens up and becomes, well, springy, but a bit and becomes a fun place for sports like soccer or soft ball or just a fun place to run around since the springy plant is bouncy. But on summer days, the coils loosen even more making them hard to walk over, tripping and snagging at the feet.
The contracting during the winter is what protects the Spring plant's extensive root system. On the coldest days or nights, temperatures may harm the coils, but the intact roots are preserved and will start sending up new coils to replace the damaged or dead ones.
The Spring Plant doesn't flower much since it does most of its reproducing by its root system. But when the conditions are just right, a few the the spirals may produce seed pods. They are heavy, though, and smooth. So they neither float on the wind nor attach to the hairs of a bug to be carried off. The pods usually just fall into the ground nearby that is already over run by Spring Plants. Thus the saying, "The pod doesn't fall far from the spring patch."
Eaten raw, they are bitter, but a few spirals in a large pot of soup adds a unique flavor that makes bug meat more digestible.

The Thorny Fan gets its name from its two extreme phases. On summer days, the leaves spread open like fans to capture as much sunlight as possible. But on the winter days the leaves fold in on themselves, then twist, forming tough, sharp thorns an inch or two long. The prick of the thorn causes an irritation like a mosquito bite and both man and animal avoid patches of Thorny Fan on winter days.
It is a medicinal plant gathered when the leaves are open. The leaves are either chewed fresh or dried and kept on hand to produce a tea that takes the edge off of pain. It is also a fever reducer.
The plant refuses to grow on Avenir or in the undersea cities no matter what is tried to reproduce the extreme conditions of Eclectia.
Thorny Fans produce an extraordinary flower. It comes up on the first summer day, opens green like the leaves. But rather than fan shaped, it bursts open in all directions like an exploding fire cracker. Then it closes for a winter cycle. The next summer day it opens in brilliant colors ranging for purples and deep blues to reds and oranges, depending on the acidity of the soil. Then the flower closes again for a winter cycle. The third summer day it opens up as a parachute ball seed head. The first strong breeze or hearty wind sends the parachuted seeds flying to find new ground to sow.
The oil of the plant, when produce a certain way, has the same effect on people as an opiate. This was discovered when producers worked to extract the medicinal qualities from the bulk of the plant for easier shipping. Unfortunately this discovery led to abuse.
The plant grew plentifully on Eclectia but Enforcers had to destroy most of the plants and make the oil a controlled substance because the poor would produce the drug to ease the pain of their futile lives. Many deaths and unwanted pregnancies resulted. Deaths came from overdose or murder. Parents would abandon their children or sell them in order to get Thorny Fan Oil or Thano. The plant can be grown by a very few who obtain licences to do so. And still others risk growing it illegally for either themselves or for profit. Thano busts are (can be?) a regular occurrence on Eclectia.
Though it is illegal to grow Thorny Fan without a licence, in the high country and desolate places, naturally occurring Thorny Fan is generally left alone by enforcers since the Nomads don't have the technology to produce Thano and the Hermits and Miners of the Five Rims, along with the Nomads, prefer to use it in it's natural form for pain and fever reducing.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Hello from a Fellow Historian!


Howdy to all my fellow historians!

Grace said to introduce ourselves and talk about our writing, so here goes--forgive me if this sounds too much like an autobiography!

I'm a 22-year-old who has been fascinated with speculative fiction since I first read The Lord of the Rings when I was 12. Thanks to my husband's supportiveness, I'm able to stay at home and attempt to corral the characters who think they should have the run of the house. ;)

I stumbled across Avenir Eclectia early this year, shortly after Grace started posting. I read the couple of the stories that were up and thought the concept was awesome--sort of like the Star Wars universe novels, but with a Christian slant and a mix of genres. I also thought that it would be a challenge writing stories for AE because the word count was so low, and I have a habit of being overly wordy. It has proved as challenging as I thought, but it's also been a ton of fun being a part of the AE community and reading all the other incredibly creative stories everyone comes up with!

I write the stories about Cara, an orphan girl, Pieter, a paroled smuggler/bored rich kid, and Reeder, a messenger. All of my stories so far can be read here. I'm super excited to continue these two storylines and have plans for tying the storylines together in a (hopefully exciting) adventure.

Besides Avenir Eclectia stories, I'm in the middle of rewriting my epic fantasy novel Half Blood and writing a steampunk serialized novel, Falls the Shadow, with two other authors at The Lost Scribes blog.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Intrasystem Merchant Shipping

One of the things that knits together a scattered society is trade--the transfer of goods and people. Connecting the various population centers of the 94 Ceti System is the merchant shipping that moves both while plying the orbits between, and the auxiliary services that support it.

No matter what the propulsion system, all shipping moves by shaping orbits. As merchant shipping is a matter of moving cargoes between points in such a way that costs are less than value received at the other end, the least expensive method is to be preferred. This equation is made up of how much it costs to move the cargo and when its arrival is desired. There are three main propulsion systems presently in use: reaction, lightsail, and ballistic.

Reaction propelled ships use fusion powered elements that create a plasma when a reaction mass is introduced. The resulting plasma is directed aft through either a venturi or an orifice plate and produces forward movement per Newton's third law of motion. At the moment, there is great dispute among Power Engineers over the cost-effectiveness of the two designs. The argument boils down to the lesser efficiency of the less expensive orifice plate versus the higher efficiency of the more expensive venturi system. Whichever is used, the norm is for the ship to boost to speed to enter the most economical orbit to reach their destination. It is said that, among merchant captains, the 11th Commandment is “Reaction mass is money—thou shalt not waste.” The engine is then shut down and the ship coasts to a point at which it is then rotated 180 degrees. Its engine is restarted and brakes the ship until it arrives at its destination.

Lightsails, or sunjammers, rely on the primary's solar wind to move them outward and its gravity to draw them inward. This is an extremely inexpensive method of spaceflight, but comes at a cost; it is also extremely slow. Not only is the solar wind slow to accelerate the lightsail, but the originating port and the destination have to be in the proper alignment (this is why navigators aboard lightsails are tweaked as “astrologers”).

Ballistic carriers, known as “cannonballs,” are not accelerated by their reaction engines but, instead, are launched by mass drivers. Their reaction engines are not started until braking at the other end. The ship is accelerated by a system of electromagnets at the originating port and, thus, must be smaller than a reaction drive ship or a sunjammer. Because of this, cannonballs usually are used to transport small, high value cargoes. As another set of electromagnets is required at the destination to propel the ship on to its next port of call, cannonballs don't go off the beaten track.

Because most intrasystem ships are not built to make planetfall, but rather remain in planetary orbit, lighters are used to transport passengers and cargo between the surface and low orbit. Lighters also move reaction mass up to orbit for those ships requiring it where there is no orbital facilities. In the case of cannonballs, they must dock with orbital stations having the huge array of electromagnet rings they require for initial propulsion.

Shipping operates both under individual ownership and under the ownership of the “house lines.” These latter are typified by the Nakamura family's “Marus,” Steve Jackson's “Travellers,” the Gulf Consortium's “Universes,” and the Starr Lines' “Commerces.” A new entry in the field is the Dog Star Line with their four merchantmen, Star Husky, Star Beagle, Star Feist, and Star Boxer. At press time, Dog Star appears to be concentrating on operations between Ice Stations within the Oort Cloud. According to rumor, owner Silas Mariner, a former ice miner, got his start after winning a freighter, Star Fiest (nee, Rebargenette) and a tanker, Star Beagle (nee, Aquasynthesis) in a three-day poker game on Ice Station Zebra.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

I Need a Wizard and a Dreamer

The younger brother of my story thread, the one that was left behind on Avenir, he wants to bring his Narcissistic father down but can't do it himself. Though he's just becoming of age to be a full citizen of Avenir and he's very smart, Avenir is so complex with so many facets, the younger brother needs help navigating.

What I need. More detailed understanding of what Wizards can and cannot do and how far their power extends, both real and implied.

I already have the thread forming in my mind as to how the younger brother accomplishes his goal, but in order for him to do this, I need more info on Dreamers, Hackers, Gamers, and/or Slugs.

The Wizard and Dreamer can already exist as characters or I can make up my own using the criteria laid out by others. Just need to know the criteria.
I've carved out my setting on Eclectia and am confident with it. However, the complicated workings and setting of Avenir, I need much more info.

Those who can and have time, please help.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Geography Request 1 - Eclectia


Hi gang.

I'm working on the general geography for the various locations in the Avenir universe. From time to time, I'll be posting Geography Requests to ask my fellow writers to tell me in a general way where their stories are set—i.e.: for Eclectia, Northern Polar Sea, Southern Polar Sea, or in between. As you no doubt can guess from the fact that this one is numbered, I expect this will be an ongoing process. I'll also be going through the backlog of published stories looking for mentions of place names so I can pester people for information.

One of the reasons I think this is needed, is the real possibility that, as we get deeper into our world-building, there's the very good chance we may start stepping on each other's toes or trip over each other. I'm of the opinion that working out the lay of the land will make it much easier for us to keep track of things in our own stories and in those in which we're linking with other writers.

Grace will send my email address to you on request, and I'll ask her for that of any I don't hear from.

In the near future, I'll be working on the geography of Avenir itself, then Sheba, Quatermain, and the ice stations.

Stay tuned.

Walt


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Technically Challenged but....

... excited to be here.

First off, I don't have a picture. I'll apprehend my daughter the next time she's home from college to help me with that one.

Second, I don't know how to do the fancy linky stuff the rest of you know how to do, so I'll do it the only way I know how. Here's a link to my stories, so far, on Avenir Eclectia.

http://www.avenireclectia.com/search/label/kaye%20jeffreys

But enough with that.

My name is Heather Ruppert and I write for Avenir as Kaye Jeffreys. Kay is my middle name and Jeffrey is my husband's middle name. I have four children ages 22 (boy), 21(boy), 18(girl), and 14(girl). My second son, Nicholas, has been reading my work and he has also shared some of his own spec fiction with me. I've tried to get him interested in writing for Avenir, but so far, no luck. But he is starting to understand microfiction and is ready to help me to get a facebook page, that is AFTER we get his college stuff done for his spring semester.

I get inspiration for writing from my family history. I have a love for lonely, windswept, desolate places like the American Great Plains. I base my understanding of ash and grit ridden Eclectia from this history. My 95 year old grandmother went through the Dust Bowl in the 30s.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dust_Bowl

Not everyone appreciates the desolate beauty of the Great Plains. But a Quaker boy from Indiana wrote a song about it and how it inspires him to worship God and I think I'll share that with you now, just for fun.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BaNwTYJrYtA
Also, my ancestry comes from Denmark, another windswept place populated with rugged survivors. I'll share this link with you, also just for fun. Not Christian, but very ancient sounding, at least to me.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YypKod0wBdc

I have a cousin who is a mining engineer for gold and my husband's brother owns a gold mine in Alaska. So they are where I get my inspiration for my Miners of the Five Rims even though my miners prospect for diamonds rather than gold. It was from my sister-in-law that I found out that diamonds come from volcanoes several years back.

I like writing for Avenir because I'm over busy and have little time for getting creative ideas down on paper or computer screen. Micro Fiction seems to be just the ticket  right now even though I'm essentially a novel writer. The five stories that are up so far are chapters to a whole.

I'm looking forward to see how my thread can weave in with the bigger picture with everyone else.
I'm also looking forward to meet more Avenir writers!
And let me take this opportunity to thank Grace for providing this opportunity to us. It is my first shared story world/universe and it has been an awesome experience. It is so big there is plenty of room for all. Thanks Grace!
Heather aka Kaye

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Introducing...me!

Hey, all.

Grace invited us Avenir Eclectia contributors to introduce ourselves and post our behind-the-scenes thought processes on our individual arcs.

My name is Greg Mitchell and I'm one of those perplexing types that like to write about gnarly monsters and B-movie action--within the Christian Fiction market. It's not been an easy road: I'm either too "weird" for the general Christian Fiction readers, or I'm scoffed at as not being "horror" enough to the mainstream crowd. It's a tough spot, but that's where my passions have led me.



My debut novel The Strange Man, Book One in The Coming Evil Trilogy, was published by Realms Fiction last February. Ten years in the making, this trilogy encapsulates everything I love--loads of action, monsters, and frank discussions on faith and Christianity. Book Two in the series--Enemies of the Cross--will be released in February 2012, with Book Three to follow in Feb '13.

When Grace opened the doors for writers to contribute to Avenir Eclectia, I was immediately intrigued, and slightly terrified. I'm not a hardcore sci-fi kind of guy. But Grace assured me that monsters exist in the world of AE, and if I know anything, it's monsters :p

This actually isn't my first time to write in a shared universe. Thanks to an amazing writing contest on the Official Star Wars website a few years ago, I was actually able to develop a backstory for this random ship seen in the background of a deleted scene of Episode I: The Phantom Menace. It's called the Dusty Duck and is my small addition to the official Star Wars lore.

I've also contributed stories and in-universe articles to the Halloween mythology, based on the original 1978 horror film by John Carpenter.

Most recently, I wrote a story for the upcoming Underground Rising anthology, based on the Underground series of Biblical Cyberpunk novels by Frank Creed--who some of you fellow AEers will probably know.

Some might find it constricting to write in a shared universe, but I think it's a really fun challenge. I like to carve out my own piece of the mythology and work with the surrounding authors to craft a cohesive whole. As these blogs progress, I'll go a little deeper into the origins of my particular arc (which you can start reading by going here and scrolling down to the oldest posts)--the story of bug hunter Dressler and his quest to find the underwater angels that hold the cure for his dying daughter.

In the meantime, I invite everyone to check out my site!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Greetings from a fellow Avenir Eclectian

Greeting, Avenir Eclectians, from author Mary Pursselley!
I'm a 23-year-old Christian writer with a love of speculative fiction and all sub-genres therein. I work as a music teacher to support my writing habit, as well as doing some freelance editing work when I can get it. I'm currently working on editing my own first novel and writing the sequel.
I'm so happy to be a part of such a unique and exciting project as AE, and now to be part of the 'Inside' group as well. You can read all my stories on AE by clicking Here.
From the first moment I read the invitation to "Come play in our world", I was intrigued. The background information on the site was interesting, so I read a few stories. They were all very good and I enjoyed them. As a writer, I knew it would be a fun learning experience and a good project for me to be a part of.
For a while, though, I came up empty on ideas. I knew about the world of Avenir Eclectia from reading, but couldn't seem to come up with a story line that grabbed me.
A few days after first discovering AE, I was watching an archaeology documentary about Pompeii and Herculaneum, the cities that were buried by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in A.D. 79. As I watched archaeologists excavate ash-buried remains, an idea sparked. Eclectia is highly volcanic. There must be cities and settlements that were buried in eruptions over the years, right?
You probably guessed it. I had a story cooking. "Tomb Raider" was the first chapter of a story about a girl struggling to provide for her younger sister in the harsh and merciless environment of Eclectia. I'm delighted with the way the story is growing and developing. At the moment I'm playing with a couple different options for upcoming turning points in the plot. I guess we'll see what happens! : ) I've thought about the possibility of eventually writing a novel that expands on the lives and adventures of Celeste and Celia--maybe even tying Joy into their story--but at this point I'm still not certain. Again, I guess we'll see.
Personally, I think my favorite thing about Avenir Eclectia is the fact that it's not just fun to read; it's every bit as enjoyable for the authors who write it as it is for the readers who read it (it is for this author, anyway). To an author's ears, an invitation to "Come play in our world" almost sounds too good to be true. But in the case of Avenir Eclectia, it means just what it says: "Come in, explore, embellish, create, and have a wonderful time doing it!"
Of course, a huge 'Thank you!' goes to Grace, for not only reading, editing, and publishing my stories, but for patiently putting up with all of my absent-minded shenanigans (e.g. forgetting to include the story title in the story, forgetting to attach attachments to emails, etc.). You rock, Grace!

I'm interested to know: how did other people get their ideas for the stories they've written for AE?

Monday, October 3, 2011

On scytheguns

Hi all,


In one of my stories ("Forgiveness"), I made reference to a bug-hunting weapon called a "scythegun." Following the story, someone asked a question about what these guns were and how they worked.


I never answered this because there is no definite answer. I figured not every hunter would be ill-equipped for the job--someone must have a gun that would "mow down" the bugs easily. This thought of mowing down is why I came up with the term "scythegun." Once I thought of it, I used it because I thought the word sounded cool. I never detailed what it was or how it worked. Such details were unimportant to the story I wrote at the time.
I figured if anyone else wanted to use a scythegun and explain how it works, he or she could make up whatever sounded plausible. I figured the term "scythegun" did not have to be linked to an actual scythe because it could be a sort of brand name, assuming brand names exist in the future world of Avenir Eclectia.
If you want me to make something up, I can do that on the spot: I heard once that a military engineer had an idea to link two cannonballs by chain and fire them from two separate cannons at the same time. The idea was the cannonballs linked by chain would form a line of destruction, not only killing what the cannonballs hit, but everything in between them that would be hit by the chain, hugely multiplying the potential destructive force. In practice, however, one of the cannons always fired slightly before the other, so that cannonball would arc around in a loop while the other ball was still anchored to the inside of its cannon. This proved fatal to cannon crews and effectively "killed" the idea.
So I'd make a scythegun a double barrel kinetic energy weapon, firing two small shotput sized balls linked by chain. A modern machine could time them so they come out at exactly the same time. This would punch two fist-sized holes in the bug's exoskeleton maybe 1 to 2 meters apart and cut through the tissue in between. That would effectively scramble the bug internal organs in an instant without breaking the exoskeleton into minute fragments as a large explosive projectile would do.
You could set it up so the scythegun fires one ball at a slightly faster speed (though still simultaneously leaving the barrels). I think that would make the two balls and chain whirl through the air, spinning with a sinister-sounding whoosh, perhaps becoming more accurate over distance due to rotational stability. I didn't describe that whoosh in my story, but maybe not all scytheguns would work exactly the same--perhaps some could fire straight and some rotate. Speaking of not being exactly the same, crude scytheguns of the sort I just made up would be fired by gunpowder cartridges, while fancy once would be powered by EMF--Electromotive Force, essentially mini magnetic catapults electrically hurling out a steel-balls-and-chain set.
I hope the above is helpful and makes sense. Please let me know if I can help with these ideas any more in the future.
Travis

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Circuit Office and Some Questions

I have a Circuit Office coming up in one of my stories. Circuit Offices are multi-purpose buildings located in the less populated areas of Eclectia. Circuit riders or preachers ride around and hold services in these offices. Clinics are held in these offices by various aid groups. And after reading Walt's explanation of Peace Keepers and Enforcers it would seem that the Peace keepers could set up shop there when they come through. And I'm leaving it up in the air as to whether or not there is a permanent room in the circuit office dedicated to the local Enforcer/Sheriff/Marshal, etc.

The Circuit Office in my story is located in Last Stop, a small settlement on the edge of the 'civilization' that my miners visit. The Assayer's office and market are in separate buildings.

Now I have questions.

Could I have a chart or formula concerning Eclectia time verses Earth time?

(Grace here, stepping in with editor's prerogative to answer the questions right here...)
  • From http://www.avenireclectia.com/p/setup.html: 25 hours in a day, 30 days in a month (aligns with Avenir's Approachings to Eclectia) and 15 months plus 4 extra days in a year (454 days = the planet's actual orbit period around 94 Ceti). There is no chart as such but we can extrapolate from these basic facts.
Could I get more info on Dreamers and Slugs/Gamers?
How do the Gamers hook up to the 'system'?
What is the system/network like?
I've seen the matrix. Obviously they don't hook up with holes in the back of their heads. So what do they do?
  • Fred would be the one to answer this, as that is his storyline.

Is there a specific story known to the writers as to how people came to Eclectia? Or is it a free for all, any one's story is as good as anyone else's?
I only ask because I'm about ready to explore the way my miners, nomads, and hermits view it. And even if it is askew from what really happened, I'd like for it to be askew from a common story, if there is one. If there isn't a common story, that's fine too. Believe me, I can make up my own but I haven't started down that road yet and would really like to compare notes before I do.
  • Beyond these known basics, there isn't much more at present. See also Fred's Dreamer thread. Walt may have some more history to publish on origins, too.
(Thanks for these answers. I have another)

I want more info on the Wizards.
Jaren, the younger brother of Jereth, will begin looking for answers to help he brother. I'm thinking of having him go to the wizards first and I want to portray them accurately. Then I think he will turn to the gamers.
  • Aha, here you will have to ask Kat and Holly and Travis and Keven. There might be more, too. I may have invented the wizards, but I only had a very vague concept and it is the others who have elaborated on it.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Greetings Historians


Hi, I'm Jeff C. Carter and the first story I ever had published was on Avenir Eclectia!
That first success was a wonderful boost to a fledgling writer, and now that a little time has passed my credits now include short stories in the upcoming anthologies SCIENCE GONE MAD from Static Movement, SHORT SIPS 2 from Wicked East Press, issues of CALLIOPE and TREMBLES magazine, and a cool new project that I can't discuss just yet.
I'm a huge fan of science fiction, horror and any story that bends or blends genres. Can I share a nerdy moment with you? After I saw Total Recall in the theater (am I dating myself?) I walked out giddy with excitement. My friend and I were gushing over all the possibilities left open at the end of the movie when (spoiler alert!) Mars finally got a rich atmosphere. A whole new world to explore! A fresh start for life to spiral out in all its dizzying forms...
That's how I feel about Avenir Eclectia. My stories Evolution and Leviathan follow a plucky scientist Dr. Kwame Singh who is slowly becoming a tragic, doom eyed wanderer.
He starts studying the evolution of religious beliefs in different environments and is going to end up being tested by visions and prophecies from beliefs that are not necessarily his own.
Other AE historians that I'm really enjoying are Ed M. Erdelac, Greg Mitchell, Travis Perry, Fred Warren, oh man, I just realized how long this list is going to be. Well, I'm really enjoying all of them!
My favorite location is Sheba, hands down. It is dramatic, epic, and ripe with possibility. Still, I can't believe I haven't had a nerd moment and written about those giant bugs yet.
That's all for now, I'll post a little bit of my favorite research to date which can also be found at my blog. Thanks everyone!
-Jeff C. Carter