I thought it might be interesting to share some of the inspirations and background context for my short story “Live Fire”. As I recently posted, this is my first anthology piece. It came out this month in the No Man’s Land military science fiction anthology. I’m also delighted to announce that it has been submitted for consideration for the Tiptree Award, along with the rest of the anthology – see this post for more on that book.
The Ur-Idea and Battlestar Galactica
I’m a big fan of the re-envisioned Battlestar Galactica that came to an end (waah!) in 2009. Along with the show a series of webisodes were made to fill out the BSG tale; I caught up with one of these, The Face of the Enemy, later that year. (If you haven’t seen it, you’re in for a treat; the episodes are available online at hulu.com, on iTunes, and DirectTv’s OnDemand service.) Without getting into explicit spoilers, I’ll say that this is the kind of story that really excites me. Besides developing some character storylines, it is suspenseful, tense, and something of a “locked room” mystery, where danger is contained in a small space and we don’t know who’s behind what’s going on. (These are, not surprisingly, some of the same aspects that draw me to Alien, one of my top 10 favorite movies of all time.) In addition there is a surprising betrayal at the heart of the storyline. (And that’s as far as I dare tread towards Spoiler-Land right now.)
When I considered what kind of story I wanted to tell for No Man’s Land, I immediately thought of the tense enjoyment and surprise I got out of that BSG webisode. Since I write stories of the kind I’d like to read, my direction immediately became clear to me. I created my own structure and setting for my story, but “Live Fire” definitely owes some of its chromosomes to the creative work of webisode writers Jane Espenson, Kevin Fahey, and Ron Moore. I could have worse role models, I’m sure…
Exploring the Sa’adani Empire
As readers of my books know, Mainline takes place against the backdrop of the Sa’adani Empire. This is not only a far-flung intergalactic political and military force: it is also a setting that takes place “in a galaxy far, far away,” if you will. Which is to say, the culture is not an extrapolation of “Earth in the future.” While the people here are homo sapiens, they are not from Earth/Terra/Sol but from their own cradle of civilization, a world calledÀstareth.
The CAS Sector that is Mainline’s setting is, from the imperial perspective, a ‘frontier’ region, “recently” annexed into the Empire about 150 years ago. My forthcoming book Splintegrate engages somewhat more directly with imperial representatives and forces, but still is a CAS-centric tale.
In “Live Fire” I saw an opportunity to bring readers directly into the Sa’adani Empire proper. Here we could be plunged into its culture, explore a hazardous region, and experience a bit of one of its most powerful institutions, the Imperial Navy. I thought this could be well accomplished by sharing an adventure had by Amisano Marit, a career military officer whose family comes from the high-born Alshem (“Advisor”) caste. (In the Sa’adani language, family names precede personal names, clan being more important than the individual. Amisano is her last name, Marit her first.)
Marit hails from a clan famed in ancient times for the warrior-monks of their bloodline. She has followed the path of her elder brothers and gone into military service – a choice that has taken her away from her traditional and conservative birthworld of Casca, and out into the greater Empire where she will have more opportunities to distinguish herself. And hence into the pages of “Live Fire”.
The Sa’adani Empire RPG
Lurking not very far in the background here are the role-playing game roots of the Sa’adani Empire setting. I have mentioned elsewhere that this is a setting I developed for my long-running science fiction RPG and campaign. It may interest fans and gamers to know that in a gaming context, two PCs belong to the Amisano clan, and it is their (NPC) sister, Marit, who is featured in “Live Fire”. The Amisano’s homeworld of Casca is a well-elaborated RPG setting as well, thanks largely to Dantori Revana, the alter-ego of another gamer whose adventures there caused me to develop that world in detail. I expect that in the future that PC and her adventures may also tie into some of my science fiction stories.
On a note of broader interest, I have a collection of folktales, travelers’ anecdotes and short stories that have grown out of this setting. Right now I’m considering some ways to polish this collection and bring it into print so it can be shared with a wider audience. More about that in due course.
The Unit Patch
There is a logo used as chapter header and icon for my story in No Man’s Land. I reproduced the line art for it at the bottom of my previous post announcing the book.
Here is the original, full-color version of the patch. This is worn by Amisano and her fellow crewmates aboard their ship:
The script characters at the bottom are the stylized ideograms of High Sa’adani, which read, “Hashmin Fleet Forward Patrol Unit 10”.
Yellow and green are the imperial colors, chosen to represent the Yellow and Green Sa’adani, which remain two fairly distinct ethnic groups even today. Their rapprochement was critical to the political and military cohesion of the Empire in the early days of its growth.
The starburst shape of the central symbol is the sigil of the Imperial Navy. The black and orange background is a general symbol designating a place one cannot or should not go. In military usage it is a common representation for a demilitarized zone or a no-man’s land in border areas. Related symbolic meanings of the color orange in Sa’adani culture are discussed in this earlier post.
And that’s about it for my addendum of miscellanea regarding “Live Fire”. I hope you like the story, and the others in the anthology as well! If you have questions or would like to know more about the settings of my books, leave me a note here and I’ll respond in a future post.
UPDATE: For an author interview with me, see this Defending the Future author interview. It’s the first interview I’ve done on the web, and it contains more background commenary on this story.
1. And how homo sapiens came to be in a galaxy far, far away, my dears, is a tale for another day.
2. Àstareth is also the setting of my fantasy novels. The Sa’adani universe is the world of the future after millenia have passed on Àstareth. If you read both types of my work you will see cultural continuity between them and the crossover (or continuance) of names, deities, and historical events, albeit in many cases mutated over time.
3. CAS = Confederation of Allied Systems, a loose hodge-podge of systems where the power players were democracies, republics, corporate alliances and petty fiefdoms. And then came the Empire…
The acronym is used as an adjective (“Cassian”) to describe things which are of that region. Or as a pejorative in old Empire space, to mean things which are uncouth and blind to place and station.
4. Thanks go to series editor Mike McPhail for the line art version of my original art.