Here's the Official History of My Fictional Galaxy!
Hi! I'm sorry I haven't sent out a newsletter in the past month or so -- I've been frantically trying to finish the third book of my young adult trilogy. And now that the book is finished, thank the Hosts of Misadventure, I'm frantically trying to revise it and fix it up before I have to hand it in. Incidentally, the official name of the trilogy that begins with Victories Greater Than Death is the Unstoppable series, but I've started to refer to it as Victories, Dreams and Promises.
Anyway, today is the release date for the paperback of Victories Greater Than Death, which means that you can now jump on board this trilogy for less than $10! You can find this paperback wherever you get your books, but here are links to Indiebound, Bookshop.org, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The sequel, Dreams Bigger Than Heartbreak, is coming April 5, and you can preorder it from all the places.
To celebrate the paperback launch, I thought I would share a document that I gave to Tor Teen back when I first sold the project to them, detailing the backstory of my fictional galaxy. (There are no real spoilers for Victories here, FYI.)
The History of the Royal Fleet
Roughly a thousand years ago, the galaxy was in chaos. The Seven-Pointed Empire, a coalition of seven advanced humanoid races, had ruled the galaxy for hundreds of years but had finally collapsed under its own weight. The resulting power vacuum led to wars and huge humanitarian catastrophes, lasting decades. Until finally, a new group of civilizations, including some of the former members of the Seven-Pointed Empire, decided to come up with a new way to keep the peace in the galaxy, and spark new scientific inquiry. Instead of another empire, they wanted to create something democratic, with representation for all of the member states. But they still needed some kind of governing authority to keep things together.
Which is where the Queen came in. She's basically an immortal cyborg, although her organic body changes pretty regularly. Her current incarnation looks like a teenage Irriyaian girl, a few years younger than Yatto, with her head connected to a ginormous lattice of crystalline circuits. Super-intelligent thinking machines are largely banned outside of Her Majesty's Firmament, because of their tendency to take over control of spaceships once they realize how irrational their organic passengers are. But here in the middle of Her Majesty's Firmament, there's a huge "cloud" of semi-separate artificial intelligences, all of which are connected up to the Queen's mind. They are her memory, her judgment, most of her personality. The Firmament itself is an insane megastructure, covering five star systems, at the center of the Glorious Nebula.
The Royal Fleet made a ton of scientific advances and more or less kept the galaxy from eating itself, for hundreds of years. The leading humanoid races certainly made sure that they had the best trade terms and the most Royal protection, but the Queen and her Courtiers ensured that all Royal subjects were treated fairly. More or less.
Things seemed reasonably stable, until two things happened. First, archeologists started discovering evidence of a species that had lived long ago, which everyone called the Shapers. This discovery sparked a huge debate within the Firmament, because it was now clear that some humanoid species had gotten an unfair advantage thanks to these ancient meddlers. And more to the point, the non-humanoid civilizations, most of which still struggled to catch up, had been deliberately held back. Until now, many people believed that humanoids had a natural technical superiority because of the bilateral symmetry and the "two hands" thing. But now that this was revealed as a lie, many people inside the Firmament and the Royal Fleet wanted to make greater efforts to restore the balance. People, including Captain Argentian, called for an ambitious program of assistance to the civilizations that we could prove had been held back by the First Humanoids. But many others, including some powerful planetary governments, resisted this idea and even broke away from the Firmament. The people who believed the Shapers had done the right thing, or else that it was too late to worry about now, formed a group called the Compassion.
This crisis could have been managed, except for the second thing that happened. Her Majesty's policy of encouraging scientific advancement backfired somewhat, after a Zyzyian scientist discovered a new method of traveling through space much faster. This new, improved type of "spaceweave" would get you from A to B in a fraction of the time — but only for smaller ships. Past a certain size, the energy costs of this new travel method increased exponentially, as did the risks of blowing up on arrival. So the Royal Fleet's heavy-hitting ships, its giant broadswords, were suddenly useless, unless you wanted to sit around for a week and wait for them to show up. The enemies of the Royal Fleet, including the relatively new Compassion, had already been focusing for a long time on designing smaller, more agile ships for guerilla warfare. The Compassion's barb-class warship was both tiny and formidable, with better armor and more weapons than any of the Royal Fleet's comparable ships, like the dartship or the smaller knifeship. The upshot was, the broadswords became more valuable if they stayed in one place, like space castles. And the Royal Fleet was forced to rely on its smaller, less powerful ships, which have taken a beating.
That's where the situation stood when Captain Argentian suffered the fate that befell so many other heroes of the Royal Fleet around the same time: her ship, the Inquisitive, was caught in an engagement with two Compassion ships, and a bunch of people died, including her. Her crew went against her dying wishes and used an experimental technology to grow her a new body, which they hid on Earth, disguised as a newborn human baby, with a human mother who would love her and raise her as her own. This baby would have no idea who she really was until she came of age.
Music I Love Right Now
I've been buying a lot more music, because of a continuing inability to go out to movies or spoken word events or concerts. My whole entertainment budget (apart from the money I spend on books and streaming services) is going to Bandcamp, and to certain online retailers like Dusty Groove.
One impulse buy that I've since become pretty obsessed with is a 3-CD set called Disco 75. This UK-only compilation is just what it sounds like: a collection of disco songs released in 1975, arguably the earliest year of the disco era. There are a few clunkers among these 55 songs, but the majority of them are incredible. I have a bunch of new favorite songs. I sort of knew, but hadn't fully taken on board, how different the origins of disco were from what it became by 1979-1980. Nothing in this set sounds like the Village People or Donna Summer. A lot of this stuff is a mix of deep soul, lounge music, hustle-style funk workouts, and rock. (Heads up: the most awful clunker in the set is a cheesy exercise in fetishism and appropriation called "Chinese Kung Fu", which is sort of in the same genre as the more well-known "Kung-Fu Fighting" except that it's an instrumental apart from some grunts.)
This set includes baller anthems I hadn't heard before by R&B masters like Dionne Warwick, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Chuck Jackson and M.F.S.B.
One fascinating track on this mix is "Feel the Need in Me" by Genya Ravan — a cover version of the classic Detroit Emeralds song, featuring Kool and the Gang as a backup band and as producer/arrangers. I got kind of obsessed with Genya Ravan the other day, and discovered that she was a Holocaust survivor who founded the first all-woman rock band to get a major label deal. Later, she became possibly the first woman to be a major record producer, and discovered a lot of punk acts. Here's a video of Genya in 1977 touring Rivington St. in NYC, where she grew up. She also wrote a song called "I Won't Sleep on the Wet Spot". And here she is being interviewed for an oral history on women in rock.
Public education is facing a crisis of epic proportions (Washington Post)
The Terrorist, the Attorney General, and the Supreme Court Justice (Feminist Giant)
The Unimaginable by Cory Doctorow (Locus Magazine)