Thoughts on the trigger in the “Tempting in Shade” sequence

Thoughts on the trigger in the "Tempting in Shade" sequence

OK – be aware that if you are likely to read my novels (when they are done) that some spoilers will be appearing in this post. But I need to think things out and maybe get feedback for you, my few but loyal blogmates.

I have finally worked out a series of ideas that seem to gel as the background and overall story arc. Here they are.


Set hundreds of thousands of years from now. Society is made up of humans, transhumans, posthumans, exohumans, aliens and so on.

The planet Shade upon which the story is set has had many uses. Initially just an ordinary occupied planet, it became part of fully human confederation that separated from a massive empire tens of thousands of years ago. Ironically this developed its own posthuman leader known later in history by a bogey-man type legend as SoulThief. As SoulThief was “dying” (note the inverted commas) he evicted the population of this planet and turned it into a huge fortified mausoleum. Millennia passed. Posthumans and advanced AIs vanished to who-knows-where. Many subsequent human civilisations have hoped to pilfer this planet, but all in vain have crashed and burnt against it constantly evolving defences. Result: a massive graveyard of starships orbiting the planet and its surface is a cratered and pockmarked junk yard of starship remains. Until one day the last but most advanced human culture succeeded in shutting down the defences. Within the month their entire civilisation mysteriously collapsed. Coincidence? Time passed, and a new human culture arose. It somehow resurrected an ancient planet-based star portal system and ran canals through the portals to link planets. They became known as the Canal Builders and the last planet that they connected to their elaborate system was Shade. They too collapsed soon afterwards. (See a pattern?)

People from the post Canal Builder civilisations settled Shade. They are not technologically advanced, but the remnants of transhuman, exohuman etc genes means that many have technology etc so incorporated into their beings that they believe the various abilities they possess to be magic. The magic stifles further technological advancement and they remain permanently at something resembling 18th century European technology (not culture, just technology).

A thousand years ago a new element enters Shade. A fleet of ships arrives above Shade. It carries a group of now woken Dreamers. They had been early adopters of virtuality who had somehow woken from their eternal dreams in order to resume living limited but real lives. They too were augmented and passed this onto the generations that followed. They also had strong beliefs that in time turned into a religion. They live in a separate city-within-a-city to the rest of the population of Shade. Mind you most of this population is pretty small and is confined to a huge crescent shaped river-valley because dangerous things lurk beyond the valley (part of the planet’s ancient defences?).

The population of Shade have an economy based upon recovering and repurposing items from the rest of the planet’s surface. Given their own technology levels this is a struggle and quite dangerous. The repurposed items get sold to other planets (using the canal system) in return for other goods.

Story arc trigger

An scavenging expedition runs into a party of non-human aliens who are investigating this planet. The aliens are part of an expanding alien empire and Shade is on the fringes of what had once been the old human empire. The encounter does not end well, with the aliens mostly killed and a lot of humans too. The leader of the expedition investigates the alien vessel (given that he has been looting ancient starships for his entire life and is technologically augmented despite believing it magic) . He then steals/loots/recovers its AI. This last act is the trigger. Several ancient human artifacts have been dormant on Shade since SoulThief’s time. Somehow the presence of the alien AI revives them and puts them on a defence footing. This is not good for the citizens of Shade as the ancient artifacts do not really consider the current population to be legitimate inhabitants, and also because the alien star navy is now heading for Shade too.

The story arc revolves around this and its consequences. However, this will not be the main focus of each story.

The books of the arc

Tempting in Shade: The 16 year old daughter of two powerful Gnossian mages must undertake her rite of adulthood – 40 days away from the community, living with main society of Shade. However she is using this to run away. Events prior to this have led her to public humiliation which then lead to a betrayal of her people (this last is unknown to her people and she is now suffering guilt). Meanwhile her father has returned semi-conscious (and insane) from an expedition and strife is increasing between her mother and her. Suffering from constant headaches, bad nightmares and overwhelming guilt, she really wants to escape. Little does she know what is in store for her below, or the strange course of events that may compel her to return to save everything that she rejects.

Pilot’s Lock: The Locks upon which Shade relies have shut down. The recently suicidal Pilot Verdant, in the midst of preparing his own death, is suddenly forced to discover a way to restart the Locks and save the fleet currently travelling within the system. If he fails then Shade will be isolated from the rest of humanity forever and may even find itself struggling to feed itself in coming years.

No Flower Boy: A mercenary named Burns turns up in Shade, part of the last fleet before the Locks shut. He finds himself working for a private peace-enforcement company where he must solve the mystery of a missing boy and a stolen magical gem recently retrieved from Out Beyond. He also has to deal with the underworld of Shade and his unfortunate resemblance to the cloned mindless slave class.

Ghosts of Futures Past: Negan is the Protector of Shushtar, city of the Gnossians. Caught up in political struggles with a powerful group of religious fanatics, she is unprepared for death to start stalking Shushtar. Her husband is semi-conscious and apparently insane, the result of an expedition. Her daughter is down below on her tempting. And something is killing Gnossians. She has to stop it quickly before her enemies use her background (she is not a Gnossian) against her and remove her from her position. Because once they do so they can also follow Gnossian tradition and humanely euthanize her husband.

Stealing magic: Kephulu was born to a witch but has no power of his own and he really resents this. Luckily he is an evil genius and intends to steal magic from those who have it. A joyful psychopath, he and his sidekicks begin their bloody experiments only to find themselves caught up in something all the much greater and more terrible. Something that might see everyone on Shade perish. Can an evil genius become a world’s saviour? At what price?

SoulThief: SoulThief is reborn. Not a resurrected rebirth, but old memories now living in someone who has just discovered that they have his form and powers. Can he work with others to stop the ancient devices from killing everyone and also save the planet form an alien fleet intent on destroying it?

How do these sound?






  1. Wow, keep writing. Very intricate! I will likely need the pics you’re creating to keep up with who’s who….


  2. Hi Greg! Worldbuilding is my love, so I couldn’t walk past a request for feedback :)

    First off: I like your backstory and I think it has a lot of potential. I’d just like to reiterate that before I start picking stuff apart ) Everything I say below is more of… consideration than criticism, ok? :)

    1. Collapse of a Civilisation

    About the defence system and the collapse of civilisation caused by its shutting down.
    I can see weird alien defences isolating the planet, easily. What I have hard time seeing is “within the month their entire civilisation mysteriously collapsed”. What do you mean – collapsed?

    The way I see it, a civilisation can collapse Roman-Empire style: over several centuries, with decadence, periphery breaking off, barbarians coming in, that sort of thing. Or it can collapse Soviet-Union style: rapid paradigm shift and clumsy economic restructuring with a heavy dose of corruption leading to utter mess. But, I mean, even Soviet Union took several years and there were signs of a disaster coming for a couple of decades before that. So I just have hard time picturing what a mysterious collapse within a month would actually look like. Did they suddenly lose their energy and their machinery ground to a halt? Did they have an epidemic and die out? What constitutes collapse of a civilisation?

    2. Economy

    About that “economy based upon recovering and repurposing items from the rest of the planet’s surface”. I can see how that could work if somebody came in after the defences were shut down, re-discovered the planet, and started a new community based off scavenging and trading with the rest of the galaxy.

    However, you are saying Shade was settled (over a thousand years ago, since it happened before Dreamers came) by the indigenous people (for a given value of indigenous – descendants of the Canal Builders). They must have had some sort of economy before they came to Shade. Even if they were forced to come into Shade because of some sort of disaster in whatever part of the planet they inhabited before – you still need food and shelter as you migrate and settle down. So, they already had an economy and ways to produce food more or less locally (the same ways that were in operation while the planet was isolated by the defence system – except on a smaller scale).

    I could see that old economy slowly dying and being replaced by trade… except that replacement must be fairly recent. If they live purely off scavenging, they would have scavenged everything they could within reasonable distance. Besides, over a thousand-plus years they _someone_ was bound to start a local economy, especially if they’re up to 18th century technological levels. Either that, or the planet would be long abandoned by now and all you’d have left is a spaceport city where scavenging expeditions from other planets stop over. But they wouldn’t be limited in technology, so that’s not it.

    3. Technological levels

    Speaking of which. I have extremely hard time imagining a civilisation permanently stuck – for thousands of years now! – in 18th century technology. Yes, even with an excuse of “magic stifles technology”. Because the thing is, most of technology we – or, at least, I :) – would think of 19th century, like revolvers and mechanical clocks, were actually invented – and used – much earlier. Even in Europe itself. So what exactly is it that magic is stifling that permits revolvers and mechanical clocks, but doesn’t permit, say, semi-automatics?.. Especially if your magic, from what I understood, is just a seriously advanced form of technology. If they have ability to make a revolver, they have the ability to improve the revolver.
    So I’d say you either need to lower the technology levels or come up with a better explanation why they’re stuck. Perhaps their magic-like abilities render more advanced technology redundant somehow? Or perhaps they have authoritarian/theocratic government that hogs all the research results and common people never get to use them? Or?..

    4. Timeframe

    You said the Dreamers arrived a thousand years ago – and to this day they live in a single isolated city that has a pretty small population. They must be very non-human or very inter-bred by now.

    Also, in general, is it really necessary to deal in thousands of years rather than, say, centuries? Human civilisations usually arise, evolve, and die much faster. If you need your characters to have mostly forgotten what really happened, a few hundred years would be sufficient, especially if we’re talking about a collapse of civilisation. I mean, look at Europe. Rome was the stuff of legends by Middle Ages, and it only fell in 5th century. So was the 6th century King Arthur.
    Heck, Soviet Union is mythologized to hell and back in modern Russia and that was alive and well in our lifetime :)

    Force your people to barely-survive for several generations – send them hunting-gathering, for example, or get them into a major civil war – and most will end up with a very vague idea what went on before.

    By the way, that could be one of the simpler solutions to your technological issue. If the technology-producing civilisation collapsed just a century or so ago, current generation could, potentially, be still using old technology without producing any, or really understanding it. If they lost ability – resources, knowledge, whatever – needed to produce technology, they aren’t likely to develop it, either.

    Anyway. Thank you for sharing your backstory. I’m sure you’ll be working more on it – it’s a never-ending process, isn’t it? :) But I feel like you’re on a good track. Good luck and remember to have fun! :)


    1. I wrote that because I was struggling to remember the term for alien-human hybrids :) Naughty of me :) Maybe I should coin the phrase :)


      1. Maybe :) Or maybe you could do without it? At least, confine it to the author’s bible. Too many new words (terms, names etc) in a work of fiction can make it harder to read.


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