Hykonians (Tomorrow News Network: A to Z)

Hello, friends!  For this year’s A to Z Challenge, I’m telling you a little more about the universe of my upcoming Sci-Fi adventure series, Tomorrow News Network.  In today’s post, H is for:

HYKONIANS

Much like Mr. Cognis, the cyborg who’s addicted to emotions, the Hykonians are an idea that I salvaged from one of my old, abandoned manuscripts.  Actually, they appear in more than one of my old manuscripts.  You see, the Hykonians and I… we have a long history.

As a small child, I was already a space adventurer.  Sometimes I’d recruit other kids on the playground to be my crew.  The jungle gym was our spaceship, and we had to defend Earth from evil space aliens.  And what were those evil space aliens called?  They were called Hykonians, of course!  I have no idea how I came up with that name.  It just sounded right.

As I transitioned from playing on jungle gyms to writing my own stories and drawing my own comic books, the Hykonians continued to serve as my go-to bad guys.  They abducted humans for their evil experiments.  They hurled planet crusher missiles at Earth.  And when I started writing about time travel, the Hykonians were first in line to steal my hero and heroine’s time machine.

In science fiction, alien species often fit into easy categories.  You’ll find a warrior race or a logical race or a spiritually transcendent race or a race that’s obsessed with social media or a race that cannot understand the concept of love.  But because the Hykonians have been so many things in so many stories, I have a hard time pinning them down in that way.

In one story, I made them highly religious to the point of superstitious.  In another, they were led by a technocratic form of government that rejected anything but pure scientific fact.  They were an egalitarian culture, sometimes; but in one story I started exploring racial divisions in their society, with certain Hykonians jokingly calling themselves “High-konians” while others were referred to as “Low-konians.”  Also, at one point I wanted the Hykonians to be totally asexual.  Now they have four genders, and translating Hykonian pronouns into English is a huge problem.

So when I write about the Hykonians in Tomorrow News Network, I intend to honor everything that they’ve been in all those old stories.  Does that make Hykonian culture messy and confusing?  Yes.  Yes it does.  It’s just like human culture in that way.

In Tomorrow News Network, the border of the Hykonian Hegemonic Empire is only a few lightyears away from Earth.  The Hykonians are effectively our next door neighbors.  And they’d be friendly neighbors, except that things sort of got off on the wrong foot between our two species.  Thus, the Hykonians do not approve of us Earthlings.

And unfortunately, we Earthlings have good reason to keep our guard up against them.

Next time on Tomorrow News Network: A to Z, anything that travels faster than light must also travel backwards through time.

The Galactic Inquisitor (Tomorrow News Network: A to Z)

Hello, friends!  Welcome back to the A to Z Challenge.  For this year’s challenge, I’m telling you a little more about the universe of Tomorrow News Network, my upcoming Sci-Fi adventure series.  In today’s post, G is for:

THE GALACTIC INQUISITOR

I’ve put a lot of thought into the world-building for Tomorrow News Network, and in these A to Z posts I’ve done my best to provide lots of detail (without straying into spoiler territory, of course).  But for today’s post, I’m afraid I don’t have many details to offer.

No one knows who the Galactic Inquisitor is.  No one knows where he/she/it came from, or how long he/she/it has been around, or what the source of his/her/its power might be.  On digi-stream, rumor has it that the Galactic Inquisitor is a giant insectoid, perhaps the last living remnant of the ancient insectoid races who once ruled the universe.

But of course, you shouldn’t believe everything you read on digi-stream.

While the identity and origins of the Galactic Inquisitor remain a mystery, his/her/its philosophy of justice has been made abundantly clear to anyone who’s had to stand trial in the Galactic Inquisitor’s court.  In the Galactic Inquisitor’s own words:

Real power must understand its own strength.  Real power must learn to be gentle.  Otherwise, real power will make itself the enemy of true justice.

However, despite these words, the Galactic Inquisitor is rarely gentle when exercising his/her/its power.  In the name of true justice, whole star systems have been obliterated.  Entire species have been wiped out, and vast dead zones of sterilized worlds have been left scattered throughout the galaxy.

And so in matters of interplanetary law, it is often wiser to settle disputes as swiftly and as independently as possible, before the Galactic Inquisitor feels the need to intervene.

Next time on Tomorrow News Network: A to Z, the human race has neighbors!

The Fermi Paradox (Tomorrow News Network: A to Z)

Hello, friends!  For this year’s A to Z Challenge, I’m telling you more about the universe I’ve created for my upcoming Sci-Fi adventure series, Tomorrow News Network.  In today’s post, F is for:

THE FERMI PARADOX

Okay, bear with me.  This post is going to get weird.  Some of what I’m going to tell you is true.  The rest is totally made up Sci-Fi nonsense.

THIS PART IS FACT

Historians disagree about the exact date, but sometime around 1950, nuclear physicist Enrico Fermi was having lunch with a few physicist colleagues.  The topic of conversation: extraterrestrial life.  It was during this conversation that Fermi famously quipped: “But where is everybody?”

Dr. Fermi then proceeded to lay out all the reasons why advanced alien civilizations should exist out there among the stars, and also all the reasons why we should have detected their presence by now.  And yet, despite our best efforts, we’ve found nothing.  So where is everybody?

This question is now known as the Fermi Paradox.  If you’re a scientist involved in SETI research, you will have to grapple with this issue at some point.  And if you’re a science fiction writer creating a sprawling Sci-Fi universe full of advanced alien civilizations, well… you should probably imagine up some sort of solution to the Fermi Paradox.

Mind you, it doesn’t have to be the most scientifically plausible solution.  But some of your readers will surely be wondering about this, so….

THIS PART IS FICTION

In time index 117-299, a Hykonian observation vessel crashed on Earth near a small Earthling village named Roswell.  The cause of the crash remains unknown.  The fate of the Hykonian crew remains unknown.  And what happened to the wreckage of the spacecraft itself?  Again, unknown.

Due to the suspicious circumstances surrounding the Roswell incident, the Galactic Inquisitor was forced to intervene.  The Hykonian Hegemony has demanded retribution; meanwhile, the local authorities on Earth continue to claim ignorance (something, something, weather balloons).  Until this matter is resolved, the Galactic Inquisitor has imposed an isolation ordinance over Earth.

All forms of interstellar communications are being jammed, and no spacecraft shall be permitted to enter of leave the Solar System.  Recent violations of this ordinance by NASA’s Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 space probes are currently under investigation.

Most Earthlings are left wondering, understandably, why they seem to be alone in the universe.  And so things shall remain until the Galactic Inquisitor’s ordinance is lifted.

Speaking of the Galactic Inquisitor, next time on Tomorrow News Network: A to Z, we’ll meet the timeless, near godlike being who maintains law and order in the galaxy.

Exofleet (Tomorrow News Network: A to Z)

Hello, friends, and welcome to the second week of the A to Z Challenge!  This year, my theme is the universe of Tomorrow News Network, my upcoming Sci-Fi adventure series.  In today’s post, E is for:

EXOFLEET

I started developing the Tomorrow News Network universe way back in 2011.  And it was way back in 2011 that I thought up an absolutely perfect name for an outer space military organization: the Space Force.

Apparently somebody else thought that name sounded cool too.  Now the term “Space Force” comes with a certain amount of political baggage, and… well, I don’t really want to deal with any of that in my own creative work.

While trying to think up a new name for Earth’s military forces, I took some inspiration from my ongoing obsession with scientific terminology.  Astronomers tend to make this weird distinction between objects found in our Solar System and objects found orbiting other stars.  Hence, the distinction between planets and exoplanets, moons and exomoons, asteroids and exoasteroids, etc.

And so in the distant future of Tomorrow News Network, the Earth Republic (and later the Earth Empire) is defended by not one but two space militaries.  The Solar Fleet patrols and protects the Solar System itself, while the Extrasolar Fleet (a.k.a. the Exofleet) ventures out into the galaxy, expanding Earth’s territories and defending humanity’s borders against alien aggressors.

Would outer space military forces really be divided up in this way?  Does the distinction between the Solar Fleet and the Exofleet make sense?  Maybe, maybe not.  Personally, I don’t think the distinction between planets and exoplanets makes much sense either.  We humans love drawing divisions and making distinctions between things, regardless of whether or not those distinctions and divisions are necessary.  With that in mind, I think the Solar Fleet vs. Exofleet thing is true to life, even if it’s not the most pragmatic way to organize an outer space military.

In the Tomorrow News Network series, we’ll be seeing a lot more of the Exofleet than the Solar Fleet.  I mean, if the Solar Fleet ever has to go into battle, that must mean things are really bad, right?  It would take an extremely rare and extremely powerful invasion force to break through the Exofleet’s lines and threaten the Solar System itself.  Let’s hope that never happens!

Next time on Tomorrow News Network: A to Z, there are tons of aliens in the Tomorrow News Network universe, and yet as of the year 2020, we Earthlings haven’t made contact with any of them.  Why is that?

Digi-Stream (Tomorrow News Network: A to Z)

Hello, friends, and welcome back to Tomorrow News Network: A to Z.  For this year’s A to Z Challenge, I’m telling you all about the story universe I created for my upcoming Sci-Fi adventure series, Tomorrow News Network.  In today’s post, D is for:

DIGI-STREAM

There’s a longstanding trope in science fiction.  In the future, something very similar to the Internet will still exist, but it will be rebranded with an even more futuristic sounding name.  The Datanet.  The Cybersphere.  The Omni-Web.  Something like that.

I’ve heard a lot of people complain about this trope.  Why wouldn’t people in the future just call the Internet the Internet?  I was tempted to do just that in Tomorrow News Network, but then I realized that scaling up the Internet from a world wide web to a galaxy wide web might not work so well.

Why not?  Because of speed-of-light delays.  Connecting to a server on the galactic web could take hundreds or perhaps thousands of years (if not millions or billions of years), depending on which planet that server is located on.  Talk about slow Internet speeds!

Faster than light travel and faster than light communications are possible in the Tomorrow News Network universe, but not without consequences.  In the logic of Tomorrow News Network physics, anything traveling faster than light must also be traveling backwards through time.  We’ll talk about this more when we get to the letter I, but for now I’ll just say this: in most cases, F.T.L. technology creates more time travel-related headaches than its worth.

So instead of having continuous access to a galactic Internet, humans living in far-flung corners of the galaxy rely on a subscription service called digi-stream.  For young Milo Marrero and his girlfriend, Lianna (sorry, I mean Milo’s friend who happens to be a girl), the weekly digi-stream downlink is an opportunity to read all the insane rumors and crazy conspiracy theories that are circulating about the Tomorrow News Network and their star reporter, Talie Tappler.

But just as with the Internet of today, you shouldn’t believe everything you read in the weekly digi-stream downlink.

Next time on Tomorrow News Network: A to Z, we’ll meet the brave men and women who defend Earth from its enemies.

Cognis (Tomorrow News Network: A to Z)

Hello, friends, and welcome to day three of the A to Z Challenge.  For this year’s challenge, I’m telling you a little more about the universe of Tomorrow News Network, my upcoming Sci-Fi adventure series.  In today’s post, C is for:

COGNIS

Dear readers, I know some of you are fellow writers, so today I’m going to offer you some writing advice.  You know those abandoned manuscripts and story ideas you have collecting dust?  You know all those writing projects that just didn’t work out the way you wanted?  They don’t have to go to waste.  Think of them, instead, as a resource to be used for future writing projects.

Way back when I was an angsty teenager, I wrote a short story about a cyborg named E.K. Cognis.  Being a cyborg, Mr. Cognis had no emotions, but he was curious about what emotions might be like.  So Cognis and a fellow cyborg named K.T. Macnera downloaded a bunch of emotions into their brains. It was a profoundly mind-altering, mind-expanding experience.

As I said, I was an angsty teenager.  Downloadable emotions were supposed to be a metaphor for drug use.  Initially, Mr. Cognis and Ms. Macnera only wanted to “experiment” with emotions, but it’s not long before they become addicted.  After that, their status as upstanding members of cyborg society deteriorates rapidly.

This may be the single worst story I’ve ever written, a case of a young writer trying way too hard to be edgy.  The original story may or may not be saved on a floppy disk somewhere.  I will likely never find it, and I’m okay with that.

But when I started work on my Tomorrow News Network series, I soon realized that my main character—time traveling journalist Talie Tappler—would need a cameraman.  And when I thought of Mr. Cognis, I realized I had a character already made and ready to slip right into that role.

Cognis’s ongoing addiction to emotions creates plenty of opportunities for both humor and conflict in the Tomorrow News Network stories.  So does his complicated relationship with Ms. Macnera, who now works for T.N.N. as an assignment editor.

Tomorrow News Network has salvaged a great many concepts and characters from my old, abandoned stories.  Mr. Cognis was only the first. Story scavenging (as I like to call it) has made the process of creating a whole new Sci-Fi universe so much easier.  So don’t feel bad if you have some old, abandoned story ideas that never worked out.  Treat them as resources that can be used for building your next story world.

Next time on Tomorrow News Network: A to Z, turning the World Wide Web into the Galaxy Wide Web is far easier said than done.

Berzelius (Tomorrow News Network: A to Z)

Hello, friends!  For this year’s A to Z Challenge, I’ll be telling you more about my upcoming Sci-Fi adventure series, Tomorrow News Network.  In today’s post, B is for:

BERZELIUS

When you’re creating your own science fiction universe, you don’t have to know everything about everything, but it can be helpful to know a little bit more than what you end up telling your readers.  Today, I’m going to share a few details about the planet Berzelius.  Some of this will be in my book; most of it will not.

The planet Berzelius is an ice giant located in the Vesper Beta-Beta Star Sector.  It orbits a K-type (orange dwarf) star, and it has an impressive ring system and a family of five moons.

In terms of internal composition and structure, Berzelius has much in common with the planets Uranus and Neptune in our own Solar System; however, unlike Uranus or Neptune, Berzelius is located within the habitable zone of its sun.  Thus, the five moons of Berzelius are capable of supporting life—and at least one of those moons does support life in the form of scrubby, slimy “cyanomolds.”

The planet Berzelius is named in honor of Swedish chemist Jöns Jacob Berzelius, who is widely regarded as one of the founders of modern chemistry.  Berzelius is also closely associated with the discovery of lithium, the third element on the periodic table of elements.  Since lithium mining is such an important part of A.E.I.’s business, the name seemed appropriate.

Now all you lithium fanatics may be wondering why the planet isn’t named in honor of Johan August Arfwedson, the man who actually discovered lithium while working in Berzelius’s laboratory.  Well, don’t worry.  Something’s named after Arfwedson too, but we’ll talk about that when we get to the letter R.

Lastly, before I end this post, I just want to emphasize to you again that the planet Berzelius has five moons.  Count them:

See?  Five moons.

Next time on Tomorrow News Network: A to Z, dealing with emotions can be tough.  It’s even tougher when you’re a cyborg.

#IWSG: Ulterior Motives

Hello, friends, and welcome to this month’s meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.  If you’re a writer, and if you feel in any way insecure about your writing life, click here to learn more about this amazingly supportive group!

I don’t know about you, but my writing productivity crashed and burned toward the end of March.  Right now, I’m feeling insecure because I’ve done virtually nothing to prepare for this year’s A to Z Challenge.  I’m also feeling insecure because the timeline for publishing Tomorrow News Network, book one, has totally fallen apart.

I have no one to blame but myself.  Wait, no, that’s not true.  The coronavirus deserves a lot of the blame too.  Not all of the blame, but a lot of it.

So here’s my plan.  Even though I’m as ill-prepared for the A to Z Challenge as I could possibly be, I’m doing the challenge anyway.  My theme is the story universe I created for Tomorrow News Network.  Obviously, I have an ulterior motive for doing this.  It’s my way of saying: “Buy my book!”

Except the first book of the Tomorrow News Network series isn’t out yet. It won’t be released until (checks timetable, mutters curse at the coronavirus)—okay, I still have to figure out what my new release date will be.  But it’s coming soon!

I have a second ulterior motive as well.  You see, book one is more or less finished, but I still have to write books two, three, four, five (etc, etc, etc).  So as I tell you all about this fictional universe I’ve created, your feedback, dear reader, will be invaluable as I plan out the rest of the Tomorrow News Network series.

And lastly, my third ulterior motive may be the most important of all, given my current mental state during the coronavirus crisis.  As I said at the beginning of this post, my writing productivity crashed and burned near the end of March, and I’m having a tough time getting back into my creative groove.  I’m hoping that by participating in the A to Z Challenge—and by writing, specifically, about my own story universe—I’ll jumpstart my writing brain.  I guess we’ll have to wait until the end of April to know if that works.

In the meantime, please click here to check out the first Tomorrow News Network: A to Z post.  Today, A is for Alkali Extraction Incorporated, a faceless mega-corporation that’s mining alien planets for their resources.

Alkali Extraction Incorporated (Tomorrow News Network: A to Z)

Hello, friends!  For this year’s A to Z Challenge, I’ll be telling you a little about my upcoming Sci-Fi adventure series, Tomorrow News Network.  In today’s post, A is for:

ALKALI EXTRACTION INCORPORATED (A.E.I.)

Faceless mega-corporations are everywhere in science fiction.  We see them in the Alien movies.  We see them in RoboCop, we see them in Blade Runner.  So when I started writing the first story in my Tomorrow News Network series, including a faceless mega-corporation just felt right.

In early drafts, I wanted to say as little about this faceless mega-corporation as possible.  I didn’t even give it a name.  The good people of Litho Colony all work for “the Company,” and whenever somebody mentioned “the Company,” everyone else would know which company they were talking about.  There was no need to be more specific.

My thought was that the Company was so big and so faceless that it didn’t need a name.  My critique group disagreed.  I got a lot of feedback from people asking who this giant corporate entity was.  What did they do?  What products or services did they sell?  And thus Alkali Extraction Incorporated (better known as A.E.I.) was born.

A.E.I. is a mining company specializing in the mining of rare chemical resources from planets along the galactic frontier.  They’re one of the leading suppliers of lithium for the Earth Empire, and they’ve recently expanded into the market for mesotronic elements—chemical elements that are stuck in a quantum state between matter and antimatter.

Litho Colony is the property of A.E.I.  The colonists do sometimes refer to A.E.I. as “the Company,” but they also sometimes refer to the Company by its actual name.  How could they not?  The letters “A.E.I.” are stamped everywhere, a constant reminder to the colonists of who their employers are.

Looking back on those early drafts of Tomorrow News Newtwork, book one, I get what I was trying to do with my faceless and also nameless mega-corporation.  But my critique group was right, and I’m glad I listened to them.

Next time on Tomorrow News Network: A to Z, the planet Berzelius has five moons.  Wait, let me count again.  Sorry, the planet Berzelius has six moons.

Tomorrow News Network: A to Z

Hello, friends!  At long last, I’m ready to announce my theme for this year’s A to Z Challenge.  And that theme is:

Tomorrow News Network is my own Sci-Fi adventure series, featuring time traveling journalist Talie Tappler, her cyborg cameraman Mr. Cognis, and the many high-profile news stories they cover across the space-time continuum.

Robot uprisings?  Alien invasions?  Mass extinction events?  Talie and Cognis will be there.  In fact, being time travelers, Talie and Cognis tend to show up before such cataclysmic events occur.

For the A to Z Challenge, I’ll introduce you to some of the characters (M is for Milo Marrero) and settings (L is for Litho Colony) that will appear in Tomorrow News Network, book one.  We’ll also explore some of the big concepts (J is for journalistic integrity) and small details (D is for digi-stream downloads) that will feature prominently in the Tomorrow News Network series going forward.

So on Wednesday, April 1st, we’ll kick things off by meeting a faceless mega-corporation that’s mining alien planets for their resources.  Also on Wednesday, it’ll be Insecure Writer’s Support Group day, and I’ll reveal my secret ulterior motives for picking my own story universe for this year’s A to Z Challenge.