I proudly announce a new offering in my comedy science fiction series, Space Vixen Trek Episode 17: Tomorrow the Stars. This one might be a bit (ahem) controversial. Actually, I’ll probably have a contract taken out on me over it. The following is about how it came to be, along with some basic themes, though without revealing too many plot details.
Tomorrow the Stars is a multifaceted novel. On the surface, it’s a parody of the typical science fiction “teenagers in space” Bildungsroman. The setting is an atompunk style alternate history, leading to much nerd humor about what computer technology could’ve been like. Also, elements of very twisted romantic comedy sometimes come to the fore. Under the surface, it’s a multilayered web of intrigue and conspiracy. Not only are things not as they seem on the domestic front, some unexpected major players are revealed. This includes Communist space Goths, unreconstructed Germans, space Vikings whose society seems uncannily familiar, and competing groups of aliens scheming from the sidelines. At the story’s core is much biting political satire, with considerable dystopian elements. Is humanity doomed to fall into perpetual slavery, or is there hope for glorious renewal?
Planet Earth is in deep doo-doo
In 1978, a professor and two wacky Midwestern teenagers witness a remarkable finding through groundbreaking technology. A worldwide computer network delivers an image from their new space telescope, and they discover proof that aliens once visited our solar system.
Soon, they’re in more trouble than a gopher at a rattlesnake convention. Little did they know that these sneaky extraterrestrials are back again. They’re now using the Open Mankind Foundation Governance to prepare the world for their “New Galactic Arrangement”. Worse, they’re not the only meddlesome space critters out to subvert our unsuspecting planet.
The professor disappears, apparently the victim of a mysterious kidnapping. The FBI goes after the prime suspects, namely the nerdy junior scientist and Pleasantville High’s star linebacker. A task force of Russian commandoes tracks down the jock’s girlfriends. However, things are much more complicated than they appear. The teens find themselves embroiled in a web of conspiracies, beginning a deplorably politically incorrect adventure through the cosmos.
Who can be trusted? Which scheming aliens will spring the trap first, imposing their brand of despotism upon the world like the humans they’ve exploited before? Can the youths get back home before the history exam?
The creation process
Aside from garden-variety UFOlogy, it includes lots of themes along the lines of Miguel Serrano and the Landig Group. This rightist equivalent of New Age beliefs is pretty colorful, with considerably more panache than the crystal weenie version. However, it’s rather obscure. I figured I should fix that problem! One of these imaginative technologies is the Haunebu flying disk, supposedly created by Vikor Schauberger. Indeed, the Germans had quite a few aerospace innovations and almost-there concepts: rockets, jets, precursors to Stealth aircraft, and so forth.
A few Haunebu designs exist, with basic engineering specifications. These partial blueprints look like fairly convincing originals, but given all the fake UFO stuff out there, it doesn’t prove much, If they really had lasers (kinda sorta) and antigravity propulsion back then, we’d know about it. For example, German flying saucers would’ve made the Battle of Kursk a big tank-plinking party. (Channeling John Lennon, “Imagine there’s no Communism…”) Likewise, they could’ve taken out enemy aircraft before they had a chance to waste tens of thousands of civilians at a go. Come to think of it, our own strategy of spreading democracy one bomb at a time has changed little since the 1940s.
To a small degree, SVT17 is a long-overdue poke at Heinlein’s Rocket Ship Galileo. Yes, he was a great writer, but that thing was a turkey. Still, I’ll give him a free pass since that was kid stuff as well as his first attempt; he certainly hit his stride later. The Golden Age of Science Fiction had many timeless classics, but the dreck marketed to the youth demographic back then inspired my Space Vixen Trek series. (However, my final impetus was “Vacuum Cleaners, Inc.” by Algis Budrys.) Actually, my extravagant parodies might as well be Shakespeare compared to that kind of stuff.
This book has been kicking around for a good while. I got the main scenes plotted, then pushed through writer’s block to get the transitions done. Then it kept growing. The resolution originally would’ve ended with the major battle scene, and all the aftermath was merely two paragraphs. Obviously, that grew considerably, providing a closer look at two other societies and how they confront the problems besetting them. Basically, it’s history written in lightning (bonus points if you get the reference). Other parts also started getting more intricate and tightly-woven. Admittedly, this ain’t exactly Dostoyevsky here, but it’s my most detailed plot thus far.
Then I made one of the characters a Valley Girl, and all hell broke loose. That was a lot funnier, but it’s like a plumbing job where you replace one part, then the one next to it breaks, and so forth. (Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.) I gave the manuscript a final comb-over, and kept finding new stuff to add and other things that had to be tweaked to remain consistent. I did “one last review” to spot any errors, but discovered I was still making improvements. So it was quite an effort, but it was worth it.
A major element is retro-futurism, something I use in some other of my Space Vixen Trek stories. In SVT17, I’m imagining myself as an author in 1958 writing about 1978. Back then, they had some pretty imaginative ideas about how the future would turn out, assuming scientific progress would continue in a straight trajectory. How things actually developed was often rather different, of course, and it’s fun to play with all that. Some technologies envisioned didn’t materialize by 2000 – or even now. Others came ahead of schedule, or a little different from expected. In 2001, we didn’t have HAL9000; we had Windows XP. Even so, the development of computers worked out faster than most anticipated, while starships ain’t happening any time in the foreseeable future.
Knowing what I do now, of course, allows me to throw in some tech nerd humor. For example, in SVT17, Al Gore really does invent the Internet. He did help popularize it for real, but the dude should read his press releases a little better. (For the record, I’m not on his political wavelength, but I like him as a person.) I also have some fun with the Senator Stevens ramble. If you read what he actually said, his “series of tubes” comment was clearly meant metaphorically, though it’s pretty clumsily worded. It’s sort of in the context of bandwidth in a pipeline. Still, it was good for some chuckles.
I also had fun rewriting the personal histories of various individuals. Many cool and awesome people who should’ve lived longer are still around in SVT17′s 1978. For example, Buddy Holly didn’t get on that plane, Elvis Presley becomes a health nut, etc. What I did to Saddam Hussein is a bit cruel, but it’s not like he doesn’t deserve it. And speaking of huge pricks, he’s not the only comic relief.
The alternate history background
Where I really start to have fun is with the changes to society. From today’s perspective, 1958 was so freaking normal that it hurts. In fact, some people think of it as an absolute wasteland. (It’s today’s society that’s an absolute wasteland, but all that’s another discussion.) What if the 1960s-70s went differently – again, a straight trajectory?
The main point of departure is that my “1958 self” optimistically foresees that the Cold War blows over a lot sooner than it actually did (is going to do?) in the real world. Actually, Khrushchev was pretty decent – as far as Soviet leaders go, of course. He really wanted to be a reformer. He was, in fact, remarkably better than his predecessors, who were sick rat bastards. (No offense meant to convalescent rodents born out of wedlock.) However, if I’m reading between the lines correctly, pressure by hard-liners forced some of Khrushchev’s douchebag moments.
Things came to a head when NATO deployed missiles in Turkey. They were considered obsolete, but hey, they were still nukes. Understandably, parking them right next door to the USSR was seen as a provocation. Khrushchev had to make a countermove, or seriously lose face both internationally and with the hard-liners. One thing led to another, and we got the Cuban Missile Crisis. In the aftermath, the hard-liners deposed him, because they were disappointed that he decided pushing the button just wasn’t worth it. He went into forced retirement, suffering chronic depression because of the fall from grace. (If I’m in the same area code as him during the afterlife, I’ll buy Comrade Nikita a beer for not destroying the world.) So both sides backed down from the apocalypse. However, since then, we got spit-in-your-eye wars, a crazy arms race until well into the 1980s, and many other fine messes.
So that’s how things really went down in history. What if all that trouble had been avoided instead? The following can be pieced together from the novel, but listing it here might clarify things for the reader to better understand the fictional “past future”:
- Khrushchev neutralizes his opposition with extreme prejudice
- He and gets to run things his way, and perestroika style reforms take effect
- The USSR ceases expansionistic policies
- Greater independence for other Warsaw Pact countries, including some productive economic experiments
- Détente is fully realized, ending the arms race and leading to a near-complete normalization of relations
- With costly defense programs scaled back, the space program and other R&D projects go into high gear
- The Vietnam War fizzles out early, and there’s no draft to dodge or war to protest
- The KGB ceases its subversion campaign; they and their useful idiots don’t start stirring up trouble
- Cultural Marxism (which predated all this) still infects the universities, but without support, it doesn’t gain the critical mass to screw up society and take on a life of its own
- The only snotty feminists are overbearing extraterrestrials (actually, there’s little difference)
- The Sexual Revolution happens, but somewhat more sane and sensible than the real-world version
Those familiar with my writings at ROK are likely familiar with my extensive post-mortems on how society became today’s absolute wasteland. From my imagined author’s perspective in 1958, I have no idea that any of this will go down in the years to come. However, as far as alternate history goes, things could’ve been better yet if diplomacy had prevailed and prevented the Civil War and both World Wars, to the great disappointment of banksters wishing to profiteer from bloodshed. By contrast, a brief glimpse of the real 1978 seems grimy and depressing, full of malaise.
As for the imagined 1978, society is like a technologically spiffier version of the “author’s” world… so freaking normal that it hurts. Things are pretty peachy, actually – other than extraterrestrials being major douchebags.
The cultural flavor
This captures the spirit of the times and its attitudes. It should be remembered that things were a little different in 1958. A time traveler from back then visiting the present might think he’d found himself in The Twilight Zone. He might even consider Tito’s Yugoslavia better in some ways than our present-day globohomo police state.
Aside from that, there’s a quirky fusion of actual 1978 elements as well. Things were a bit tacky back in the day; if you’re an old fogey like me, you’ll remember. For instance:
The redhead smirked and turned to the boys. “Speaking of food, we were about to serve breakfast. If you get to the mess hall quickly, you can enjoy your last meal before the reactor explodes. Bon appétit.”
Biff stripped off his shirt, revealing his chiseled torso, and gave her his best bedroom eyes. “I’d rather enjoy you, Fire-Crotch. Let us on board, and I’ll go down on that strawberry patch like a crop duster, ’till your toes curl right good. Then I’ll tune your engine like never before. After you been with me, you’ll see that every night’s good for making sweet love. I’ll ring your bell ’till you cain’t take it no more.”
The Battle Commander couldn’t help giving the jock’s muscular frame one more glance, from the upper trapezius and deltoids, down to his eight-pack rectus abdominus. Then she trembled with indecision. A conflicted expression crossed her face, a mixture of pique, lust, and guilt. She whimpered, “You fiend!” Then the redhead slammed the door shut and ran for the ship preparing to depart, lest she be tempted again.
The jock sighed, after narrowly failing to corrupt the morals of someone who in ancient times would’ve been called one of the Nephilim, Annunaki, or lilitu-demons. “Welp, close, but no seegar! Too bad it was all so rushed, and came down to a long-shot field goal attempt in the fourth down. Dang-nabbit, if only I’d had the time to talk her up right proper…”
If that sounds just like a dreadfully cheesy 1970s movie, you get the picture. Austin Powers is a good send-up of the approximate era. An actual 1978 film which is both cheesy and outstanding is the classic comedy Foul Play. (Goldie Hawn for the win! It’s also an interesting glimpse of San Francisco before the tech boom kicked into high gear.) Interpreting some of the dialogue that way will help get the flavor across. As usual for the SVT series, I was shooting for a “so bad that it’s good” effect.
The political angle
There’s also much social and political commentary, delivered with laser-guided irony. That includes more than a few shots at leftist dogma, globalism, plutocracy, and all that. This, including some other elements, gets remarkably politically incorrect. Normally I tone it down a bit with my SVT books, but here I’m letting it all hang out.
I mention this so that readers know what they’re getting themselves into. For example, if you consider the Alt Right to be a bunch of scary extremists, you might not like it. If you believe that Hillary Clinton is the reincarnation of Joan of Arc, this will give you a case of the vapors. If you use the phrase “Check your privilege!” in your daily vocabulary, this will cause spontaneous self-combustion. However, if you’re not too ideological (or can take a joke), then you’ll probably get into it. If you dig cats like Mosley, Pound, Codreanu, Céline, Evola, and Raspail, and you like off-the-wall humor too, then it’s definitely for you.
Now I’ve really done it! I’ll probably get a fatwa over my ROK article about how globalists might contain radical Islam by ruining the Arab world with cultural Marxism. Indeed, I might get my head cut off on TV by Muslim fruit loops for the cover image, which made the Ka’aba – their most sacred shrine – look like a big gay bar. (Islamists just can’t take a joke.) However, if I don’t get whacked first by exemplars of the “religion of peace”, I’m sure to get on some other hit lists over SVT17. If anyone wants to rub me out, I’ll give you the perfect opportunity. I’ll be selling autographed copies all day in front of the Pleasantville, Nebraska public library on November 31. See you at the book depository!
Despite the biting satire, this one provides more nuance than before. Now, some of the aliens are well-developed characters. In my previous SVT titles, they’re just evil because they’re evil, even sometimes pointing it out nonchalantly. SVT17 provides a closer look at one of these sneaky spacefaring civilizations, including their quirks and motivations. Although they’re certainly up to no good, neither are they beyond redemption. If they can get with the program about cooperation and reciprocity, it would do wonders for their reputation and public relations.
You know you want it
For reasons stated earlier, this one is an Amazon exclusive, at least presently. That means that if you’re on their Kindle subscription, you can read this for free. Or, anyone can purchase the ebook. A paperback version available too.
Update: The Amazon Exclusive benefits didn’t work out quite like expected. Meanwhile, Smashwords has revamped their sales page. So I’ll give them a go, and you can get SVT17 there now too.