Refuge, my new work in progress, is almost done. It’s currently out to beta readers and I’ve gotten some feedback. You can read the first four chapters here. (This text may change somewhat, however, due to beta reader feedback.)
The pic at the beginning is the one I’m considering as the basis for the cover art. It’s part of a series of pictures with the Earth and various energetic effects, which might do for the series of which Refuge is to be the first volume.
I’m excited about Refuge for a couple of reasons that I want to share here. One is simply that, as I continue writing and publishing, I seem to be learning. Refuge is the beneficiary of a lot of that learning in regard to plot, pacing, and characterization. Which is a complicated way of saying that I believe it’s the best story I’ve ever written. In terms of writing style, it’s only slightly better than Goddess-Born, but in terms of story construction I would say that I may have finally come of age as a writer.
The other reason has to do with genre. Refuge represents something I’ve been wanting to do for a while, namely a fusion between science fiction and fantasy. Refuge involves alien species, advanced technology, nano-computing, particle beams, and ongoing research projects into human genetic engineering. That makes it science fiction, right? But it also involves magic and reincarnation, with the spirits of alien creatures now inhabiting human bodies, and being for most intents and purposes human. That makes it fantasy as well. The aliens themselves see no conflict between the two and move between using magical powers and using advanced technology with no sense of discontinuity.
All of this is of course part of world-building and creates the backdrop to the story itself, which involves a man’s quest for liberation from an imprisoning background. Mike Cambridge is the hereditary leader of the Scourge of God, a religious order founded in the 14th century. The Scourge of God is an order of assassins. It exists to bump off members of one of the two alien races, the Droon, whom the Scourge of God believes to be devils from Hell. The order was founded by one Osgood of Cambridge, and Mike is Osgood’s direct descendant and heir to authority over the Scourge of God.
Trouble is, he doesn’t want the job. He wants out. He is a child of modern times and can’t accept the philosophical and theological framework through which the Scourge looks at the world. He doesn’t believe in Hell and so he doesn’t believe that the Droon are really demons. (Although he has no doubt that they’re extremely nasty people, and they are.) Being a serial killer, even of the Droon, bothers him morally. He tried to escape from the Scourge of God when his father died, but they found him and forced him under a threat of death to assume his father’s position. If he tries to escape them again, they’ll kill him for certain.
The story opens with Mike and a member of his Scourge of God chapter breaking into the office of John Stevens, a Droon, and interrogating him under terms of the “Pact of War” between the Droon and the Scourge. That agreement requires a Droon to truthfully answer the questions of a Scourge of God Chapter Master who spares the Droon’s life. So Mike incapacitates Stevens and puts his questions. He finds out that the Droon are actually aliens, not demons, and that when they die they reincarnate in new human bodies with all their memories intact (rendering the Scourge attempt to kill them pointless). Most intriguing of all, he finds that the Droon are on Earth in human form because their home planet was wiped out by weapons of mass destruction used in an interstellar war — and that their enemies, the Andol, are here, too.
Mike then goes on a quest to find the Andol, as part of his personal efforts to free himself from the Scourge of God. The story winds its way through political intrigue, romance, gun battles, explosions, and philosophical twists and turns to a conclusion. I’m very happy with it overall. Anticipated publication date, in both e-book and print, is November 1, 2013.
One of the bigger questions I have on putting this out there is whether or not a science fiction/fantasy fusion can work. Of course, magical elements have appeared in SF before, but always with different terminology (psychic powers, etc.) and without recognition, most of the time, of the connection with magical traditions. SF has always been regarded as more part of the “real” world than fantasy, no matter how wildly speculative and “out there” the science fiction elements are. The Scourge of God, which makes use of magic, is a rather backwards, Medieval organization, but that can’t be said of the Andol and the Droon, who also use magic and call it that. So here’s what I’m wondering. Is such a fusion possible? Have I achieved it, or should Refuge simply be considered science fiction? Time will tell, hopefully.
Image credit: _ig0rzh_ / 123RF Stock Photo.