Saturday, October 19, 2013

Rescue Brokers, Bounty Hunters, Smugglers, and Mercenaries: Gusto for Hire


Some of the most colorful characters in science fiction and fantasy are those whose primary interest is--or seems to be--collecting the money due them. Whether it turns out the hired hand in fact has a hidden heart of gold like Han Solo, or is nothing but surly voice in scarred armor like Boba Fett, characters who enter the plot with apparent or real disdain in the outcome of the story allows them to casually wisecrack when more engaged characters like Luke Skywalker are committed to being sincere, which at times makes them a bit boring.

I must say I'm an earnest kind of guy myself, which is probably why I usually write sincere characters who deeply care. About everything.

So when my friend Mike Lynch invited me to write a story about his "Rescue Broker," a category of character he created himself, I didn't know what to think. A rescue broker is someone who will do pretty much anything a bounty hunter, smuggler, or mercenary would do, but as specifically hired on contract to come to an individual person's or even an entire civilization's rescue.

Mike's rescue broker par excellence is his single-name character Stelfson, featured in Mike's story, "No Revolution is Too Big." (It turns out Stelfson has that on a business card.) Stelfson doesn't like to waste time or put up with silly questions. He's a bit surly, at times dryly funny, and always keeps focused on the business at hand--which ultimately, is business.

Mike's tale has been launched as a separate short story that will eventually be in an anthology of the same name (the picture of the already-designed cover is at the top of this blog post). A number of other authors have contributed short stories about Stelfson and his adventures in the galaxy, including me. My own contribution to the Stelfson saga is called: No Revolution Too Small and it definitely paints Stelfson in the "hidden heart of gold" category. It will the the fourth story released (one is coming out once per week for the next ten weeks--as of 17 OCT 2013) in the group and will eventually be in the anthology when it comes out.

But as a story concept, a rescue broker is in no way limited to Stelfson. There could be as many flavors of "rescue broker" as there are flavors of other types of characters for hire. Check out Mike's story on Amazon or Barnes and Noble or Kobo and feel free to come up with your own version of the idea...

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(For my own 99 cent story in this series, please follow this No Revolution Too Small Kindle link.)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Magical Space Opera

In the vast realm of speculative fiction, there exist a number of blends of science fiction and fantasy. "Magical space opera" is term I haven't heard used before, but a relative of mine in the know says isn't original to me. But perhaps what I mean by the term isn't standard and can inspire some stories of a new type.

To get to what I mean, let's define space opera. Wikipedia has it as:  "A subgenre of science fiction that often emphasizes romantic, often melodramatic adventure, set mainly or entirely in outer space, usually involving conflict between opponents possessing advanced technologies and abilities. The term has no relation to music but is analogous to 'soap opera'."

A lot people think of classic science fiction stories when they think of space opera (an example I'd give is Ray Gun Revival, which deliberately tried to revive the style of Golden Age science fiction space opera). But really, as opposed to hard science fiction (which is scientifically accurate) or other subgenres like planetary romance, sword and planet, or military science fiction, most of the science fiction we see in movies is really space opera. Neither Star Wars nor Star Trek are truly realistic scientifically, are set in space, tend to be melodramatic, and have emphasized conflict between technically advanced foes. This is also true in a different way of movies like Armageddon and Independence Day, which certainly aren't hard science fiction but don't entirely qualify as military or anything else--but they do emphasize romantic and melodramatic elements. It's actually harder to find a sci-fi movie that isn't space opera in one way or other than to find one that is.

What I would do with "magical" space opera is create stories virtually identical to space opera stories, except with the twist of typical fantasy elements, including magic, featured in the story to replace things space opera employs as technological. So a starship powered by warp drive would have a "dilithium stone" instead of "dilithium crystals" as the heart of the energy system. Technology like a video monitor would still exist, but would be powered my magical creatures like pixies. Gnomes, elves, and goblins could be part of outer space crews.

Really my idea relates back to my earlier blog post A World of Magic-Powered Technology, in which I postulated a society that mirrored our in most ways, but magic backed the technology instead of being powered by electrical and chemical motors. If this world so nearly like the twenty-first century in so many ways, but with a base in magic, advanced to the point it developed space travel, that world would have stories that I'd call "magical space opera."

To see better what I mean, check out this for-pay story of mine on Amazon: A Little Problem with the Dilithium Stone.

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