Okay, so, the space opera I was aiming to have finished at the beginning of July actually went nearly through to the end of July. But its final length is 550 pages, not 400, so, I mean.
Anyway, I think it has less sociological emphasis than I would really have preferred, because the adventure part is so primary. Which is fine. I expect my agent will approve.
The day before I finished the small revision I wanted to do before sending it off to my agent and beta readers, I got the page proofs for THE WHITE ROAD OF THE MOON.
The day after that, I got the first editorial letter for THE DARK TURN OF WINTER.
So . . . no break for me!
I have also almoooost finished the last Black Dog story for the second collection. I’m going to try to do that along with the DARK TURN revision by the end of this month, get that story collection out by September 1st. No guarantees! But we’ll see.
In the meantime, I thought you might like a look at a little snippet from the front of the space opera, NO FOREIGN SKY. So, here:
Twelve Disks and eight Blades, none of which should have been anywhere near this juncture system. Disks painted red and Blades painted white in the display, the colors for enemies, with nowhere any friends. Not in this empty system between living worlds. Only the near-star Hanaa slide, far enough away now to be invisible to sensors; and, far too close now to sheer off and hide, the wayout Aam slide from which that uut formation had just appeared. Nothing else to hold attention or interest; a juncture one skipped through on the way to somewhere else. Except this time, when one suddenly found unexpected enemies in a place they should not have been. Davon leaned forward, dread of what might have happened to Aam tightening his stomach. And dread of what might now befall Nkaastu.
Worse, Nkaastu’s own presence gave away the existence of another slide in this system. Slides were hard to spot unless you knew just where to look, but if the Trolls looked hard enough, they would certainly find the Hanaa slide eventually. Hanaa was better defended than Aam; every Ka’ Taand world was better defended than Aam. But if any Trolls found Hanaa and then got away, back to whatever forsaken world had brought them forth, they would come again. And again, and again, until they had burned all life from Hanaa as well as Aam, shattered the worldlets and stations orbiting both worlds, and left only broken rock and a poisoned atmosphere. Trolls never relented.
Beyond Hanaa, the Trolls would need to find their way through only two more junctures to reach the heart-stars of turun space. Possibly the Suund would move fast enough, free up enough full-fighters and resources to interdict one or the other of those junctures. Impossible to simply shut down the slides; all the important slides in those systems were stable. That was essential for maintaining the long-term integrity of the Ka’ Taand, but it was almost impossible to close down a stable slide. Fission bombs could dissolve an unstable slide and you could hope when another one appeared, it wouldn’t echo the path of the original. Or if the slide wasn’t quite that unstable, at least a fission bomb could sometimes shut it down for Kaantuu-years. But a really solid, well-established slide in a good position was hard to disrupt.
Interdicting a juncture the hard way, pulling resources from the other side of Ka’ Taand space . . . Davon could hardly see how that could be managed. Wealthy and prosperous as the interlocking clans of the Ka’ Taand might be, every battlecommander knew very well that they were already overstretched. Nevertheless, left with no choice, maybe the Suund would find a way.
Shut those junctures down, close them off, abandon both Hanaa and Aam . . . the Suund would probably have to do exactly that, if it could be done. Let the Trolls past Hanaa and there were only four systems before they’d come all the way to Kaantuu itself. That did not bear thinking of, Davon could hardly bear to think of any of this, yet there rode the Disks and their attendant Blades, as though this was Troll space and not turun at all.
Nine years of gradually intensifying battle had served as a hard lesson in caution, and so scans had gone live the moment Nkaastu emerged in juncture space. So Nkaastu discovered the Trolls at the extreme edge of scan range. Emergency lights set within the high ceiling flickered automatically to life, glowing in intricate cloisonné patterns, black-purple and black-crimson against the turquoise and greens and rich browns of the enamels.
Tsaa Kuotaan u Aanuku, shocked, had stiffened into silent immobility for the first precious instants following the positive identification of the Trolls. All the turun across the wide bridge stiffened in defensive postures, opening their golden eyes wide, lifting their heavy heads, leaning forward, bracing their four powerful legs, gripping the crash railings with their lower hands. Though naturally all of the turun on the bridge were female, the largest of them barely a third the size of a male, they suddenly seemed to loom. Of course, to an uman, all turun sometimes seem to loom.
From his observer’s post behind and to the right of Tsaa Kuotaan, Davon sepu Kaamharaa felt the prickle of danger down his spine and knew that part of the sudden sharp sense of peril was due simply to the instinctive awareness that he was surrounded by creatures who could crush his bones with one blow – even though those creatures were only turun, and would never do such a thing.
But most of that awareness of danger was due to the Trolls. The uut – the enemies from the empty dark, but Davon was convinced that it had been a mistake to call their enemies after a race of mythological demons from the hell of the forsaken gods. It was better to say Trolls: a short, meaningless name from uman cant, a name that carried no connotations of demon-haunted despair.
Especially since this particular bunch of Trolls was enough to inspire a certain despair regardless, with only Nkaastu riding between them and the Hanaa slide. Twelve Disks were too many for one half-fighter like Nkaastu, even without the Blades. Yet what those Trolls might do to Hanaa if Nkaastu let them into the slide – Davon flinched from thinking of it.
Even in these few moments, the Trolls had obviously realized Nkaastu was here. The Disks had already taken on an attack formation, pairs of Blades cutting away below and above the plain of the formation’s ecliptic to wait their chance for independent runs, all of them heading straight for Nkaastu. No sensible predator would attack an angry turun, far less a whole clan of angry turun – but this was not the great savannah of Kaantuu, and Trolls were not ordinary predators, and the turun, who had not evolved to fight predators but to defend themselves and their own by sheer formidability, stood immobile in rage and fear.
Davon, who had been on the bridge only because Tsaa Kuotaan was prudent and farsighted and not much plagued by the possessiveness that afflicted too many Tsaam, stepped quietly past Kuotaan, reached up that last deliberate distance that was always a stretch for even a tall uman, and, without waiting for either command or permission, struck the battlecommand light hard with the heel of his right hand. The light flared to life, black-purple, ringing with the slowly gathering resonance that signaled the emergency transfer of command and summoned the battlecrew.
“Yes,” said Tsaa Kuotaan, her voice a low rumble. She turned her head to look down at Davon. Then she looked at the display again and said in the nturun plural, “Good. We approve.”
At the time this story opens, a large population of humans have been thoroughly integrated into turun society for a long time — I’m thinking hundreds of years, though I don’t specify.
The background is like this: ages ago, humanity colonized some number of worlds. Disaster struck and almost all colonies were abandoned. A particular colony, on a world later discovered by the turun, suffered one calamity after another and was completely wrecked, with humans eventually reduced to a scattered stone-age population. We find out a little about this in the story, but it was a long time ago and no one spends a lot of time thinking about it.
Then the turun discovered that world, discovered the primitive humans, figured out what had happened, and brought them into their own society, first almost like pets, and later as people.
Very soon after this opening, the new turun/human society is going to run into the mainline human society. Then we move into the main action of the story.
Always a nervous time, sending a book out to be actually read by people who aren’t you. I hope my agent and beta readers like this one, and that you all get a chance to read it in the not-too-distant future!