Archive for the ‘Research!’ Category

Upcoming in the Astroarcane

November 1, 2011

Greetings, space fantasy fans- just wanted to give you a brief update and also apologize for the delays in Violet Skies. I’ve had a pile of personal issues crop up in the last week including a ridiculous LARP workload (yes, writing plot is work), a crazy October ice storm, friend medical emergencies involving heavy machinery, and a lost cat. Update to come no later than tonight, after I put up another 100 or so fliers in my neighborhood. :(

It’s been a little while since we’ve had a new story up that wasn’t Violet Skies, so I wanted to give you some sneak peeks of a few things we’ve had in the works for months…

  • The Dead Ferryman: Chapters 3 and 4 are in final editing phase- look for Chapter 3 any time now!
  • The Imp Wars: We’re several chapters in to this story, but because of the nature of the way we’re working, we need to maintain a hidden backlog in case of changes. Nevertheless, expect to see Chapter 1 shortly.
  • When the Heavens Blaze Forth: An all-new story featuring Shaula and a mystery new character. This one’s a little farther out- it’s written, but needs a few passes on the ol’ edit-tron.
  • AstroRPG: We’re a few weeks away from having a working draft, for which we’ll need playtesters. Let us know if you’re interested! This has been a really fun project so far.

….and of course a dozen or more story fragments or ideas we’re chasing around. But I think that’s enough of a sneak peek for now.


Suddenly, the room faded into black.  Then, the stars began to appear before us one by one, pin-pricks of light in the deep velvet of space.  It took a few breaths for the sky to unfurl before us, stretching onward and onward in an endless spiral of stars and planets.  This alone would have been enough to take one’s breath away.But then the aurora. Beside me I heard Shaula make a small sound. Like ribbons of spiraling color, the aurora flashed before us and stretched between the stars.  It lit up the black with twists and turns of harmonious clouds.  Purples, pinks, blues, yellows, oranges, every color was represented in the turning vortex of its ever-changing vibrancy.  Occasionally, one color would spark and send reverberant ripples through the others.  It folded in on itself, constantly changing, constantly shifting.

I don’t know how long we stood there watching, silently, soaking in the sight of this… thing.  This vortex.  I became aware of how long we had been standing there when Tyse nibbled my ear with his sharp little beak.  In that moment, I Saw.

The sky was falling down upon us, the pillars crumbling.  The bits of color weren’t beauty but chaos, reaching out for someone to lay it to rest.  It was crushing us, drawing us inward, threatening to bring us with it as it twisted and turned towards its final death throe…

Ancient Space Travel

October 31, 2011

Does any story that involves outer space qualify as Science Fiction?  Every time I’ve asked this question, the answer I’ve gotten back has been an overwhelming “yes”… and yet I continue to disagree.

Odysseus, now with Sirens!

Traveling to different worlds certainly isn’t a new idea.  Consider Odysseus’ journey or Gulliver’s Travels as examples.  Or, consider examples from fantasy literature; in Michael Moorcock’s Elric of Melniboné the titular character visits other worlds that exist as alternate realities connected either by Gates or by sailing on the ‘Seas of Fate’.  This is exemplary of how most fantasy series treat the topic of aliens and alien settings.  This piggybacked the widespread appeal of mediums like Dungeons and Dragons, particularly their Planescape setting and its whole series of interconnected realities.

Astroarcane’s primary deviation from other fantasy works is that the authors of the universe approach this topic with an armchair-astronomer’s understanding of the universe.  And apparently, that’s all it takes to jump from fantasy to science fiction… at least according to the casual observer.  (This disconnect is why Steph and I refer to Astroarcane as “space fantasy.”)

The idea of a pre-modern society having space travel does not, for me, immediately bring to mind science fiction. I am instead reminded of the Mayan’s weird artwork:

Falling into the jaws of a monster, or flying a spaceship?

Iron Age interplanetary travelers?  Some scholars make very serious claims about such topics.

Heck, Indiana Jones had to deal with these guys, and I don’t think anyone is claiming Indy has gone sci-fi.  If you don’t believe me, re-watch Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and try to convince yourself that the monkey scene isn’t a work of fantasy.


NH Game-a-Thon

October 27, 2011

So this year both Brian and myself will be participating in the NH Game-a-thon to raise money for Child’s Play. I am sure as consummate nerds many of you already know what Child’s Play is, but in the odd case you don’t, it’s a charity  that provides games and toys to sick children in hospitals around the country.

I have set up a “Donate” button here if you would like to sponsor my marathon 24-hr gaming session. Unless of course you don’t like sick kids (how upsetting!)

Earth Magic

October 24, 2011

Magic in the universe of Astroarcane was created and developed for the betterment of humanity. Understanding the Elements that make up the whole leads to a better understanding of how that whole will behave.

I am not sure why those mans are on fire.

In the real world, understanding the parts requires studying both chemistry and molecular biology and then applying that learning to the study of human physiology and medicine.

Wizards don’t study the periodic table; instead they study the classical elements (water, fire, earth and air) and their interactions.  Instead of 100 elements and their limitless combinations, only four elements are considered; and how their virtues and properties influence each other.

Hooray for science!

Whoa, whoa, slow down Brian! Where are you going with this?

So, I bring all this up, because it turns out some modern scientists talk about medicine like a Wizard.

Your local Novum Chirurgeon would probably make similar recommendations.  Keep your elements balanced by maintaining proper exposure to each pure element.  Wear some lodestones on your wrists to draw out excess the Earth mana stiffening your joints.

It would seem Astroarcane magic is closer to science than I expected… either that, or some scientists are a little too close to magic.


AstroRPG: a Sneak Peek

September 2, 2011

Brian and I have been working for some time now on a project most exciting: a tabletop roleplaying game based on your favorite space fantasy (that is Astroarcane).

Characters are built not around stats like Strength and Intelligence, but around their skills in various arenas of challenge: Action, Investigation, Rhetoric, Subterfuge, Craftsmanship, and Exploration. Each of these skill headers has four sub-skills: for example, Rhetoric is divided into Culture, Debate, Manipulation, and Networking.

Get these babies ready!

Because this is a game about telling an adventure story, we don’t have your traditional RPG hit points. Instead, you have a Drive: various conflicts, from being sat on by a Brontosaurus to being socially snubbed by a Duchess, will reduce your Drive. If you don’t do anything about this, you can drop all the way to Out of Commission, and will be helpless for a while to affect the story. Or, you can make time for a Recovery scene, drawing on your relationships with those around you to re-motivate you and refill your Drive. You’re kind of taking some time to lick your wounds, get an encouraging talk, etc. (Special races will have special restrictions on Recovery.)

We’re really hoping that the structure of the game lends to creating amazing and action-packed adventures. We’ll be looking for playtesters in the next couple of months, so let us know if you’d be interested (here in comments is fine).

Home Astronomy and How Tech Shapes Society

July 13, 2011

Got an extra $50k-500k laying around in your pocket with nothing to do with it? Why not take up home astronomy? Check out this NYT article: Adding an Extra Room for the Sky.

Photo by Michelle Litvin for The New York Times

Honestly, I’d love to have an observatory  built right into my home. Maintenance/upkeep would be a murderous expense, I’m sure, but… stargazing! Who knows, maybe by the time this author is looking to step into the real estate market, the tech will have progressed in such a way that this is actually a feasible expense.

Photo by Erik Jacobs for The New York Times

We can only hope!

Thinking about technological advances got me to start thinking about the way tech advances in Astroarcane. An interesting advantage of having two long-lived main characters (starbeings, at least when they have a home star, live for thousands of years; and Milo’s Etheral Mask should give him at least six hundred or so) is that throughout their decades or centuries of adventures we can actually see the galaxy’s society evolving and changing as runic/etc technology advances and expands.

In an upcoming story (tentatively titled “Webs”), Milo and Shaula meet a young Order of Novum wizard who has developed a new runic technique for Astral Gates. If you remember Starlegacy, Gate Rings have a huge heat output that means most of them have to be in space, or be ruinously expensive. Not to go into too much detail, the new technique will allow more surface Gates, at a more affordable cost. In other words, it’s not just the ludicrously wealthy who can have that sort of convenience anymore.

What will this mean for society as a whole? Does the galaxy get just a little bit smaller? I guess we’ll find out over the next few decades in-universe!

A Different Sort of Shooting Star

July 6, 2011

I got really excited when I read this article headline: Star Shooting Intense Water Jets Into Space Spotted By Herschel Telescope (and this article, which has more details and better science: Star Found Shooting Water “Bullets”). I mean really, a star shooting WATER into the depths of space? And look at the lovely picture!

Photo credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / R. Hurt (SSC)

And since it’s such a young (100,000 years old) star… what does this mean for our body of knowledge about the life cycle of stars themselves? About the creation of life in the galaxy? I mean, my goodness, the creation of habitable worlds!

This is such exciting astronomy that I needed to go lie down for a while.

Once I was recovered from my vapors, I started pondering what this might mean for Astroarcane. If you paid close attention in Starlegacy you realized that starbeings as a race have only existed (separate of their dryad cousins) for about two thousand years. But more and more it seems a natural evolution of purpose; as the dryads tend their Trees, a symbol of life and growth and creation, starbeings tend the stars themselves, creators of life on a stellar scale! How cool! I totally planned that!

(Several characters from Starlegacy will be appearing as supporting roles in our current writing project, The Imp Wars. So mysterious, any guesses on who?)

Genre Wars

June 29, 2011

Hello, Astroarcaners!  Your friendly neighborhood guest author here, and may I say that it is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.

When I first heard about Astroarcane, my first (and really only) opinion on the project was one which stuck with me.  “Space… fantasy?”  Of course Science Fiction and Fantasy are both things that I, as a nerd, am well acquainted with… but an intersection of the two blew my literary mind.

Of course, the main problem in discussing any genre is where its boundaries are set.  What makes Science Fiction, what makes Fantasy, and where are the two disparate?  Would this intersection merely be an example of the gray areas where the two genres bump up against each other, or would it be something entirely different?  These are not simple problems and unfortunately I cannot provide simple solutions.

A Wise Man once told me that Science Fiction is a genre firmly rooted within reality.  This reality may be that of a technologically advanced future, but what truly makes Science Fiction Science Fiction is its foundation in fact.  What you find in a Science Fiction piece is something that is feasibly attained by humanity as we know it today in a logical (if often forward-thinking) fashion.

Fantasy, he said, is a genre based in what-ifs.  Unexplainable variables, items of unknowable origin, things which couldn’t possibly be parts of today’s everyday man’s ken.  Fantasy is built upon a cloud; Science Fiction upon the ground.

Genre studies is not an exact science.  We must remember that anything within the umbrella of the humanities can never be completely precise.  Of course the above outlined rules will not cover every instance of every piece ever created, but they are at least a start and, more importantly, a basis for argument.

So where does that leave us here at Astroarcane?  Clearly the intersection of any two given and known paths creates a displacement within the map and new features which must now be included.  My humble opinion on the matter is that this is rather visionary.  Space Fantasy has, of course, been done before (Star Wars is perhaps the most famous example), but it has never been quite like this.  Most other examples of Space Fantasy could sneak into either one of the great categories and have minor elements which may set them on the outskirts of my definitions.   Astroarcane, however, hovers somewhere in the amorphous gray created by these genres’ ambient lights with too much magic to truly be Science Fiction and too much science to truly be termed Fantasy.

Cryptic and wise!

Are the events within the adventures of our intrepid heroes possible?  Not really.  But that doesn’t make the unfathomable.  The late great Rod Serling is quoted as having said, “Science Fiction makes the implausible possible, while Science Fantasy makes the impossible plausible”.  Astroarcane seems to firmly belong in this third category – this “Science Fantasy”.  We will never be riding dinorockets, but that certainly doesn’t mean that Milo and Shaula don’t make sense to us.

Now that we’ve met, stay tuned here on Astroarcane for my first fiction-y contribution to the site.  Steph, Brian, and myself are working along with another guest author to bring you Imp Wars, the latest in the Astroarcane saga.  Included in Imp Wars will be the introduction of two new and sparkly PoV characters which (I am happy to say) we are all incredibly excited about.

So, as an added bonus to today’s literary tangent, here is a special sneak peek at Imp Wars.  Enjoy!



…I removed the concordance crystal from my pocket and placed it on the table.  I glanced back up to my associates and realized that the Wizard’s eyes had widened, though I wasn’t entirely certain why.  It was just a simple concordance crystal… but the way he looked at it was almost like… “Have you never seen one before?” I asked, mildly.

“Oh, I have just… never outside of the Archives.”  Milo noted mistily.  “Would you mind if I…?” he reached for the crystal.

“Not at all.”  I passed it to him, and he turned it over a few times in his palm.  “Simple thing, really, I must have at least a dozen on my desk…”  He looked from the crystal up to me, mouth gaping.

“…Do you… make these?”

“Yes, frequently.  It’s a minor thing really; a bit of the Nexus’ power is stored within the crystal, which as you know is already a potent vessel.  That bit of power is receptive to guided and stored Visions which we imbue using small rituals.  A talented novice could do it.”  I realized that he was still staring dubiously at me and the Star was very effectively trying to subdue a laugh.  “I… take it you do not deal frequently with ritual?”

“Frequently enough, but this kind of concordance… I don’t often meet Wizards talented enough to perform it.”  He placed the crystal gently on the table, as though afraid he might break it….

Beautiful Nebula

June 22, 2011

Brian sent me this amazing space-related link the other day. It blew my mind on so many levels. First: nebulas are gorgeous. Second: holy giant stars! Third: this is in what constellation? Scorpio? How lovely! (Spoiler, I named Shaula from one of the stars in Scorpio.)

ooooooooooooh ahhhhhhhhhhhh

The article makes a lot of Green Lantern references (which I love, DC comics rock my socks), but I’d like to offer an alternate fictional explanation (and sneak peek of something not yet published…)

“Shaula,” he said helplessly, his voice a mix of shock and horror. “Shaula.”

Just that, and I knew all that he meant. No “what have you done”; he knew what I’d done. No “how could you”; he knew exactly why I’d done it. Knew that if I hadn’t, the poison would have only spread, spread across the Galaxy; so subtle, so deadly, changing and corrupting and unmaking and…

It was still a monstrous thing. I will not look away from that; I will not dissemble. It was a monstrous, inhuman thing. But then, I am not human.

We looked out together over the roiling cloud of brightly glowing gases and dust painting the black; a nebula that had, just standard days before, been a star. And four planets, a handful of moons, small asteroid belt, oh, and seven hundred thousand human lives.

Milo looked out at the infant nebula, and I watched all the thoughts race across his face. What had been going on here… what I had stopped… had been unquestionably evil, and a danger to the entire Galaxy as we knew it. But what I had done… I watched a part of him balk, try to turn away from it. Watched him face it squarely. Wrestle with the thought.

“I need to think about this,” he finally said. Didn’t look at me.

I nodded, and left him there.

Laser Whips are going to Mars?

June 15, 2011

NASA is claiming that the next big object we’re sending to Mars, the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), is going to be packing some serious firepower.  You guessed it, the MSL is going to have a Laser Whip.

Robot using its laser whip. Image credit: J-L. Lacour/CEA/French Space Agency (CNES)

Well, maybe not quite a Laser Whip, but it WILL have a laser.  Turns out that lasers can be used to identify rocks! Who knew?  I mean, if I was given the option of investigating rocks with either a shovel or a laser, I would go with the obvious choice.  However, I would be wrong, because lasers can tell you all kinds things about rocks that a shovel just can’t detect.

So trusty!

So, in conclusion, if you’re going to be battling any members of the Order of Venom on Mars, go with the trusty shovel and leave the laser wielding robot alone, because someone on Earth is going to get really annoyed if they have another Mars Rover Mishap.