Milestones and Principles

Hi all,

I figured that today would be a good day for a slight progress report given that it’s the end of the month, and maybe a little insight into the rules I’ve set for myself regarding my sci-fi.

Rich Man’s War is #1 in military sci-fi and #5 in sci-fi adventure on Amazon as of this writing, which is super exciting and very gratifying to me. Those stats may well change quickly–they can rise and fall on an hourly basis sometimes–but it hit those numbers yesterday, and that made me feel good.

Per my announcement when RMW was released, anything I make off of Poor Man’s Fight from 7/22 through the end of August will be donated to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. Again, that’s not an endorsement from them (we’ve had no contact) and that’s after Amazon gets its share of royalties & after taxes…but I’m pleased to say that as of this writing, I am now on the hook for about $528 there (assuming I can do math), and I sincerely hope it keeps growing!

So I figured, for anyone who might be interested in things like “world-building,” that I might share something I wrote up for the PMF setting a few weeks ago. As some people may have noticed, I try to avoid lengthy third-person info-dumping in my stories. Sometimes a little of that is necessary, but I find that it’s best to keep it to a bare minimum. But in getting into the climactic battle at the end, I decided it might be time to maybe write these things down in a single list just to help me keep them straight. Obviously not all this is technical or historical; some of it is the make-believe space opera physics of the setting, but some of it is thematic. I thought, just for the hell of it, that I would share it for the sake of anyone who might be interested.

Also, please note: very little of this is truly set in stone. One of the guiding philosophies in my books is, as a college professor once told me, “Change is the only constant.” Tech moves on. Cultures change. People really do change, though not as deliberately as they would like. But here, as the world of Tanner and Janeka and Alicia and Casey stands, are The Rules:

The Rules
  1.        Everyone thinks they’re the good guys. Every crime, every lie, every act of oppression comes with a justification or at least an excuse.
  2.    People can always be lazy, careless, irritable, backstabby, selfish and well-meaning but ignorant, even in space.
  3.    The future is not all that white. Unless a character appears in my head fully formed including an ethnicity, the character will likely have a name that is Chinese, Indian, Latino or from sub-Saharan Africa. In any case, many people are of mixed heritage regardless.
  4.    The Union of Humanity binds humans to a common defense and diplomacy vis-à-vis alien powers. It maintains a Union fleet with funding quotas for member worlds, standardizes weights and measures and basic regulations for interstellar travel… and that’s IT. There is NO universal standard for human rights, no supreme court, no common process for extraditions, no common currency and no prohibition against member states going to war against one another. It’s the best anyone could manage. The Union is a confederacy. Hah.
  5.    Aliens are really, really alien. You don’t hang out with them in bars. The most powerful aliens think “economics” is a stupid concept. The two known alien civilizations keep their distance and don’t trust humanity because they aren’t stupid.
  6.    Combining #4 and #5: neither alien civilization enters many binding agreements with humanity, because experience has shown that the right hand of humanity has no real control over the left.
  7.    Faster Than Light travel requires an FTL engine. You cannot “see” or “hear” faster than light. If you want to contact someone on another planet, you either suffer from transmission lag (Earth to Mars is two minutes at their closest points), or you put your message on an FTL-capable ship or drone and they get it when it gets there.
  8.    Because of FTL lag, electronic cash has returned to prominence. Electronic bank transfers (a la ATM purchases) are only practical on a planet’s surface or in large-scale matters of corporations or government entities. Individual travelers rely mostly on some form of secured electronic (or even physical) cash.
  9.    FTL travel within a star system is exceedingly dangerous, and therefore typically illegal. Travel too close to a gravity well in FTL, or come out of FTL too close, and your ship is torn apart.
  10.   An object in FTL undergoes funky changes in mass; a dime fired at a planet at or near FTL speeds will not cause catastrophic damage. However, it will suck for the dime and possibly the immediate vicinity of its impact. This is narrative space magic counter to real-world physics, and thus will not likely come up in the books.
  11.   A pretty hot-shit FTL starship can cover one light year in two hours. (Sun to Alpha Centauri = nine-ish hours)
  12.   Maximum starship weapons range is 120,000 km. Anything that moves fast enough to make space travel practical is an inherently difficult target, even with computer assistance.
  13.  There are no energy shields. Spaceships and some other objects can undergo electrostatic reinforcement—the molecules hold together with greater strength, but that doesn’t make anything invulnerable.
  14.   Interstellar economics is mostly about finished goods and specialized services. There is some trade in rare raw materials, but this is a minor factor in the overall scheme of things.
  15.   Most current human art forms are alive and well, including specifically rock’n’roll music and cinema.
  16.  To quote my real-life Chaplain in basic training, “Nobody listens to the fucking Pope,” but there is still a Catholic church, and it doesn’t give a damn about anyone’s sexuality. Islam is alive and well, though life in the stars makes practices like the hajj and prayer toward Mecca into complex issues, leading to new sectarian divisions.
  17. [Redacted–Tanner’s love life] If I ever sell off film rights, this will be in the contract.
  18. Tanner will always be a shitty pilot.

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