Where am I? Who are you?

Welcome to Eighth Angel Studios. We're going to write a novel.

This is a collaborative project- contributors (like you) provide characters who are woven into the story as it progresses. But your involvement doesn't end there- as the story progresses you can give feedback on your character, developing them further, influencing their decisions and guiding their actions. The more feedback you provide, the more development your character can receive.

If you want to join in, please follow this blog and comment on this post with a thirty-second description of your character- a name and enough to describe a first meeting. That'll get the ball rolling.

Anyway, enough rambling- on to the plot!

Thursday, 26 August 2010

[STO] A Naming

"It was the Kalan'thi that named this vessel. They were a race of artisans, living for aeons to perfect their craft before leaving the mortal realm when their work was done. Now only a handful of them remain, trapped here unable to attain perfection and move on.

"When The Storm took their homeworld, only a tiny fraction of Kalan'thi survived, hiding in shelters or fleeing their system in sleeper ships. Those that returned to the surface found only devastation- their breathtaking artworks and soaring, glistening towers had been wiped away like so much detritus. Even when looking up at the sky, smoke and ash clouded the heavens so it seemed even the stars had abandoned them.

"As the pale glow of their blue sun lightened the horizon, the greatest of the Kalan'thi saw a single star bringing the heavens back to their world. It was no star but a star-traveller, a great ship empty yet driven to find their world. They boarded the ship, their new morning star, and left their desolated home behind in search of an answer to why their race had been snuffed out.

"Since that day the Morning Star has visited countless worlds, a herald of sunrise following the longest, darkest night. It has come to find those who survived and to take them away from the doom of their races, to give them a purpose. The Morning Star is the collected sorrow, remembrance and retribution left in the wake of The Storm, and the light that brings hope when it has blown out."

[DIS] You're a character, you are!

Well, a few days in now and both the idea for the plot and the structure of this blog are starting to take shape. well, in my head at least!

I'm putting this post up as a centralised point to collect characters. If you have a character idea, please comment on this post with a brief description of them- a name and a brief description of appearance and personality, as much as you'd get on a first meeting. Once I've got a few characters then I can get started on the actual meat of the story.

Note that it's not just human characters I'm after- the Morning Star already has a sizeable population of alien refugees who are just as important to the story as us Terrans. If you fancy a challenge, write me an alien! Extra kudos for interesting alien races that are original and fun to write for. :-)

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

[STO] An Invocation

It is twilight. Our twilight? Who knows? Perhaps. It is certainly someone's twilight, and we may be as deserving as any other.

We stand at the precipice. from here we may only jump or flee, and in either response there is no going back. We still believe we have a choice, but if we are to stay true to the spirit in which we started this journey, our choice is already made.

These may be our last words, our epitaph. last words are meant to be heroic, inspiring, important, but I think the most important thing I've learned on this journey is that you don't get time to plan for things like that. Famous last words are more luck than anything else- I'll leave you to decide whether it's good or bad luck.

If this is indeed to be our epitaph, then there's so much to say. How can one sum up a species? How can one leave a footnote at the door of the Apocalypse? Nothing prepares you for what there is to say, just as nothing can truly prepare you for what it is we're about to do. We thought we were ready so many times, but looking back I'm sure that thinking you're ready is a sign that you don't really know what you're ready for.

Onward it is, then. It's not like we could ever consider going back. Our fates were written the day we started walking. We've done so much since then seen and felt so many things that there just aren't words for. How can we sum all that up? How can we sum up the thoughts, hopes, prayers and fears of those who trusted us without knowing exactly that they were trusting us to do?

I suppose if this is to be a marker to our passing, there's nothing else that can be said.

Before we were, we are.

Before we fell, we stood.

Whatever happens, that is eternal. And though we may be forgotten, it doesn't change who we are today.

Strike up a tune, it's time for us to sing.

Monday, 23 August 2010

[STO] Somewhere over Colorado

"Gaspipe Four-Niner, you are at flight level six seven zero, ninety-five miles out".

This high up, it was always a few minutes before dawn. Blue haze dusted the separation between land and sky, or earth and space depending on how you looked at it. Down below it would be a crisp spring morning, dew on the grass and breath condensing in front of your face. Up here, there was nothing to breathe. Conroe liked that. Up here, isolated in a protective bubble and surrounded by a few billion dollars of deniable hardware, he had time to think. Time to take stock, as he looked out at the curving horizon. This was the best job in the world.

"Gaspipe Four-Niner copies, coming right one-five degrees and beginning descent." All too soon it would be over, and this high-altitude tranquility would be replaced by the terrestrial bustle and the drudgery of the mundane. Part of him wanted to take the old girl around the block once more, kick the throttles open and stay up here for just another half hour. He hated going back to his land legs.

Be careful what you wish for.

"Uh, Gaspipe Four-Niner, this is Peterson Control, authenticate alpha quebec romeo one seven?"

The hell? Conroe snapped out of reverie and flipped through the data on his kneeboard. "Peterson, Gaspipe Four-Niner authenticates, delta mike five. What's going on?"

"Major Conroe, NORAD has just logged an unidentified aircraft moving down to your flight level, no IFF at this time. We need you to activate your transponder and alert civilian traffic control to your location, then achieve visual identification of the bogey. Do you copy?"

"Gaspipe Four-Niner copies, activate transponder, log in with civilian ATC and perform mark one identification of unregistered craft. Peterson, who in the hell could be up here with me?"

"That's what we need to know, Gaspipe."

Conroe swore under his breath and punched in his transponder code to the IFF system. He imagined that in some dark air traffic control room, some nerd had just spat coffee all over his display as a supersonic blip appeared out of nowhere. He dialled into the civilian channels. Time to say hi.

"Colorado ATC, this is Gaspipe Four-Niner transmitting on Guard, I am a US Air Force reconaissance aircraft transiting your airspace at flight level six six zero. How copy, over?"

"Gaspipe Four-Niner, Colorado ATC, we have you on scope, be advised, traffic at your ten-o'clock, come right ten degrees and descent to flight level six zero zero."

"Negative, Colorado. I need you to steer me to visual range of other contact."

There was a pause, silence. Down there Conroe imagined it was probably bedlam. Up here, in the thin air and the darkness, with the muted roar of his own engines a counterpoint to the sound of his slow, controlled breathing, it was another day in the office.

Except it wasn't. There was something off about this. Why retask a high-altitude spyplane on landing approach to take a look-see at some random blip on the radar? This was either an exercise, or something was going very badly wrong.

"Gaspipe, Colorado ATC confirms, come left five degrees and stay on your current flight level, visual intercept in thirty-five seconds."

Time to open the eyes. Conroe flipped his screen controls to wide-angle, and suddenly rather than just the single display ahead feeding him exterior images those to his left and right hid their telemetry data and brought up more darkened sky. There was a moment of vertigo as for a second Conroe's brain lost track of where he was, before the familiarity came back. This was his office, sixty-odd thousand feet up and twice the speed of sound, his windows on the world camera feeds from the jet-black hull of his cutting-edge spyplane. Here he was, flying by the seat of his pants in the belly of this beast, halfway to being an astronaut. Conroe banked left, the controls smooth and responsive, an extension of his body. No longer was he a glorified photographer- the adrenaline of combat flying pumped into his system, sharpening his senses and reflexes to a razor's edge. This was what he lived for.

Visual interception in ten seconds. Conroe activated the camera systems, recording his intercept for posterity. He wondered if he could convince a copy out of the techs? With the resolution on these cameras, he could probably play it on an Imax screen. That'd be cool. If he could get the footage off-base.

Five seconds. Four. Three. Conroe squinted at the vapour trail delineating the horizon, hoping to beat the intercept timer to the punch. Two. One.

Conroe's eyes widened. Sound fell away. He tried to speak, to swear, to laugh, to cry, anything. Nothing. There was thunder in his ears, a drum tattoo echoing up from his chest as his heart soundtracked the moment.

Somewhere, miles below and distant, on a radar plot in a darkened room, a blip labelled 'Gaspipe' disappeared.

[STO] Endless Sky: Back Cover Blurb

"The history of advanced races meeting more primitive people on this planet is not very happy, and they were the same species. I think we should keep our heads low."
-Stephen Hawking

The Storm comes like a plague of locusts. It falls upon worlds, systems, empires; it systematically strips them bare and leaves only devastation in its wake. It is the ruiner of all life, the antithesis to the Great Plan, the harbinger of our destruction.

Dozens of civilisations have fallen before their might, from those just taking their first steps on the road to greatness to mighty empires spanning whole star clusters. To those left behind in their wake, it is the end of all things. They are the Apocalypse, the Great cleanser, the Devourer, the Four Terrible Riders.

In the shadow of their darkness is the Morning Star. A great and powerful warship from a bygone age and a forgotten race, it is now home to those few souls left behind, those unwilling to drift off into the night as the last of their species. It is a ship of heroes, a ship of vengeance, a ship of remembrance and a single beacon of hope in the great dark.

The Morning Star has followed the ragged hem of The Storm for millennia, picking off what it can, salvaging the remnants of the races it has consumed, and gathering its strength and its knowledge. But now things are different. The Morning Star has reached a world before The Storm, and for once there is an unspoken hope that this time they may not be too late, that this time they may be able to stand, fight and turn back the oncoming tide of destruction.

The Morning Star reached Earth in the early 21st Century, unheralded and bluff. It was almost a bloody war right there as the shock at finding the question of whether we were alone in the universe was answered for us. It's not a war we would have won, and it's as well that cooler heads swiftly prevailed on both sides. The commanders of the Morning Star bade the people of Earth welcome to a larger universe- a larger, darker and more frightening one than we had imagined.

I guess we shouldn't have been surprised that they spoke English- they'd travelled millions of miles across the interstellar gulf specifically to speak to us. How hard could learning our language be? They came to us, they told us of the oncoming Storm, they told us that time was short. They gave us what they could- what technologies we had a hope of understanding, developing and using to defend ourselves. In trade, they asked for flesh and blood- sons and daughters of our world to take with them, to train and to fight alongside. They chose who they took- not just warriors but thinkers, makers and talkers, scores in total, all chosen by name. More than half a dozen were chosen by their gamertag.

Then they departed, to teach their new warriors what would be expected of them in the coming war. The Morning Star promised that when The Storm broke, they would stand with Earth, that this time the world would survive. That humanity would be more than another endangered species roaming the corridors of the ancient ship. We hope they hold to their word, for the sky seems to grow ever darker.

Endless Sky follows the course of a group of disparate humans picked by name by the commanders of the Morning Star, then taken away from their homes to train for an inevitable, bloody war for their homeworld. They'll encounter many challenges ahead, both that face them in their training and in their minds as they come to grips with the course their lives have taken. They'll interact with alien races, and through them find out what makes them human. And at the end of it all there's the great war looming on the horizon, to determine if humanity will survive to reach the stars or if the last few warriors will carry the heritage of their race into the dark with them.

[DIS] Are We Shooting?

Welcome to Eighth Angel Studios. If you're here, chances are I've foisted this link on you. You're probably wondering why.

I always loved to write, but in recent years there never really seems to be the time or the inclination. It always seems like there's too much preparation and not enough creation. I narrowed this down to the need for believable, well-rounded characters- if I were to create all the characters I needed to the level I wanted, I'd never get around to putting them into a plot.

That's why this blog has been started, and it's where you come in. We're going to write a novel.

The premise is based on roleplaying and crowdsourcing. In essence, what I need readers to do is give me characters. First, I need a name and a thirty-second description, enough to describe someone you've just met. That gets the ball rolling, and I can get on with the heavy lifting of weaving your characters into the story.

The clever part is that it doesn't end there. As the plot develops, you get to exert your will on the character you added in. Think of yourself as a personality wrangler- giving the character a shove when I start to go off on a tangent. The more you contribute, the more I'll have to work with and the more central to events your character likely becomes.

There'll be two sorts of post on this blog. Those prefixed [DIS], like this one, are discussions of the plot and forums for developing ideas. Those prefixed [STO] are the story itself, though they're not immutable. If you think I'm writing your character wrong, let me know in the comments and keep me on track.

Anyway, enough rambling- I'm guessing that you get the picture. I'll hand over to the plot and we'll see if we can get this show on the road.