Update 1-28-17

54So it’s been a pretty chaotic and busy seven months for yours truly. And I haven’t had much time for updating this site and blog.

I’ve moved back to east Tennessee, away from the salt and eternal summer and soothing sounds of the Gulf.

I have been working, never fear. The process necessarily slowed down quite a bit this past fall, however, and I am not nearly as far along as I’d hoped with An Officer of the Fleet, the second volume of the Voidstrider Saga.

I am, however, about two-thirds of the way through and I anticipate picking up speed now that things are more settled. I’ve got about 140 pages finished, and I’m pretty happy with most of them.

The story picks up right where Revolt on Vesta left off, and – as with that first volume – events move quickly from there. This second installment delves a little deeper into the politics and history of colonial Mars, as well as exploring some more of the Belt. Plus, plenty of action. I think anybody who enjoyed Revolt on Vesta is going to love An Officer of the Fleet.

So … I hope to have the writing finished up in a few more weeks. From there, I’ll need to run the manuscript past a couple beta readers, give it a few run-throughs myself, and do some polishing. I hope to have the finished product ready by late spring/early summer.

New Novel

So, Johnson is working on his next project. It is currently in the planning and pre-writing stage, but I have a pretty solid idea of where it’s going.

First of all, I wanted to write something set in Florida. After living there for 3 years, I felt I had some things to say. You may know of Florida Man, the world’s crappiest super hero (villain?). Well, I can tell you, Florida is full of these drug and booze addled maniacs. Full. And they will feature heavily in the next novel.

I also wanted to dust off an older idea I had, something I called Insignificant Others. A sort of riff on, well, crappy love affairs. Cheating and falling out of love and all that fun misery. It wasn’t much of a story on its on, more just a bunch of character development and sadness. So I’m going to take some of the better parts of that and work it into the new novel.

Finally – I’ve done Hell and demons, zombies and mummies, and robots. I wanted to write an alien invasion story. You know, a classic one that starts out with necking teenagers who get startled by a meteorite and foolishly take it into town in the bed of the old beat up Ford pick-up, only to unleash some hellish alien nightmare on the peaceful townfolk. You know the one.

Giving it some thought, though, I decided to tweak that a little. Screw aliens from another world. I decided to re-read my Lovecraft. So you can expect some weird, eldritch gods to show up in this one.

It should be fun.

The People of Voidstrider

The Voidstrider Saga is a sweeping epic ranging from Earth and the Moon out to Mars, the Asteroid Belt, the moons of Saturn, and beyond. Numerous characters and personalities are swept up in the action.

These are some of the primary personae central to the story.

Aurora (Rora) Dane – daughter of the legendary test pilot Gerald Dane, who perished aboard the experimental FTL vessel Hyperion five years earlier, Rora is captain and owner of the sloop Eos. She operates the vessel with her partner, Martine Antoinette. They both possess a genetic modification which strengthens their muscles and bones, allowing them to withstand higher g-forces than baseline humans. The couple make ends meet doing cargo runs and taking on the occasional passenger. Rora has also been working for the Voidstrider Institute, covertly delivering supplies to an illicit research facility hidden beyond the orbit of Saturn.

Francis Drake – Drake was an investigative reporter for the feedsite Jagged Orbit. Unbeknownst to the publisher, Drake received tips from a mysterious hacker known only as “The Djinn.” The Djinn led Drake to several big scoops, but the last assignment went badly wrong and Drake ended up at Darkside, the private prison on the Lunar Far Side. Five years later, Drake is free and on the run. He finds his way to Titan Station, in the moons of Saturn, and decides to keep his head down and his throat wet. He is drinking away the last of his savings on Titan Station when our story begins.

Roger Jon Grey – harbormaster of Vesta Station, Grey is in his early fifties and has a suite of cybernetic body modifications. He got his first implants as a teenager. In addition to all the standard mods, he possesses an advanced neural lace that allows him to directly access local data networks with his mind. Of course, this also leaves his brain vulnerable to transmissions coming the other way…

Ekarerina (Katia) Miranova – Katia Miranova is the granddaughter of Miranov Interplanetary CEO Valentin Miranov; as the story opens, she is also the Executive Director of Vesta Station. She has served in that position since the death of her father. Katia is extremely proud of Vesta and regards it as her father’s legacy. She has lived on Vesta all her life, and has only the vaguest connection to Earth and the rest of her family. She is one of the wealthiest individuals in the solar system, and has used that wealth to protect herself. Katia possesses enhanced muscle fibers grown from chimpanzee stem cells, a skeletal system reinforced with tissue derived from a rhinoceros, and feline-derived ligaments. She is stronger, more durable, and more flexible than any baseline human. She has also recently decided to grow a bushy tail.

Shan Taishan – Shan Taishan is a scion of one of the Hundred Families, the ruling class of Mars. It was his destiny, as the elder child, to take his family’s seat in the governing council when he came of age. Instead, Shan left politics to his younger sister Meredith Taishan and joined the Martian Fleet instead. As the story opens, Shan is a lieutenant of the Fleet. He is assigned to the cruiser Belerophon and commands a small squad of elite troopers including Kemal Gomez and Wen.

Winter – Winter is a bounty hunter. Very little is known about him. He wears full vacuum armor at all times. He never removes the vac suit helmet, and seldom even takes off his gray-white cape. His only adornment is a stylized snowflake embossed on the breast of his armor. He is heavily armed and an apparently formidable warrior.

Catalina Hao-Quan Gandara – the civilian head of Martian Planetary Security (the domestic security agency, as opposed to Mars Central Inelligence), Gandara is also the longest serving member of the Ministry of the Hundred. She has been a minister for over 60 Martian years, and has grandchildren old enough to retire. Her political positions often straddle the aisle of Martian politics. She maintains the appearance of a kindly elder, but in fact is one of the most cunning and dangerous operators in the System!

Michaela “Mick” Cross – much like Katia Miranova, Mick Cross is fantastically wealthy. She inherited control of Cross Industries from her late father, Ezra Cross – who made a deal with the Angel. Mick is petty and vindictive, a spoiled brat who never grew up but who knows how to use power and leverage both for corporate success and personal gain.

Danior Petrakis – Petrakis is the commander-in-chief of United Earth’s combined Peacekeeper service – a service which has combined elements of traditional armies, navies, and marine corps. As C-in-C, he oversees the three main branches of the service. As a man of conscience, and aided by his staff members Cass Miklos and Ekisha “Kish” Prashad, Petrakis has been investigating signs of corruption and conspiracy in the United Earth Government for the past five years.

Col. Paul Johnson – commander of the Peacekeeper Marine detachment sent to Vesta. Like Petrakis, he is a man of conscience who finds that his duty may not always align with the orders of his superiors.

Emilia Grushytskaja – born on Luna, Grushytskaja worked for Cross Industries for years before she was recruited by the mysterious Djinn. Now, she uses her coding and hacking skills to combat the menace of the Angel.

Sadira – first name unknown. Sadira is known as a “fixer.” Currently living as a woman, she keeps to herself in her private yacht docked at the asteroid Eros. She is an associate of the Djinn. Sadira lives and works with her Companions, publicly a group of courtesan-like individuals whose time and company may be purchased for astronomical sums. Privately, Sadira’s Companions take assignments as an extralegal team of operatives in the vein of the IMF or A-Team.

Weaponry of the Voidstrider Universe

The Voidstdier Saga is a sweeping epic ranging from Earth and the Moon to Mars, the Asteroid Belt, the moons of Saturn and beyond.

A variety of offensive and defensive weapons are employed by the people of the Voidstrider universe. Most are based on real-world concepts and actual weapons. Below is a brief summary of some of the more prevalent.

ADS (Active Denial System) – the ADS is a non-lethal directed energy weapon based on a real-world concept. Informally called a heater, the ADS works by firing a high-powered beam of high-frequency microwaves at a target. The ADS works on a similar principle as a microwave oven, exciting the water and fat molecules in the skin, and instantly heating them via dielectric heating. The ADS’s repel effect in humans occurs at slightly higher than 44 °C, though first-degree burns occur at about 51 °C, and second-degree burns occur at about 58 °C.

Electrolaser – informally called a zapperzap-gunstunner, or stungun, and sometimes shortened to e-laser, the electrolaser is a directed energy electroshock weapon used primarily to incapacitate or render a target unconscious. It uses a laser beam to form an electrically conductive laser-induced plasma channel. A fraction of a second later, a powerful electric current is sent down this plasma channel and delivered to the target. Because a laser-induced plasma channel relies on ionization, gas must be present and the electrolaser cannot be used in a vacuum. The electrolaser’s effects on humans are similar to a Taser. It can be fatal. It can also be used to severely damage electronic equipment. If thunderstorms are present, the laser-induced plasma channel created by an electrolaser can cause serious accidents.

Flechette gun – needlegun, needler, razorgun; the flechette gun delivers extremely low recoil and extremely high muzzle velocity and rate-of-fire. It fires hardened carbon flechettes approximately one millimeter in length. Military-issue razorguns can fire about 600 of these tiny “needles” per second. Commercially available models have a drastically lower rate of fire and magazine capacity, and the weapon is extremely rare among civilians.

Pulse Plasma Cannon – the “pulser” is a heavy military weapon that fires toroidal “pulses” of superheated plasma. It works similarly to a modern-day plasma torch, but is able to project the plasma pulses at a target. Due to its unwieldy size and weight, the pulser is generally only deployed on combat drones and military vessels – very few unaugmented humans can handle the weapon.

Whiprazor – the whiprazor is a short baton – about the length of your hand – containing a coiled length of wire-thin silicon monofilament. The monofilament can be extended to a user-defined length between 2 centimeters and 2 meters. In its unpowered state, the filament is pliable and the weapon can be used like a whip – one capable of cutting through any organic material and even most metal alloys. When powered, a piezoelectric charge stiffens the filament to an inflexible, wire-thin blade. In this powered “sword mode,” the whiprazor is capable of cutting even the hardest materials, including hyperdiamond.


Languages of the Voidstrider Universe

The Voidstdier Saga is a sweeping epic ranging from Earth and the Moon to Mars, the Asteroid Belt, the moons of Saturn and beyond.

Billions of humans live and work on these scattered worlds and stations. They speak a variety of languages.

These are the key, primary tongues of The Voidstrider Saga.

Anglic – derived from American English, common on Earth and parts of the Belt. Would be largely recognizable by an American English speaker of the 21st century, although some words would be unfamiliar and pronunciations will have changed somewhat.

Lingwa – derived from Spanish and Portuguese with Chinese, Arabic, English, and German influence; the common tongue on Mars. A slight majority of the original Martian settlers came from South America, and brought their native dialects with them.

Guanhwa – sometimes called “high Martian,” the official Martian language; of government. Rarely actually spoken, though many Martians love using its profanity. Descended primarily from modern Chinese dialects, with a number of loaner words from the other languages of the Martian settlers. I have some further thoughts on Guanhwa here.

Interslavic  (Меджусловјански) – common in the Belt and parts of Earth, Interslavic is descended from a modern tongue of the same name.

Unish – a supposedly universal constructed language, Unish is most common in the outer Belt stations such as Pallas, Hermione, and Hygiea. It was designed for simplicity and short words. Its grammar is also simple. Unish is the language spoken by Nadezhda Khatami in Revolt on Vesta.  “Wat de want wid mi?” translates as “What do you want with me.” Slightly less obvious is “Was de nas-il wid dats,” which translates as “What are you going to do with those?”