Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The last hope of making things right - Outcasts of the Worlds (Book 1) by Lucas Aubrey Paynter


Beyond the remnants of Earth lie many worlds, connected by pathways forgotten and invisible. They were left by the gods and have been found by Flynn.

A confidence man. A liar. A monster. Flynn has seen himself for what he really is and has resolved to pay for everything. Even if it means spending the rest of his days locked in Civilis, a tower prison for society's unwanted - "half-humans" gifted by the fallout of nuclear holocaust centuries past.

Jean, a prisoner in the neighboring cell, has different ideas and despite himself, Flynn finds himself joining her daring escape. After rescuing her friend Mack, the three flee Civilis as Flynn pieces together the hours before his capture and finds himself drawn to an abandoned facility where a rift to another world opens at his nearing.

Together they will venture farther beyond the stars than humanity ever imagined, find others like them that will never belong, and tangle with forces both ancient and immortal. They stand alone, hated and scorned - and the last hope of making things right in a cosmos gone terribly wrong.

SF Fantasy - Between SF and Fantasy 

If asked to boil down fantasy and science fiction both to their simplest terms, I’d describe fantasy as a space in which anything can happen, where science fiction would be closer to anything that potentially could happen. 

In concept, the two are diametrically opposed. Fantasy might have its own set of rules, but these are rules ultimately based in a lack of given reason. Science fiction thrives on reason and yet, simultaneously, reason need not always be given; that the possibility that humankind can encounter science fiction phenomenon is enough to justify its own existence. 

The beauty of bringing science fiction and fantasy together then is finding that sweet spot right in the middle, that place where improbable forces collide with those we can yet define and control, and playing them against one another. 

Yet in placing the two together, consider what it means in doing so. Science fiction for humanity represents an external force, something that exists outside of us and allows us tangible control over our destinies. Yet fantasy serves as the inversion, as the idea of nature redefined into something unknowable to us, simultaneously presenting the idea that it can be internalized. 

Balancing the two sides of science fiction and fantasy demands a degree of attention on how both are represented, as well as understanding the rules of the story that serve to separate one from the other. It in many ways becomes a numbers game, keeping both close enough to equal that the story does not unduly forget itself and become just one thing or just the other. 

Of course, there are many ways to go about this. Piers Anthony’s Apprentice Adept series focused on a pair of worlds defined so thoroughly by science fiction and fantasy that the devices of one world simply would not work in the other. The horror visual novel Umineko: When They Cry opens with a pastiche of witches and demons and the protagonist, over the subsequent chapters, attempts to explain the deeds of these fantasy creatures as something a human culprit might be capable of. 

Both above examples are cases where a divide is intended to exist between the fantastic and the achievable, where one is geographic and the other is a matter of perception. In both cases though, neither allow magic to fully co-exist with the man-made. For a more blended example, consider Hiromu Awakawa’s manga/anime Fullmetal Alchemist, which presents a world more than a century behind ours, yet has developed functional prosthetic limbs we’ve not yet realized in this day and age. The magic of the world, expressed in alchemy, exists as a scientific equation where almost anything can be created with the right materials, but is governed by an underlying force that has no deeper explanation. 

Of course, being defined as Sci-Fi/Fantasy does not mean a story cannot lean in one direction or another; in most cases, it’s most likely inevitable that one will pick a prominent side. And this is fine, as the point is not to balance the scales, but simply keep focus. Even in the case of my own work, if asked to define my story in one genre, I’d have to say fantasy, and this is considering that it starts in a ruined post-nuclear Earth! 

Genre-splicing is a growing concept as we’ve come to accept that a story can be more than one thing, yet science fiction and fantasy are the only genres I know which are categorized both as the same thing and two separate things depending on where you look for them.


A Crash Upon Sacred Spaces

Flynn touched down on steady ground, stumbling but keeping his footing this time. The others had arrived safely, but for the transition from the dark and concealed recess of a forgotten cavern, their destination could not have been starker. There was no sun. No stars. No moon, nor clouds in the sky. In a fashion, there was no sky. The world they had come upon had neither day nor night and as they turned to get their bearings, it was more apparent that wherever they had landed was not a world at all.

“Okay … the hell?” came Jean’s bewilderment.

“Where have we come to?” Chari followed. “I am uncertain if this is categorically normal.”

“Oh no, it is,” Mack assured. “It’s just you.”

Peering as far along the edge as he could, Flynn realized they were standing atop a massive disc of arranged stones, floating alone in an oblivion of purple and black auroras. Rising readily behind them and obscuring the full visible scope of all that lay ahead was a temple. Consuming the entire space of the discus and extending for miles, its spires loomed and its inward passages delved deep. Each stone had an inner glow as intense as a field of fireflies, and these were the only reason they weren’t stumbling hopelessly in absolute pitch.

“It doesn’t seem to rotate or orbit anything,” Flynn observed, crossing to the ledge and kneeling to look down. There was no visible end to the abyss. “It just … is.”

“Purple,” Mack commented, looking down. He looked up, “Purple,” and then ahead, “Purple,” and finally, at the ground, “Rock.”

“We’re in agreement on that then.” Flynn stood back up.

“I think this is some sort of holy place,” Chari observed.

“That some kinda priestess-y intuition?” Jean asked.

“No, just…” Chari glanced back at the edifice behind them.

“What else would you build a temple like this for?”

There were no answers. For a moment, they watched the expanse, trying to see if something waited in the distant beyond. It became increasingly clear, however, that they had come upon the sole beacon in a vast and vacant microcosm.

“I’d make it my house,” Mack finally decided. “Like, if there was a zombie invasion or something? This is where I’d hole up.”

“A what-be?” Chari asked.

“This place doesn’t seem very defensible,” Flynn observed, cracking his stiffening neck, feeling around with his sixth sense. “It’s perhaps bigger than the island we came from, but there are several routes in … and out.”

Following his meaning, Jean grinned. “Options, yeah?”

It wasn’t just the conduits. Something more tugged at Flynn, something altogether removed from the passages the others wished eagerly to explore. Faint though it was, it reminded him of Scytha, the Reaper he had met back on Sechal. Yet as reminiscent as the sensation was, it was also very different.

“I think there’s someone else here,” Flynn said, going ahead into the temple. Knowing they’d follow, he didn’t spare a glance back.

About the author:
Lucas Aubrey Paynter holds a Creative Writing degree from California State University Northridge—which looks really good when one talks about how they want to write for a living. A fan of engaging storytelling in any medium, he spent years developing the worlds, characters and conflicts that Flynn and his company encounter, before settling at his desk and writing Outcasts of the Worlds, the first part of a much larger tale to come.

Currently residing with his wife in Burbank, California, Lucas enjoys reading in a variety of formats, potentially overanalyzing character motivations and arcs, and the occasional good, stiff drink.

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