Blackout: a Pioneering Term from Destruction

Writing my first sequel (ever) for Endgame has given me a few challenges.

One of those–natural for a sci-fi series about war–is penning my first space battle since I was, well, a teenager. What would it really be like? Since everything in the book is seen from heroine June Vereeth’s perspective, the moments were a combination of what she hears (communications) and the too-fast objects moving across various display screens. (She’s on a space station, not in the battle. Bonus: The worries and concern from watching something you have no control over.)

Since I grew up watching Star Trek: TNG, one of the questions that bugged me was how did the Enterprise crew see what was happening at some far-off outpost or near a cosmic rift. Bridge stalwart Lt. Warf says “On screen,” and, bam, there it is! Piece of Cardassian cake: You’re watching something from a two million kilometers away. No mention of satellites or camera-bearing probes. (The tech in that show was always frustratingly fool-proof, too.) If only.

So, how would we see such events in space? Especially when we’re nowhere close to them?

Introducing the term blackout, playing a minor role in Destruction. A blackout is an SUV-sized pod which would detach from a larger ship, like a battle cruiser, ahead of an event. The craft would move to a spot two miles away (things move pretty fast in combat) and sit stationary, offering tactical and radar assistance. If there are multiple vessels engaged in battle, the third-party view would give the good guys something of an advantage. For one, ships couldn’t hide behind others (a concept which sounds far-fetched but actually makes perfect sense in scenarios, such as in Ender’s Game).

Justin Edison's Destruction teaser featuring red lights on a black background with 'blackout' lettering in yellow.

I’m not pioneering the term ‘blackout’ of course. But, of the dozen or so definitions that appear (the term first being used in 1913) none refers as slang for a ship. That’s exactly what it would be. With space, of course, being quite dark, it would make sense for techs to use dark metal, or just paint the thing black. Then, while the pod was in use, it would make even more sense for all the lights to be turned off. Otherwise, a Mitasterite fighter makes a quick loop out and eliminates this tactical nuisance.

It might be fun to write a comedy piece, too: A mismatched couple (Felix and Oscar, or Elliott and Todd from Scrubs) arguing in the ‘dashboard’ light while all hell is breaking loose twenty seconds’ flight away.

I honestly try not to take myself too seriously, so there’s potential.

Endgame cover by Greg Simanson Designs. Cover shows characters, rockets and a woman's eye against a green-ice background and twin suns, orange lettering. "The war begins" is added at the top.

Endgame is available now!

Calling Readers: My Newsletter

Hello, Dear Reader:

With much fanfare (or, at least, a couple drum taps) I have launched a newsletter and I’d love for you to sign up!

Red pen and coffee mug with Edison's draft work.

Why do I need a newsletter? Because, according to several successful authors, this is a great way to reach readers and find more. So I’m game.

Why should you sign up for a newsletter? This way, I can send quick updates on my work, plus offer you some goodies that you may otherwise miss. (I am not above bribery, of course!) So, it will be worth your time, and it only takes two minutes!

Note: This will not be spam! I have no intention of flooding anyone’s inbox with digital junk. Our time is more precious than that. Instead, this will be 1-2 updates per month on what I’m working on, and maybe some food for thought.

 

Please sign up here, and I look forward to connecting with you!

 

-Justin

The Prince of Endless, pt. 5

Elsewhere, on a forest path toward seaside ruins, MAHKYEL, the Prince’s scoundrel uncle rides with two guards and his weakling aspiring sorcerer cousin BOORYEL. Both are Eastern (Asian) and are dressed well from royal ties and ride with confidence. Booryel sneezes as they approach the ruins.

When they dismount, they are met by the chief kidnapper, HEDDAHNTON. He is a very fit man in warrior’s armor and has the look of a successful mercenary. Some of his thugs and captured women mill about the ruins, now a makeshift base.

Mahkyel approaches Heddahnton with caution. “Well done, Heddahnton. I trust the little rat is safe?”

“He is, Your Highness.”

Mahkyel wags a finger at him. “Not yet. There will be a time when others call me king, but I expect no such respect from a mercenary.”

Heddahnton leers. “Guilty. Like all men of deeds, I respect sword and coin.”

“Understood,” Mahkyel says, strolling through the camp. “A bonus. Booryel?”

The weakling cousin strolls up, pulling an amethyst necklace from a robe pocket. He holds it out for Heddahnton.

“Did you charm this?”

“Nay,” Booryel says, disappointed. “Simple stones from the queen’s closet. No magical potential.”

“Nonetheless,” Heddahnton says, snapping a finger. A thug comes up and looks at his boss. Warily, he takes the necklace in his gloved hand.

Mahkyel smiles. “I’m the kind of liar you can trust, Heddahnton. There’s more riches to come.”

“What about your giant?” Booryel asks.

“Charmu?” Heddahnton wears a satisfied expression. “Like me, he does his job. My men fulfill his craving for mares.” He looks at Booryel. “And what of your craving for magic? If I remove your hand, could you regrow a new one?”

Booryel swallows hard, taking a step back. “I…uh…”

Heddahnton laughs as Mahkyel intercedes, annoyed. “Save your charms for the ladies, High Warrior.” He takes Booryel by the sleeve and they head for their mounts.

Blurry hand holding knife over stone floor

Nearby, there are cliffs above the sea. Several individual jail cells have been built into the cliffs, 50 feet above a rocky beach. Most of the cells are occupied only by skeletons in rags.

In one, along with an ancient skeleton, sits THE PRINCE OF ENDLESS. He is an Eastern (Asian) boy of ten dressed in simple if regal pajamas. Sitting on the rock floor, he is adjusting a dirty wool blanket around him to keep warm. At the bars are two buckets. One is dirty (for bathroom use) and the other contains stale bread. Sea breeze ruffles his hair, and he’s trying not to cry.

The ground shakes, accompanied by heavy splashing sounds, and dust falls from the rock ceiling. Beyond his cell door, slowly and malevolently, appears CHARMU.

Charmu is a 60-foot giant in simple clothes and with a braided beard. He peers into the cell, sneering. The prince scoots back, fearful.

“Prince,” Charmu scoffs. “Mighty prince.” He turns to go.

 

to be continued…

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Rumination on the Draining Hourglass

Blame the onrush of autumn–Halloween, the sudden cold temperatures, the yard turned orange from wind-stripped tree litter–but my thoughts have recently been bouncing to the issue of mortality. I’m not a morbid person by nature, but I certainly ponder the end often enough. Given the preponderance of auto-accident fatalities (37,000 annually in the U.S.) and mass shootings (also far too numerous), a random ‘untimely’ death feels less unlikely than it used to.

In the Arts

Artistic reminders abound. Dave Matthews’ So Damn Lucky describes a bad car accident (where the narrator disregarded his partner’s cautionary advice). The last four minutes of Pink Floyd’s Shine on You Crazy Diamond seems like the ultimate statement on ‘moving on.’ John Lennon‘s “Watching the Wheels” always makes me think of my wife’s late brother Eric, as I heard it soon after his funeral and it made me weep. (Perhaps there was something about Lennon’s voluntary ‘quitting’ the music business, only to be tragically murdered several weeks later.) The events feel tied together.

In the film Glory, Colonel Robert Shaw is given a moment to gaze at birds flapping above the South Carolina surf. He has volunteered his 54th Regiment (Massachusetts) to charge an important Confederate fort (Wagner), even though losses will be heavy. Shaw senses he’s going to die that very evening. We aren’t told what he’s thinking–we just have to imagine it for ourselves.

Mortality

One of the stark exercises journalists are asked to go through is to write their own obituary. How would you sum up your life in 400 words? Space is limited, and difficult choices have to be made.

Contrast that with Steven Dalt, the hero of F. Paul Wilson’s The Healer. Thanks to a symbiotic relationship with an amazing, all-learning creature, Dalt lives (in the story) some 1,200 years. While this longevity and his godlike ability to heal people (through knowledge and psychic abilities) sounds grand, it also comes with terrible costs. He outlives everyone he meets, including his wife and subsequent partners. In the end, given the chance to rule Humankind (being victorious over its far-away nemesis), he ponders the meaning (or meaninglessness) of existence. If you could go anywhere and do anything, what would be the point of it all? Even hedonism would get old. Wouldn’t it?

Life’s Journey

Immortality and limitless pleasure are not problems any of us have, of course. While there’s a part of me that’s fine with being an entertainer (how best to describe a writer?) that doesn’t seem like enough. Neither does making heaps of money (though this could be used in various beneficial ways).

So as I embark on a website design path, and hope for success, I’ll have my eyes on several prizes (doing solid work, employing people, fulfilling others’ wishes). When I look back, at least I can say I tried some cool things (besides raising great kids and supporting noble causes). Without better answers to the big question, these attempts seem good enough.

cloudy sunset taken from the big island of Hawaii

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Halloween Thoughts

Today, I will…

Listen to Halloween by Dave Matthews Band and A Nightmare to Remember (instrumental) by Dream Theater.

Think about the original Flatliners and how right-on-the-money spooky it was.

Try to justify waking early, in quiet darkness, with an astounding piece of writing, or altruism, or world-building innovation. (It probably won’t work, and my dreams were lousy, anyway).

Enjoy the crackle and crunch of dry leaves underfoot, coupled with the cold burn of autumn in my nose.

Recall when a gust of wind through leaf-stripped trees was powerful.

Dream about a house I’d build to look exactly like a woodsy haunted mansion, with purplish paint and crazy roof angles and twisted chimneys and vines and wicked statues. I’d put it at the end of a suburban street by the woods and host pumpkin-carving parties.

Dream about a similar house, all decked-out in Halloween imagery and decor, and make it a restaurant called Halloween. Year-round, servers in costume (nothing too scary) would serve delicious, family-friendly food with great names and nifty menus. Black cats would greet people on the front porch. Kids would each get one small souvenir. And I’d set the place just off a lonely highway heading southeast, where even the height-of-summer trees whisper to you.

Black cat's wisdom eyes via free image site

Enjoy the decorations my wife and kids have put up–even the giant spider hanging over the front door. And when we go trick-or-treating, I’ll soak it all in, absorb and revel and sigh…and forget about being an adult.

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