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Science fiction about antigravity, lunar colonization, open source software, genetically modified dogs, AI...and really really big guns
Science fiction about antigravity, lunar colonization, open source software, genetically modified dogs, AI...and really really big guns
Science fiction about antigravity, lunar colonization, open source software, genetically modified dogs, AI...and really really big guns
371 backers pledged $18,358 to help bring this project to life.

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Powers of the Earth: SF with spaceships, dogs, and big guns

$18,358

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About the Novels

The Aristillus Series is a pair of science fiction novels about anarchocapitalism, economics, open source software, corporate finance, social media, antigravity, lunar colonization, genetically modified dogs, strong AI…and really, really big guns.

Earth in 2064 is politically corrupt and in economic decline. The Long Depression has dragged on for 56 years, and the Bureau of Sustainable Research is hard at work making sure that no new technologies disrupt the planned economy. Ten years ago a band of malcontents, dreamers, and libertarian radicals bolted privately-developed anti-gravity drives onto rusty sea-going cargo ships, loaded them to the gills with 20th-century tunnel-boring machines and earthmoving equipment, and set sail - for the Moon.

There, they built their retreat. A lunar underground border-town, fit to rival Ayn Rand's 'Galt's Gulch', with American capitalists, Mexican hydroponic farmers, and Vietnamese space-suit mechanics - this is the city of Aristillus.

There’s a problem, though: the economic decline of Earth under a command-and-control economy is causing trouble for the political powers-that-be in Washington DC and elsewhere. To shore up their positions they need slap down the lunar expats and seize the gold they've been mining. The conflicts start small, but rapidly escalate.

There are zero-gravity gun fights in rusted ocean going ships flying through space, containers full of bulldozers hurtling through the vacuum, nuclear explosions, armies of tele-operated combat UAVs, guerrilla fighting in urban environments, and an astoundingly visual climax where -in the midst of all out warfare…well, you’ll have to read the novels.

About the project

I came of age reading the great science fiction novels of the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s, but somewhere between the 1980s and today, though, science fiction went wrong.

The science, the stories, the heroism that made science fiction great - these have given way to novelisations of TV shows and movies and video games, space melodramas, and stories about social justice, women, and marginalized people. I wanted that great science fiction back - so I wrote the books I wanted to see on the shelves. This is a project to get those books into your hands.

Optimistic fiction with ornery and insistent individualism

Eric S Raymond, open source luminary, author of the Cathedral and the Bazaar, and science fiction fan, once said that "hard SF is the vital heart of the field, the radiant core from which ideas and prototype worlds diffuse outwards" and that hard SF is characterized by "radical transformation, optimism, applied science as our best hope, the lust for possibilities". He then went on to say that the core of science fiction is libertarian, and defined SF's libertarian tradition as "ornery and insistent individualism, veneration of the competent man, instinctive distrust of coercive social engineering and a rock-ribbed objectivism that values knowing how things work and treats all political ideologizing with suspicion".

This perfectly describes the kind of science fiction I love ... and the kind of science fiction that I can't find on the shelves any more.

I've flipped past thousands of books featuring tattooed Strong Woman vampire hunters, Hollywood love stories that have nothing to do with science fiction except that they're set on a spaceship, tales of beautiful intuitive women who must choose between suitors while arranging a revolution against the Bad People, adolescent wizards, and more, while looking for the novels I want to read.

Where are the Heinleins, the Nivens, the Pournelles, of today? Sure, there are a few - but not enough.

Out of frustration, I finally wrote the novels that I wanted to read - and with this kickstarter, you can read them too.

The two books of the Aristillus series deliver what Eric S Raymond described as the ideal. It's a big Neal Stephenson-esque tale - a true science fiction story - with lots of hard science, although mostly in the background. It doesn't clobber the reader over the head, but all of the science (aside from one or two big "this is the fictional bit!" pieces) is plausible, from the space suit technology and the implicit calculations of potassium superoxide CO2 scrubbing, to the reentry speeds of various ships, to lunar geology (selenology). It also doesn't clobber the reader w politics, either!

...but more important than that is the tone of the story. I've had more than enough tales where everything man does is garbage and we need to trust in Gaia, or the powers of logic lead us astray and we really need to listen to our hearts, or the conflict is resolved in the end by realizing that everyone was actually a little bit wrong and the secret is to listen to each other.

Ugh. No.

These novels tell a story with a good team and a bad team. Our heroes want to be left alone, free to live their own lives. The villains are nosy, intrusive, and think that they should make decisions for everyone. That's not to say that it's a treacly morality tale - there are shades of gray, good people stuck on the wrong side of a bad situation, and characters torn between differing virtues. But it is a story of with good guys, and those people have a belief in the power of logic, heroism, and Thinking Big.

And, finally, this is a self consciously - and unashamedly - libertarian story. It's got competent men and women who believe in their right to be free, and are frankly unreasonable about it - they refuse to do what they're told, they refuse to knuckle under and obey their betters, they refuse to believe that the best days of mankind and the west are behind them. They dream big and work hard to make their dreams happen. They are ornery and insistent individualists, and if they have to write open source code, build spaceships, dig tunnels, or weld armor plate to turn bulldozers into tanks in order to fight for their freedom, that's exactly what they'll do. They have no tolerance for carbon permits, political correctness, listening to their betters, or waiting for permission.

A note on quality

If you're like me you've probably read a fair bit of self published fiction that is, to be frank, garbage. I'm disgusted by the lack of craftsmanship I've seen in so much self published work. There are often typos galore, duplicated words, hackneyed phrases, and beginner level mistakes in grammar.

...but worse than that, the stories are often trite, have embarrassingly implausible dialogue, mistakes in pacing, Mary Sue characters (just like the author, but super-awesome at everything), and reveals and twists that weren't properly set up. The stories often fail to explain the stakes, make us care about the characters and their struggles, or raise the tension appropriately before releasing it with a climax.

A satisfying novel is actually a very tricky and complicated piece of social technology, and it's not one that someone can get right on the first try...or even the second or the third.

This was something I learned the hard way. I've been publishing non-fiction articles in national magazines since I was 13 ("Revised AD&D Combat Tables" in Dragon Magazine issue #117 (buffs nails on shirt)), and it was a surprise to me that even after one has a mastery of the English language, fiction is a second and unique challenge.

It took me five drafts, and over a million words of practice before I finished writing this, and even then, it wasn't done until after I'd paid to have the entire thing professionally proof-read.

In short: the white hot core of science fiction is tales of competent men and women fighting for their ideals against forces that would hold them back. These tales are worth reading only when they're well-executed: realistic and interesting characters, good writing, good dialogue, steady and confident pacing, and an exciting payoff that is not merely justified but required by all that has gone before."

I strongly think that the Aristillus series delivers the goods, and I think you will too.

About the Novel and the Author

A novel about a libertarian revolution on the moon - that does full justice to the pressing, seldom-broached minarchist-anarchist debate! This may be just what the market for libertarian SF is crying out for.

-- Ken MacLeod, author of The Cassinni Division, Cosmonaut Keep, Newton's Wake

I've barely begun it but have already discovered humor, firepower, and dogs. Good start! Very L Neil Smith-ish.

-- Claire Wolfe, author of 101 Things to Do 'Til the Revolution

I've enjoyed reading it quite a lot...the work of a professional writer, one who knows how fiction works and uses narrative techniques and tropes consciously and purposefully.

-- William H Stoddard, author of GURPS Steampunk

I'm sure this can be justified as your lovely American free speech and not hate speech or malicious communication, and yes, I'm sure Corcoran has a perfect right to say it and all that shit. Guess what? I have a perfect right not to like it, and a right to not be associated with the nutter who spews it.

-- Warren Ellis, author of Transmetropolitan, Iron Man Extremis, The Authority

I don't think what Corcoran wrote should be criminal, but it's certainly stupid, ill-advised, and, frankly, immoral. Corcoran calls himself an anarcho-capitalist. Which is fine, I guess. I'll live it to anarcho-capitalists to figure out if they want him.

-- Radley Balko, former Huffington Post senior writer

I'm left wondering - how is Travis Corcoran still a free man?

-- The Daily Kos

Free samples

Risks and challenges

This is a very low risk project.

The series is already complete: both books are already fully written, revised, edited, and proof-read.

Cover art is already finalized.

Printing will be done by a commercial press specializing in small runs.

I owned and ran small ecommerce firms for 15 years, so I am no stranger to fulfillment or dealing with the USPS.

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Support this project

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $6 or more About $6

    ebook of the first novel

    The first novel (Powers of the Earth), in epub or PDF format.

    Meet Mike Martin, John (the loner with a past), uplifted dogs, Gamma the AI, see the lunar city of Aristillus, and watch the conflict begin.

    Includes:
    • ebook of book 1 "Powers of the Earth"
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    Pledge $12 or more About $12

    ebook of both novels

    Both novels (Powers of the Earth and Causes of Separation), in epub or PDF format.

    Read the full story, see what happens when the UN strikes at the lunar rebels, watch the ADF's (Aristillus Defense Force) daring raid, and learn what happens when it appears that all may be lost.

    Includes:
    • ebook of book 1 "Powers of the Earth"
    • ebook of book 2 "Causes of Separation"
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    Pledge $20 or more About $20

    trade paperback of the first novel

    All 500 pages of the first novel (Powers of the Earth) in one big mass of dead tree and ink. Includes a glorious full color cover by artist Pavel Mikhailenko.

    Includes lots of little extras not present in the epub version, like a dramatis personae, lunar map, afterward, and more.

    Includes:
    • trade paperback of book 1 "Powers of the Earth"
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  4. Select this reward

    Pledge $40 or more About $40

    trade paperbacks of both novels

    Get the full story (Powers of the Earth and Causes of Separation) in two big chunks of dead tree and ink. Over a thousand pages of lunar exploration, zero gravity gun fights, nuclear explosions, anti-gravity, inscrutable AIs, political backstabbing, cliff hangers, and battles. Each book has original cover art by Pavel Mikhailenko.

    All backers at this level will be noted on a "thank you" page in every copy.

    Includes:
    • trade paperback of book 1 "Powers of the Earth"
    • trade paperback of book 2 "Causes of Separation"
    • your name in every copy (ebook, trade, hardcover) as a supporter
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  5. Select this reward

    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    limited edition hardcovers

    Both novels (Powers of the Earth and Causes of Separation) in true hardcover form.

    All the extras in the trade paperback version, plus more (character bios, lists of corporations and military units, etc.)

    The hardcover edition is a limited print run and will almost certainly never be done again. We will print only based on preorders, and thus if you do not order the hardcover now, you may never see copies of these again.

    Includes the cover art for both novels.

    Includes:
    • hardcover of book 1 "The Powers of the Earth"
    • hardcover of book 2 "Causes of Separation"
    • your name in every copy (ebook, trade, hardcover) as a supporter
    • ebook of book 1 "Powers of the Earth"
    • ebook of book 2 "Causes of Separation"
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    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    collector's edition hardcovers

    Both novels (Powers of the Earth and Causes of Separation) in true hardcover form, signed and numbered in a limited set of 10.

    All the extras in the regular hardcover edition, plus:

    * a never-before-published story set in the Aristillus universe, giving the backstory of John and the Dogs

    * either a minor character or a small business in the story named after you or some other name you choose.

    Includes:
    • hardcover of book 1 "The Powers of the Earth" signed and numbered
    • hardcover of book 2 "Causes of Separation" signed and numbered
    • bound copy of "The Team" short story
    • your name in every copy (ebook, trade, hardcover) as a supporter
    • ebook of book 1 "Powers of the Earth"
    • ebook of book 2 "Causes of Separation"
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  7. Select this reward

    Pledge $999 or more About $999

    Hero of Aristillus (lunatic package)

    Two complete sets of the "collector's edition", plus dinner at a damned good rib joint with Travis (you get to Manchester NH on your own), and several hours of hanging out, discussing science fiction, guns, machining, writing, politics, farming, programming, or whatever else you want.

    Includes:
    • hardcover of book 1 "The Powers of the Earth" signed and numbered
    • hardcover of book 2 "Causes of Separation" signed and numbered
    • bound copy of "The Team" short story
    • dinner with the author
    • ebook of book 1 "Powers of the Earth"
    • ebook of book 2 "Causes of Separation"
    • your name in every copy (ebook, trade, hardcover) as a supporter
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Funding period

- (30 days)