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Character interview: Khyria Ilan

Character interview: Khyria Ilan

Character interview with Khyria Ilan

Remote location on the Canadian West coast, with a Thermos of fortified hot chocolate.

J C Steel: I heard you took an assignment with Irin. Since it was in the news – what was Central Worlds like?

Khyria Ilan: Crawling in security. And high-tech marketing. I’m still debugging my systems of adware.

JCS: What do you expect the fallout to be?

KI: For Irin? He wants it all to go away. He’s refreshingly uninterested in anything that doesn’t have four feet and a tail. He’s been named heir to one of the most influential families in Central Worlds, and the clause he insisted on was making it temporary until another heir could be found. For Wildcat? Officially, nothing. Unofficially…I fully expect to hear from Irin’s father, in some shape or form.

JCS: What was you impression of Irin’s father?

KI: Intelligent.

JCS: And?

KI: You are aware that I was there on assignment, not a holiday.

JCS: Your personal impressions of a man are that highly classified? The Councils must have a high opinion of your intuition.

KI: [laughs] I remember when that line worked better on you. Fine. Intelligent, nasty, and rich.

JCS: Khyria.

KI: If Irin didn’t have – what’s the phrase? Daddy issues? – it’s possible he might find his biological father less odious. Or not. My personal impression of Irian do Maseka do Harek, since you ask, is that he and Irin aren’t so very different on some levels. However, unlike Irin, do Harek’s been running a business empire out of Central Worlds all of his life. There are lines that Irin has never contemplated crossing that do Harek has had to compromise on.

JCS: I see. Did you ever find out how Cahan of the Golden Valleys managed to make getting you to Central Worlds the problem of do Harek? Or even how he got an audience with the man?

KI: No. On the other hand, the link between Irin Seviki and Wildcat Cortia is publicly documented: that ill-considered rebellion Irin’s planet staged was covered by every major newscast. Once you assume that the initial step of Cahan gaining access to do Harek was feasible, as it demonstrably was, the rest was a simple matter of playing the odds.

JCS: Things you call simple keep my costs for headache medication high. It must have been…odd, to see Cahan and Irin in the same room.

KI: Was that a question?

JCS: An invitation. If you don’t want to discuss Cahan, how about Warron?

KI: Competent. Intelligent enough, on Central Worlds, to focus on understanding what the security measures and the threats were, rather than freezing at the amount of the unknown. Cahan made a sensible decision  when he put him in as guard commander. He’s tough and adaptable.

JCS: High praise, from a Cortiian for a human.

KI: You’re fond of the saying that the exception proves the rule.

JCS: [grins] Ouch. Do you think Cahan’s planet is going to get its entry into the Federated Planets?

KI: That would be the positive outcome for them and for the FPA. Taking a planet back to bare earth and re-populating is expensive, not to mention hard to keep quiet. Cahan’s appearance on Central Worlds indicates that the likelihood is high.

JCS: That happen often?

KI: The eradication approach? Not that the Cortii is aware of. Perhaps twice in the last millennium.

JCS: What do you think about their entry into the FPA?

KI: I recommended it.

JCS: I know that. I didn’t ask you what you thought the most practical containment solution was.

KI: I’d sleep better if the FPA were to erase life on that planet, my personal respect for some of its population not withstanding. As it’s not likely to happen…I’ve done what I currently can.

JCS: Last question: do you think Irin’s going to hear from his father more often?

KI: Yes. Irian do Harek didn’t strike me as someone who lets go of anything useful easily.

W H Mitchell, Galaxy of Authors

W H Mitchell, Galaxy of Authors

W. H. Mitchell

‘Explore the stories of W. H. Mitchell’s dark, dry humor.’

Buy the books!

In the beginning…tell me what made you decide to start writing?

I drew a lot as a kid, even making long picture stories with plots and different characters. Once I started writing, I began doing that a lot more than drawing, and things just grew from there.

Are there any authors or artists who influence(d) you?

I read fantasy when I was younger, including the works of Lloyd Alexander (The Black Cauldron). Although I watched a lot of sci-fi (Star Wars and Star Trek), I didn’t really read much of it until I was much older (Douglas Adams among others). Shakespeare, especially his use of tragedy and comedy, was also a big influence on me.

Tell me about your book / series.

The Imperium is in turmoil! Seven centuries after the sleeper ships brought us to Andromeda, our human empire is plagued by war, intrigue, and a mysterious secret that may tear it apart!

The Imperium Chronicles follows the citizens (human, alien, and robots) that live in the Imperium. From the highest nobles of the aristocracy to the lowest dredges of the Underclass, we learn the stories of their lives.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

I’m currently working on a novel called the Robots of Andromeda, the third book in the Imperium Chronicles series. I self-publish so I really don’t work on anything that I don’t intend to publish myself.

What’s your opinion on the practice of ‘banning’ books?

I think you’d be hard pressed to find many writers who are in favor of banning books. I’m a very strong believer in freedom of speech, regardless of whether people like what’s being said. I remember getting a little too zealous with a fellow high school student who had issues with all the sex in A Brave New World. I guess the idea of stopping people from reading or even having access to stories is something that triggers me on an emotional and intellectual level.

Tell me about a principal character in your book(s). What makes them memorable?

I have many characters, probably more than I should if my reviewers are right. One of my favorites is Magnus Black, an assassin who appears in my first two books. He’s kind of the personification of Death; outside of our definitions of good or evil. He’s very much how I view the universe in an existential nihilist sort of way. 

Indie, or traditionally published – and why?

I’m 100% indie. I didn’t want to wait for an agent and then a publisher to deem my works acceptable or not. This allows me to tell the stories the way I want. On the other hand, indie authors are viewed differently than traditionally published writers so getting recognition is an even greater, uphill battle. 

It’s said that to write well, you need to read a lot. What do you think?

Well, I could tell stories before I could read, so there’s some innate narrative skills that we are born with. However, I think reading is a great way to learn the craft. My only issue would be if you started imitating someone else’s writing. It’s important to have your own voice, even if that means writing more and reading less.

Tell me what you feel the worst, and the best, aspects of being an author are, and why.

For me, the act of imagining and having a finished product brings me the most happiness. The process of writing itself, however, is like torture much of the time. I often have terrible trouble writing, partly due to my dyslexia and attention deficit, but sitting on the toilet and having the solution for a plot pop into my head is a lot of fun.

Are you a plotter, or a pantser? What do you think of the opposite approach?

I’m both. I have a very loose plot structure in mind without necessarily knowing how it’s going to end. While I’m writing scenes, ideas present themselves naturally, and I try to use those in the rest of the writing.  I call it emergent writing/narrative because it comes into existence without planning it.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

Yes, I’ve hidden references to things, especially from my favorite show Futurama. Sometimes I just put it in for my own amusement, knowing that no one else will notice or even give a damn if they did.

Tell me about one favourite hobby or pastime that isn’t writing or reading.

I play video games, either strategy or first-person shooters. I used to play MMORPGs but I’ve been playing mostly solo games the last few years.

What are you writing at the moment?

I’m working on the third book of the on-going Imperium Chronicles series. It’s been much more difficult than the first two novels, partly because I didn’t have existing short stories or ideas to draw on. Most of what you’ll see in the book is brand new.

What’s your opinion on the belief that indie books are badly edited and lower quality than traditionally published?

Well, editors and especially good editors cost money. Most indie authors, myself included, lack the money to pay the prices necessary for the really best editors out there. With that in mind, it’s entirely possible an indie book is going to have more errors than one published by a large publishing house (who can afford the editors they have on staff). My question would be: is bad punctuation or typos more important than the narrative? It’s really up to the reader to decide.

What is your favourite genre to write, and why?

I write mostly science fiction, although I purposely include fantasy tropes into what I write. I have space elves and space dwarves / orcs, and I have starships called the Gorgon and the Sorcerer. I even have an evil mega-corporation called Warlock Industries.  I’m attracted to sci-fi, but I read tons of fantasy when I was younger. I guess I just enjoy mixing them up.

If you could, would you live in the world you’ve created? Why / why not?

Absolutely. I love fictional robots and to live in a world where I could interact with them daily would bring me great joy (compared to interacting with humans that is).

If you could go back to the start of your writing career, what is the one piece of advice you’d give yourself?

I probably would have suggested writing books sooner. It takes a long time to build up an audience and, at my age, I might be dead by the time I reach that goal.

Do you listen to music when you write, and if so, what do you like?

I listen to music to help drown out other sounds. However, I can only listen to music without words because that distracts me too. I ended up listening to Bebop Jazz because of the energy and lack of singing.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

I lived half my life thinking I couldn’t write a novel and now I’ve written two in only a couple of years. No one is more surprised by that than me!

Tell me three unique things about you.

I have a dark sense of humor/worldview, but I also love cute things like Hello Kitty!

When I started college, I was a Physics major before switching to English.

In the 90s, I co-founded a poetry magazine called The Wolf Head Quarterly (now defunct).

W. H., thank you for participating in Galaxy of Authors!

Types of spaceship in the Cortii

Types of spaceship in the Cortii

So what types of spaceship are there in the Cortii?

Actually, there are quite a few types of spaceship maintained by a Base. While the Cortii are primarily infiltration and shock troops, most Bases maintain a sizeable fleet, for defence and to service their contracts.

Canta Class

The most common type is the Canta class. As their hull title suggests, they’re rated for five occupants and carry deepspace drives as well as in-system and atmosphere options. They’re heavily armed by humanoid standards for their size, and it shows in the living spaces: there’s a pilot’s cabin with space for a pilot and a co-pilot, five bunks, and a med-bay that’s essentially a sixth bunk with a lot of med-tech built in. Aside from that, at the further end of the bunk corridor, there’s a cross-section that leads to the sanitary unit (be flexible) on one side and the airlock on the other. On the aft wall, there’s a pair of holosuits for training and entertainment. Because the Canta class is rated for atmosphere, it’s a fairly basic delta-shape.

Fighter class

After the Canta class, there are two single-occupant hulls that serve very different purposes. One, the smallest of the Cortiian fleet, is really a cockpit on a whole lot of armament and a massive in-system drive. This is the fastest of the Cortiian ships, and because of its size, unless its drives are running full-bore, it doesn’t show up very well on most types of scanner even if it is being actively hunted. It is not deep-space capable, although it is just about atmosphere-capable. They can’t take a lot of damage, but because they’re almost impossible to pinpoint on weapons targeting and can out-accelerate most tracking estimates, it takes a lucky shot to damage one.

Scout class

The other single-occupancy hull type in the Cortii is known as a scout, and it does exactly what it says on the packet. It’s based on the same hull as the fighter, but with about a quarter of the armament and a deepspace drive and a lot of stealth tech instead. It also offers an extended cockpit that allows for a bunk unit and very basic sanitation behind the pilot and surveillance area. Because there’s a whole lot of active and passive jamming systems bolted onto a hull that’s close to impossible to catch on a scanner in the first place, these are the ship of choice when a Base needs eyes on something and doesn’t want anyone else to know about it. They have basic armament, but the main idea with this ship class is not to get caught in the first place.

Cortia class

These are the Cortiian equivalent of a battle platform, at about a quarter the size of the FPA equivalent. As the name suggests, they’re intended for a Cortia-unit, but can be handled short-term by as little as a single Canta. They are only borderline atmosphere-capable (as in, you’ll probably survive re-entry with a good pilot, but getting off again might be dicey), and can be configured differently for different missions. They’re designed to operate independently for extended periods of time, and can carry twenty fighters in their bays if need be. Because they’re capable of taking out anything up to and including a planet, they tend to induce anything from extreme respect to outright panic.

Short-haulers

There are some, but they’re the Cortiian-manufactured equivalent of load-haulers anywhere, and are mostly drives. If they’re going anywhere where they might conceivably run into danger, they’re escorted. The Cortii use an instantaneous transport system under treaty from the species that invented it, unlike most of humanoid space, so unless there’s some actual reason to send items via a shorthauler, by and large they’re sent through that system.

Accidents, unfriendly fire, and escape pods

….Cortiian ships do have them. All except for the fighter class, which simply doesn’t have space aboard and which requires a spacesuit to pilot, the bunks serve as the escape pods. They’re built as self-contained cryo units, and if jettisoned, will seal and put their occupant into deep-sleep. There’s enough of a drive to get them away from an exploding hull, and enough of a sensor array to look for breathable atmosphere. However, as they only broadcast to Cortiian receivers, and tend to explode if tampered with, getting picked up in one relies on a Cortiian ship being the in right place with its scanners turned up to full gain.

Why sci-fi?

Why sci-fi?

Why sci-fi?

I saw this in a post somewhere online today, and it made me blink.

It was quite literally a question I’d never asked myself – and as I’ve been writing at this point for about twenty years, you may well be asking yourself if I’m quite right in the head. (Good question, but let’s not go into that one here.)

I’m kind of feeling that it’s a positive thing that I never even stopped to ask why sci-fi, or even if sci-fi, given that I’ve got four sci-fi novels published and several more struggling through the drafting and editing process. That, or possibly evidence of a blind spot the size of the Bermuda Triangle. …Actually, I’m sticking with positive.

So, really, why sci-fi? Honestly, it never occurred to me not to.

The stories I started out telling myself, aged about five or so, weren’t recognisably sci-fi, although several of the characters in the Cortii Universe figured in them. However, sometime around age nine or ten, I ran into Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series (like all the good books, my parents had inconsiderately stored them right at the top of the bookshelf, so when I say ‘ran into’ I mean I climbed a shelf and saw something new and interesting…). After that, my daydreams took a definite left into space and never came back.

If I really had to pin down a ‘why’, I suspect it has something to do with the chance to write a civilisation where there’s still space to explore, and where the people, the places, and the cultures are all for me to fill in on the map. Sci-fi is one of the best genres, in my completely biased opinion, to sit down and write ‘what if’.

Independent Extra-Sensory Regulatory Organisation

Independent Extra-Sensory Regulatory Organisation

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.

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