From the Vault: America the Beautiful

When we go back to stuff I wrote in the past, moving forward, I think we’ll call it “From the Vault.” That’s the sort of thing we’ll do on Tuesdays and Thursdays, on those Tuesdays and Thursdays we actually do something.

This is a fragment — an incomplete chapter one of a book never written, dating back to the early 90’s. As with pretty much every science fiction writer who was once twenty, this was the beginning of my dystopia novel. Back in the days when I figured I was going to graduate school as a matter of course, I had seriously considered Utopia and Dystopia as a concentration and field of study. I was considering that alongside 19th and 20th Century American Poetry, of course. It never entered my head to go for a Ph.D. in the Modern Superhero Story, which is a pity since that’s what I’d clearly be able to nail.

To that end, I started writing my dystopia. I called it America the Beautiful, because I was very, very earnest about it. This was going to be a call to arms — a warning for the ages that would rank with Brave New World and 1984.

You know. Just like all the other dystopias out there.

Well, I never got out of the first chapter. But rereading the first chapter I’m a little amazed — as unsubtle as the title was, the opening, the establishment of tone and character… it’s better than I expected when I went back to reread this. I’m actually moderately interested in what Thomas’s story would turn out to be.

Not that we’ll ever find out. At least, if I ever pick this up, it’ll be significantly different than whatever I intended fifteen years ago.

There is one thing I like in this, as well. To me, a good dystopia — I mean, a really good and scary one — had to be compelling. You had to get the sense that the people living in that society were perfectly content to live in that society. I didn’t believe 1984 would ever happen for the sheer fact that if the entire world was uncomfortable and unhappy, someone would do something about it in a power bid. Brave New World was far more likely, because as scary as that would was, you could believe the people living in it enjoyed themselves. And when people were happy, they weren’t rebelling against the social order.

Anyhow. Here it is. I hope you like it.

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Hephaestus Fallen

So, this is one of those stories I can’t believe I still have kicking around on my hard drive.

For the record, this is a thirteen thousand word story, set wholly in my Imperial Space universe, with a Hotchkiss/Leopold drive and transitions and the Orgalins who confederated with Concordia in the war that’s the centerpiece of Trigger Man.

Which is all fine and good, until you realize this story was written in 1991. Now, the setting made some changes between now and then. Transitions and N-Space and the H/L drive don’t work, in the current setting, quite like they do here. And the story itself isn’t the most polished I’ve produced — which implies that I’ve learned a thing or two about pacing and storytelling in the last sixteen years, which seems reasonable to me. I mean, this story is older than some of the regular readers of Banter Latte. That’s kind of humbling.

I’ve also learned a few things about science, engineering (small things, but things), and the willing sense of disbelief since then. And I’ve learned a ton of things about spelling since then. I swear to God, I did a complete round of spellchecking when I decided to put this story up, but I can’t possibly have found every last crime against nature and the dictionary, so please remember I was young and incapable, apparently, of reading what I just wrote.

Still, as an artifact of a time when the Imperial Space setting was still called (I swear to God, and embrace my shame) the “Terraesteller Empire,” and as a bit of my life given form once again, I’m happy enough to see this return to the light of day.

And, while I hope you take this story with six or seven grains of salt, I also hope you enjoy it.

Here’s Hephaestus Fallen.

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Protected: Theftworld Chapter Eleven

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Planetfall

Another story from the late nineties, for this our Storytelling day. This one is science fiction. It made the rounds, it got bounced back. Looking at it now, I can see why.

Still, there’s a bit or two I like.

This isn’t Imperial Space, for the record. Or if it is, it’s before everything. If I had to give this a setting, I’d call it “Mycene Station,” which is a multimodular space station out between Mars and Jupiter.

That’s right. In the late nineties, I was writing space station stories. Because clearly, I didn’t think Babylon 5 was going to be distinctive enough in the marketplace.

My favorite piece of research of all time made it into this article, though. I actually called universities and talked to physics professors to make sure the soccer would work the way I thought it would. And what are the chances one could say that?

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Protected: Theftworld Chapter Eight

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Protected: Theftworld: Book Two: Invasion (Preface)

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