Posts Tagged With: science fiction

Themes in My Writing

I want to expand a bit on my twitter thread from today (the one about my books, not one about whatever else I talked about).

The Foundation of Drak-Anor DuologyWhen I wrote The Foundation of Drak-Anor, I had a story to tell. A story about misfits and “monsters” finding acceptance in a world that just wanted them to die. They themselves “knew” they were monsters and acted accordingly; they thought nothing of lashing out and attacking dwarves for their supplies. It’s not like anyone was going to trade with them anyway, right?

Of course, being constantly under siege by people who scream how you’re evil and unholy and must be cleansed tends to affect one negatively. With patience, understanding, and a willingness to talk, one can move past that and find common ground.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000026_00036]In Scars of the Sundering, they’ve found acceptance (if not tolerance), and now have to learn to live with the responsibility that comes with being part of a civilized society. They also learn that they can affect the world in ways they once thought impossible to them. Plus, they learn that there are always people who wish they’d just go away and will try to erase their history and legacy.

These are themes that developed organically. Although, I did try to show that no matter how different someone may appear to be from another, we all are more alike than different. We all want to live and love, eat, drink and enjoy time with friends. Ultimately, I just wanted to tell a fun story with interesting characters.

Hopefully, I did that.

Zack Jackson page banner flatI approached the Zack Jackson series differently. From the beginning, I knew I wanted a sci-fi version of Harry Potter (though without a Dark Lord, Prophecy, Faux-Latin Magic, and Kitchen-Sink Fantasy). I wanted to tell a story about a kid, going away to school where there’s all these weird and wonderful things and constantly getting over his head, saved only by his association with his friends.

Plus, I wanted to showcase real science where I could. I made a few concessions to fun, took a few liberties with physics so I could have faster-than-light (FTL) travel, and aliens that weren’t so alien we couldn’t relate to them. I wanted to give loving homages to the sci-fi I loved, like Star Trek, Mass Effect, and Star Frontiers, and sci-fact like NASA’s space exploration program and the work of astronomers the world over, as well as introduce subjects like transhumanism. I also wanted to showcase diversity in all of its forms, which I actually had to dial back in the third book after someone observed that I was trying a bit too hard.

Hitchhiker-Symbol-iconZack Jackson needed to be set far enough in the future that we could realistically have answers to certain questions because space is huge. More huge than pop culture sci-fi usually shows. As Douglas Adams wrote in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, “Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts to space.”

Now that I near the completion of the fourth book in the series (and anticipating writing at least 2-3 more), I’m beginning to see parallels in the series to current events and issues. These are things I didn’t consciously put into the book, but they must’ve been on my mind at the time. The kids grow a little older in each book, a little more experienced and (hopefully) wise, so the challenges they face are more difficult and more mature in their nature. Like the Harry Potter series, I wanted the characters to grow with the readers.

Again, ultimately, I wanted to tell a fun story with the Zack Jackson series. I’m really excited to release book 4, Zack Jackson & The Secret of Venus, in just a few months. I’m equally excited to show you where the story goes from there.

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Meet Jenny


Art by Tadas Sidlauskas

Here’s another character from my Zack Jackson series, Genevieve “Jenny” DuBois.

Jenny is a Junior Ranger and student at Cytherean Academy, one of the EACs more prestigious schools. Cytherean Academy is on the eponymous aerostat on Venus. (See, breathable air is a lifting gas on Venus. In theory, an aerostat filled with breathable air would float in Venus’s dense atmosphere around 50 km. up, which provides approx. 1 ATM of pressure and livable temperatures, though folks still need protection from the clouds of sulphuric acid.)

She was born and lives (when she’s not attending school) on Messier Habitat in orbit around Mars. Don’t mistake them for Martians, though. Messiers are proud of their French heritage and will let you know it.

She’s pictured with a cloud glider. She’s solo rated and spends downtime at the academy helping Coach Dagon instruct other students, but thus far has resisted joining the school team as she feels it would be too much like work at that point.

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Meet Mungus

So, I’ve commissioned some more character art, this time from my Zack Jackson series.



Art by Tadas Sidlauskas

This is Mungus (more properly, Mungaborrarius, son of Goreborrarius Tonnarvassas, First Warrior of Clan Stonetalon), an Ersidian from my Zack Jackson series. He’s a Junior Ranger in the same troop as Zack, Jenny, and the Valtraxian, Ix. Unlike the others, he still lives on his homeworld; his temper has gotten him kicked out of all the local troops.

The large knife on his back was his grandsire’s. Ersidians once had a proud, honor-obsessed warrior culture to which they still pay lip service. Their braids are their badges of honor. The more story beads woven into their braids, the more honor an Ersidian has. Cutting a braid to give to a friend is a mark of great trust and honor and other Ersidians will leap to the aid of one who carries an Honor Braid. Forcibly cutting an Ersidian’s braids is a gross violation and is punishable by death on Ersid. The Earth-Alpha Centauri Alliance feels this punishment is too harsh for a haircut and won’t extradite criminals to Ersid.

Mungus is an interesting character to include because he doesn’t go to school with the others, so realistically, he only appears in books that take place on annual term-break Junior Ranger trips. In books that take place during the school year, he mostly shows up in long-distance correspondence.

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Sale of the 43rd Century!

Zack Jackson page banner flat

In honor of ConQuesT 46, from 8AM May 21st (that’s today!) through 8PM May 25th, all THREE Zack Jackson novels are on sale at Amazon for only $0.99 for Kindle!

Follow the link and start your adventure in the 43rd century today!

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The Valtraxian, Ix

Earlier this year I commissioned an original sculpture by David Lee Pancake of the Valtraxian, Ix. You may have see David’s work at Gen Con (he’s the guy who has those really awesome mounted dragon heads). He recently posted a time-lapse video showing Ix’s creation on YouTube.

For those of you who haven’t read any of my Zack Jackson series, yes, Valtraxians are based on Vrusk from Star Frontiers. While they’re physically similar, their society is quite different. I’ll have it display on my table at the various conventions I attend, the first of which is coming up over Memorial Day: ConQuesT. I’ll also have it at Gen Con.

Ix's sculpture stands about 12" tall.

Ix’s sculpture stands about 12″ tall. Click to valtraxinate.

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