Author: Troy Williams
Troy Williams is a technology and science fiction nerd. The Fundamentals, was his first work of science fiction and there are many more stories in The Fundamental’s Universe. At his day job, he is a web and application developer experienced at coding and managing projects as small as an individual’s website to large enterprise integrations.
I come to this review in a crisis. While chasing my dream of writing science fiction, I forgot my age. Stephen R. Donaldson's Chronicles of Thomas Covenant lit my desire to write. I found Lord Foul's Bane in the school library, a paperback fantasy on a shelf full of dusty, hard-covered tombs. Lord Foul's Bane entered my world at another crisis point; high school. The story of a man rejected by his world was the life of every thin high school nerd in the early eighties.
I devoured The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. Donaldson's writing was a revelation. He ignored that tired advice of the simple word is better. Lord Foul's Bane forced me to read with a dictionary nearby. I loved it. With every beat of a sentence I thought to myself, I want to write like this.
I tried, but divorce and households emptied of joy marred my transition from childhood to independence. A journey made more difficult by parents that were unable or unwilling to help. American culture is fertile ground for such stories. My story spans thirty years before I sat down to finish my fist science fiction novel.
Spiders and ants and human beings, Oh My! Adrian Tchaikovsky massive work of science fiction won the 2016 Arthur C. Clarke award for Best Novel. An award it deserved. This book is an important work for science fiction fans missing the fanciful, yet probable, speculation Arthur C. Clarke made famous. Children of Time both accepts the hard science of space travel and challenges your understanding of intelligence and awareness.
Reviews of Children of Time put it in the hard SF genre. I am not a fan of hard SF. I find it boring. The endless speculation of characters turns into pages of exposition to support the fanciful ideas of the author. Clouded story arcs vanish beneath the weight.
Here is another book I would have skimmed over or missed because the story is told with first-person narration. Lucky for me, Audible was giving it away as part of their Twentieth Anniversary Celebration.
By lucky, I mean lucky-ish. By the end of the fourth or fifth chapter I knew how the story would end. It might have gone differently, I might have been kept in suspense, but once again a good author hoisted her story on its petard with the first-person narrative style.
I know, I bitch about this all the time. I promise, when I write a review about The Handmaid's Tale, or Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, I will praise their expert use of the first-person, until then we have tropes, cliché’s, and The Good Girl.
The first week of January, 2018 I sat down to write a short story about Ryan Jameson, the reporter from The Fundamentals. It quickly grew into a larger project than I expected. The result is Special Correspondents Lottery, a novella length tale of how Ryan Jameson found his way to the Santa Maria and in the center of the biggest event in human history. I have published it in five parts in the Short Story section of this website. Enjoy.
I was digging through old notes, making a list of things to do, when I found an early rant about my martial art practice. With mass shootings a monthly occurrence, and Russian troll farms influencing American thought, it is time to revisit my steadfast belief in non-violence and skepticism.
Before the last century internal martial art–or neijia–masters taught their students orally. Students who practiced hard and served the master well passed the art to the next generation. At the start of the last century, some masters published books about taijiquan, baguazhang, and xingyiquan. Publishing this knowledge was expensive, so only a few tried. Those that succeeded grew their schools, and their lineage survives to this day.
When he found his dead parents, he had wished that he had been there earlier. He wished that he would have skipped school that day, would have come home earlier, not spent that extra five minutes flirting with the girls in homeroom. Ever since that day, he felt like he was just missing out, just a minute late, just a second too slow to make a difference.
Now he wished that he had missed it all. He folded the plastic bag between his fingers, so it formed a rigid edge, then used the bag to gather the red and white space dust into a pile. Making the lines were part of the ritual. His face grew flush. He shouldn’t do this.
The Fundamentals Universe
Emily smacked her lips, fresh lipstick, an invitation to something that had to wait. Ryan groaned. They shouldn’t have done that, but at that moment he was glad they did. He thought that Emily would leave Kitty and she would come back to Austin. Now, he knew otherwise.
He snatched the bag of space dust from the pillow, opened it. Part of Rainbows charm was the fragrance, sweet, like candy. Emily smelled the same He poured the contents of the bag onto the nightstand. The red and white powder sparkled against the dark wood. It reminded him of the parking lot where they met Marcus.
Marcus's fire engine red minivan was two parking spaces away. He leaned against the van, brushing his horseshoe mustache. “Bomboncita,” he lifted Emily and spun her. She kissed his cheeks until he put her down.
“What is this?” Emily said, looking in the windows of the minivan.
The Fundamentals Universe
If he had missed that train, he wouldn’t have seen Kitty again, wouldn’t have hooked-up with Emily, wouldn’t have witnessed a man cut in two with a laser scalpel. If he had missed that train, he wouldn’t have been there to carry Emily away from the carnage at the lottery, and The Viking wouldn’t be trying to frame him for that carnage.
He should have missed the train, should have been excluded from the lottery because he was late to Earth Channel One’s tower. But once through the security line, a woman in a skintight white jumpsuit asked if he needed help finding his party.
“I am here for the Special Correspondents Lottery,” he said, showing her his ticket.
“They are boarding a train to the spaceport. If you hurry, you should catch it,” she said, pointing to the far end of the tower.
The Fundamentals Universe
The Terra Channel’s office was in Education Corporation’s downtown Austin campus. The campus had a short running trail looping its perimeter. Most mornings Ryan lapped the other joggers on the trail, his tall frame and long legs gave him the edge. At one in the morning the trail was empty. The space dust dealer worked the trail near the interchange. He turned off the running trail for a sidewalk that cut through the heart of the empty campus. Best to avoid temptation.
Not so easy when a bag of Rainbows is lying in front of you like a mint on a hotel’s pillow. The Viking knew he was a junkie. But how? He didn’t have a record. He limited his public profile to the work he did at TTC. But, here was a bag of Rainbows.
The Fundamentals Universe
What you can’t imagine is worse than the imagining. Ryan Jameson couldn’t have imagined the events of the past day, that they would lead him to this cabin in the New Mexico spaceport to face his demon. Yet here he was, staring at the red glittery substance that was his downfall, Rainbows, his favorite mix of space dust.
One line and he would unsee everything he had seen in the past four hours, two and he would forget the pain, three and he would be a junkie again. Being a junkie was easy. Running an affiliate of the Public News Network was hard. He liked easy.
The Fundamentals Universe
Including a glossary for a fantasy or science fiction epic is standard practice. Tucked away at the end of a book, they are useful references if you have set a book aside for a while and need to re-familiarize yourself with the language and culture of a story.
The first time I read the Lord of the Rings, it was a massive hard-bound copy I checked out from the Public Library. It included all three books, a biography of Tolkien and a glossary that rivaled the Silmarillion. I had a special bookmark for the glossary, and often lost myself tracing entries while assembling Middle Earth in my head.
Another epic that included a glossary at end of each book was The Wheel of Time. Here, though, the glossary tried to contain itself to the book at hand. Occasionally there was a term I was unfamiliar with, if it was not in the current book’s glossary, I would have to dig out an older book to find it, or read on, hoping the story would remind of the term's meaning.
Waiotea (way oh tea): The Song of the Universe. The language of the orhatea. Since the orhatea are adapted to a variety of atmospheres, including a vacuum, the waiote can be transmitted through a multitude of expressions. Including telepathy, vocalizations, and whole body signing. The preferred method is telepathy with a combination of musical notes created by air sacks beneath their shells.
Uritane (your e tane): Male seed, sperm. A male orhatea’s sperm. Female orhatea need a supply of uritane to create aro. Inside a female it has an extremely long shelf life, hundreds of years. It is extremely caustic to anything outside of an orhatea body.
Tuanga (two ang ga): Vault of Generations. Holds the accumulated Seeds of all the Amah’s in orhatea history. It’s location is unknown to anyone but the Amah.
Tomo (toe mow): Infiltrator, female. Female orhatea (not reserved for the expansion of the Colony) are adept at creating clones of lesser species to undermine, or manipulate intelligent species until they are willing to accept the orhatea as their rulers.
To create a clone, a Tomo implants genetic material into one of her eggs and places the egg in a tank of arotea. With careful attending, the Tomo can create a clone of any species. A combination of aro and arotea grows the clone at an accelerated pace. Once created, the Tomo controls the clone through a telepathic link. With some planning, memory, and personality of one clone can be transferred to a new body.
Tira (tie rha): Leader. The elite caste of orhatea Tomo.
Tautau (tow tow): An unpledged male. A Tamo whose Tomo has died. He is considered unworthy to live, but is not killed or fed to the Arotea Ting, rather he is abandoned by the Colony and left to starve to death.
Tangpoi (tang poy): The marriage fight. A battle between a group of Tamo for the privilege of being the Earah. Tira caste Tamo sometimes hold Tangpoi as an illicit sport, the winner traded between the Tomo that held the event before he his shell is stripped and he is left to die.
Tangoha (tang oh ha): Regeneration of the male through the female, or regeneration of the female through the male. A mating ceremony between the Amah and Earah. The sex act is combined with a joining of minds in the Seed.
Tamo (ta mow): Warrior. All male orhatea are some version of Tamo. Their level and importance to the Colony is decided through combat. Tamo have limited telepathic abilities that are enhanced when they pledge themselves to a female. Unlike females, however, they can manipulate computer systems with their thoughts. In addition, they can turn their shells into weapons, generating a current that acts a shield, and makes the Tamo impossible to touch.
Space and Multiple Atmosphere Craft (SMAC): A vehicle capable of operating in a variety of atmosphere’s or none at all. The ships have powerful engines capable of rocketing the craft into space, or they can climb atmosphere layers with alternative engines. When descending, they use a combination of powered and gliding techniques to eliminate stress on the passengers.
Developed for exploring new worlds, the SMAC’s have a sophisticated AI paired with a variety of drones. When parked the ship’s can double their living space with a canvas, or framed structure. A built-in medical system can diagnose and treat wide variety injuries.
According to the Book of Engaro, there is a crystal capable of holding the psychic essence of a male and female orhatea. Once joined in the Seed the two are—in effect—immortal. As long as one is able to create a body for the other, they can transfer a retained essence to that body.
In practice, the Seed is a crystalized storage unit. Grown in the shell of the Amah it records the life experiences—engrams—of the Amah and her male. Once stored these engrams are available for instant retrieval. This allows the pledged pair to study a wide range of subjects without having to retain that knowledge through traditional mnemonic devices.
The Seed is brought into physical form by the Amah during the Tangoha. This joining allows the Amah and Earah to act as one and manifest each other’s powers.
Orhatea (Or ah tea): Fundamental Being of the Universe.
Humanoid in appearance, orhatea range in size from 122 cm(4’) or less for sexless drones to as tall as 244 cm (8’) for the Amah. They have a hardened exoskeleton instead of skin and bones, but otherwise appear humanoid. Aside from their exoskeleton, their most distinguishing feature is the oblong length of their head, and eyes that glow blue in the sexed orhatea and white in the sexless drones.
Their hard exoskeleton and ability to retain water and air in bladders along the length of it, allow for the orhatea to survive in any atmosphere that is not caustic to their shells. They equally at home in the vacuum of space as they are on a planet’s surface or beneath its oceans.
The orhatea look down on any species that cannot survive in space, or has not developed interstellar travel.
Orhatea social structure is divided into two broad categories; the sexed and the sexless. The sexless are gray and stand less than 122 cm (4’) in height. The sexed are divided into the black shelled female and the white shelled male that are between 122 cm (4’) and 155 cm (5’) in height. There are stories of sexless drones migrating between the male and female sexes, their shells changing colors as they do.
All orhatea share an empathy with others in their colony. This connection allows for a weak communication between drones, warning of danger, or indicating location.
Sexed orhatea have a telepathic connection to all sexless drones. Bonded male and female pairs have a stronger telepathic link that enables two-way communication.
Orhatea speak their own language that is a combination of physical and mental ques combined with vocalizations made with air sacks under their shells. The language is not effective without an empathetic or telepathic connection and cannot be spoken by other species.
Unsexed orhatea can live a century, the sexed extend that to three centuries, with the Amah an Earah living up to one-thousand years before meeting the Angatam.
Orahi (or ah he): Living something, usually fire. A term the orhatea use to describe an array of “living” weapons. The most common of which is a fire based weapon that can be tuned to destroy one substance, while leaving the surrounding area relatively unharmed.