Monday, January 9, 2012

Beneath the Hull

  1. $80
  2. “How tremendously ambitious of you."
  3. Always. Peanut Butter Crunch especially.
People occasionally ask me what my novel's about and I never had an appropriate answer for them.
  • A rambly explanation about the podcast and its origins, followed by buckets of apology and self-depreciation about science fiction, has, thus far, only garnered me the glossing over of the eyes and the murmured “uh hmm”s that're all the rage when talking to your broke-ass unemployed nephew these days.
  • “Space pirates,” is my most recent answer, which tends to earn me the slow, uncomprehending nod.
This Monday, I thought I might nip this particular problem right in the bud and finally explain to all 18.25 of you just what in the fuck I'm even talking about.

The Premise: Space pirates. No, seriously. Pirates only in space.

Hull Damage, and the podcast it sprang from, details the dastardly exploits of a crew of interstellar pirates as they raid, pillage and ransack the galaxy for all its booty. Blending the genres of contemporary crime fiction, old school swashbuckling adventure and classic “used future” sci-fi motifs, The Endless Night explores the rough-and-tumble side of traditional sf, places where the Entreprise never visited and the Falcon only peeked. I like to explain it to people as being about “those creepy assholes in the Mos Eisley cantina.”

The official logline is (clears throat): “HULL DAMAGE is a spacepunk crime caper about a daredevil pirate captain and his crew of interstellar buccaneers who find themselves caught in the middle of bidding war between three of the galaxy's most powerful crime lords.” The first installment in what I plan as a trilogy, Hull Damage is a prequel to the original podcast series and illustrates the piratical hayday of the main characters, before time and the law finally start to catch up with them. Hull Damage introduces us to The Unconstant Lover and her buccaneer crew, a myriad cast of colorful characters whose interaction forms the backbone of the story.

The Cast: Speaking of.

One of the main motifs, not just in this series but in all my writing, is to examine heroes with non-existent or at least questionable morals. Criminals are the natural choice, but these are no cuddly smugglers or well-meaning rogues. The population of the Endless Night galaxy are, by and large, remorseless murderers and hardened criminals. Part of the enjoyment I derive out of the series, in my opinion, has been humanizing them, undercutting their ruthlessness with domestic issues and situations, like running errands, masturbation or leftovers.

Without further ado, then:
  • Captain Nemo: The main character of the series (though I don't technically consider him the protagonist) Nehel Morel is the captain of The Unconstant Lover, his abused and beloved spaceship. Brash, reckless and gleefully maniacal, Nemo is an incorrigible daredevil and thrillseeker, whose continued attempts to bite off more than he can chew consistently get his crew into trouble. Luckily for them, and him, Nemo is always a preternaturally gifted pilot and blessed with uncanny good fortune, Nemo always manages to scrape his ship and its crew through the very worst jams, often only by the skin of his teeth. Mercurial, irresponsible and possessed by a wild imagination for mischief, Nemo is the crew's X factor, unpredictable as a hurricane and equally as destructive.
  • Moira Quicksilver: The Lover's first mate, Moira Quicksilver is the novel's de facto protagonist and Nemo's antithesis. Whereas her Captain is all heedless improvisation, Moira is all calculated calm. An expert markswoman, a rigorous martial arts practitioner and a former bounty hunter, Moira Quicksilver doesn't rely on luck or chance, rather on tireless self-conditioning and heightened situational awareness. Moira's evident disdain for her Captain's comparatively slipshod methods dictates much of their complicated fire/ice relationship. Dour, disparaging and cynical, Moira is the crew's VIP member, the lancer or troubleshooter who's more than a force to be reckoned with.
  • Odisseus: A hulking otterlike alien called an Ortok (see below), Odisseus is another of the novel's viewpoint characters and the Lover's mechanic. The best of the best when it comes to starship repair, Odisseus has a very close relationship not only with their rickety, malfunctioning freighter, but also with her Captain. Odisseus is Nemo's saltbrother, an unspoken bond formed in both of their youths. While Nemo's recklessness is counterpointed by Moira's cold derision, it's further counterpointed by Odisseus' almost maternal regard for his spaceship and his saltbrother. Unflinching, long-suffering and cantankerous, Odisseus is the crew's heart, its moral center, the glue that literally holds the ship together.
  • Two-Bit Switch: A carpsharp, pickpocket, professional jailbreaker and comprehensive jack-of-all-trades, Two-Bit Switch, the final viewpoint character, was originally brought on board to help spring a member of the crew from prison and has stuck around ever since. With a litany of underworld contacts and obscure skills, Two-Bit makes himself useful as a monkey wrench and occasional point man, something that develops more in the sequel. For the duration of Hull Damage, Two-Bit serves as the ship's quartermaster, wrangling all the hired muscle and keeping them in line. Opportunistic, conniving and juvenile, Two-Bit is the crew's chameleon, able to adapt and handle any problem or thorny situation with a smile.

The Setting: The Endless Night takes place in a fictional galaxy, complete with faster-than-light travel, interstellar spacecraft and various different sentient alien species, all blended into one intergalactic culture. At the moment, the monolithic sector-spanning government, The Endless Imperium, is slowly crumbling, succumbing to internal and external threats from all sides, much like the ancient Roman Empire.

Hull Damage and its subsequent novels are set beyond the reaches of the civilized galaxy, in the lawless, untamed region known simply as “Bad Space.” Here, there is no central authority and planets are often let to fend for themselves. Crime, especially interstellar crime, runs rampant, with smugglers, pirates and other malcontents unchecked or unchallenged by the forces of law or good government. Here, warlords and crime lords hold sway and, against this backdrop of violence and crime, the books are set.

The Plot: This first installment in the series is centered around introductions; the setting, the characters, the conflicts. With their careers as successful pirates only just beginning, the crew of The Unconstant Lover find themselves on the shortlist for one of the galaxy's most prestigious crime lords, the mysterious Huong Xo, a fact their old employer nor Xo's main rival take terribly well. Hull Damage chronicles the pirates' attempts to navigate the perils, pitfalls and politics of the galaxy's underworld, attempting to stay one step ahead of the law, bounty hunters and the next gangland chopping block.* Between the barfights, gunfights and dogfights, there are chase scenes, blockade runs and crashing spaceships, broken up by the occasional hematophagus monster, ace bounty hunter/reality holovision star and sport played with a semi-sentient alien gallbladder.

Sound cool? I hope so. June 2012 is the tentative publication date for Hull Damage. If it sounds like something you or a friend, family member or enemy might enjoy, check it out or tell them to check it out!

Any questions? Feel free to ask. Anybody interested in reading a sample chapter? I could probably arrange that.

*The Chopping Block is also a great pirate ship name. (writes down)

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