Prince Anak the Immortal, Second Edition, is Incoming, and Other Stories

Prince Anak the Immortal was somewhat rushed to press, and a few issues snuck in, as well as one line at which I always wince. (It’s the “kilowatt hours per hour” one, for reference.) If anyone has spotted any typos, speak now, or indefinitely hold your peace.

“Hey, wait! What about C&D?” The final draft is almost finished, but before I launch it into prime time, I want to have other ducks in order, first. Like this one.

What I’ve been doing elsewhere.

I hadn’t linked to this before, because I was unsure how it was going to work out. I’ve been writing a significant number of articles for Steemit, which you can all read by clicking on this helpful hyperlink.

https://steemit.com/@smithgift

Steemit is one of those new-fangled crypto-platform-world-chains. It’s kinda like blogging, except you get paid. Maybe. I’ve had mixed success, but sometimes that success is big. And in any case, there’s no point trying to only write if you get paid. It doesn’t work that way.

Self-apologetics aside, I’m rambling onto an article I just wrote. If you’ve ever wondered why my posts are sometimes a little bizarre, or I go for long silences, this is why.

I am bipolar.

Monday Musings: Purgatory, Punishment, Purification, and Plumbism

Purgatory is a doctrine I usually have little trouble with. It is merciful in its own way, as one no longer has to either deem a sin meaningless or damning. Imperfection is a option.

Punishment, on the other hand, is not so simple. It has always been a topic no one feels comfortable discussing–or, rather, when someone starts eagerly talks about suffering is the time everyone slowly inches away and looks for the door. Some attempt to have a God that never punishes, or punishes only with Hell, and create a unjust god, not the one described by Scripture. Yet I find it icky nonetheless, as if God cannot be satisfied with an apology, but must continue harrying over something that can no longer be changed.

Purification, too, seems lame. As if God is not satisfied with punishing, but will never get off your case about that thing long ago. How easy is it to throw the word around–particularly in the same breath as a cliche of Job and hope, and how God will never give you anything you can’t handle, hope you feel better I’m praying for you goodbye–and not once has anyone ever celebrated that they are being purified. Perhaps the past tense, but waking up in morning praying for purification seems about as likely as waking up in the morning praying that the cancer will recur. Or the one who stands atop the roof, boasting of all the bad things in their life that God is so easily rubbing clean–a new form of Pharisee, the tax collector who boasts of being more repentant of that scribe over there.

Plumbism is the silly-sounding name for a very serious condition: lead poisoning. A child might eat some paint chips, or even be exposed to lead unaware–and their fault or not, their life is in danger.

My mother’s old nursing textbook mentions that applying two of the common chelation treatments (EDTA and BAL) every four hours for five days results in a total of sixty injections, for a child perhaps still in preschool. If any parent were to punish their child with sixty injections–for what they might not have known was wrong in the first place–we would rightly call them abusive. But it is not a punishment–said textbook notes that this must be communicated to the child.

The mystery of suffering is ultimately a mystery. But I believe there is a category of suffering that results from sin but is not punishment for it. This category encompasses greater sufferings, perhaps, then any rebuke. God is not abusive, whether or not the sufferings are far beyond any that a just being could countenance.

IT IS DONE!!!

Yes, I have been radio-silent for a time (albeit that I use a wired connection.) Part of this is because the main project I was working on I temporarily shelved for REASONS. But last night, I finished the draft of The City and the Dungeon.

What? Time for some SOCRATIC DIALOGUE!

RAQ: (Rhetorically asked questions)

Q. What is The City and the Dungeon?

A 70k word young adult, coming-of-age novel in a world of monsters, treasures, and magic. And an impossible romance…

The City and the Dungeon is also my loving tribute to the dungeon crawling games of my youth, the sort that had no plot, graphics, or anything unnecessary to going into a dungeon, killing things, and coming back out with loot, then repeating this process. I’ve wondered what such a world would be like for real, and so I wrote this.

Q. TELL ME TEH DETAILS!

(That’s an imperative. But fine.)

The City is a source of wonders. Born to support brave souls venturing beneath, the City has since become a vast metropolis, the most glorious and powerful place on Earth.

The Dungeon is a vast world of unknown depth, containing incredible treasures guarded by terrible monsters. Among are the only magic items in the world, potions to improve one’s strength, beauty or even intelligence, and magical stones that give instant mastery in skills from painting to business.

But only those who touch the Cornerstone in the City dare to enter the Dungeon, for doing so they become a delver. A delver is quasi-immortal, bearing a heartstone inside that can be used to bring them back with the proper spell. Yet this comes at a price–for once a human being has a heartstone, they must consume crystal from the depths of the Dungeon or die.

Many become delvers, nonetheless, for every reason. Some seek power, others talent, magics, and healing, others simply to survive. Some to rescue those who had been lost in the Dungeon before them. Some seek the unknown bottom, for fame, knowledge, or in worship. Still others live above, supporting the brave by running shops or offer services. A few turn from the Law and lurk inside the Dungeon, slaying other humans.

Alex Kenderman, our hero, comes to the City for the sake of his family. But soon enough, he finds himself doing it for another reason.

A reason, perhaps, impossible: love.

Q. What age group is this for? Content warnings?

Junior High and up! I’d say it’s for even younger than Prince Anak the Immortal.

While the book is clean of (real) swearing and sex, it contains significant violence. The heroes are, after all, roaming a Dungeon and killing (non-sapient) monsters, and sometimes (temporarily) killed in return. The heroes also use magic as well, but it not in any way occult,  only power invoked by seemingly arbitrary hand movements. Even “dark” magic is simply an element in the Dungeon, as one character points out.

Q. What does the scouter say about its papistry level?

The book contains trace of amounts of popery, as well as much Crypto-Catholicism. Nonetheless, this is not explicitly Catholic fiction.

I have taken care that the elements of RPGs one might find religiously offensive (as did my much younger self when I was young) aren’t. There’s no altars to worship at in the Dungeon to get power from false gods. There are powerful god-like human beings (very much like in Fred Saberhagen’s fantasy books), as well as truly devoted worshippers, of many things. Whether the character of the Creator one heroine worships is that of the Trinity is for the reader to contemplate.

Q. What game(s) inspired The City and the Dungeon?

Mordor: the Depths of Dejenol (primarily), roguelikes (including NetHack, Angband, ADOM, Ragnarok and Dwarf Fortress), Bravely Default (and Final Fantasy in general), and pretty much every other RPG I’ve played. Also, I listened to a ton  of Sonic CD’s OST while writing.

Q. Non-videogame influences, plz. This is a book, not a videogame!

The Sword Art Online influence is obvious. Others include, Tower of God, Order of the Stick, the Face of Apollo, the Epic series (book), Ezekiel, and, of course life.

Q. What is an unlikely real-world word that occurs in the text?

Baltaquin.

Q. When is it coming out? GIMME GIMME!!

Details will be forthcoming. I hope to have more news within the month. Watch this space!

The Melancholy of Heaven

Are martyrs sad?

Standard answer: no. They are in Heaven by definition, and “He will wipe every tear from their eyes.” Any suffering they may have experienced is over, forever. Further, they will bear no ill will towards their tormentors, but rather pray for their conversion.

I agree. Generally.

Fifteen chapters earlier in Revelation, we read a less famous verse. “…I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony they had upheld. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge those who live on the earth” and avenge our blood. 11 Then each of them was given a white robe and told to rest a little while longer…” This is hardly the ideal of kind, forgiving martyrs, who have forgotten that nasty business about horribly dying in torture.

(Thus the hazard of reading the Bible. It may contradict one’s beliefs.)

Continue reading

It’s out!

If you’re wondering about my lack of recent posts, it’s mostly because I’ve been busy working on something. It’s finally out. Here, have some cover art.

Prince-Anak-the-Immortal-800x500-Cover reveal and Promotional

On a distant planet the last remains of humanity take refuge. Among them is Prince Anak Og Eloi XIa11, a genetically engineered superhuman born to rule and to live forever. At the behest of his father the king, he has designed and constructed an antimatter factory to fuel warships against the implacable Foe.

Yet, Anak’s brilliant mind cannot help but notice inconsistencies between his own experiences and the Immortal Family’s designs. When his mortal friend and mentor is dying, he finds he must decide between what he believes is right and what he must do to remain immortal. When he finds out the truth, will he do what is right, even at the ultimate price?

Prince Anak the Immortal is available on Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, and Kobo. Pretty soon it will be available on CreateSpace, too, but that’s still in progress.

Spaceships in Fantasy fiction.

The War Against the Gods is a fantasy series. It also has spaceships.

Several drafts ago, the world of tWAtG was a set in a world of shards suspended in the ether. Special etherships would travel from shard to shard, as well as (what else?) dragons. Fortunately or unfortunately, I couldn’t quite make the physics of it all work*, as well as certain other spoilery reasons came up, and so it was axed.

I still wanted to have ships though, so now we have spaceships in a solar system, with magic added.

The problem, usually, with mixing high fantasy and scifi together, unless they’re in conflict, is that  is that that you end up with something resembling neither. Yes, I’ll enchant my rocket to make it fifty times lighter, and then strap a seven-league boot to its nose, so I can skip past all that rocket equation nonsense. Or, oh, you have a spell that will kill all life on earth? That’s nice, but I’ll just drop this here asteroid on your dark tower.

In practice, to avoid this, either the magic makes the science irrelevant or the science subsumes the magic under it.

In this series, the magic wins out. Though, it obeys its own natural laws, so I guess science has the last laugh?

Anyway, the spaceships are propelled by magic, but then we have the problem of Newtonian physics: namely, the space bombardment problem. This is fine if you want to have big explosions, not quite so fine if you want to have hand-to-hand combat on the steps of the palace.

In a previous draft, I solved the problem with point defense: ground buildings would simply shoot the objects out of space. Looking back, I realize this would not have solved the problem of sufficiently small rocks accelerated at a fraction of c, but there were other problems. I was inspired to consider that the mechanical adding machines** required to react fast enough didn’t fit the story either.  So I did what any good SF/F novelist does when encountering an intractable problem:

I “borrowed” someone else’s idea.

In The Mote in God’s Eye, space battles are kept from devolving into one shot, one kill, by adding the Langston Field, a sort of forcefield. Dune has the Holtzman shields to have sword fights in a SF novel. Neon Genesis Evangelion has the A.T. field to explain its mecha/cyborg things.

My version is called an aura: a field created by a stargem or a star weapon that is near-impenetrable by objects traveling at high speeds. The higher the speed, in fact, the harder the aura is. The easiest way to get past an aura is to easier to simply bring another aura to cancel it out. It is also possible to bombard an aura with enough kinetic energy, though this is more difficult. Auras have capacitance: the aura grows stronger linearly as more ethereal power is pumped into it, and it does not decay.

This means, in practice, that if I spend three stargem hours accelerating an asteroid towards your dark tower, and your defense aura has been up for three hours, the aura will just break—but so will the asteriod.

Smaller, weaker versions powered by ethereal crystals also exist, called psuedoauras, though they only last for so long.

Thus, space bombardment is impossible for anything important, and as a side effect, single combat becomes even more reasonable, as archers cannot pick off warriors with auras or psuedoauras from a distance.

Here’s to hoping this will fix things.

* It’s not as if I actually went and wrote down a physics textbook describing new laws of physics, but I’d like things to make some modicum of sense. For example, does a small shard have the same gravity as a large shard, and if they’re both at a standard 1 G, why? What about ships traveling between shards? Do otherwise normal laws of physics apply? Are there atoms? Does gunpowder work? et cetera.

** I refuse to have computers. Computers are one step too far for the series. I’m still thinking of ways to keep them out.

Assassinations, Just War Theory, and lower-case gods.

Their mission was simple: the capture or destruction of the false god known as the Regent of Breezes.

This was my first first line of my new novel. As the line suggests, the story is about a war against false gods, and what better way to start it than with the attack on one? It was the first first line because the more I thought about it, the less I liked it, and not just because of my obsessive-compulsive editing.

The problem lies within Just War Theory.

Traditional Just War Theory prohibits assassination attempts, for a variety reasons. Among them is that assassinations usually involve treachery, which is condemned for its own reasons. There is also the possibility of civilian deaths, such as innocents killed by a bomb blast or cup-bearers poisoned. Whether there is moral justification in killing the target, presumably a military or civilian leader (neither of which is usually considered an active combatant), is another question.  Lastly, there is no guarantee that assassination will have the desired consequences. A dead hero may bring more recruits than a living one, and peace talks are obviously hampered if one party requires necromancy to negotiate with the other.

These questions remain, or grow worse, when we add forces vastly superior to humans to the mix. Namely, if a being equivalent of an entire army is on the enemy side, is it right to attack solely for its death or capture? Perhaps it is. But what if this being is not an active combatant, but merely a potential combatant? The situation quickly becomes muddled. And unfortunately, the Catechism does not have a category labeled “Bizarre Hypothetical Questions Answered”, nor does the Summa or the Catholic Encyclopedia. The last does have an entire and quite interesting section on Tyrannicide, but a quick read through shows that this instance would fall into the second category of Tyrant by Oppression.

Now, why, you might ask, do I care about Just War Theory? Why not have our heroes simply ignore it and go their own way? Certainly the Allies did not always follow Just War Theory in World War II.

The problem is that I am writing for young adults, and I want to be responsible. Having the heroes on the first page go out and violate natural law on the first page is far from that. Yet my muse insists on the death of a god in the prologue. Thus my quandary.

It occurred to me that, however, targeted destruction or capture of property has far less rules to it. While still not allowing total war, there is no reason in natural law to prevent the theft, appropriation, capture or destruction of weapons of war, all the more so given their power. For example, a targeted bombing of a weapons depot, in the midst of a just war, is morally acceptable. Thus, if the target of our heroes was not specifically a god but his weapon, then there is no room for complaint. And if, I realized, for certain spoilery reasons, the weapon was more dangerous than the god, all the more reason to target the weapon instead.

As it happens, the Regent of Breezes is still doomed, though for different, and more moral reasons.

Thus, my new, for now, first line:

Their mission was simple: the capture or destruction of the Skybreaker, a star weapon—the sixth star sword, to be precise.