The Compact Universe

The Compact Universe

Now that we’re one episode away from the completion of The First One’s Free, I thought I’d wax philosophical (because I don’t wax anything else) on the over all series, The Compact Universe, maybe answer a few questions about where it came from and where it’s going.

You posted a “How not to be Star Trek” post in reference to this. Do you hate Star Trek?

Oh, hell no! I took a day off work to see the first JJ Abrams movie back in 2009. The only time I can honestly say I didn’t like Trek was those two hours I forced myself to watch Nemesis. (Sleep with one eye open, Stuart Baird.) As much as I complain about The Motion Picture, I’ll watch it when it’s on, as with all the rest.

But I wrote that because it’s too easy to fall into the trap of writing Not Star Trek, which is to say Trek with all the names and places changed to avoid copyright infringement. I could have done the same with Star Wars or Battlestar Galactica or Firefly. There are certain tropes in science fiction, particularly space opera, that you want to hit, but you also want to make sure you’re not basically writing thinly disguised fanfic.

OK, why “Compact”?

“Compact” refers to humanity’s “nation,” which, in The First One’s Free and Gimme Shelter, is a loose confederation of human worlds. It’s the Compact, as in Mayflower Compact, or an agreement on how humanity governs itself and behaves amongst its various entities. In Gimme Shelter (currently in the hands of my talented editor, Stacy Robinson), one character sneers that the Compact is “a piece of paper designed to keep Earth and Mars from going to war with each other” and to hell with everyone else. It’s a little more than that. The word compact refers both to the “constitution” and the “nation.”

So how do they get around in this Compact?

Wormholes. You can generate your own, which is a bit expensive and difficult to do, or you can use a network of hypergates. I’m not going to do the whole “aliens left them for us” because now everyone is doing that. Nope. We found naturally occurring wormholes, figured out how to generate them, then figured out how to build relatively stationary devices to do that.

But is there warp drive? Hey, warp drive, hyperdrive, and shifting to plaid all worked for the franchises and mythologies that use them. Warp drive will appear some time next year in the Compact Universe, but it won’t be everything Scotty promised it would be. For one thing, it’ll be kind of hard to use without a means of FTL communication.

Say what? How do people across stars talk to each other?

Hypergates. Every time a ship passes through a hypergate, the two joined hypergates exchange updates of each side’s entire internet. The busier your planet and the more hypergates it uses, the more up-to-date your news from other worlds is. If you’re out in, say, East BF in Egypt V, where the ore freighters stop by maybe once a month, you might still think Obama is president even though this is roughly 500 years into the future.

500 years. Is that firm? ‘Cuz we’ll hold you to it.

Nope. Not wedded to that number. Yet.

How come all the aliens look like humans to some extent?

I know exactly why, but if you paid attention to Tishla in the first episode of The First One’s Free, you’ll notice she finds it confusing that every intelligent species she knows of kind of looks like her own Gelt.

But why?

As I said, I know why, but I can’t tell you yet. When the right story comes along, I will.

Why a cult to Marilyn Monroe? And is this a joke?

It was intentionally absurd. There is another cult called the Cubists, but I’ll need to introduce them at a later date. The Cubists, for now, are a “serious” religion that worships the Universe as a deity. The Marilynist faith is the exact opposite. I considered having a cult to a current or recent figure as a full-blown religion because it shows how people can distort their own history over time. It’s not a commentary on Islam or Christianity or atheism. I even considered making it a cult to Richard Dawkins, but South Park kind of did that bit already. Then I considered Elvis, a natural candidate for tacky deification. There have even been cults to Elvis already, though I’m not sure how well they’ve fared over the years. I settled on Marilyn Monroe for a number of reasons. For starters, while it looks absurd and tacky (The Who even used MM as a replacement for the Virgin Mary in the film version of Tommy with Eric Clapton as the priest), Marilyn’s personality was more subdued. Everyone falls in love with Marilyn Monroe, which makes her a better candidate for a goddess than Elvis for a god.

You said the action and characters change in Gimme Shelter. Will we see Tishla or Best again? What about Marq/Luxhomme/the guy with the potato?

Tishla will get her own novella to parallel season three, as will Douglas Best. And our friend with the creepy plants? Oh, I’ve found out so much more about him. I even discovered he’s a character I’d written before. Mwahahahaha.

Why only Amazon? When will us iBooks/Kobo/Nook readers get some love?

In December, just in time for Christmas. The full version of The First One’s Free will appear in late August and finish its run on KDP Select in December. The first three seasons of The Compact Universe will be Amazon exclusives to start, since that’s where the audience is at the moment. Eventually, I want to go wide with the initial release because working with Apple and Drft2Digital is AWESOME!

Okay, okay, you finished The First One’s Free. When can we see this Gimme Shelter you keep talking about?

October 5, barring any catastrophes.

Check them out on Amazon. Episodes 1-4 of The First One’s Free are live. Episode 5 and the full version are available for Pre-Order.

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