Writer. Editor. Leximaven. Game Designer. Vorpal Blonde. Bisexual Brainlicker. Midas's Touch. Schrödinger's Brat.

Predation 02: We are all the butterfly

posted on: March 15, 2016
in: Blog, Predation: A Cypher System Setting
[If you haven’t already read the Predation Overview, you might start here.]
We are all the butterfly.

#weareallthebutterfly

GROUPS IN PREDATION

There are a number of groups and organizations in Predation. Some work together. Others are at odds. And still others join forces in public, while they put darker, more insidious plans into action under the surface. Player characters can interact with these groups and organizations by becoming allies, foes, business partners, or even members.

Here are two of Predation’s more prominent groups:

SATI

The Cretaceous Period and the information thereon is the property of SPACE AND TIME, INT. and may only be used for the purpose for which it is supplied. Use of this time period, or the information thereon, in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited without the express digital permission of SPACE AND TIME, INT.

~CLAUSE C-786b of the Space and Time, Interglobal, Cretaceous travel contract

The largest and most established organization is Space and Time, Interglobal (SATI). Originally, SATI was an interglobal conglomerate that began sending bioengineers, paleontologists, and other specialists back to the Cretaceous period on top-secret scientific/business missions. In the hundred years since, SATI has evolved from a group of scientists and explorers into a more militarized organization.

SATI continues to control the majority of the original time-travel operation bases—fortified underground bunkers filled with supplies, technology, laboratory equipment, and more that were set up by the early arrivals—but their hold is tenuous at best. Everyone, SATI or not, knows that whoever controls the bases also controls the supply flow—including any remaining time-travel technologies. As the asteroid draws near, attacks against the bases by groups like the Butterflies are growing more frequent and increasingly difficult to repel; the group spends much of its energy and resources keeping a tight hold on what it has, while still attempting to find a way back “home.”

Over time, many of the bases have become more self-governing and self-sufficient, a change that is also starting to threaten the larger structure of SATI. The capital base, SATI;0A (commonly called Soway) is attempting to bring the other bases back in line, but not everyone in this new generation shares the same beliefs, and it’s becoming harder for the organization to present a unified front.

The Butterflies

In the flickering firelight, the Queen of the Butterflies bows her head. A book—hand-bound in red leather—lays open upon her palms. She wears gloves, black and thin, nearly threadbare. When she begins to read, the group gathered around her becomes silent. Not a scuff. Not a breath. If anticipation were a sound, it would be this utter stillness.

The Queen’s eyes are closed. The words come from memory, from repetition, from belief.

Out of chars and ashes, out of dust and coals, like golden salamanders, the old years, the green years, might leap; roses sweeten the air, white hair turn Irish-black, wrinkles vanish; all, everything fly back to seed, flee death, rush down to their beginnings, suns rise in western skies and set in glorious easts, moons eat themselves opposite to the custom, all and everything cupping one in another like Chinese boxes, rabbits into hats, all and everything returning to the fresh death, the seed death, the green death, to the time before the beginning. A touch of a hand might do it, the merest touch of a hand.

She pauses, closing the book slowly, two delicate red wings folding soft around a pale body.

“We are all the butterfly,” she says.

“Stay the path,” they answer.

Together, as they slip away into the darkness: “And listen, always, for the thunder.”

The Butterflies are a subversive, guerrilla group. They believe that humans shouldn’t try to fix the time machine technology, that they should die out in the upcoming cataclysmic event so they don’t screw up even more of the evolutionary time path. These beliefs are based on the ”bible” that the Queen’s grandmother brought back in time with her, a copy of Ray Bradbury’s short story, “A Sound of Thunder.”

As a general rule, Butterflies eschew technology, subsisting on what they can make, steal, or scavenge. They identify themselves by painting or carving an image of a butterfly on the bottoms of their boots. It’s rumored that their spies have infiltrated all levels of SATI, and if you look carefully, you can find their graffitied messages on cliff faces, large trees, and the backs of certain dinosaurs.

Interested in Predation? You can back the Kickstarter here.

Graffiter_Thu_Mar_3_2016_0

 

Predation 01: An Overview

posted on: March 15, 2016
in: Blog, Predation: A Cypher System Setting

Predation art by John Petersen

I’m working on a new game setting for the Cypher System, called Predation. It’s in what I call the “shower idea” stage of creation, that weird brainplace where you just suddenly have the most brilliant idea at the most inopportune time. I know that some of you are following along on progress as I work on The Poison Eater, so I thought I’d start posting about Predation too. Writing a novel and writing a game setting are very different and yet also the same, and I think there’s a lot to be gleaned by watching two very different types of projects come to fruition.

In short, the idea for Predation came about because I wanted to make a game about dinosaurs. BUT I also wanted to make stuff up. (I like to research, but I hate having to stick strictly the research when I write; my preference is to use it as a jumping point for wild and weird ideas). So I was trying to find a way to do both things, and came up with the premise for Predation: that the humans walking among the dinosaurs are scientists from the far future who are stuck in the Cretaceous period. They brought back high-tech weapons and advanced sciences, the ability to bioengineer themselves and the creatures around them, and a knowledge of the future–a future that they might be changing with every choice they make.

Predation Overview

The history of Predation is actually in the future. A few hundred years in the future, to be exact. That’s when an interglobal conglomerate known as Space and Time, Int. (SATI) began sending bioengineers, paleontologists, and other specialists back to the late Cretaceous period on top-secret missions.

For those traveling back in time, it was the career opportunity of a lifetime. The unprecedented chance to walk among the dinosaurs, and return with tales of discovery, scientific breakthroughs, and experiences. But something went wrong—no one knows how or why, but the time travel process broke down, leaving them stranded with the dinosaurs.

Predation Cover by John Petersen

That was almost a hundred years ago now. Those early travelers had to find a way to survive, and even thrive, in this harsh world. Using the technology and knowledge they brought back with them, they built communities; bred, bioengineered and hunted dinosaurs; raised families; and never gave up hope that they would find a way “home.” That generation is dying out now, leaving the world to a newer generation, one that has only ever known this place, this time as their home.

That’s where you as the player come in. You’ve read the story in history books of the asteroid that destroys your home, and you know it’s coming soon.

In this land of tame and wild beasts, a land of far-future technology and far-past materials, of a historical catastrophe that is about to become your future, can you find a way to survive? Will you instead try to use your skills and knowledge to accomplish what your parents and grandparents could not—find a way home? Or will you join the fight to let this humanity die out, so that future humanity may still find a way to rise from the ashes of evolution?

 

 

The Poison Eater: Singing Cities and Angry Robots

posted on: March 11, 2016
in: Blog, The Poison Eater: A Numenera Novel

Enthait is a city that sings. No. Singing isn’t the right word. The city’s sound isn’t one of mouth or lungs, throat or tongue. It is stormvoice–thunder crack and cloud breath and rain pattering on a bloodied blade. It’s a beautiful and terrible chorus that makes her bones howl in reply. 

Enthait is a city that sings. And every time Talia hears it, it knocks her back.

She hadn’t meant to emerge from the tunnels here, but she also wasn’t surprised to push open the door to Emont’s underground room and instead stumble into the bright daylight and open sky of the athenaeum. She staggered as the song threaded through her–everyone told her she’d get so used to it that she hardly heard it, but that day had not yet come.  

As she stumbled, a hand caught her by the elbow, rings clanking against the metal armband.

“Affah,” she said, nodding her thanks.

It was Burrim’s voice that answered, low and close. 

“Liar.”

[new draft chapter, work in progress]

 

Big news on The Poison Eater this week, and it is this: we’re partnering with a really awesome publisher called Angry Robot to publish softcover versions of the Numenera and The Strange novels! That means that not only will the books get a wider distribution, there will be more of them in the future AND we get the benefit of the really smart Angry Robot team.

I did a Twitch channel? broadcast? show? last night (my first one ever) for a really fantastic sci-fi podcast called Speculate with Monte Cook and Patrick Rothfuss about Torment: Tides of Numenera, and in it I talk a bit about the writing process. It might be of interest to some of you.

That’s all for now.

Finwa, Poison Eaters. Moon meld you.

~shanna

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Follow along! If you’re interested in learning how this novel (or, really, any novel) comes together, feel free to subscribe to this blog. Over on the right in the sidebar, you can subscribe to JUST posts that pertain to The Poison Eater, so you don’t get all the other stuff. Or just click The Poison Eater category to get a list of all the previous posts.

The Poison Eater: Double Fisting Your Writing

posted on: February 21, 2016
in: Blog, The Poison Eater: A Numenera Novel

Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 11.14.03 AM

I can’t remember if I told you this already, but in addition to The Poison Eater, I’ve been working on the sourcebook for the upcoming Torment: Tides of Numenera computer game. (As well as thinking about dinosaurs and guns for this other thing).

I’ve always been someone who likes to work on multiple things at a time. I think it comes from my own nature of loving to start and learn new things (I once had someone tell me, “Well, of course you never finish anything. You’re an Aries.”), but it also means that if I get stuck on one thing, I can jump over to something else. That (plus, of course, damn and lovable deadlines) is what keeps me from hitting writer’s block (or, more commonly, writer’s “what the hell am I doing?” inertia.)

I like to have one book that I’m just starting (all these awesome ideas! and I haven’t written anything but ideas so it’s still perfect! WOOO!); one that I’m still in the “I got this” stage (cool. I know what I’m doing. This is going well.) and one that I’m in the “OH NO I NEED A NEW JOB!” stage (Ugh. This is awful. I can’t remember what I wanted to do with this book or my life. I should just tear it all up and start over.”)

Currently, that’s Predation (new), Torment: Tides of Numenera (knee-deep) and The Poison Eater (Ugh. I’m the world’s worst writer).

Having three projects that were all in the same mental space would be awful, I think. Particularly if it’s in the world’s worst writer phase. I might never write again.

On the other hand, I know lots of other writers who like to deeply immerse in a single thing. Anything that takes them from that thing is a nuisance and a distraction. I envy that in some ways. I don’t think I have the focus or patience to sink that deeply in a single thing, but there’s a lot of value in that process.

I think one of the biggest fallacies in writing (beyond: There’s only one way to do it) is the idea that you are going to figure it out right out of the gate. That you’re going to finally carve time and space out of your life and you’re going to sit down and make a single book and you’re supposed to just know how to do it. And that’s just utter bullshit.

It took me years of shame and “I’m doing this wrong” to finally admit that I worked on multiple things at a time, because I’d never heard anyone else talk about that. Worse, I keep trying to do it “right” — in this case, by writing a single thing. And, my god, the time I wasted.

Allowing myself permission to work on many things at a time might seem obvious to lots of people, but it wasn’t to me. It was one of the many blind spots I had in my own writing process. So if there’s something that you do that feels like it works for you, but you don’t think you’re supposed to do it that way, I say: keep doing it. Maybe, in the end, it isn’t your thing. But maybe it’s one of the important keys to your writing process.

Double- (or in this case, triple-) fisting your writing can be weird sometimes, I’ll admit. Today, for example, my task list looks like this:
Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 11.24.05 AM

And there’s a very different tone and sensibility for each book. So I have to figure out good ways to transition. I have talismans at my desk for that process. There’s a dinosaur with bright colors and feathers that reminds me to do good research and make sure we’re representing dinosaurs as they really were. There’s the cover and a map for The Poison Eater. All I have to do is look at Talia striding across the Ninth World and I remember what I’m doing. When I’m about to start working on Torment, I often jump into the beta of the game for a few minutes, immersing myself in the interactive version of what I’m making.

Working on more than one thing keeps me excited about each of the projects. Because I know that if I get stuck on one, I can jump to something else. And by the end of the day, I’ll have words and ideas to move all three projects forward. And that, more than anything, is what I know about what it means to be a writer: What words I have made at the end of the day.

~iadace~

 

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Follow along! If you’re interested in learning how this novel (or, really, any novel) comes together, feel free to subscribe to this blog. Over on the right in the sidebar, you can subscribe to JUST posts that pertain to The Poison Eater, so you don’t get all the other stuff. Or just click The Poison Eater category to get a list of all the previous posts.

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