Blackwood Gazette #21: The IIC is Lost on Crowndon

by Eli Kinneany Wilderspin, Editorial

13/6- For the past fifty years, the Industry and Innovation Conference has been a beacon of hope in the night, a place where the greatest minds in the Triumvirate, and more specifically, Nor Easter, can come and offer the world a glimpse into a prosperous and wonderful future. Artists, inventors, and philosophers alike have met to speak and share ideas. Many of these ideas have come to fruition and made our lives that much richer. And, for the past fifty years, the Conference has been held in Nor Easter.

It is no surprise then that the first IIC to be held in Crowndon was a vacant shell of what the IIC is and was intended to be. The show was marked by disaster, and most of what was shown had only one purpose: to kill and maim increasingly larger amounts of people in a shorter amount of time.

To put it bluntly, the emphasis put on ‘better’ weapons and military technology showed us all what Crowndon truly is: a nation of barbarians bent not on improving the Triumvirate, but on destroying it. The people of Crowndon are nothing more than remnant troglodytes parading around in suits, putting on a mockery of civilized society, concerned only with finding bigger rocks to throw at anyone not of Crowndonian origin.

The Crowndon military insists that their only intent is to provide security for the Triumvirate as a whole and expand its borders to increase the prosperity of us all. That may be true, for the moment. Their insistence on retaining their identity as Crowndon’s military, rather than the Triumvirate’s, raises serious doubts in my mind.

When I was a child in school, we had a bully that terrorized the rest of us. One day, a larger child stepped up and put the bully in his place. There was peace for a time, but eventually the large child realized just how large he was, and became a bully himself. Crowndon is that large child, ladies and gentlemen, and there is no one larger. What happens when Crowndon realizes just how powerful it is?

Have we forgotten the Dividing War, which ended just three years ago, and how it started? Crowndon tried to exert its size then, and it was Nor Eastern ingenuity that cast them down. But just barely, and I sometimes worry if the ingenuity we employed was in fact just  a piece of Crowndon’s animal drive infecting our collective psyche. If the IIC is meant to be a window into the Triumvirate’s future, then what I saw this year has me concerned. You all should be concerned, as well.

Eli Kinneany Wilderspin is the Blackwood Gazette’s Nor Eastern editorial writer. A graduate of the Empress University, Wilderspin proved himself a sharp and fearless commentator on Triumvirate society, focusing the brunt of his ire on Crowndon. The Gazette, being a Crowndon based paper, has received harsh criticism for hiring Wilderspin, but since we started publishing his articles, sales have gone up not only in Nor Easter, but Crowndon as well.

Blackwood Gazette #21: The IIC is Lost on Crowndon

Blackwood Gazette #19-Industry Leaders Descend Upon Crowndon Capital for Industry and Innovation Conference

story by Alex Grosset, Arts and Entertainment

10/6-I sit in a darkened coliseum, surrounded by pillars of the Imperial community from all walks of life; military personnel, industrial leaders, respected authors, famous inventors. It’s 1200, and we’ve all been up since five this morning. We’ve been sitting here for three hours, packed in like sardines. It’s hotter than a boiler room in here, and I’m sweating through my note pad. The smell is nigh unbearable.

We’re hoping for a glimpse at the next “New Big Thing”, whatever that is. The presenters would have you believe it’s whatever they’ve come to show us, and there are a lot of presenters. I’m going to be in this seat for twelve more hours, listening to corporate vagaries trying to make out commercial endeavours to be some life changing thing. Right now, I’d settle with someone, anyone, inventing a machine that can keep a coliseum like the one I’m in at a decent temperature. Climate control…do you hear that, inventors of the Triumvirate? Get on that.

The first presentation is from a company called Velcom Technologies. These guys were little more than a start up last year, relegated to a small booth outside the fair ground. Now they’re opening the main stage. They show off plans for a new type of offensive explosive device that is activated by pulling a pin, which initiates a three second fuse. The Crowndonians in the room go nuts. The demonstration is less smooth, as the presenter blows off his own arm on stage. He’s rushed out of the coliseum, which is now filled with smoke.

“Perhaps Velcom should think about increasing the fuse to five seconds,” the host jokes nervously. Thankfully, no one laughs.

The presentations for the next two hours aren’t anything impressive–mild variations and improvements on items we saw last year, or the year before last. At 1300, we’re served rations of gruel. Again, I’d just be grateful if someone announced some sort of complete meal in a convenient bar that I can carry in my jacket pocket.

Finally, we get to the presser that everyone’s been waiting for: Rinkenbach Research and Development.

A group of fifteen women appear on stage, dancers by the look of them. They begin dancing and singing a song about the horizon, laced with lazy sexual innuendos. Rigel Rinkenbach himself appears on stage in grand fashion, lowered from up above by wires. He joins in on the song and dance routine, which culminates in an impressively garish pyrotechnics display. Sparks fall on the ground, but luckily none of them catch, like last year.

The dancers shuffle off stage, leaving Rinkenbach by himself to give the presentation. He looks winded, but other wise he’s as energetic as ever.

So what’s he unveiling? The world’s first commercial Planar Wing Aircraft.

When the plans are unveiled, I hear a loud curse from backstage. Ivan Klankenvroot is the next presenter, and with the recent enmities between him and Rinkenbach, it’s a given what Klankenvroot was planning to unveil. Sure enough, that’s exactly what it is: his own plans for a PWA aircraft. Half of the audience is snoring before the presentation is over.

The final presentation is given by a company I’ve never heard of: Foundation Inc. Their presenter tells us that he has nothing to show, but something to demonstrate, something that will change interior venues the world over.

I hear a clunking sound over head, and rattling coming from strange metal tubes lining the ceiling. After a moment, I’m beginning to wonder if something is wrong. Then I feel it…cold air, descending from the rafters like a refreshing blanket. There it is. That’s it. That’s what I’ve been waiting for.

Then I realize that Foundation could have given its presentation at the BEGINNING of the day.

Alex Grosset is an alum of the Empress University. Born and raised in Oeil de Fleur, he likes nothing more than enjoying a play by night, and ripping it apart by day. He was the first staff member hired by the Blackwood Gazette’s Nor Eastern offices.

Blackwood Gazette #19-Industry Leaders Descend Upon Crowndon Capital for Industry and Innovation Conference

Blackwood Gazette #16: Church of Crowndon Worried about Rash of Recreational Weddings/Divorces

29/5-In response to the media fervor over the wedding and immediate divorce between Yolanda De Santana and Armin Chevelle last month, the Imperial Church of Crowndon has issued a statement decrying the practice, and others like it in recent years.

“This is a distressing trend,” said the church’s First Primarch. “It erodes the rapidly thinning traditions of our society by playing them as a farce. Younger generations see this and they start asking questions we aren’t prepared to answer. That can not happen!”

Armin Chevelle’s representatives shot back, issuing a statement almost immediately after.

“If they’re so worried about their traditions, perhaps it’s because their so called foundations aren’t very solid to begin with,” the statement read. “The world is changing faster than their rhetoric can keep up, and it scares them. Besides, why the hell should we worry about the opinions of a church half a world away, that we don’t subscribe to? It has no foothold in Nor Easter, and never did. The First Primarch can lick Armin Chevelle’s boots. It wouldn’t be the first time, and we have the film to prove it.”

Yolanda De Santana commented as well.

“I don’t get it. Why are people so preoccupied with what other people do? Mind your own damn business! Live and let live. All we did was have a bit of fun. Nobody got hurt. Just think of it as a really expensive party with a fancy cake.”

On a side note, the footage of the Chevelle/De Santana wedding is expected to hit kinetic viewers next month, divided into fifteen separate thirty second installments, and is reported to have a ten piece viewing fee, as opposed to the typical five. Fans of De Santana and Chevelle are said to already be buying tickets.

“I hear it is completely debauched,” one such fan said, outside of a popular brothel in Oeil de Fleur’s red-light district, one block over from the Imperial Palace. “I can’t wait.”

Blackwood Gazette #16: Church of Crowndon Worried about Rash of Recreational Weddings/Divorces

Blackwood Gazette #8: Tensions Rising Over Sarnwainian Development of Combustion Engines

1/5-The Imperial Blackwood Authority is up in arms today over reports that the Sarnwainian Empire has plans to pursue oil based combustion engines.

“If the Sarnwainians figure out how to build an engine that uses their impressive oil deposits, we’re all screwed,” said Authority head Richard Leavensworth. “Over time they would prove to be cheaper than the cost of harvesting and shipping Blackwood for our current steam-based transportation system. Combine that with the availability of Sarnwainian oil versus the limited resource of the Blackwood Grove…the Triumvirate would fall apart. We’re talking about an almost over night shift in economic power and a complete reconstruction of the way the world works.”

Blackwood magnate Marco de Santana isn’t worried.

“Let the Sarnwainians try their combustion engines,” de Santa said. “We tried it once. It didn’t work. The oil gummed up the works. And before it did, the engines were loud, and the fumes coming off the engine choked the warehouse. The citizenry won’t like it once presented with the setbacks.”

The opinions of the citizenry seem to indicate otherwise, however.

“Something cheaper than Blackwood?” one local, who owns a small independent transport company, said. “Sign me up. Costs me six months salary for a chunk of Blackwood to power my little airbus for nine. Maybe one day we’ll ALL be able to afford one of them autos you see the rich folks driving around. People like De Santana, they’re just worried about their own personal wealth.”

Scientists from around the Triumvirate are the most concerned with this development overall.

“In addition to the geopolitical ramifications everyone is prattling on about are the environmental ones,” said Sir Rigel Rinkenbach, of NorEaster. “I was there when we tried our own oil based engine. I even helped design the damn thing! Now imagine a city full of such engines, making noise and pumping black smoke into the air. Say goodbye to the clear blue of the Imperial Skyways, and the immaculate stone work of Oeil de Fleur. No, we must re double our efforts in re-creating the Blackwood formulae, and we must stop at nothing to prevent the Sarnwainians from succeeding. Stay with Steam! Down with Diesel!”

Blackwood Gazette #8: Tensions Rising Over Sarnwainian Development of Combustion Engines

Work in Progress: Klaus Klaudhopper and Arufina Villanova in…

Arufina, Klaus, Blackwood Empire, short story, illustration, novella, preview, campnanowrimo

The following is a little excerpt from my Camp NaNoWrimo project. I don’t usually write in first person, so it’s been a bit of a departure for me. I’m also writing a character who is not telling his story in his native language, just to make things more challenging.

I. The Traveler

My name is Klaus. I get air sick really easily. It is not something I am proud of, but it is what it is, so there. Take it or leave.

So it was I came to be on a ship bound for the colonies, puking my guts out. We had just hit rough turbulence. I single handedly covered the deck. Crew even gave me crude nickname. I won’t relate. Better left forgotten.

Over course of journey, we docked at Waystation. A Waystation is much more stable than airship. More important, calls for better maintenance. People care when a Waystation is messed up. Waystations serve everyone, in one way or another.

Four Waystations travel in big square, over area in middle of the Barricade Ocean. Basically, giant floating townships. Ships dock with them for resupply and rest. The ship stops, but the Waystation keeps moving. Travellers make progress while resting. Very convenient.

Also convenient is self governance. No one cares who you are and what you come for, as long as you don’t put Waystation in danger or disrupt business, you do what you want. Criminals from all over come to Waystations to meet. Some set up shop permanently. Each Waystation has its own culture, different from rest. Like floating city. Fun to visit, if not shot.

Waystation we came to, controlled by Julianos. Julianos worst criminal of all, big shot. Shadow King. Also most stable. You want to be on a Waystation controlled by Julianos. Not least of all evils, just least likely to chop off balls for fun. Still, keep eyes on balls, just for safety, ja?

We come to Echo station, at south eastern angle of square, just before it leaves port. Fortunate. Only four waystations. If not at port, want to get on just before or just after port. No good coming across Waystation three thirds of the way through route. Might as well keep going, if you can. Save 500 scrip docking fee.

My ship split fee evenly between us. Don’t have fee, get tossed before docking. I didn’t have fee when I left, but I work on ship. Swab decks, stoke boilers, paint railings. Earn fee, and more. Left ship when we docked. Waystation where I want to be for the moment.

All kinds of work on Waystation. Freelance. Bounty hunting. Body guarding. Privateering. Land of opportunity. Fill pockets until I get bored, then go to colonies, do same thing there.

First things first, though. When setting up business, you need a location. Highly visible, easy to get to. Good atmosphere, conducive to getting people to say agree to your terms. No place better for such things on a Waystation than a saloon. When traveling, everyone winds up in saloon. That’s where you hear stories about places you can’t get to, where you go to pass time, and where you go to tie one off at end of day. Also where you go to find someone of ill repute.

One can’t just sit around, waiting to be hired. Have to make name, prove worth, eat in meantime. Waystation had one bar. Bar had one bouncer. I ask for job. They tell me, beat bouncer, take his job. So I shot him in the foot and pulled him by the ear from bar. I go back in, they say get to work.

Work was easy. Word travels fast about new bouncer, likes to shoot people. No one acts up very much, those that do lose toes. I make good bouncer by not acting like bouncer. Act like patron. Just one of boys. People like me. People respect me. People send me jobs. Run escort for travelling dignitary. Settle dispute between rival factions in gang. Help raid incoming supply ship, get paid, make more money by retrieving said supplies and returning them. No one knows any better.

Lived for six months on Waystation. Lots of interesting jobs. Lots of good stories. None so good as the last chapter of that life. Also first chapter in next.

Was sitting at bar, drinking stout and enjoying the smell of barbeque whale. Crazy, the way they catch food. They dump bloody leftovers, wait for fish to swarm, drop net, and haul whole load up at once. Feeds entire Waystation for a month. Have fish jerky for a year.

Anyway, I was sitting at bar when this strange traveler comes in. Tall, about six foot. Well, taller than me, anyway. Lean build, wearing a duster coat, a trail hat, and a scarf wrapped around face. Everyone turns to look. Traveler steps up to the bar. I see a gun, under the coat. Six gun. Very rare, very difficult to find. I should know…my own six guns cost me a great deal. Traveler orders stout. Voice muffled by red scarf. Could be woman with low voice. Could be young man with high voice. Not sure until hooligans step up behind Traveler.

“Looks like we got ourselves a trail blazer, boys,” one says. “Judging by the look of your coat, though, you ain’t actually done no trail blazing. Not yet. You think you hard, but you ain’t. Not yet. Takes time. Lessons learned. Here’s first less…”

As moron number one makes his speech, Traveler reaches into coat and pulls the gun. Blows a hole right through moron’s left ear.

“First lesson is brevity,” Traveler says. “Best to say what you mean and say it quick, or people get bored.”

“How’s this for quick!” Another moron says. He lifts bottle, but it’s too late. Traveler already turned towards him and fired. The bottle shatters in moron’s hand. Blood paints the wall next to him.

“Second lesson is act, don’t talk,” Traveler says. “Related to the first lesson. Often confused by those who can’t appreciate the subtle differences.”

Third moron takes lessons. Doesn’t talk. Just acts. Pulls gun, pulls trigger. Hole appears in Traveler’s back. Traveler stumbles, but doesn’t fall. Turns on third moron, who’s staring at gun in disbelief. He used a flintlock. No shots left. Traveler still has four.

“Third rule is make every shot count. Especially when you go up against someone with a revolver and an inch thick steel bullet stopper, and all you got is muzzle loader.”

Traveler fires, takes the flintlock out of moron’s hand. Fires again, taking off his belt. Fires a third time, taking off his hat.

“All that, and I still have one round left. Are you a lefty or a righty?”

“L-lefty.”

Traveler puts last round through right hand. Moron falls to knees, screaming.

“That should teach you a lesson, but keep you working. Next time I won’t be so kind.”

Other morons look at each other. “She ain’t got no more rounds.”

“What if she’s got two guns?”

“No way she’s got two guns. Too expensive.”

“You really want to find out? Besides, Klaus there got two guns, and he’s not exactly rich.”

The Traveler turns towards me. Schveisse I think. I keep hands on bar, act like nothing is happening. I’m not part of this. Just window dressing.

“You got a point,” says moron. “Pick these idiots up and lets go.”

Morons clear out. Traveler walks over, sits down.

“You must be Klaus. Nice guns. Cartographer guns?”

I shrug. “May be. Not mine originally. Came by them along the way.”

“Perhaps.” Traveler takes off the hat. A ball of raven black hair spills out over shoulders and back. Highlights actually shine blue. I thought that only happened in funny pages.

Bartender puts stout in front of Traveler. She thanks him, pulls down scarf, and takes a sip.

“Another for this guy,” she says, shooting her thumb at me. Bartender knows me, knows I don’t drink often. Have to keep clear head in case of job. I nod that it’s okay. For now.

“You know my name,” I say. “How about yours?”

She half smiles. “Knowing your name puts me at an advantage, however small it may be. Why would I give that up?”

Traveler is shrewd. I like that.

“I tell you what,” she says. “You listen to my proposition. You like it, and you agree to it, then I’ll tell you my name.”

I’m a curious guy. I don’t need to hear proposition. “I’m in.”

“Cute, but no. I’ll tell you my proposal first, so you don’t run away. I’m putting together a little expedition, and I’d like a few extra guns backing me up. Normally I’d settle for any capable body with a decent flint, but you’ve got a couple of six guns on your hip. And I’ve heard your name five times since I arrived on this station, not half an hour ago, so I know you got a reputation.”

I frown at that. Reputation good, up to certain point. It’s like economy…you eventually reach a point of diminishing returns. Except in my business, diminishing returns usually means lots of pissed off people trying to kill you.

“What is Proposal, then?”

“You know Bravo station?”

I nod. “Ja.”

“It’s gone missing. Vanished into the heart of a hurricane that isn’t moving. And I want you to help me find it.”

Certainly sounded intriguing. Heard rumor station had gone dark. Troubling if true. Lots of lives on Waystation. Lots of business, too. Probably a sizable bounty for anyone who figured out what happened.

“Still in?”

“Ja. Still in, Miss…”

“Arufina. Most people just call me Aru.”

We shake hands, and deal is done. As was my understanding of the way the world worked up to that point.

Work in Progress: Klaus Klaudhopper and Arufina Villanova in…

Book Excerpt No. 2: Where, No One Knows

Today I thought I’d share another excerpt from Where, No One Knows (or, as I’ve started to call it, the novel that killed two computers).  It’s pretty much the entirety of Chapter 5, in which our protagonist, former agent provocateur and alchemist extraordinaire Pixie Sinclaire, faces off against a ten foot tall Murder-Bot and learns that the situation aboard the prison ship she has infiltrated is much more complicated than previously thought. Enjoy, and feel free to leave feedback on how it can be improved. A previous excerpt can be found here (though, it’s been revised since).

Continue reading “Book Excerpt No. 2: Where, No One Knows”

Book Excerpt No. 2: Where, No One Knows

NaNo13 Update

Well, it’s day four and NaNo is well underway. I think I’ve found a pretty good stride, and I think I’m doing a pretty good job of throwing caution to the wind.

Last year I spent as much time self editing while writing as I did actually writing. This year, I’m trying to maintain forward momentum, no matter what. Correcting typos and misspellings as I go is almost second nature to me…not much I can do about that. Hitting delete and fixing mistakes I know I’ve made is pretty much automatic. I’ve done it at least three times since I started typing this post.

Continue reading “NaNo13 Update”

NaNo13 Update