A starship designer and a spiritual leader team up to save the galaxy from itself ... and to redeem each other.
At first they were only three. A brilliant starship designer, haunted by the death of his loved ones. A spiritual leader whose faith could transform mankind ... or destroy it. A precocious acrobat girl, looking for a new family of her own.
Then came others. An entertainer and playboy whose dissolute lifestyle conceals unexpected ambitions, courtesy of a lover who represents the galaxy's most powerful worlds. And a pair of detectives — one barely human, the other not at all – with orders to enlist all their help solving a crime that threatens civilization.
Together they formed the crew of the ever-evolving spacecraft Vajra. Seven against a universe where the boundaries between matter and mind have been torn down, where one can wield the power of billions ... and where humanity must choose between rebirth or annihilation.
Image: Hubble Space Telescope
How 'Flight Of The Vajra' could have begun altogether differently.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2017/09/05 08:00
It's tough finding the right way into a story sometimes. I must have written something like four or five openings for Flight Of The Vajra (my gonzo far-future space opera shindiggythingy) before finally settling on the one I have now. Some of those alternate openings could have been great, but I think if I'd used them as conceived, they would have come at a debilitating cost to the story as a whole.
How David Bowie and Prince jointly inspired a character of mine.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2016/04/24 10:00
Selfish as it might be to say this, I feel motivated only now to say something about the deaths of David Bowie and Prince because of the way I based a character on an amalgam of them.
ATTENTION READERS/FANS OF MY WRITING AND MOST EVERYONE ELSE TO BOOT: I need your help! I have just submitted my far-future SF fantasia Flight of the Vajra to The Nerdist's new Space Opera competition over at Inkshares: https://www.inkshares.com/books/flight-of-the-vajra Here are...By Serdar Yegulalp on 2016/02/06 10:00
ATTENTION READERS/FANS OF MY WRITING AND MOST EVERYONE ELSE TO BOOT:
I need your help!
Here are the details about the competition:
What do you need to do?
Simple. Pre-order the book. ($10 at the lowest tier.)
If you've considered buying a copy of this previously, but held off for whatever reason, this is just the excuse you need!
The more pre-orders I score by March 15, 2016, the greater my odds of winning. Winning means I get my book distributed by the Nerdist in their collection, and there may be "an opportunity to co-develop your work into other media such as movies, TV series, and digital productions."
If you can't spare the money to pre-order, at least do me the justice of adding yourself as a reader. The site's easy to set up membership with; you can log in via Facebook or Twitter.
Spread the word, share the links. Help me make this happen!
[Note: For the time being I am leaving the original Amazon product links up for Vajra. However, if the Inkshares folks say yes, I will have to take down my current edition of the book due to their contract. I don't have a problem with this personally; just that if the links go offline at some point later, that'll be why. I'll keep everyone posted should that happen.]
"We expect more change than actually happens in the future because we imagine our lives have changed more than they actually have."By Serdar Yegulalp on 2015/09/14 09:00
... when I took a subway to a café to write this article and electronically transmit it to a distant editor, I was doing something I could have done in New York City in the 1920s, using that same subway, the Roosevelt Brothers coffee shop, and the telegram, albeit less efficiently. (Whether all that efficiency has helped me personally, or just made me work more for declining wages, is an open question). We expect more change than actually happens in the future because we imagine our lives have changed more than they actually have.
Emphasis mine. Such dilemmas manifested, in my case, in the form of questions about what kind of human behavior to depict in a story about the far future. I decided the best thing I could do, in the case of Flight of the Vajra, was not try to predict too much, but instead to do what any decent SF book does: take what we have now and comment on it by using SF as an interpretive filter.
Vajra was already bordering on obsolete, at least in terms of its technical predictions, by the time it came out. Right in the first sec tion, the main character users a disposable personal drone, and the way I wrote it I implied that this sort of thing was a) common and b) something of an arms race between the people who made such things and the people who try to defend against them. This has already happened, so the future in question already starts to look a little quaint. Ditto the way things like 3D printing or self-assembling materials figure into the story as local color and backdrop. All this stuff just seems hopelessly obvious now, and not very boundary-pushing in terms of asking hard questions about what our lives are going to be like in any number of years. (This isn't why I would want to revise the book, either. Rather, that was more around cleaning up the text itself, on a simple mechanical level.)
But then there are all the things that wouldn't change, most of them rooted in deep-seated parts of human nature. Rather than pin my hopes for the story's success on any one technological prediction, I decided the smarter thing to do would be to make the whole thing revolve around human desire: the impulse to move forward versus the urge to cling to what's familiar. That became the real axis for the story.
I don't think I was completely successful there either, but I hope that element of it has a better chance of meaning something to readers later on down the line than tech gimcrackery already dated by the book's release.
Yet more on 'Hieroglyph' and a better future for all who can afford it.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2014/09/09 10:00
More about the other day's post. I'm still stung at the tone I used to describe that stuff — Cory Doctorow in particular — but I suspect it's an abreaction, a consequence of being bombarded by so many we're-going-to-change-the-world-with-our-website types.
Zach Bonelli had his own take on it which is a more reasonably worded version of mine: "I’m not sure which I dislike more—wholesale acceptance of anything technological, or wholesale refusal to admit that anything technological might be of value." Some of that dichotomy was at the heart of Flight of the Vajra, too, although my feeling was that people would tilt towards technology by default anyway, because who really wants to not live with the conveniences offered by same? I was also deeply skeptical of the idea of a "post-scarcity" society, since after a certain point the concept of scarcity is more sociological and psychological than physical, and it becomes hard to tell a real scarcity (no clean water) from merely not being able to keep up with the Joneses (his broadband is 100 MB next to my paltry 20 MB).
Zach is right in that it's not about figuring out which one is right and going that road. It's about a dialogue between the two, something that doesn't end at any given moment, one where (as he put it) "one optimal human society might engage in endless self-reflection and criticism about the proper use of technologies, alongside a scientific arm endlessly churning out new theories and constructs."
My feeling is that no human society will elect to divide itself that neatly, because such a divide — as someone else once put it about good and evil — runs through every human heart. The struggle's going to be incarnate, first and foremost, inside each of us. Every time we wonder about what to put into our car (or our bodies), every time we choose where to live or what kind of job to work at, we're struggling with those things, even if the broader consequences of that struggle would never reveal themselves to any one of us, but only to humanity as a whole a hundred years from now.
Coming soon: a real-life version of a fictional technology I dreamed up for a book.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2014/08/27 10:00
OK, I can't help myself here.
For those who just walked in, protomics was the name of the fictional in-universe technology I created for Flight of the Vajra, where various forms of matter have been created that are programmable and malleable. (I started writing that story over three years ago.)
The researchers call the building blocks "catoms" (or "claytronic atoms"), but even the concept as they describe it is fundamentally the same as what I had in mind:
... the researchers hope to use a set of local rules, whereby each catom needs to know only the positions of its immediate neighbors. Properly programmed, the ensemble will then find the right configuration through an emergent process.
... The researchers’ ultimate aim is to create a system of modules the size of sand grains that can form arbitrary structures with a variety of material properties, all on demand.
And at the bottom is this cute scare headline: "Help, My Chair Has a Virus! / Hackers could turn your programmable matter against you." (Yep, that's in the book too.)
I kick myself now for not putting in that patent application ahead of time.
Well, I had a feeling something like this would come along in some form; it didn't have to be as I predicted it, or on anything like the same time scale. I gave it a century or so from "now" before it really took off; I still give it a good long time before it's on the scale I had in mind.
But I have to reiterate that the point of the book wasn't to predict any specific thing or even enumerate how workable a given concept would be. Protomics, the "entanglement drive", the whole far-future¹ setting I devised was just a backdrop for a story about some people who are faced with some very tough choices, whose lives (and the lives of innumerable others) are altered because of that, and who can only see it all through by turning to each other. In the end, the human side of the story had to win, and I hope it did.
Addendum: DARPA has something tangentially related: "Atoms to Product: Aiming to Make Nanoscale Benefits Life-Sized".
¹ I almost typed "fart-future". I almost kept it.
A little love letter to my readers.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2014/08/21 13:00
And now, a shout-out. A bunch of them, actually.
If you were one of the folks who stopped by my table at AnimeFest and bought a book: thank you.
If you were one of the folks who stopped by my table at AnimeFest, took a flyer, and bought one of my books online afterwards: thank you.
I received my Amazon Kindle royalty statement this week. It wasn't a lot of money, but it was a sign that a few people are interested and curious. I hope they — you — stick around and check out what else I have to offer.
Science fiction, rebooted.
New York City
Other Lives Of The Mind