Silver Wordsmith: An author's journey
When I relaunched The Bloodlet Sun here a year ago, I honestly didn’t know how it would go. I’d been optimistic for the original launch as well, but that first effort died after a single chapter was posted, and then the story went quiet for more than a year. I promised myself that if I were to try again – posting a sci-fi web novel on my blog in weekly installments – that I would have to do it right. Well, now that I’m officially more than a year into this second attempt, I think things are going as well as I could have hoped (okay that’s a bit of a lie, I could have also hoped for droves of readers but that’s beside the point).
I’ve recently completed my first full cycle of POV character chapters, introducing the readers to all six characters that are spotlighted in the first “book” of this sci-fi epic. With established characters it’s beginning to get easier to move the story forward and it’s personally exciting when I get to dive back into each story.
My buffer, though it’s not quite as robust as when I started (I was taking no chances so it was a hefty one) is still quite healthy and has grown in the last few months. No chapter has given me quite as much grief as much as chapter 2, which is what had originally derailed the publication in the first place. This chapter was Kalirit’s first chapter (released as chapter 3) and I’m coming up to writing her second chapter so let’s see if she was the real culprit here all along. But other than that little ominous aside, things have been going well.
Since bringing The Bloodlet Sun back to this blog, I’ve also searched for other publication outlets for the space opera, launching on Royal Road late last year, where I’ve gathered 24 readers, and then launching on Tapas a couple of weeks ago, where only have a handful of views and 2 subscribers. Now I admit it doesn’t sound like much for something that’s been up for a year and I’ve learned to be okay with that. I kind of have to, otherwise it becomes too easy to get discouraged.
What I have to remind myself is why I started publishing The Bloodlet Sun in the first place – that it was a project I had been contemplating for years and I could no longer see any other viable outlet for other than through the web novel format. I think though looking at my current commitment to it, what was intended to be a side project has actually become the main focus of my writing resources. Sometimes I question this path, but I have to remember just how much fun I have writing it, and also sharing it with the world. That handful of subscribers is my one true tangible readership, and I can’t dwell on how small it might be compared to anyone else, because it’s the most I’ve ever had.
What I’ve learned over this past year is how much I still love this project, that once it started taking shape, I was not bored of it, but rather only became more excited as to where it could go, and already I built more on top of my original outline than I could have imagined just a couple of years ago. I’m finally, in my 30s, beginning to learn to write for the fun of it, and not for some hard-to-pin-down external concepts such a publication, praise and accolades. Maybe it’s this new attitude that would inadvertently lead me to all three. Or maybe I just continue to have fun with it and to spin these tales set in the Known Reaches two thousand years from today.
Represented here is a specimen of braungal, a perennial tree native to Mrabr, the homeworld of the Mraboran. The braungal is one of the more common species of numerous trees that contribute to Mrabr’s mottled purple and green appearance. It is worth noting that for some inexplicable reason, the artist chose a much lighter and more vibrant shade of purple than how the trees actually appear in real life. Perhaps an artistic liberty taken to highlight the exoticness of the trees to those from planets with exclusively green foliage.
The tree is rather ubiquitous on Mrabr, its range spanning the entire planet save for the southwest planes beyond the Graram Mountains, and the polar regions. Most braungal reach the height of about 40 to 60 feet, while the more majestic subspecies in the far north can grow as high as 100 feet. The tree’s thick lower fronds are only a few feet off the ground and can serve as adequate shelter during a storm. Caution should be taken though as a swampy area with a thick concentration of these fronds may indicate the habitat of a Mraboran meatgrinder.
The pink slightly translucent fruit of the braungal are edible to most sentients but unremarkable in its taste. The flesh of the fruit is firm and mostly flavourless with slight sour notes, while also containing a large quantity of small white seeds that are bitter when bitten into. Braungal fruit rarely form part of the diet of the largely carnivorous Mraboran, though it is often included in livestock feed for animals such as the agmari.
The braungal occupies a special cultural significance for Mraboran as well. Mysterious strangers often wait for folkloric travelers under the braungal and the tree is closely associated with Lorz, the goddess of the hunt, one of the more prominent deities in the Mraboran pantheon and one of a handful still revered in a society that has grown largely agnostic.
Although the planet has been united politically for thousands of years, braungal trees continue to be strongly associated symbolically with the northern hemisphere, as braungal fronds used to serve as the national emblem of the royal house that had dominated there prior to unification. Primarily for this reason, prominent northern families ensure that their estates have a healthy braungal grove, and breed varieties whose leaves approach the colour black as a sign of prominence and wealth.
To see where the Braungal tree is referenced in The Bloodlet Sun, please see here.
Sometime last week I happened to come across one of those “You have $15 to do X. Who do you choose?” graphics where it lists a bunch of things/people at $5/$4/$3/$2/$1 costs and you share how you would put together whatever “X” is. For “X”, I’ve seen everything from music festival lineups to sports teams to your ideal Marvel superhero team-up. So seeing these, I wanted to put together my own, and inspired mostly by how hard I’ve been writing my space opera web fiction recently, came up with this Pick Your Own Space Crew graphic:
First choice I made was confining selections to one from each category. These are a less common variant, and I’ve mostly seen this with putting together sports teams (confining the choices to one per position). However, since I’m pushing for an actual crew here, and wanted to include ships as well as people, I thought this would be the best way to present.
Second, I needed to figure out what franchises to dip into. On the one hand, I wanted to keep it accessible, on the other hand, other than Star Trek and Star Wars (and Guardians of the Galaxy, if you can really put it in the same category) sci-fi doesn’t exactly have a wide audience. So I dipped into things somewhat more obscure including Battlestar Galactica, which, I’m going to go ahead and admit right now at the risk of excommunication, I haven’t actually seen, though of course heard a lot about. Also I think given that I have four individuals from Star Trek and two of them are from Voyager, its easy to tell which television series was the first one our whole family got into when we moved to Canada.
Third, and it’s not like I hadn’t already known this, but man does sci-fi have a diversity problem. There’s been some improvement in this area recently. Star Wars is making some strides, though the abysmal treatment of John Boyega proves there’s a whole lot of work that needs to be done on that front. I also hear Star Trek: Discovery is great and it’s been on my “want to watch” list for a while. But overall, and especially with the most culturally prominent roles and characters, this is an area that is still predominantly white and male.
I tried to push back against this with how I organized my graphic, and I probably could have done a better job of it but the limited material was challenging to work with. This is one of the major reasons I try to break this trend with my own writing, but as with any aspiring writer the odds of me ever making any kind of cultural impact are pretty slim. Here’s hoping though.
In addition to the difficulties created by the diversity problem I just described, generally picking and organizing what was included in the graphic was not a straightforward task. I wanted to represent multiple franchises without spreading myself too thin, which worked to an extent. I expect few people to actually recognize John Sheridan and Susan Ivanova from Babylon 5, but it being my favourite sci-fi show, I couldn’t resist.
Then once the actual elements have been selected, picking which cost categories they go into was its own challenge. The entire $5 tier is Star Trek and Star Wars. Is it really because I think these are worth the theoretical $5 or because that’s what I think other people will value them as? It was a little bit of both, which is why the lesser known franchises occupy the lower tiers, sometimes unfairly. Is Han really a better pilot than Po? Definitely not. But rank the original fan favourite below the new guy, all hell will break loose. Or in the case of Serenity – it literally has no weapons, but at the same time it’s a far more iconic vessel than the Milano, even though more people have seen the Milano in action than Serenity. Will a million offended fanboys tell me that Obi Wan should rank higher than Ahsoka? Probably. But Ahsoka is my favourite lightsaber duelist in the whole franchise, and I’ll die on that hill.
There’s definitely places where I could have been braver putting this together. But overall it as just something fun to do while watching TV, so it is what it is. And if anyone’s interested, my selection would be: Captain Janeway, Harry Kim, Ivanova and Ahsoka on the Millennium Falcon.
Drop a comment to let me know who you would be choosing.
Michael is a husband, father of two, lawyer, writer, and is currently working on his first novel, at a snail's pace. A very leisurely snail. All opinions are author's own.