Enjoy this excerpt from The Kestral Voyages: My Life, After Berserker, available on my site and other ebook outlets.
The excerpt begins with a defining moment for Carolyn Kestral, commander in the Galarchy Rangers, and how it sets her on the next stage of her life, that of a freighter captain. The excerpt also introduces some of the people that will work for her on the freighter Mary.
The Kestral Voyages were my answer to Star Trek-type light science fiction, or sci-fi. In fact, I originally developed the characters back in 2001 as a possible future Trek series, when Paramount was winding down on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and supposedly asking for public opinion as to what to do next. (I say “supposedly” because, with hindsight, I refuse to believe Paramount was ever going to listen to the audience when it came to what show to create; they quite obviously thought they knew best in every way. Hint: It was the Paramount execs that pushed Seven of Nine onto Star Trek: Voyager, not the Trek execs.)
Once Paramount had decided to go with Voyager, I let the characters sit for awhile, then I picked them back up with the idea of writing a story with them. The first thing I did was to create a new setting, a universe that wouldn’t be like the Star Trek universe with thousands of intelligent aliens, all of whom could speak (in English!) to us. I never thought it was at all realistic or likely that there would be aliens about; more likely, given the cosmic scales of time, we’d either meet a race that was still a few evolutionary stages behind us, or we’d arrive to find the ruins of a long-dead civilization.
So I wrote about a universe where only one alien race had been found, and the Galarchy was made up of nothing but humans on terraformed worlds. Indeed, some of these humans were genetically altered from the human baseline in order to more easily survive on those worlds, but not to an extreme; and so every genetic alteration was still recognizable as human (or at least humanoid), they could all eat most or all of the same foods, they all had vocal cords and ears capable of communicating in English, etc. To me, this made so much more sense than Trek‘s universe.
One thing I kept from Trek was the idea of a faster-than-light warp system. Star Trek‘s warp system is something I consider completely impossible in the Trek iteration, and in fact in most depictions of it in sci-fi. However, FTL travel has become an accepted trope in science fiction at any level; even if you don’t have weird aliens or exotic hardware, it’s considered okay to bend the rules of galactic travel and make interstellar trips as easy as a trip to the next town. Using an FTL drive meant I didn’t have to limit the number and type of worlds available to my story, and I didn’t have to cram them into a single solar system.
Ironically, it wasn’t long before I’d created my new Kestral universe that I saw Firefly, the Joss Whedon series that presented a world of terraformed planets and moons in one solar system! Firefly’s characters didn’t need FTL flight to move around, so science seemed satisfied. (Yes, another caveat: I’m pretty sure all of those planets could not fit into the “Goldilocks” habitation zone around a star, and it’s the one aspect of Firefly‘s universe that is never discussed. Also, Whedon uses the old “gravity on spaceships” trope, since it’s so much easier than forcing your actors to do all their work in wire rigs. For the record, I kept that trope for Kestral, too.)
But even with these largely superficial similarities, the Kestral Voyages came out as unique, a great set of characters on a workable universe. And thanks to that universe, they were a lot of fun to write, and easily lent itself to two sequels. I’ve been advised to continue to write Kestral stories, more than any other book or series I’ve written, and if I ever develop a serious following, I’d bet the Kestral series is one of the few things I’ll be remembered for.
Enjoy the excerpt.