For those of my readers who are not yet in the know, my short story for Tom Kratman’s Carreraverse will appear in Terra Nova: The Wars of Liberation. Look for it on sale at Amazon and Baen.com on August 6th.
This is an exciting time for me. It is my first published fictional piece, and for it to be set in the Carreraverse is all the more epic. I really appreciate Tom giving me this opportunity and helping me smooth out the rough edges of my writing. And furthermore, I am grateful for Francis Porretto for reading a very early version and supplying me with some helpful pointers that led to a major plot point.
From this, I think I’ve gained the confidence and practice I needed to make my first attempt at a full-length original novel in the near future, using a story outline I’ve had in my head for years. Look for some snippets of that here on The Declination in the near future!
But on to the Carreraverse and why it interested me. Tom is, of course, an expert in war, although I’m not sure he would describe himself as such. And the fighting makes for highly entertaining reading, but there is something more buried in the pages of these books.
In Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, I was first introduced to the idea of military service as a thing that might be tied to voting rights. This is, of course, not necessarily a new concept historically speaking – military service and citizenship were almost one and the same for Spartans, and the Romans (and others) used the military as a citizenship path for some – but it’s one that doesn’t enter public political discourse all that often.
It goes back to a concept Nassim Nicholas Taleb discusses frequently. If you’re going to have responsibility for a thing, you should have skin in the game. If you have a stockbroker who makes money regardless of whether you win or lose in the market, why should you trust his advice? He has no skin in the game. He suffers no consequences for being wrong.
The characters in the Carrera books are strongly tied to their respective worlds. They have skin in the game. The titular character is wed to Balboa through marriage and through fire. The villains are similar, and in fact you can even feel somewhat sorry for one of the major ‘villains’, in that she does have a conscience of sorts, and is merely doing what she can with the hand she was dealt. She has skin in the game, too.
Tom isn’t an armchair general writing about some fanciful space laser blasters. He gives us a world that is very real, very relatable, and filled with believable tactics and strategy. I am not a military man myself. But most of the other men in my family are, as are many of my friends, and while I will likely never have the knowledge of these matters that they possess – for anything I learn is coming out of a book, and lacks a real perspective – I can appreciate the authenticity of it.
Most folks can relate to how flippant things like rank, tactics, supplies, etc… are treated in many science fiction worlds. Not so in the Carreraverse. This is a real world, for all the science fiction behind the scenes regarding Terra Nova’s settlement. The stories are real, the reactions are real.
No fanciful space blasters. But there are lasers. Just of a more real sort.
The philosophy behind the Carreraverse is just as interesting as the fighting, the conflicts, and the characters themselves. Tom has a message woven through these books, though he doesn’t beat the reader over the head with it. Again, it’s done believably. It’s more real.
The Wars of Liberation anthology rewinds the clock and shows us some small slices from when Terra Novan settlements were relatively young, and when the world Tom describes in the main books was first taking shape from the milieu of Old Earth cultures and polities. It is a mix of the high tech and the low tech.
As one line in my short goes, one which was Tom’s idea, it’s “stone knives and bearskins.” But with drones, explosives, and hacking into networks aboard orbiting spacecraft. And a Pringles can, for a bit of inside IT humor.
My story started with a proposition: what would happen to a pair of regular IT folks if they were dropped into the middle of all this? How would they survive? How would they make themselves useful? Or would everything they knew be functionally useless on a new planet about to experience some revolutionary upheaval?
Well, if you’re at all curious, you don’t have long to wait.