What is the Independent Extra-Sensory Regulatory Organisation?
Perception is strength. ~IESRO doctrine
The Federated planets Alliance definition says that it’s ‘an organisation of allied species focussing on the training and control of certain categories of mentally divergent sentients’.
In actual fact, the Independent Extra-Sensory Regulatory Organisation, better known in humanoid space as the IESRO, is something more like a Star Chamber for entities gifted with mental Ability.
At the highest level, it’s controlled by the Satai, the most Ability-heavy species in civilised space. Because the Satai out-gun every other known species on a purely mental level, they can’t be lied to, and they can’t be evaded. This gives the IESRO the ability to absolutely guarantee the accuracy and ethics of anyone they register. The Satai took on this role voluntarily; in human terms, they have a species aversion to a lack of order, and they see abuse of mental Abilities as a disturbance in the energies of the universe.
On the opposite side of that, the IESRO is only concerned with Abilities powerful enough to merit their attention. While humanoid populations show an average 31% incidence of individuals with some discernible trace of Ability, one of the highest for any known species, only 0.8% of that demographic falls into a range to be eligible for IESRO registration. Compared to the Artan, where an average 8% of the population carry the genes for Ability but 28% of the entities showing Ability are eligible for registry, most humanoids don’t figure on the IESRO’s scan.
At the most basic level (and the only one the Satai are concerned with) an Ability is IESRO-level if they can interact with Abilities of the other species without having a stroke. The more official wording has it that ‘to be IESRO-eligible, an entity’s Abilities must be of a strength able to survive interaction with other species’. That’s the only criteria. As humans are fond of warning signs, the Federated Planets Alliance government has come up with an elaborate testing and ranking system to help humans with Ability determine how likely IESRO registration is to be fatal to them.
Practically speaking, the IESRO is also one of the highest legal authorities. An IESRO-registered and certified Ability’s reading of a public figure or an accused criminal is guaranteed to be accurate by the IESRO – because a registered Ability whose statement is disputed can be telepathically read at any time by a Satai. Oddly enough, very few public figures or accused criminals in humanoid space actually opt to have their minds read by and IESRO-registered humanoid.
Someone’s about to ask ‘quis custodiet‘, and the answer is that indeed, no-one aside from another Satai can guarantee the honesty of a Satai. However, while as a species they’re demonstrably capable of withholding information, several millennia of evidence indicates that when they do make a statement, it’s invariably been accurate.
While the field of comparative psychology struggles to fully understand and translate what makes other species react the way that they do, study indicates that for a Satai, the only known completely telepathic species, lying as humanoids know it may not be possible for them. While a Satai can understand and explain the concept of saying something that is not factually accurate, actually doing so themselves appears to beyond them on a hard-wired level.
The IESRO show up early on in Wildcat Cortia’s career. No-one’s entirely certain what their interest in the Cortia is, aside from its (very) uncharacteristic proportion of high-level Abilities, but out of the twenty-five riders originally in the unit, eight were IESRO-eligble, and most of them were registered, including Khyria herself.
Definitely, at all costs, avoid the planning. With this one simple tip, a writer can avoid months or even years of worry, save themselves from the dreaded note cascade whenever the cat crosses the desk, and, best of all, begin writing sooner.
As award-winning authors Claire Buss and J C Steel can attest, it is hard to over-emphasise the savings in time spent not writing your next masterpiece this one piece of advice can provide. Please note, when we say ‘don’t plan’, we do indeed mean no series arc, no tedious deciding in advance whether your protagonist should have a mole somewhere interesting, and most certainly no poring over a map trying to figure out why cities that famous people are born in exist at the top of mountain plateaux with no nearby water.
Complicated things like these tend to take care of themselves. You had no plan for book one and everything worked out just fine. Repeat this method when writing subsequent books and in no time at all you’ll have a multi-book series and maybe even a box set. Planning takes up valuable time when you could be inventing twenty new characters who bear no relation whatsoever to the main characters in your first book. It’s important to keep things fresh and interesting.
Planning is one of the secret tools of procrastination. Authors who swear by it are really admitting to being closet-procrastinators and they probably don’t even like cake.
How not to world-build
J C Steel maintains that it’s possible to learn everything you need to know about your characters and your world-building by climbing a mast, wedging yourself comfortably above the radar, and chatting with the voices in your head. Not only does it pass the time when the yacht isn’t going anywhere, but when you do this regularly, the character, the secondary characters, and the world they live in become so internalised that the entire setting and cast is ready for you when you reach deck level and reach for your pen (or keyboard, or magic wand, or inscription instrument of choice). Better yet, again, no notes required.
Health and safety tip: Of course, for the younger writer, it is important not to confess to anyone that you are, in fact, chatting with the voices in your head until you reach the local age of indiscretion. Otherwise adults (defined as those who have been doing it wrong longer) have a tendency to over-react.
There is no need to re-read your previous book(s) and re-familiarise yourself with the existing world you built. After all, you wrote it in the first place and you never forget salient details, ever. By continuing to have regular chats with your characters you will have an in-depth understanding of their personality and why they react to things the way they do. Seeing as you have all this information at your fingertips it will become obvious to the reader as well, this is down to secret osmosis of thought. That elusive yet unique connection authors have with their readers which allows them, the reader, to understand every nuance, every subtlety and every hidden meaning. That connection is so strong there is no need to describe buildings, cities, infrastructure or even what your characters look like. All those world-building aspects come under planning and as stated previously, there is no need to get bogged down by any of that.
How to not delay the writing bits
So how does one get from chatting with the voices in your head to successfully writing a series? You may well ask. We feel that the key ingredient for this harks back to our very first piece of advice – don’t plan – freeing up more time for actual writing. Bum on seat and fingers on writing implements is how the words are made to go. A pantser is, therefore, always at a near-infinite advantage. While the plotter is still working out whether using shell pink Post-It notes for the kinky scenes is too precious, the pantser has already powered through that all-important opening scene and is trying busily to get their characters to slow that duck down so they can write down the awesome one-liner someone yelled halfway through the last chase.
There is no need to worry about subsequent books making sense with regards to the entire series or indeed as stand-alone novels. Readers will, of course, read each book in the series in the correct order and will have already established their psychic link with your inner monologue and completely understand all the back story you’ve thought about and not yet written down. This means, again, the pantser wins at writing as they do not have to delay getting on with the actual writing.
Health and safety tip: We refer you to the great Oscar Wilde on the importance of making time for what is most important to you – “Work is the curse of the drinking classes.”
How not to get buried in the details
Detailed descriptions are so last century. Your enlightened reader just wants the juicy bits, never mind sixteen pages detailing the lavish surroundings your average planner has constructed. Which by the way, took them two weeks to thrash out while you, the pantser, released four novellas.
It’s absolutely true, the Devil’s in the details. In case no one has ever imparted to you the key to lying successfully (and what is fiction writing, if not the art of lying to better convey meaning?), it is Keep It Simple, Stupid – also known in professional circles as the KISS and tell principle. By avoiding the wall covered in sticky notes, and the ensuing panic whenever the air, the cat, the offspring, or the summoned entity moves through the room, we have also successfully avoided not one, but two story-killers; the smothering alive of the story pacing in irrelevant detail, and the trapping yourself in a plot web of such intricacy that the temptation to disprove the old adage that the pen is mightier than the sword is put to extreme test.
How not to listen to advice on how to write
Last but not least (by far not least) it is vitally important to ignore other people telling you how you should write. What works for them is highly unlikely to work for you, and as we’re looking at not just a flash fiction piece, a novella, or a single book, but the writing of an entire series…it is extremely important to settle on a method that works for you over weeks, months, years, and even more importantly, a method that doesn’t get in the way of your writing, but which facilitates it. So planners – plan to your little heart’s content and pantsers – blag it all the way!
The related ability to ignore people, no matter what the topic, is another that we highly recommend to aspiring series authors. In fact, it is a skill that will generally make your life better all around. Most great artists became famous long after they were dead, so it stands to reason if they’d listened to the people telling them how bad they were while they were alive, they would never have persevered until the very end.
Meet the authors
Claire Buss: ‘Books and cake.’
Claire Buss is a science fiction, fantasy and contemporary writer based in the UK. She wanted to be Lois Lane when she grew up but work experience at her local paper was eye-opening. Instead, Claire went on to work in a variety of admin roles for over a decade but never felt quite at home. An avid reader, baker and Pinterest addict Claire won second place in the Barking and Dagenham Pen to Print writing competition in 2015 setting her writing career in motion.
You can follow her on Twitter and visit her website for more information about Claire and her writing.
J C Steel: ‘Knives, spaceships, and dirty fighting – who says a mercenary cult can’t be fun?’
Born in Gibraltar and raised on a yacht around the coasts of the Atlantic, I’m a writer, martial artist and introvert. In between the necessary making of money to allow the writing of more books, I can usually be found stowing away on a spaceship, halfway to the further galaxy.
There have been books where I had to agonise over the title, and ask for help, and toss coins, and read the cards…Through theHostage wasn’t one of them.
The title was inspired by an old, old Keanu Reeves film, ‘Speed’, where Keanu is working as an American police officer. Near the beginning of the film, his partner’s being held up by the bad guy with a gun to his head, and the partner keeps on mouthing ‘Shoot the hostage!’. In the end, Keanu’s character does just that, and much drama and manly distress ensues.
The concept seemed very appropriate for the first book in the Cortii series. Jack Connagh is the human hostage, held on a Cortiian Base, his only real protection the fact that an alien species has some very powerful leverage over the Councils of the magaii, and those aliens want him alive.
However, given that the magaii are violently allergic to being blackmailed, and that Jack is in the keeping of Khyria’s trainee unit, whose chances of surviving to full Cortia rank get slimmer every day, the chances that someone’s going to shoot him are pretty high. ‘Through the hostage’ seemed uniquely appropriate.
Reliable rumour, however, indicates that there’s at least a few hareni on most Bases.
There have been hareni at least as long as there have been Cortii, maybe even longer. The word ‘harena’, in modern Cortiian, has some nasty connotations built in, but historically the meaning was very similar to ‘berserker’, and was used to refer to the best fighters, the ones that threw themselves into the front line of a fight.
Like any unofficial group on a Cortiian Base, they’re extremely secretive. Membership is invitation-only, and the only qualification for staying a harena is ability to stay alive. The hareni allow any training level to join, which makes it a risky gamble for junior deriani. Those that do survive, through luck or fighting ability, have the advantage of training with some of the best fighters on a Base at any rank, and exposure to a diverse range of fighting styles and techniques.
While the hareni are primarily infamous as a fighting group, and the majority seem to have a strong focus on fight skills, they’re also the Cortiian equivalent of gremlins, frequently blamed (or praised) for the more unexplainable casualties.
Although time in the haren can be considered worth the risks, there’s also the point that discovery is a guarantee of a slow and messy death at the hands of the akrushkari. The Councils of the magaii do not tolerate disobedience. The hareni are also, by best accounts, a set of violent mavericks and thrill-seekers. Some of their reputation, according to solid Base rumour, is absolutely honestly come by.
On Corina Base, because Khyria got sucked into the hareni before even achieving full rank, there are several hareni whose names show up regularly: Khyria, of course, but also Ashan Maklin, Evor Leistor, and later on, Tayin Vern. They make up an over-powered set of powerful allies and enemies, or occasionally heavily-armed neutrals, depending largely on context and the mathematics of personal profit and loss.
The akrushkari come up a lot in the books based on the Cortiian Base. They’re the Councils’ enforcers, bodyguards, and most of the rank and file of the Cortii know almost nothing about them beyond their function. Think of them as military police with a tendency to shoot first and ask questions never.
The word comes from old Cortiian, based on krushkar, or slave – one without free will. You’ll see the ‘a’ prefix in a lot of Cortiian words as well, like ‘asra’, ‘as’sri’atan’si’ – it’s a submission prefix, an acquiescence.
So essentially ‘akrushkar’ means a slave obedient to orders. In this case, slaves to the Councils that command the Cortii, who make a lot of despots look like underachievers. Because an akrushkar acts under the direct orders of the Councils, or, under a very limited set of circumstances, a Cortiora, they’re essentially untouchable – raising a hand to an akrushkar is defying the Councils, and the fact that their personal bodyguards are called slaves should give you an idea of the Councils’ views on disobedience.
To understand the akrushkari a little better, let’s take a side-trip and examine the Councils for moment. Two levels to this structure: Inner Council, all five of them, and Outer Council, traditionally twenty-five. Outer Council numbers, unlike Inner, can vary, although it’s rare.
If you’re on the ball, you’ll already have realised that new Council members, or magaii, must come from somewhere. The Councils recruit from the top units on their Bases; Cortii who’ve reached Blue rank or higher, and the Councils are only open, by invitation, to Cortiorai.
So if a Cortiora accepts a place on the Outer Council, what happens to their command? There are a lot of rumours on Cortiian Bases, but the information isn’t common knowledge, and new appointments to Council happen so rarely that most Cortiians simply don’t know.
However, the answer is simple and very practical: the Councils can’t risk having high-calibre mercenaries roaming around loose with a powerful link to a single magai. Some are offered the honour of a place among the akrushkari, and undergo intense telepathic conditioning as well as memory blocks. Others end up as fodder for the Councils’ experimental labs. A very few of the really lucky ones are assigned as solo agents somewhere that their Base needs long-term eyes. Some wind up as Instructors, also after having their memories edited. It ensures that no magai has ties to a serving unit, and that no Cortiian likely to ever spend time on Base again has any potential hold on a magai. What happens to the Cortiora who accepts a place on Council, of course, is something only known to the Councils.
No one has ever successfully infiltrated the Councils.