Archive for the ‘The Stacks’ 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…

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.


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….

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.




March 14, 2011

Have you ever spent too much time reading about the Philosophy of Mathematics?  If so, you may have come across the Mathematical Universe Hypothesis first described by Max Tegmark in his paper Is “the theory of everything” merely the ultimate ensemble theory?.  Tegmark postulates that “Everything that exists mathematically exists physically”, and his paper can be seen as a modern defense of Mathematical Platonism.

After reading articles like the ones previously mentioned, I can’t help but spend a few moments, while taking notes in Physics class, pondering about the implications of modeling a physical system with mathematical equations.    When my professor asked the class to figure out where to aim our hypothetical catapult so that we could hit a hypothetical falling object, I entertain the idea of solving the equations in such a way that the constant of gravity is the variable I could manipulate.  This is certainly possible, but proves to be a mostly useless endeavor because manipulating gravity is beyond the means of most scientists.  However, if Max Tegmark and his Radical Platonism cronies were to see this post, they would assure me that if I can represent it mathematically, then is surely exists in some alternate reality.

Other Univserses with differing amounts of dimensions.

When I’m presented with these kinds of unexpected assertions about reality, I try to speculate what strange consequences could be implied.  If I were to derive an equation for the catapult problem in Physics class that was absolutely perfect in modeling the system, could I then alter reality by changing the physical constant of gravity?  Because surely reality has to match my perfect mathematical model.  This isn’t quite what the Mathematical Universe Hypothesis claims, but I like to direct my speculations towards outcomes that include gaining super powers.

The most important part of a super hero costume.

By now you’re probably wondering what all this has to do with Astroarcane.  Writing from the perspective of Milo forces me to consider how a Wizard accomplishes feats of Magic.  I imagine that magical theory is very similar to my modified Mathematical Universe Hypothesis.  Magical metaphysics exist in a pure form in some higher realm (the ether), and dictate how reality behaves for all the inhabitants of the universe.  Wizards can create formulas that allow them to temporarily manipulate reality, which is what makes it Magic instead of Science.  The better a formula models reality, the more control a Wizard would have.  No wonder Wizards spend so much time reading!  Consider the advice of Master Strub, “Remember class, balancing the input of Mana with the expected output of the formula will improve the working efficiency of the Runes.”

So the next time you’re sitting in Physics class imagine you’re studying equations for the purposes of manipulating reality.  Lectures will be a lot more engaging and you’ll feel less awkward at graduation when you have to wear those funny robes.

(Personally, I feel that mathematics models reality, and that reality follows it own natural laws that exists separate from mathematics.  Simply put, mathematics is a human invention, albeit a very useful one.  I think of science and mathematics as constantly improving the model to be closer and closer to reality, which is in some ways the inverse of Tegmark.)

- Brian