Hello, my name is…
1 - Medron - Happy New Year - A New Year is here. On the one hand, it’s just a flipping of the calendar or a changing of the days with no other meaning. On the other, many new laws will be taking effect, so we have attached a great deal of meaning to it.
Whatever the case, we are entering a New Year. For myself, twenty years have passed since I was preparing computers for Y2K, and today I write stories and create worlds. I like what I’ve done with my life, and I intend to do more of it in the coming year.
So Happy New Year.
2 - Medron - Avenger - I’m a very visual writer. I like to have pictures of my designs and characters that I can refer to when writing stories. That is why I’ve drawn out most of the designs in Jack of Harts in pencil. And the quality of those sketches for public consumption is why I have worked with far more capable artists to bring those designs to life. ;)
The F-12 Avenger was originally modeled by Kirk Alderfer way back in 2011. This was back when I was still writing my first published novel. He would go on to bring several other designs into (digital) reality for me and I highly suggest you check out his Galactic game universe and miniatures as he really is an imaginative artist. I own many of his miniatures and have used them in games. I love them.
The final version of the Avenger shown here was created by Stephen Huda. I wanted a higher definition version of the design for my covers, so I contacted him and he came up with the following design. It actually incorporates all three major design and refit phases of the Avenger depicted in Forge of War, from the original Earthbuilt prototype used at the beginning of the book to the final Peloran rebuild featured in the book’s final battle.
At least one example of this fighter has been seen on the covers of all but two stories I’ve published to this day. I think I can safely say as a New Years Resolution that I intend to use this design more times this year.
3 - Medron - Liberator/Privateer - We’ve established that I’m a visual writer. I like to keep pictures (renders actually) of the various designs and characters open when I’m writing about them. Some I’ve contracted other artists to do for me. Others I’ve done myself with some excellent 3D rendering software. I try not to reference my drawings much, beyond to bask in just how much better the final product is than what my sketchings started as. ;)
The Liberator/Privateer was an early idea I had for a starship. A small transport/warship designed to haul cargo or fighters like the old jeep carriers did in World War II. Something built specifically for the Cowboys so they could go anywhere they needed to without devoting large warships to ferry them around. It would become a standard small transport, marketed to everybody, after I continued writing its backstory. Something seen throughout Terran space, operated by just about anybody, which would allow the Cowboys to slip into systems without anybody realizing who they were. That was entirely coincidental, I assure you.
As with the Avenger, it was named after World War II military aircraft. And it was modeled by Kirk Alderfer. He did some fun mods for this design, with everything from extra carrier pods to a gunboat mod that has been depicted in Wolfenheim Emergent. And Stephen Huda did a more detailed model for use as a cover of one of my stories. Here it is, with and without the standard cargo pods it is most often seen throughout Terran space. I will note that even the Cowboys with their carrier pods tend to look like this as well. Holoemitters can do an amazing job making them look just as harmless as all the other ships around them.
4 - Medron - Victory - The Victory-class dreadnought is a rare example of a ship design I did not name after a World War II series of warships. Yes there were Victory ships, and there have been numerous classes of warships named Victory over the years. And there was a Victoria-class battleship back in the 1800s, but no big combatants from World War II. Still, I liked the name and decided to go with it.
As with other designs, Kirk Alderfer did the original development for me, and it has hung around in my files ever since. I haven’t written any stories showing the British front and center, so I never had the excuse to spend the money to get it modeled up for a cover. But I’m currently working on publishing a story that does include the British, so I contacted Stephen and asked him to make me a new Spitfire fighter. I told him the basic story and scene I wanted of three fighters plowing the road of enemies and he asked me which of the various ship classes the Audacious was. I had to tell him we hadn’t done that one yet, but he wanted to do the scene with that girl in the background. So I gave him all the reference files I had, and he ginned up an amazing cover showing all three fighters with this girl in the background.
You really need to check out Stephen Huda’s deviantart page. He's got some good stuff on there.
But for now, here is a nice little long distance view of a ship that has not yet had the chance to show herself center stage on one of my book covers. She’s a little difficult to pick out, back there behind the explosions and lense flare, but that’s the way it should be in this case. After all, she’s got fighters acting all big and dangerous all around her, trying to keep the enemy from getting a good enough view of her to shoot her dead. You can see the bow of an Austin-class destroyer in the upper left of the image, but our Victory girl takes up most of the rest of the image.
5 - Medron - Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and All That Jazz - On the Twelfth Day of Christmas, I give to you…well…nothing really. Certainly no lords a leaping or any of that other nonsense from the song. I’m having an amazing pizza as my feast to end the Christmas Season. And I’m retiring the red trenchcoat and festive hat for another year. I’m going back to my Indiana Jones Fedora and leather trenchcoats for the remainder of winter. You have been warned. ;)
Also, while reading a couple of stories recently, I ran into some more typos that made it through EVERY round of editing, of course, and another story that I absolutely must tell. The aftermath of Angel War and some elements purposefully left open in Forge of War that call out to be addressed happen to…ahem…come together rather well. So there’s another story on my list to write. Outlining has been completed and the dialog is coming now. Once the dialog is completed to my satisfaction, then it will be time to write up the action that fills it out. Yippie ki-yay. You have been warned. :)
6 - Medron - The Mandalorian - I will preface this by saying that I have not seen all of the Mandalorian. I don’t have Disney Plus so can’t watch it, though I did see the first one or three episodes with a friend who did have it. I have since watched reviews that showed clips of it and talked about it a lot, so I feel I can make a general statement as to my impressions of the show. In short, it is awesome. It is the kind of Star Wars I wish had been made for years, and I whole-heartedly endorse it. And when it comes out on DVD, I will buy it.
I have spoken.
7 - Charles - Pacifica - The development of fabricators fundamentally transformed the Socialist Republic of Juneau. They had long relied on hard labor to grow the food they needed and mine the resources they required, but fabricators made generating life’s necessities far cheaper and safer. Fabricators were also far more reliable than sometimes sick or unhappy laborers, so the leadership of Juneau quickly arranged to obtain as many fabricators as they could from their friendly cousins in Pacifica. They also imported an increasing number of robotic laborers from those same friends, and those twin developments reinvented the very basic structure of life in Juneau. The entire Life Debt system was predicated on the need for some people to plow the fields and work the mines so the best of the people could live in comparative luxury. With robots and machines to replace them, Juneau no longer needed them. So Juneau made a great production of retiring the entire Life Debt system and replacing it with a far more equitable Social Credit system.
8 - Charles - Pacifica - The Socialist Republic of Juneau’s new Social Credit system was a profound change to the way of life in Juneau. With no more need to work for a living thanks to fabricators and robotic labor, Juneau built their new system to promote social awareness and responsibility in the growing worlds. Acting and speaking well for themselves and Juneau improved Social Credit and gave them access to more prestigious rewards in life. Outside observers noted that this was little different than the old Life Debt system, but the government of Juneau was quick to say that such was not so. The old system was based on the needs of the people and the debt that engendered. But fabricators changed everything. Material needs no longer existed. The only challenge left was to improve themselves and society. All they asked now was that the people treat each other well, and those who did it best would be rewarded with the best in life. Juneau was happy to give them access to the far better society of tomorrow, where hunger and want was a thing of the past, that today’s technologies made possible.
9 - Charles - Pacifica - One thing that must be understood is that the Socialist Republic of Juneau did not actually abolish all Life Debts when they ended the Life Debt system. Those people who had low Life Debts made up the powerful middle class of Juneau and did have their Life Debts cleared out in favor of a new start. But it was still possible for people to incur new Life Debts for violating the standards of the Social Credit system. The key difference under the new system is that Life Debts were owed to the people, not to the State, since everything the State provided was now free of charge thanks to the wonders of fabricators and unlimited energy.
10 - Charles - Pacifica - Those who earned new Life Debts to the people of the Socialist Republic of Juneau had numerous ways of paying back their Debt. Most often these were in low risk services like cleaning the public roads or emptying the trash in public venues. Another way to pay off their Debt was for individuals with higher Social Credit to use some of their Credit to buy a portion of the Life Debt, creating a term of Indentured Servitude for the duration of the resulting Social Contract. This formalized a long tradition of The State providing individual servants for the Zero Balancers under the old system, and has helped to create an interesting economy in Juneau. Since all the necessities of life are free, the very best family servants, such as celebrities who have incurred Debt by violating the Social Contract, become a way of showing status. And so the upper crust of Juneau take every opportunity to show off their, sometimes very famous, Indentured Servants to other upper crust families.
11 - Charles - Pacifica - The Socialist Republic of Juneau’s Social Credit system has helped them build one of the most peaceful, tolerant, and fulfilling societies on Earth and beyond. Their news media and government tout that fact every morning in the approved newscasts. They have cast the irredeemable elements of humanity out of their society, while those who can be improved are honed into the very best that humanity can offer. Those who seek to improve their Social Awareness and are supportive of Juneau typically receive very low Life Debts when they inevitably fail to uphold the Social Contract. They can work their Debts off through various services to the people. But Juneau has no room for those who perform truly heinous acts. No prisons. No death penalty. So they are deported from Juneau territory and banned from ever returning. This allows Juneau to be a safe and inviting society for their chosen citizens.
12 - Charles - Pacifica - The lowest classes of the Socialist Republic of Juneau under the old Life Debt system were filled with those burdened under generations of legal or social infractions that had ballooned their Life Debt beyond any ability to repay. Others earned Life Debts through truly terrible acts that proved they could never be part of society again. These lowest casts, often living off the public largess in Debtors Prisons, were too deplorable or irredeemable to be allowed to pollute the best and most Socially Aware society in all the worlds once the Life Debt system was largely removed. So they were ceremoniously packed onto passenger boats and deposited outside the borders of Juneau. Though there are persistent rumors that not all who got onto the boats made it to safety outside Juneau. Many families tell stories of people who disappeared during the exodus from Juneau, though in the vast majority of cases they were later found having simply been packed onto a different boat with a different destination. Still, the rumors of mass disappearances continue to this day and numerous conflicting studies have been penned in the decades that have followed.
13 - Medron - Growing Up - I grew up in the 1990s. I spent the first two decades of my life traveling and moving all over the United States. I’ve been to something like fourteen schools all told, and lived in numerous towns in Northern Minnesota and Kansas, two climates that do not get much further apart. But in the early 1990s, I and my mom moved up to Southern Minnesota since she wanted to work at the Mayo Clinic, and we have lived in the area ever since. The grand total of my moves since then has been buying the house next door. I really don’t want to move again.
The 1990s were an interesting time. Cell phones were starting to come into existence. I was a fairly early adopter in the mass market getting my Nokia you could beat up a brick wall with in 2000, but the rich and upper middle classes had been slowly adopting them all decade. Star Wars had started publishing new stories, showing us the continuing adventures of Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa Solo, and her husband Han Solo as they fought the remnants of the corrupt Empire. We saw their kids grow up, saw Luke train a new generation of Jedi, and watched the original Rogue One dispensing truth and justice on Imperial Tie Fighters across the galaxy. Oh yes. And this little show called Star Trek: The Next Generation brought an entire new…ahem…generation into the glories of Star Trek. It was a decade of hope.
But it wasn’t all fun and games. It was also a decade of rising tensions in America. We’d had a pretty easy 80s from my perspective as a kid. Other than the Soviets that just might kill us all, but there was the Red Phone now. We could talk it out. But inside America there was a rising militia movement full of people who did not trust the government. I was still in school when the FBI killed those people in Ruby Ridge. I watched the flames of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco. Ironically, the Federal involvement in both cases started with gun charges. A Federal Agent contracted Randy Weaver to saw off a couple shotgun barrels for him, and then threatened to send Weaver to jail unless he joined the Aryan Nation as a spy for the Feds. And when Weaver refused, he was brought up on the firearms charges that would eventually lead to the Feds shooting his son in the back and his wife in the head. And the Branch Davidians had a lot of AR-15s that the Feds thought they might be modifying to fully automatic. So they raided the place, were fought off, then surrounded the place, and finally the Branch Davidians died when their compound burned down in a fire the Feds said they had nothing to do with. And a year later, the Oklahoma City Federal Building blew up in what would be the most spectacular attack on American soil of the decade.
The biggest lesson I got out of growing up watching all of that? If the government decided you were doing something wrong and you disagreed, they might kill. Not simply take you to court and maybe send you to jail. But shoot your family, your friends, and maybe burn down everybody you know. Or simply sit back and watch you burn. I learned before I was twenty that the government could destroy your life if you weren’t doing what they told you to do. That’s a hard lesson to learn when you are growing up. My generation learned it well. We don’t trust the government by and large. We don’t like it, comparatively few of us join it compared to other generations, and we generally live our lives hoping to avoid dealing with it as much as possible. We are nice to the government, we are brief with the government, we will fill out all our little paperworks for the government, and then we go home and try very hard not to deal with the government for the rest of the year. Because we know, deep down, that every single interaction we have with the government increases the chance of the Feds deciding we are a nail that needs pounding.
In my case, I buried my spare time into watching, reading, and writing science fiction. Because the real world around me was not something I wanted to live in. I wanted to explore the galaxy on the Starship Enterprise. I wanted to live with the Elves in the Last Homely House East of the Sea, or walk on the beach beneath the walls of Cair Paravel. I wanted to fly with Wedge Antilles, or be one of Luke Skywalker’s new Jedi. I wanted to discover the technologies of the long lost Star League and bring them back to humanity. I lived in a land of imagination because I could do what I wanted. I had the power to help people in that world.
I guess that’s why I write stories about people who help now. I saw so many things being torn down in real life as I was growing up, that I have a deep antipathy towards telling stories like that. Towards being part of them in any way. I detest them on a level I did not understand as a young man. So now I tell stories about people who build and seek to make things better. It’s my way of building our world up just a little bit. My way of helping now that I am entering the middling of my years. Now that I better understand some of the things I learned growing up.
14 - Charles - Pacifica - When the Socialist Republic of Juneau retired its Life Debt system, many people were In Default, having Run from their Debt. Some had been Collected, and were serving out their sentences via Service to the State. Others were still Running. Juneau made it a public policy to never annul the Debt of a Runner, except through paying that Debt off through Service to the People of Juneau. Administrative costs and the minor infractions against the Social Contract that such outlaws are expected to commit on a daily basis generally make it impossible for most of them to work the Debt off. And Juneau Debt Collectors continue to ply their trade outside the borders of Juneau, bringing in a steady stream of new Collections for Juneau’s Service Industry. This is a pointed example to all citizens of Juneau that Running from a Life Debt is not an option. Not in the past. Not now. Not ever.
15 - Medron - Forge of War -
16 - Medron - Angel Flight -
17 - Medron - Angel Strike -
18 - Medron - Angel War -
19 - Medron - The Thunderbird Affair -
20 - Medron - Into The West - J. R. R. Tolkien died before I was born. I do not remember a time when he lived. But his works dominated my youth. I learned how to spell grey the proper way because of him. And yes, I started with The Hobbit, and went on to The Lord of the Rings which I read cover to cover, including the appendixes. All of them.
I grew up in a world without him, but one that had his son. Christopher Tolkien has been the editor and mapmaker of Lord of the Rings for my entire life. He has always been there, expanding on his father’s work and making it into a world that goes far beyond the pages of just those early books. Taking the notes and poems and stories that his father started, editing them and finishing them and finding ways to publish them so all those of us who loved that world could see more of it. I loved the Silmarillion as a child. I was pretty much his target audience.
Now he is gone. The Tolkiens that have dominated my life are no more, and that is a great and terrible thing to face. They have gone into The West, and we must give them one Last Goodbye. And this…this is where my mind goes back to again and again.
Into The West. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D3wYqB3WKLM
The Last Goodbye https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8ir8rVl2Z4
21 - Medron - Wolfenheim Rising -
22 - Medron - Wolfenheim Emergent -
23 - Medron - The Gemini Affair -
24 - Charles - The Republic of Texas - What would become the Republic of Texas traces her history back to the time of the Spanish Empire and Louisiana Purchase America. The United States was expanding west after purchasing much of North America from France, and the Spanish were having problems controlling New Spain. The locals wanted independence, the French thought they could conquer it, and the Americans thought they had bought much of it from France. And the Indians lived there and didn’t want anybody invading their lands. That made the frontier region that would become Texas a rather difficult area to settle and control for any single nation. And it helped to create the frontier culture that would define the region for centuries.
25 - Charles - The Republic of Texas - It is impossible to tell the story of Texas without also telling the story of the Mexican States. New Spain was claimed under Papal authority and conquered by Spain in the 1500s. They built missions to spread Christianity throughout the New World, and ruled the region for centuries. The parts of New Spain that would later become Mexico and Texas were rather restive members of their empire though, filled with surviving Indian communities that did not want Spanish rule, or often colonized by Spaniards who didn’t want to be ruled too closely. Those communities often merged, giving what would become Mexico an interesting fusion of local Indian and Spanish culture and blood. And as the centuries passed, they wanted more and more independence from the crown of Spain. That drive for independence was rarely met with welcome, and Spain put down a number of rebellions with a brutality that often jumpstarted the next generation of revolutionaries.
26 - Charles - The Republic of Texas - Though Spain claimed Texas as far back as the 1500s, they ignored it for most of the centuries that followed. It was a backwater, inhabited by people they considered to be uncivilized savages. They did have some settlements on the Rio Grande, El Paso being one of the more famous examples, but simply didn’t bother with the northern expanses. Until they heard rumors that France was trying to take over the area in the late 1600s. They planted Spanish colonies far beyond the Rio Grande in the 1700s to put their stamp on the area. They lived a mostly ranching life beyond the borders of normal civilization in western and eastern Texas. These Tejanos would become the primary source of power and civilization in the region for the next century, and built traditions and laws that continue to influence Texas to this day.
27 - Medron - The Career Bureaucracy - One of the more fascinating arguments I’ve heard during the recent Impeachment is over who decides our foreign policy. And as a reader and writer of science fiction, I have a deep interest in this kind of thing.
On the one hand, there are those who argue that foreign policy is decided upon by our elected leaders. They argue that the elected officials should conduct it in their role as representing the public who put them into position. In the United States of America, that power is granted to the President.
On the other hand, there are those who argue that foreign policy is decided upon by the professionals in the career bureaucracy. They argue that career officials who have had years and decades to study foreign countries can make much better decisions than some elected flunky who can’t stick a finger on Iran if given a world map. In the United States of America, the State Department performs this function.
The debate in this case of course concerns whether or not we should Impeach a President who is described to have conducted a side foreign policy in contravention of the official foreign policy decided upon by the career bureaucracy in the State Department. And numerous State Department bureaucrats have been called forward to testify on this.
As I prefaced on this, I have read a lot of science fiction, and there is an entire genre of sci-fi that deals with something like this. Vast numbers of dystopic fiction deals with places where the elected officials are little more than figureheads for the career bureaucracies that truly decide…everything. The laws people live under. The punishments they get if they violate those laws. The people sent to enforce the laws. The trope of the “vast bureaucracy” is actually inherent enough in fiction that a certain website has a rather appropriately vast page dedicated to it. Go there at your own risk.
The point I’m going to make is simple. It is often very interesting to read stories about people struggling in a world where the career bureaucracy dictates everything. I do not wish to live in such a world though. I like a world where the people I elect to represent me have a say in what the government does, or more preferably, does NOT do.
28 - Charles - The Republic of Texas - Spain claimed and colonized New Mexico in the 1500s, though that far region was hard to control and defend against the Indian tribes further to the north. It actually seemed as if Spain might abandon the region in the 1600s, which encouraged the Franciscan priests to make the region more Spanish by force. They evicted the locals from the best farming lands, banned the practice of local religions, seized and burned religious artifacts, and arrested local religious leaders. By the late 1600s, they officially arrested nearly fifty medicine men for practicing sorcery, and sentenced four of them to death. That sparked what historians call the Pueblo Revolt and evicted Spain from the region. Spain’s initial reaction to the revolt was muted, though they returned in force a decade later upon hearing rumors that France was trying to take over the area. The insurrection would continue on and off until the end of the century, though Spain eventually prevailed and many Pueblo moved further north and west to evade their control. But this was not the end of independence movements in the New World.
29 - Charles - The Republic of Texas - Spain explored Texas in the late 1600s to hunt down rumored French outposts in the area, and sent full colonies to plant their flag in the 1700s. But they soon found Eastern Texas not worth the effort to maintain and decided to abandon those colonies. And when the Tejano colonists refused to leave, Spain shipped them back to the other colonies at gunpoint. The Tejanos did not appreciate these heavy-handed tactics, and independence movements began to take heart in their communities. What did Spain know about their daily lives? What did Spain know about their dreams and visions? What did Spain care about their world out beyond the frontier? And what gave Spain the right to demand anything of them? The longer they thought and stewed over those questions, the more they could see a world where they were free of the Spanish crown telling them to do anything.
30 - Charles - The Republic of Texas - New Spain played host to many revolutionary movements over the centuries of Spanish rule, some of Indian focus and some by Spaniards who simply wanted more freedom from the crown. The 1800s proved the bloodiest time for New Spain though. Napoleonic France conquered Spain, leaving the rest of the Spanish Empire in turmoil. Would they be loyal to the new French-installed ruler, their deposed king, or themselves? Brushfire rebellions burned in Texas, Mexico, and other colonies, and were put down by the local Spanish authorities with extreme brutality in an effort to teach the locals a lesson. Father Hidalgo led a peasant rebellion in 1810 that sparked a decade-long revolution that would inevitably lead to the creation of the First Mexican Empire in 1821. The Spanish Empire of course did not accept this and attempted to retake Mexico several times in the years that followed. It was a complicated time for the Spanish Empire, the New World, and everybody it touched.
31 - Charles - The Republic of Texas - Texas played a unique role in the various revolutions that plagued New Spain in the early 1800s. Spain had only lightly colonized it, France had reportedly placed colonies there, and the United States of America thought they had purchased everything up to the Rio Grande from France in the Louisiana Purchase. And then Napoleon conquered Spain and threw the Spanish Empire into more chaos. Local Tejano independence movements sought friends in America as revolution raged in Mexico, but the Spanish Empire squashed one after another and executed the revolutionaries en masse. The United States and Spain eventually signed a treaty in 1819 that accepted Spanish rule over the area and everything was good. Then the First Mexican Empire established itself in 1821, Spain of course did not recognize the rebellious province, and that made everything far more complicated again.