New Dead Ferryman!

A new chapter of Dead Ferryman, by Brian, is now up! (If you need to refresh yourself on the story, it begins here.)

Do you like it!?

More Violet Skies!

Hope you hadn’t forgotten about the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure I’ve been writing! A new page is up!

Again, you can vote on the polls, or on Facebook, G+, Twitter, however you like! Multiple venues mean multiple votes, too. ;)


Upcoming in the Astroarcane

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

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

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

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

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).

A Totally Sweet Announcement

Okay, after lots of hard work and about a bazillion revisions, I am totally excited to show you all…

by Patrick Tsao 2011

…our new logo! Patrick made us yet another amazing piece. I’ll be working over the next few weeks to redesign the site to incorporate its badassness.

What’s that? You’re screaming for T-shirts and coffee mugs? An iPhone case? Oh, calm down, calm down. You can have an iPhone case. There, there. And a wall clock. (And if you have any other desires, feel free to email me with suggestions, steph at astroarcane dot com!) I am told that it is possible to obtain 20% off $50+ with the code “TA0727″ but you will have to tell me if it works! I suspect from the code it’s for today only.

An Interactive Adventure

Hello space fantasy enthusiasts, I have posted the first short piece of a new adventure, “The Violet Skies of Pa’Rill.” This story, unlike previous ones, is not given to you all in one piece. Instead, it pays homage to the fine tradition of Choose Your Own Adventure novels, letting you decide what Shaula will do at every turn of the story. Don’t worry, there are plenty of gruesome death options for you to avoid or seek out, as you desire!

I will be writing only one story path at a time, and I will be using this blog post to keep track of where we are. To put in your vote for what happens next, leave us a comment on the relevant Facebook post or tweet @Astroarcane with the tag #violetskies. I won’t be taking votes by way of private messaging/email/etc, only stuff posted to FB or Twitter.

UPDATE: I will be updating on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with occasional bonus pages if I have the time. :)

I hope this is as fun for you as it is for me!

Previous story paths:



Home Astronomy and How Tech Shapes Society

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!