A little something I put together using a digital piece by artist Tithi Luadthong, the audiobook(s) prologue from Jeffrey Kafer, and some bootleg garage band sounds from yours truly.
Live. Fight. Die.
This is the fate of all Einherjar space marines, tasked to battle for humanity against ravenous alien swarms in an endless war of survival or extinction.
The garm on Heorot have been exterminated, and the extinction fleet’s suicidal assaults turned back upon every front across the universe. However, the Hive Mind still pulses with psychic menace, and marine Ajax can hear its hideous siren call.
Task Force Grendel has been assembled to hunt down other alpha garm that have appeared deep within human space, and a growing number of marines believe that Ajax is the great hero Beowulf, come now to re-conquer the stars. Ajax himself has doubts, though as he and his band of brothers are hurled into the slavering jaws of danger again and again, his only choice is to raise his rifle and fight.
As the Einherjar hunt monsters a legendary warrior rises from the body forge, his mind overwhelmed with equal parts myth and madness. His betrayal unleashes a host of abominations, and threatens to shake the very pillars of human civilization to dust as the traitor reveals that evolution is a weapon of mass destruction.
At long last the fifth book in the Necrospace series has reached publication. We are at the halfway point in this sprawling tale, and as we meet new characters with their own trials and tribulations there are a number of familiar faces who return to the stage. This book more than any before it embodies the ‘pulp noir’ style that has become the hallmark of the series. Enjoy!
Rhett Calibos is a bounty scrapper, his life as an indentured soldier a welcome alternative to imprisonment on a penal colony. A man haunted by his past, Rhett throws himself into the work, his only sanctuary. Sokol Targe is the leader of a mech warrior squad, stationed aboard an ancient and deadly warship, and conducts violent raids on behalf of a Red List commune. Cast away from corporate society, they have embraced the ravager way of life.
As these troubled men endure furious combat across the ragged edges of civilization, neither of them realize they’ve become entangled in the deeper mysteries of necrospace.
It’s a hard universe, and nobody gets away clean.
I have been hard at work on the sequel to SPACE MARINE AJAX and wanted to share with you some of that progress.
Raw excerpt from first chapter of Extinction Fleet Book 2:
So little remained of the men they had once been, before the war, before the blessing and curse of the torcs they wore that captured their experiences and enabled them to resurrect in the body forge. What would make one marine feel kinship with another, out of an entire legion of warriors, much less a group of them, if not some scrap of their former identity? Such loose knit groups of comrades were common throughout the Einherjar ranks, though none could say what forged their bond, for none among them could recall the sorts of details that formed the basis of friendship amongst civilians and conventional military men.
Ajax mused to himself grimly as he added his firepower with Rama’s to bring down a ripper that attempted to sweep up on their left flank. To fight the garm they had to become similar to them, disposable combatants without the cluttered distraction of vibrant three dimensional humanity. The marines had only the most base levels of personality, himself included, and yet in the furious press of combat it was those base traits that held these thinly defined men true to each other.
We have made ourselves like them in order to win, thought Ajax as he ejected his spent carbon magazine and slapped a fresh one in the slot with the sort of mechanical discipline that took years to achieve, but we are still men. We feel the heat of victory, the sting of defeat, and the pain of loss when the warriors who stand with us fall to tooth and claw.
Indeed he had no idea what sports teams he preferred, what it had been like growing up on whatever planet he’d once called home, nor could he recall the last words he’d exchanged with his long dead wife. Such things had been sacrificed for his keen understanding of garm anatomy, roared Ajax in his mind as he shattered the knee of a sprinting drone, causing it to stumble and giving Silas a clean shot at its head. In place of a clear picture of his parents Ajax had the knowledge required to field strip his armor and equipment for cleaning and repairs, along with seemingly infinite tactical responses to the oncoming enemy.
Lost were the memories of happier times and gained was the intimate understanding of how to win.
If there are any of you good folks out there who happen to have purchased my most recent novel “Space Marine Ajax” I could really use an honest review on the product page. If you haven’t had a chance to check this one out, and enjoyed my Necrospace novels, you won’t want to miss this one. Thanks!
Click the marine…
The first novel in my new series, a blend of Norse myths, military science fiction, and a good old fashioned Bug Hunt…
Ajax answers the call of duty and becomes an Einherjar space marine, charged with defending humanity against hideous alien monsters in furious combat across the galaxy.
From the deepest parts of uncharted space an alien menace emerges, devouring all that lay before it, a great swarm that scours entire star systems of all organic life. This space borne hive, this extinction fleet, makes no attempts to communicate and offers no mercy.
Unified against a common enemy, humanity fights back, meeting the swarm with soldiers upon every front.
This is the story of fearless warriors who are sent to fight the wolves at the gate, by power armor and pulse rifle they must prevail, else humanity is all but doomed.
The new year dawns with me gearing up to re-apply myself to the grind stone of Necrospace, a military science fiction series published by Severed Press that I have been working with for the last several years. At present I have four books in the series completed, with the first three being focused on the story of Samuel Hyst, a salvage marine from a brutal corporate society who finds himself caught up in events that affect humanity at large. All he wanted was a paycheck and pathway out of debt.
The fourth novel shifts focus to a supporting character from the core trilogy and we are shown a glimpse of the fierce world of the elite mercenaries that stalk the ruins of this scrapyard universe. Since completing those I have taken something of a break from the world of Necrospace and written the first novel in what will be a trilogy about clone troopers striving to save humanity from extinction at the claws and jaws of an alien swarm from deep space. I traded in the futuristic pulp noir of Necrospace for the strange equilibrium of Norse mythology and alien invasion scifi. It was a wild ride, and one I am glad I took. So now I have two series I am working on, with the first of the new series coming out soon and the next Necrospace shortly after, from then I’ll be writing one and then the other in what I hope to be a very productive year.
As I prepare myself to dive back into Necrospace, I find myself planning out the next four books before launching. There are a great many meta-plots and sub-plots at work throughout the first four books of Necrospace, and it is important for me that there be closure. I want to give the series plenty of room to breathe, for not just the epic journey of Samuel Hyst to reach its final conclusion, or for the mystery of the Gedra to ultimately be revealed, but for the Necrospace realm as a whole to reach a milestone that yields a satisfactory series finale. As keen as I may be to develop this series into a number of feature films or an episodic for streaming/television, not to mention my day dreams of table top role playing games, board games, and video games, all of that is a distraction until I am able to complete the robust tapestry that you (the reader) and I (the storyteller) have embarked upon creating.
As any of you who have enjoyed the first four novels of the series know, there is much that can happen in the span of four novels. As much of an intense journey as the first half of the series has been, you can expect just as much, if not more, from the next half. In the course of the novels we will re-visit our salvage marines, hunt forgotten technology on wasteland planets, and pursue scrap bounties to the edge of the universe. We will fight mutated nightmares, struggle against devastating alien technology, battle space pirates and corporate security forces in equal measure, and we will ride to war with the Folken once again.
Necrospace is rich with salvage, and soon the next chapter in our search for freedom and fortune will arrive. Time for me to get back to work. Until that day…
… and Space Marines?
When it comes to the world of books, video games, films, and merchandise we certainly live in what you could call the Golden Age of the Expanded Universe.
The entire premise of the new film Star Wars: Rogue One is predicated on a single line of dialogue from Return of the Jedi – “Many Bothans died to bring us this information.”
And I think that is amazing.
Everywhere you look it’s Marvel Comics, Harry Potter, or something equally vast. You would not believe how many Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Star Wars branded items are in my house right now. Being an old hand when it comes to fandom myself, there are plenty of Warhammer 40k and World of Darkness novels and games sitting on my various shelves and awaiting me in a few stashed bins. This isn’t a new sort of phenomenon, though I’d say we have firmly moved into territory where ‘expanded universe’ is the standard now for most entertainment.
There is a strong economic incentive to be sure, as a single product like the video game HALO can become a franchise that presents consumers with not only video game sequels but apparel, toys, board games, novels, and movies. In fact there are many video games that are working with this idea, and again it isn’t an old one, it’s just that it has now become the standard operating procedure. Didn’t get enough from the video game? No problem, we have a few novels you can read while you wait for the blockbuster film to hit theaters in the fall. On and on it goes, so shut up and take my money!
The creative incentive cannot be overlooked, and honestly I think this is where the desires of fandom have really blended well with the world of entertainment commerce. As fans we want an immersive experience, and other than we happy few who have been playing Dungeons & Dragons since we could read this wasn’t much of an option for people who had interests outside of Star Wars, comic books, and bad 80’s cartoons. Once we devour what you’d call the ‘core material’ we fans want to start experiencing the world and the characters from a multitude of perspectives, in whatever form those take (novels, films, games, comics, toys, etc). With the long-term franchises, like Star Wars, there’s always the discussion of what is canon and what isn’t, and that’s unavoidable with things like Star Wars, which as undergone so much change. The same could be said for Warhammer and Warhammer 40k, as those creative lines (originally miniatures games that became a full entertainment empire), even if on a smaller scale (ha!).
The franchise and expanded universe that has my engine purring is J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter universe, predominantly because there has been a single creative mind at the helm of the franchise since the beginning. Certainly she has worked with many collaborators through the years, but unlike a film, which is by its nature exceptionally collaborative, the novels (which are the core material) are hers. Much the same could be said of the works of Tolkien and his Middle Earth.
The idea of creating an expanded universe for NECROSPACE is a relatively new one to me, as I had originally intended for Trade War (released this week by Severed Press) to be the third and final novel in a trilogy. As I started work on another story I thought perhaps it would be the start of a new trilogy, also set in Necrospace, though that story went in a different directly entirely. After that I’ve started two different novels, and have many notes for a third, that are unrelated even if somewhat interconnected. There are just so many stories I want to tell in the Necrospace universe that exist outside the tale of Samuel Hyst, for his I believe is done. In some ways deciding to make a Necrospace expanded universe (using the first trilogy as my core material) was something of a survival tactic. I was around 10,000 words into the parallel story of a stranded Augur Corp special operative on a wasteland planet and a Red List mech-warrior trying to stay one step ahead of the law when I realized that it did not belong in the same book as the 15,000 words that followed the Dire Swords mercenaries as they brawled with other contractors over alien WMDs. I’ve got notes at a chapter or so that I originally cut out of Trade War that are likely going to be shaped into a story about the life and times of a Helion battle trooper, as I have used them as antagonists often in Necrospace and its high time we saw the world from their side of the rifle.
It could be awhile before there are any Necrospace video games or comic books, and I do have other genres to explore (as evidenced by how I took a break from space marines and crafted a novelization of Ember Days), but I do want to finish those stories, and I like to believe that there are folks out there who enjoyed the adventures of Samuel Hyst enough that they’ll give a few new protagonists a chance.
In the meantime?
I’m going to finish watching A New Hope with my son… his first time seeing it!
The title of this post sounds like a contradiction in terms, and on the surface perhaps the idea of a genetically altered human warrior wielding a heavy plasma cannon against unimaginable horrors from deep space sounds a bit… sci-fi, but come on, plasma cannons!
Well… plasma cannons, awesome though they may be, only get us so far.
Just in case I get too preachy later on, the point I’m attempting to make is that a story has to ring true, even if its about space elves fighting jelly monsters.
The truth of the matter, in my opinion, is that the story is going to be more impactful to the audience if there is a degree of realism, with a specific contemporary sensibility. I’m not talking about making the ‘hard science’ of the afore mentioned plasma cannon sound convincing. I’m not talking about creating an alien/cyborg/mutant/etc enemy that makes sense in light of our current understanding of physiology and biology. All such things are just plot devices and set dressing directly informed by our current scientific knowledge and awareness. Realism when it comes to the technology and biology of a story, explicitly a military science fiction story, is of less consequence than realism relative to the characters themselves.
Perhaps I’m beating a drum that has been well-worn by writers before me, but this it my time, and I’ll take my moment thank you very much.
If a story’s core appeal (or message as it were) is “look at how cool their tech is!” or “gosh this hero is an unstoppable badass!” then once our world develops a similar technology or gets bored with flawless heroes, as an audience, we will not be engaged and that story will likely recede to join the miasma of other genre titles. Not that this is a bad thing, because the world needs pulp, and I’ve certainly contributed my fair share of such (and will be contributing a great deal more), but I’d argue that tech-based-pulp is ultimately destined to be surpassed by our own real-life advances.
The books that really stick with us, in specific regards to military science fiction, are stories like “Forever War” and “Starship Troopers” precisely because they focus on the men and women who live through those stories. Sure the cool ships and equipment those characters interact with are exciting, but what hits you is the characters themselves. This may be an old argument, but it is the human experience, or better yet Personal experience of the story, by the characters, that has the real staying power that transcends the ever-advancing technology of our rapidly evolving modern civilization.
To write military fiction, whether it is historical, contemporary, or science fiction, that ‘rings true’ takes something of an effort on the part of the author, in my opinion. If the author is like myself, and not a legitimate combat veteran, then I think it is important to talk to such people. Even in the most far-fetched science fiction setting, I think that a convincing and accurate portrayal of military personnel is important. Not actually the specific nationality, creed, or equipment, but more the intimate experience of war and the physical and psychological consequences of those experiences.
Truth be told that is an easy gauntlet for me to throw down to my peers, given that I am a military contractor by trade, and so while I am not a combat veteran I spend countless days and weeks in their esteemed company. In fact you could say that much of my work in NECROSPACE is a direct result from transitioning from being an independent filmmaker to being a military contractor. The notions of patriotism and the realities of economics are two powerful forces at work in all such men and women, in my experience, and working alongside them has affected both my writing and my tastes in military science fiction.
I find there to be little value, beyond momentary pulp entertainment (which is still awesome), in bigger-than-life protagonists. There isn’t much to glean from the shallow character arc of “Master Sergeant John Mack” who is the Marty Stu or Mary Stu of the usual genre fare, beyond the mindless fun of reading about a peerless badass of a character overcoming all obstacles against ridiculous odds. I am less interested in the story of a superman in power armor than I am an average soldier with an M4 (or the scifi pulse rifle equivalent). The reason is that I’ve never met super-soldier John Mack in real life, but I’ve meet hundreds of regular people who draw a modest paycheck and carry a rifle.
Realism in our portrayal of the future soldiers in military scifi is about creating protagonist characters who are not perfect warriors. Soldiers who make mistakes, who question their own loyalties and motivations, who can’t help but to bring the horror home with them, are the kinds of characters that I want to read about, and the kinds of character I do my level best to create. Whether they are a ragtag militia of scrappy folk heroes fending off an alien invasion or an elite team of space marines about to drop into hostile cyborg territory, and no matter how far-fetched or fantastical their technology happens to be it is the realism of their humanity that will ultimately engage me as a reader.
Tentacle monsters and plasma cannons are the flashy packaging that will bring me to the table, but the authenticity of the characters is what will make me a fan for life.