Friday, 17 October 2014

21st Century Leda

SFFSat is a place where a number of authors post snippets from their written works, and give the opportunity for comments, support and encouragement. This is my snippet for it - please also explore the other blogs that are part of this set - you can find the information here. 

Having finished Blue Ice last week, I'm jumping sideways from hard science fiction into a story set in the present day. This is 21st Century Leda.




The Swan's not a bad pub, if a bit pseud. Landlord and I have an understanding. He’s got rooms upstairs, and he doesn’t talk to the missus.

The plasma TV’s got some braindead idiot deconceptualising (whatever that means) Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The pool table by the naff wood panelled wall is surrounded by youngsters showing off, and the beer's not a patch on the stuff we used to drink. But that’s progress.

The chick across the table is gazing at me, admiring my manly physique. And so she should – I may be a bit (okay, a considerable degree) older than I was, but I’m still more male than most of these weedy yobs you get nowadays. I can still pass for being under fifty. Okay, only in a soft light, (one of the reasons I like this place) , but who’s quibbling?

I never used to bother with small talk. Grab the wench, sweep her off to some secluded grotto, and take my time deflowering her. But it doesn’t work like that now. The world’s changed - not for the better, in my view. Still, I’m a God – I can handle change.

Sorry, no prizes for guessing the identity of our narrator...
As always, comments appreciated!

Friday, 10 October 2014

SFFSat 11/10/14 - Blue Ice 8

 SFFSat is a place where a number of authors post snippets from their written works, and give the opportunity for comments, support and encouragement. This is my snippet for it - please also explore the other blogs that are part of this set - you can find the information here. 

This is the final part of Blue Ice. Anton deGama is in the rings of Saturn, planting bio-engineered plants on a chunk of ring ice, when he sees blue snowflake creatures moving towards him. He guesses that they have evolved from the bio-engineered life that humans have brought to the rings.


 
Anton briefly thought about wading in and shattering the fragile assailants, but his own words were whispering in his ears. The predators were trying to keep themselves alive. He could not just slaughter them out of hand.

And anyhow, the discovery of the parasites might well be worth a considerable sum, if he could keep them alive. Even if (improbably) the biotech firms weren’t interested, he had no doubt the vidnetworks would be. A slight grin crossed his face, just as Kellerman made a similar comment over the commlink.

Anton glanced up at Rose, and gave up the uneven battle with the predators. He gripped his umbilical, and jumped. Rose's photonsong deepened in welcome as he hauled himself through the hatch, and he felt her tune quicken. She had been attuned to him when she had grown, and was glad to feel him aboard her. He gazed down as the predators continued their slow-motion feeding frenzy with his crop. 
 
Not, perhaps, a good omen for a space gardener, he thought wryly as he unclipped his helmet, to be driven out of the garden by pests. He suddenly laughed out loud. As the discoverer of the predators, his would be the right to name them. In future years, he suspected people would wonder continually why he had named the blue snowflakes "Greenfly".



As always, comments appreciated!

Friday, 3 October 2014

SFFSat 4/10/14 - Blue Ice 7

SFFSat is a place where a number of authors post snippets from their written works, and give the opportunity for comments, support and encouragement. This is my snippet for it - please also explore the other blogs that are part of this set - you can find the information here. 

This is the penultimate part of Blue Ice. Anton deGama is in the rings of Saturn, planting bio-engineered plants on a chunk of ring ice, when he sees blue snowflake creatures moving towards him. He describes what he sees to Kellerman as the creatures approach.



"You think they're some form of bio-tech sabotage, Anton?"

Anton shook his head, and then realised that she could not see the gesture. "Not really. I think they're some kind of rogue svenskites." Anton was staring at his blooms and their approaching demise. "We brought life into the rings, Kellerman. Svenskites, draxblooms, anazites, even singleships." He tiptoed carefully through the draxflowers, trying to use his shadow to hold back the blue tide. It was like using a bucket to put out a forest-fire. "Maybe this life has been here long enough to grow a few predators."

"In forty years?" He could have cut Kellerman's disbelief with a laser.

"Nearer sixty – the first svenskites must go back that far. Hard radiation, genetic changes... and the need to survive, Kellerman. Living beings grab hold of life pretty tenaciously - why should that be different for the life-forms we engineered?"


Next time, the final snippet, as deGama responds to what he has found.
As always, comments appreciated!

 

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

D&D 5 - Trinkets and magic items


I've been poring over the D&D5 PH again. I still like what I see. There's far too much to comment on everything, but a few aspects have caught my eye.

One of my pet hates in a lot of fantasy games and settings is the prevalence of Ye Olde Magic Item Shoppe – a shop, usually run by a level 20 wizard, selling a wide range of magic items. 

Such places miss the point about enchanted objects. Such things should be rare and wonderful and extraordinary – not just commodities made in their thousands in a magical factory somewhere. There needs to be a sense of wonder.

D&D5 agrees – the PH expressly comments that “you won't normally come across magic items... to purchase. The value of magic is far beyond simple gold”. Yes!

The new PH also contains about four pages of trinkets – odd objects that characters can have in their possession. I've seen a review on Amazon hotly complaining that these trinkets are useless, with no powers or benefits for the character possessing them.

This proves that the reviewer has not understood the point of these items. The trinkets are plot hooks. Objects a DM can seize upon to build a scenario, or even a campaign around. I've used such things more than once in starting a campaign – one character had an amulet that after many sessions proved she was of noble blood (and that the noble family in question intended to sacrifice her for evil purposes – but that's another story). Another character had a bracelet which turned out to be one third of an artefact that would open a portal to another world. Trinkets are the kernels of stories.

And that, once again, is why I like the look of D&D5. It is not setting out to create complicated mechanics systems so you can minimax characters – it is trying to tell stories.

Friday, 26 September 2014

SFFSat 27/9/14 - Blue Ice 6

SFFSat is a place where a number of authors post snippets from their written works, and give the opportunity for comments, support and encouragement. This is my snippet for it - please also explore the other blogs that are part of this set - you can find the information here. 

This is part six of Blue Ice. Anton deGama is in the rings of Saturn, planting bio-engineered plants on a chunk of ring ice, when his colleague Kellerman sees something blue moving on the ice. Despite all common sense, Anton moves towards it, to see living creatures moving towards him...



Each creature was shaped like a snowflake hexagon atop a crystalline frond. The six panels could change their attitude independently, to grab sunlight and to focus it through the crude crystal lens at the base of the frond. The thing moved by directing the faint sunlight through the organic lens onto the ice below it: as the ice burned away, the spreading water-vapour pushed the creature onwards. It obviously relied on the marginal gravity of the fragment to keep it from drifting off into space.
Anton suspected the creatures were not greatly dissimilar to the draxbloom or svenskite plants that ringfarmers cultivated, clearly formed from the same silicorganic genetics. But Anton had never heard of anyone bio-engineering anything like this.
Kellerman was demanding that he reply. He finally murmured "They're alive, Kellerman."
"I was beginning to wonder if you were, Anton! What are alive?"
Anton briefly described what he could see, watching the creatures devouring his crop. Each one enfolded a draxbloom in its snowflake. The motion was so slow and sensual that Anton for a brief, delirious moment wondered if this was some bizarre mating ritual. But then he saw the flower petals shattering and the fragments being absorbed. This was a ritual of consumption, not reproduction.


As always, comments appreciated!



Friday, 19 September 2014

SFFSat 20/9/14 - Blue Ice 5

SFFSat is a place where a number of authors post snippets from their written works, and give the opportunity for comments, support and encouragement. This is my snippet for it - please also explore the other blogs that are part of this set - you can find the information here. 

This is part five of Blue Ice. Anton deGama is in the rings of Saturn, planting bio-engineered plants on a chunk of ring ice, when his colleague Kellerman sees something blue moving on the ice. Despite all common sense, Anton moves towards it...

Anton could feel centrifugal force increasing as he got closer to the equator. This ring-chunk was nearly a kilometre long, and he was almost tiptoeing across the surface. Ahead of him, there was a crystal shimmer from the surface. A blue shimmer. Anton froze (an all-too-literal word) as he studied what he could see.

"DeGama! Get away from there, Anton! Get off the fragment! Anton! Talk to me!"

Anton could hear Kellerman punching keys, and guessed that she was disengaging from the Deep Space Observatory. He suspected that Jodrell University would not be amused at the delay in the repair works to their prime research tool. But his attention was on the two dozen cobalt blue shapes, each a metre across, moving slowly through his crop towards him. 
 
They were not anything he had ever seen before, but Anton had no doubt that they were alive.

 Next time, we find out what these things are.
As always, comments appreciated!
 

Friday, 12 September 2014

SFFSat 13/9/14 - Blue Ice 4

SFFSat is a place where a number of authors post snippets from their written works, and give the opportunity for comments, support and encouragement. This is my snippet for it - please also explore the other blogs that are part of this set - you can find the information here. 

This is part four of Blue Ice. Anton deGama is in the rings of Saturn, planting bio-engineered plants on a chunk of ice the size of an ocean liner, when his colleague Kellerman sees something blue moving on the ice. Anton moves towards it...




Anton needed a successful harvest to stay in business. He had chosen draxblooms because they were tried and tested – they would not give a large profit, but the bio-tech was well-established in the rings and was a safe option. 
 
"DeGama? What are you doing? Talk to me, groundhog!"

He checked his footing as he replied "I'm not losing my crop if I can help it, Kellerman. Keep your scope on me and warn me when I'm close."

"You're close now, dimwit! Get out of there, DeGama! Get back aboard the Rose and survey it from space!" Anton could hear Polestar's contralto rising in pitch as the ship responded to Kellerman's mood. 
 
All logic dictated that he get off the ice-cube. Anything abnormal was dangerous. He resolutely ignored common sense, and kept moving.


Sorry - still no reveal of what Anton is facing. Maybe there will be the start of an answer next time... As always, comments appreciated!