#SpaceOperaWeek: Five Current Space Operas You Should Be Reading

Yesterday I posted a definitive list of all-time best space operas, but there are some current new ones that provide a fresh take on the genre as well. I’m assuming you’ve already read my Star Realms: Rescue Run, so here’s what I’m excited to be reading lately:

1. The Revelations Cycle Series by Mark Wandrey and Chris Kennedy. Mechs. Monsters. Aliens. Mercs. This series is pure space opera fun with a really well-detailed world. The first book, Cartwright’s Cavaliers deals with one of the major human merc companies going through a bankruptcy and a young man inheriting the mantle to take it over and make it great again. It’s riveting fun all the way through, and you’ll love the CASPer mech suit action the whole way through. I Haven’t read the second book yet, but it’s on my short list to read soon!

2. Excalibur by Tim Marquitz. When I opened this up I felt like I was living what I wanted out of the Babylon 5 spinoff series Crusade that they never got around to delivering me. We have a somewhat disgraced captain who has been doing special jobs for the Covenant on the side with his band of fun and supremely competent crewmen. His ship is made of stolen alien tech — and those aliens are back in force, but for some reason, the fleet is caught with their pants down. It’s up to him to save the galaxy.

3. The Maxwell Saga by Peter Grant. I just picked up Take The Star Road, the first in a currently five book series. This is a Horatio Alger in space type of story, where we have a man picking up and working on a trading vessel to get experience to go join up with a colony that promises opportunity. A fun read the whole way, and he gets caught up with a Yakuza-type crime syndicate and their ancient legends. I’ve been told we can expect a new book in the series around Christmas.

4. The Darkship Series by Sarah Hoyt. There’s a world out there of genetically modified humans that is just rumor to the denziens of earth.They’re supposed to be terrible people to be eradicated, but our hero learns to love the people of Eden, or should I say a person of Eden, as adventure unfolds and nothing is what it seems. Lots of action and romance in this one. A new installment, Darkship Revenge, just came out a couple weeks ago!

5. A Greater Duty by Yakov Merkin. I just picked this one up, as it came out a couple of days ago, but it promises a lot of cool alien species, epic battles with a Galactic Alliance, and as a member of the #PulpRevolution, I know Yakov will have great instincts for a fun, dynamic story. It’s also edited by Superversive Press’s Ben Zwycky.

The Superversive in Tabletop RPGs: Space Opera Edition

It’s Space Opera Week. While a lot of people who love this style of story are content to read or watch them, a significant number of us want to make our own. There’s plenty of writing-specific advice around, so I’ll focus on those of us who want to game them instead.

So, you want a Superversive Space Opera? Where do you start? Well, if you’re not doing GURPS Lensman, you still want to have that book (or the novels it’s about) handy. That example will be the model you’ll find easiest to adapt for gaming purposes.

Your players play characters who champion their cultural traditions and institutions. This means you’re some sort of Galactic Patrol, formally or otherwise, because the standard gameplay scenario involves dealing with predatory actors seeking to undermine your people. As active agents, you have reason to seek out such trouble and put a stop to it.

Your players play pro-active characters. Be it by acting on orders from another, or one of the players coming to the table with a plan, a Superversive Space Opera relies on the characters being the ones driving the game and that means acting according during play. This is not a place for passive or reactive people; that’s for other media.

Your game has a solid moral core to it. Just like playing Pendragon Superversive Space Opera requires that the players engage with a solid moral foundation. This is best made explicit to the players at the beginning (again, like Pendragon) so you can have everyone on the same page and not waste time doing that after you’re underway.

Do that, and you’re golden. Now you see why I recommended having those Lensman books handy. These elements are not only present, but front-and-center where they can’t be ignored, which is what you want when you’re looking for a model to adapt to your game at your table. There’s plenty of others out there, so pick what you want to use and commit to it. The fun you have will depend on the work you put in, so have at it.

Jon Del Arroz’s Definitive Top 5: Space Opera Series

It’s #SpaceOperaWeek and I can think of no better way to launch my first regular Superversive column than to celebrate the genre in which I write and love. I’ll be doing more top fives as they feel appropriate, but as a writer of Space Opera, it makes a lot of sense to launch in celebration of some of my greatest influences. Naturally, these are just my opinions, so I expect outrage, disagreement, fist shaking, and the like at my choices. Just know that you’re wrong. It says definitive in the title, and we all know the internet never lies.

Without further ado, your Space Opera Top Five!

5. The Serrano Legacy – Elizabeth Moon wrote what at first feels like a light romp in the vein of “The Most Dangerous Game.” At the same time she has a compelling background with the Famlias and their political influence over the Fleet that both hampers and helps our heroes at different times. The characters are about the easiest to get attached to in science fiction, and when you get to the third book in the first trilogy – you start to see some really cool sci-fi concepts in a rejuvenation treatment that makes the elderly young again, and its consequences to society. Moon uses the universe as a backdrop for other stories from there, always relating to the Serranos and their influence over the fleet. From a pure fun perspective, this work is some of my favorite.

4. Hyperion Cantos – Dan Simmons shows the depth of imagination that Space Opera can attain. This series mixes literary prowess with Indiana Jones in space style fun. While the later books aren’t as good as the first couple installments, Simmons left his mark on the Space Opera genre and most modern authors riff off of his concepts even if subconsciously.

3. Star Wars: Thrawn Trilogy – Tie in fiction is looked down on quite a bit, and I actually will differentiate this from the Star Wars films, as we’re focusing on literary fiction for the purposes of this post. Honestly, this series stands on its own. One doesn’t even have to have seen Star Wars to enjoy the depth of character, the machinations of the supreme strategist Grand Admiral Thrawn, the coming to prominence of Mara Jade, or all of the other wonderful facets of this series. It takes Star Wars and adds real depth and gravitas to the universe. There are very few examples of space opera out there that are finer.

2. Lensman – The original Space Opera by E.E. “Doc” Smith. He wrote this over the course of his life. Two epic alien species the Arisians and The Eddorians toying with the younger races like humanity in order to try to assert their will over the galaxy. These books are short, action packed, and they have a great punch to them. This series has inspired the likes of Star Wars and Babylon 5, and still is some of the most impactful work in the genre to this day.

1. The Vorkosigan Saga – This is a series by multiple Hugo winner Lois McMasterBujold, which debuted in the early 1980s. Originally penned as Star Trek fanfiction, the world was launched with Shards of Honor, a romance story in space about lovers from two worlds with completely different values. Though this is one of the lighter stories in the universe, it grew from there as we next met Miles Vorkosigan, the series’ main protagonist in The Warrior’s Apprentice. It’s got sweeping empires, weird body modifications, a great fleet battle, mercenaries, spies, about everything you’d want out of a book. And while that book shaped my interest in the genre in my youth, the series honestly only gets much better as it goes along. Lois hit on every mark possible in space opera and plays with a number of different story archetypes.
Jon Del Arroz is the author of the Alliance Award nominated and top-10 Amazon bestselling Space Opera, Star Realms: Rescue Run. His second novel, For Steam And Country, is set to be released by Superversive Press this summer. He is considered to be the leading Hispanic voice in Science Fiction, and hails from the San Francisco Bay Area. He regularly posts to his popular Science Fiction blog at http://delarroz.com. Twitter: @jondelarroz Gab.ai: @otomo

Attack of the CLFA Booknado–New Releases and Book Deals

The Conservative Libertarian Fiction Alliance is mostly a Facebook group dedicated to writers of a similar ilk banding together against the darkness that is traditional publishing, and all of the various and sundry political filth that has seeped into the vast majority of it. Once a month, they have their “Booknado” … because book bombing sounded goofy? I don’t recall the reasoning anymore. But it’s their collection of new releases and book deals.

 Lion’s Share (Tales of Dunham), by Moriah Jovan

Single mother Blythe had to depend on Finn, her terrifying father-in-law, to pull her through her husband’s death. Six years, countless dinners, kids’ activities, and a successful career later, there is nothing between them but friendship and respect. Nothing at all.

 

The Fugitive Snare (Matt & Michelle Book 3) by Henry Vogel

Psi Corps wants Matt, the most powerful psychic in generations. He slipped through their fingers twice and escaped beyond the borders of the Terran Federation. But mere laws won’t stop Psi Corps from coming after Matt. Matt & Michelle must destroy Psi Corps or serve them.

Will they be slayers or slaves? There are no other choices.

 The Long Black (The Black Chronicles Book 1) by J.M. Anjewierden

Morgan thought (after escaping the heavy-gravity mines of her homeworld) life as a starship mechanic would be easy, and maybe even fun. That was before the thugs, bureaucracy, bad bosses, unexpectedly having to take care of her friend’s little girl. Then the Space Pirates show up…

Green Sunday by Ryk Brink

When TJ, a small time internet show host with his head in the clouds, met a strange green-haired girl in his secluded mountain town, he thought his luck was changing. Unfortunately, on her heels was a collection of sociopaths determined to destroy his hometown for the benefit of a deepweb gameshow’s cameras.

A zombie comedy book unlike anything you’ve ever read before.

Crossover: Chronicles of Feyree, Scroll 1 (Volume 1).

By Claudia Newcorn

They’re going to get their wings…or die trying.

 

 

 Ten Davids, Two Goliaths (A Fallen Empire Novella) by Matthew W. Quinn

A pair of ex-Imperial fighter pilots participate in an ambush of two Imperial cruisers on a training mission. Will the fighters teach the Imperials the same lesson Billy Mitchell taught so long ago, or will the Imperial firepower be too strong?

 

Doctor to Dragons (Novella) by G. Scott Huggins

 

The Dark Lord’s favorite dragon is constipated. Dr. James DeGrande, veterinarian and orc-slayer, is going to have to deal with it.…

This one could get messy.

 

 The Genie Hunt (Spook Hunters Book One) by M.C. Tuggle

Attorney Buddy Vuncannon and his friend Coot Pickard stumble upon a criminal gang that includes a mutual friend and a genie who does the gang’s dirty work.

 

 

DISCOUNTED to $1.99 OR LESS

 Honor at Stake (Love at First Bite Book 1) by Declan Finn.

The Dragon Award Nominated novel. Now $0.99 from now until May 19th. (Usually $4.99)

One is a merciless, bloodthirsty monster.

The other is a vampire.

 The Caliphate (A post-apocalyptic suspense novel) by Anna Erishkigal

What if ISIS controlled America?

 

The Superversive in Tabletop RPGs: GURPS Lensman

There was a time when Steve Jackson Games made a lot of supplements for the GURPS line that served to adapt influential or popular SF/F books into something viable for use as a tabletop RPG setting. While the choices were necessarily constrained by both internal budgets and licensor friendliness, we got a few gems here and there- and none coruscate more brilliantly than Gurps Lensman.

For people who were not around when the Lensman series was in its heyday, or missed the reprints, you would not believe how far into the Memory Hole this series went until recently. When this book got published in 1994, there was at least one whole generation (if not two) that never heard of these books or knew of what great influence they had on SF in books, comics, film, and television world-wide. I was one of that many, and I could not find a copy of any of them in any local store for love or money. This was a close as I got.

And with this supplement, I had everything I need to fully engage with a Lensman’s perspective- to see it all the way someone granted the power of the Lens (and the duties that come with it) does, to do all that they do, and to risk all that they risk in defense of something figurative and literally bigger than themselves. This isn’t just partaking in the things that build, sustain, and invigorate a culture into a civilization; this is being one of the very pillars of Civilization, a load-bearing pillar upon which the fates of billions–even trillions–rests. Far beyond being a Knight in King Arthur’s court, this is what being a Jedi should be (but isn’t).

Despite the issues that every GURPS edition has with high-powered milieu, this supplement does do the setting justice. Sure, you can play something other than a Lensman, but that’s not why you have this supplement: you’re there for being Civilization’s greatest agent, advocate, and champion. It’s no different than not playing a Knight in Pendragon. Even if you don’t care for GURPS, what’s here will be transferable to the ruleset of your choice; the technology notes are often in real-world (Imperial) units or otherwise giving real-world referents so you can easily make this work for you at your table.

If the Amazon link above doesn’t have what you’re willing to pay, go try directly from Steve Jackson Games; they may have it in PDF at a price you’re willing to accept. Either way, if you’re into tabletop RPGs and seek out ways to play Superversive games, you’re a zwilnik to not have GURPS Lensman in your library.

A review of Escaping Infinity, by Richard Paolinelli

In regards to fairness, I should mention that I was given a free e-copy of Escaping Infinity by author Richard Paolinelli.

When I was handed the book, I wasn’t quite certain what to expect, even when I saw the description on Amazon.

As the description reads …

Thousands have checked into the Infinity Hotel over the years. None of them have ever checked out.
Peter Childress and Charlie Womack are successful engineers on their way to Phoenix for an important presentation. But one of Charlie’s infamous “shortcuts” has gotten them good and lost once again. As night falls, the pair stumble across the Infinity Hotel and the promise of a meal, fuel and a good night’s sleep before starting off fresh in the morning is too good to pass up.
But while Charlie immediately takes to the hotel’s amazing amenities, Peter begins to uncover some of the hotel’s dark secrets – a seemingly unlimited number of floors, guests that appear out of time and place and a next morning that never seems to come. Worse still, the entrance to the Infinity has disappeared and no other apparent exit back to the outside world is in sight.
Now, under the watchful eyes of the hotel’s manager and front desk clerk, Peter searches for a way back out and uncovers the horrible truth behind the mystery of the Infinity Hotel.

It almost reads like a sci-fi The Hotel California as done in the Twilight Zone. If you’re worried that the description will spoil the plot, the flap copy only covers up to chapter 2. Our hero has already started to peace together that the hotel is bigger on the inside by this point…Yes. It’s bigger on the inside. Just wait until you get to the Star Trek references.

The style is very novel-like. It’s not Victor Hugo, but a modern novel, but Richard is very much an artist who has no pretensions. The novel is smart and well-thought-out, a mystery that plays perfectly fair, and gives the reader all of the pieces and parts to figure out what the bloody blue heck is going on. But you won’t figure it out.

Also, every named character has a back story. There’s at least one chapter of history for almost every named character.

I will say that going from the prologue to chapter 1 is a tad disorienting, as it goes from space opera, David Weber style, to a road trip in the South West. The last 10% of the book could have been an additional novel by itself, with what it pulled off. But the ending we got gave a complete, satisfying conclusion to the story, the characters, and the world that’s been established. And to some degree, it’s done something one a single novel that David Weber hasn’t even accomplished over the course of half a dozen books.

The ending we’re given is possibly one of the most Superversive, uplifting, hopeful endings you will ever see in a science fiction novel.

At the end of the day, this book starts out like David Weber, continued as written by Rod Serling, and ends with the epic scope of  John C. Wright. I won’t say that Paolinelli is in Wright’s league just yet. Give him another book or two, and expect Wright to have serious competition in the “awe-inspiring scale” category.

For JCW, I would give a 6/5 if I could. Richard will just have to settle with a 5/5.

Escaping Infinity is an awesome book, and I look forward to Paolinelli’s next work.

Appendix N Review

This is a review of Appendix N, … or, Jeffro Johnson’s big book of SFF, and the start of the pulp revolution.

My first experience with RPGs is thinking “Well, I might want to play with a rocket propelled grenade, but I don’t think they’d let me in my neighborhood. New York isn’t any fun.”

My first experience with actual Role Playing Games can boil down to video games. I don’t even mean an extensive look at Final Fantasy (I’ve only played VI and XII). But this includes but Dragon Age: Origins, the complete Neverwinter Nights, and the first Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (which inspired my system for vampires).

Actual RPGs I barely knew about. I got some of the jokes in The Order of the Stick comic. I knew of Gary Gygax. I had vague recollections of the great D&D scare of the 80s. I knew very little about Dungeons & Dragons, and I have no idea of the differences between version one, version two, and version nine (Is there even a version nine?).

I essentially I went into Appendix N cold, with no idea what the title referred to.

For the record, the title refers to the Appendix N of the original D&D dungeon master’s manual, wherein Gygax highlighted and cited all of the various and sundry works that inspired the facets of the world of D&D.

It’s a reading list.

APPENDIX N: The Literary History of Dungeons & Dragons is a detailed and comprehensive investigation of the various works of science fiction and fantasy that game designer Gary Gygax declared to be the primary influences on his seminal role-playing game, Dungeons & Dragons. It is a deep intellectual dive into the literature of SF/F’s past that will fascinate any serious role-playing gamer or fan of classic science fiction and fantasy.

Author Jeffro Johnson, an expert role-playing gamer, accomplished Dungeon Master and three-time Hugo Award Finalist, critically reviews all 43 works and authors listed by Gygax in the famous appendix. In doing so, he draws a series of intelligent conclusions about the literary gap between past and present that are surprisingly relevant to current events, not only in the fantastic world of role-playing, but the real world in which the players live.

And this spans …. everybody, really. Fred Saberhagen, Robert E. Howard. Edgar Rice Burrows, Lord Dunsany, Jack Vance, Poul Anderson, Fredric Brown …. I’m not listing all of them here. Many of them I had barely heard of, and some I had never heard of. The end result of a series of critical essays into a — by and large — literary world of pre-Tolkein fantasy.

This not only provides the footnotes for Gary Gygax’s world, but a meticulous study of each element thereof.

At the end of the day, this is also a study of what has been lost, buried alive under a mountain of grimdark, postmodern feces claiming to be “edgy” fantasy, while they are merely just wallowing in the miserable. George RR Martin, I’m looking at you.

Appendix N shows just how fantastic fantasy can be when not bogged down by the arbitrary and capricious rules of “reality,” where “the real” does not equal “the true and the beautiful,” but equals the miserable to such an extent that it thus becomes unreal.

Imagine the epic rap battle of history between Tolkein and Martin, only imagine it done across an entire genre.

This is an impressive work of literary history. In fact, the only problem this work has is in its footnotes. Yes, just the footnotes. You can tell that this is based off of a series of blogs, since some of the footnotes refer to works covered in other months instead of other chapters. And …. that’s it. Considering the effort it takes to make a book out of blogs posts — and trust me, I know — this is quite impressive. There will be some people who have some issues with some of Jeffro’s likes and dislikes of worls such as Star Wars and Tolkien, but we can all survive a difference of opinion.

Five stars all the way. For anyone who wants to see the entire history of a genre at a glance, you need to own this one. Buy it now.

Afterwards, you can go out and buy the books he covers.

Declan Finn is a Dragon Award nominated author. His “Catholic Vampire romance novels” can be found on his personal website. As well as all the other strange things he does.