Greetings! I’ve been working hard this week on nailing down the outline for Book 3 of my Sikander North series. I think it’s coming together pretty well; if you mix up Ali Pasha, Barbary pirates, and Great Power adventurism during the decline of the Ottoman Empire and put that situation in space with rail guns, you won’t be far off. We’re also getting close to having a complete, playtest-ready version of the Alternity Core Rulebook done. So, interesting things are in the works.
For a fun stuff update . . . I have now assembled pretty much all of my Protectorate of Menoth Warmachine models (although Dave Noonan just gave me a Testament of Menoth, which looks pretty cool). I’m now spending a lot of time gluing together a Skorne army. I like the way the models look, and I’m told that Skorne is a fairly simple army to run in a game. I wish that Warmachine/Hordes pieces came with better directions on how to assemble them—some of the complicated models are really tough to figure out, and Krazy Glue can be unforgiving.
I’ll be honest: When I made a list of my books in preparation for this blog series, I completely overlooked Zero Point. When people ask me what books I’ve written I’ve been in the habit of telling them about my Forgotten Realms novels, so I flat-out forgot to include any non-Realms novels that got published during my time at TSR/WotC. As it turns out, there was one—my single Alternity novel, and the only sci-fi novel I published before Valiant Dust hit the shelves back in November. (I think that means I should really rename this blog post series “18 Novels.”)
Zero Point came around in much the same way that The Falcon and the Wolf did: I was working on a new game setting (in this case, the Star*Drive universe for the Alternity game), and I was anxious to take a shot at writing a novel that showcased what I felt the setting was all about. My chance came several books into the line. I actually modeled the protagonist after a character I’d played in the original Alternity playtests, and his origin story wound up driving the creation of one of the setting’s grimmer star nations (the Nariac Domain).
Zero Point tells the story of a bounty hunter named Peter Sokolov hired to track down Geille Monashi, a brilliant computer tech. Sokolov succeeds in capturing his quarry, but soon learns that he might not be working for the good guys in this situation—and when the two of them stumble across a derelict alien ship of potentially immense value, they set off a rat-race of criminal gangsters and ruthless corporate execs eager to get their hands on the prize. Zero Point introduced an important storyline toward the end of the Star*Drive line (the aliens known as the Medurr). It also featured some fun elements like a nanocomputer in the protagonist’s head and a ship with an AI that turned out to be one of the better characters in the story.
One of the things I wanted to do with Zero Point was to push the Star*Drive setting just a little bit more toward hard science-fiction. I set the villain’s base on a planet that was tidally locked to its sun, which means there’d be a perpetual storm along the terminator as warm air from the daylight side rushed toward the dark side, cooled, sank, and returned. For a mysterious derelict’s power source, I drew on some of the current speculation about zero-point (or vacuum) energy. According to some suggestions, you might find immense amounts of energy in nothing at all—possibly orders of magnitude more than nuclear energy. Rather than making up some sort of “awe-somium,” I used something that we’re actually still trying to figure out as the holy grail of potential energy sources. Even in the far-future universe of Star*Drive, the idea of a limitless source of free energy represents a tempting prize that unscrupulous people would be willing to kill for.
I did write one other piece of Star*Drive fiction. It’s the story “Daybreak,” which appears in the Starfall anthology. I rather like that one—the planet is eerie in a too-much-nothing sort of way, and, once again, I used a bit of real science as an important plot point.
Next time: City of Ravens, one of my favorites!