Monday, February 27, 2012

Prince of Mars is Live!

A Prince of Mars is live at last! Those of you who have pre-purchased the series should already have your downloads. The rest of you can pick it up from any of these online sites:

The Untreed Reads Store (
Barnes and Noble
Lightning Source

Here is the publisher's description:

Barely making it to Mars in their crippled aether cutter, Nathanial and Annabelle crash in the desolate Martian wastes. A disfigured Martian with a mysterious past helps them survive in the desert, but when they are rescued by a passing caravan their troubles may only have started.

Raids by steppe nomads and flying skrill riders are the most obvious dangers, but simmering resentment against Earth humans, and intricate plots to overthrow the British colony, lurk everywhere just beneath the surface.

Apparent friends become enemies, unexpected allies appear from unlikely sources, and the shadowy past of their Martian guardian collides with the sinister plans of the murderous head of the dreaded Martian Cult of the Worm...

And here is an excerpt to tease your interest:

Nathanial thirsted, but he did not trust his trembling hands to pick up the water cup without splashing half its contents on the sand. They were not short of water, of course. He simply was loathe to show weakness in front of Kak’hamish.

“You have pen and paper,” Kak’hamish said. “I will write out an explanation of your situation in Koline. All caravan masters speak Koline—it is a trade language, a pidgin of several tongues. If you are fortunate, the first caravan we see will be heading northwest, to Abak’hn. That is where you need to start. Then you must take a caravan or cloudship southwest to Siruahn, then another southwest to Thoth. Thoth is on the Grand Canal. From there you can obtain passage on a boat south to Shastapsh, where I hear there is a British garrison.”

“You will not accompany us any farther?”

“I have…other plans.”

Rubbish! The fellow had no plans other than to wander back into the desert to die. If Nathanial had been by himself it might have been different. He could take care of himself, steal food if he had to, barter for passage using the instruments and valuables he had brought off the cutter. But with Annabelle in the state she was in, he wasn’t sure how he would manage. Much as he hated to admit it, this scoundrel could help.

“You might at least tell me something of these cities we’re to pass through. Are they dangerous?”

Kak’hamish moved his jaw from side to side in thought. Clack-clack. “Dangerous? All cities are dangerous to one degree or another, aren’t they? People live in cities so…well, there you are.

“Abak’hn I suppose is particularly dangerous in that manner, although I have not been there for many years and it may have improved. Or deteriorated. It is cursed with a weak prince, Akhanoon III. He is absorbed by his own pleasures and content to let the city govern itself.”

“Some would say the hand of government lying lightly is a blessing,” Nathanial said.

“Yes, I have heard this as well but never from one who has actually experienced it first-hand, unless they were very rich. Without a patron or protector, you will be in considerable peril in Abak’hn. The strong take what they want and the town watch looks the other way, unless disorder threatens commerce or offends the sensibilities of the gentry—so there is sometimes danger in resisting the predators as well.”

“Sounds like a rum place,” Nathanial observed, and he admitted to a pang of anxiety. He was armed, it was true, but he had no confidence in his own abilities in a violent confrontation. True, he’d shot Le Boeuf, a cold and considered act for what Le Boeuf had done to Annabelle. But still, thinking back, it almost seemed as if another man had pulled the trigger, not him at all. He had hardly had cause to even raise his voice to someone before embarking on this disastrous tour of the worlds. Since then, often as not it had been Annabelle who had taken the lead, charted a plan of action. Poor Annabelle! Still half out of her head with fever. He wished she would recover quickly. He desperately needed her clear head, courage, and decisive nature.

The truth was he simply didn’t feel up to facing this by himself. If it came to that, could he kill a man? Well, yes. He had done it once and felt no regrets on that score. He could do it again, if necessary. But that was a devil he knew. What of the devils he knew not? Too many ill-understood dangers, and too many ambiguous situations requiring decisions on little or no reliable information, blocked the way forward. One had to trust one’s instincts, he supposed, and just forge ahead. But what if one had little faith in those instincts?

Kak’hamish was talking again and Nathanial shook those maudlin thoughts from his head.

“Siruahn is very different, of course. It once had a young prince like Akhanoon—stupid, vain, and convinced of his own indispensability. This was a conviction the people of Siruahn did not share. Twenty-some years ago they drove him out and turned the government over to a council elected from the different castes—merchants, tradesmen, farmers—even labourers, as I recall, although the wealthy are better represented than their numbers might warrant.”

“Really? It sounds a bit like a parliament,” Nathanial said. “How are they chosen, by election?”

Clack-clack. “I do not know exactly. Someone once told me, but it was very complicated and I have forgotten most of it. I understand they argue about the selection a great deal and make frequent changes, so it would be different now in any case. They argue about everything, I have heard. The poor argue with the rich, and are not even beaten for their insolence! It has become a very argumentative city.” Kak’hamish shook his head as if in disapproval, but Nathanial noticed he smiled as he did so. It was hard to tell a smile from a grimace on Kak’hamish unless you looked at his eyes. “This was a distressful business with Miss Annabelle’s wound,” Kak’hamish said. “It grows late and distress can bring fatigue. We should sleep, but also take turns watching. You still have your pistol?”

“Yes, it’s in my kit over there. Do you think we need it? I thought there were no large predators out here.”

“Not in the deadlands, but we no longer sleep in their sandy embrace. There is much to sustain a predator in the gardenways—now including us. Some of the larger animals have developed a taste for stragglers from caravans. They may like the taste of Earth people less than my own folk, but by the time they discover that it will do you no good.”

Nathanial tried not to look as if he was hurrying as he walked to the travois to get his derringer. That box of extra cartridges wouldn’t hurt either, come to think of it. Sometimes animals ran in packs, after all.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Ship Design Worksheet From Savage Troll

The Savage troll has a free download available -- an Excel ship design spreadsheet for Space: 1889 cloudships, gunboats, and aether ships for the Savage Worlds/Red Sands rule system. Here's the link.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Book Cover For "A Prince of Mars"

Here is the final book cover for A Prince of Mars. I think it may be the best of the covers so far in the Space 1889 And Beyond series. The book should be live very shortly -- hopefully in a day or so. I have a nearly overpowerful urge to write more about the book right now, but I am resisting that urge. The book needs to speak for itself, and soon enough it will.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Space 1889 Miniatures Blog

I've added the link for the Shastapsh Chronicles, a Space 1889 miniature wargaming blog. Kevin, the site owner, only does a half dozen or so blog entries a year, but they are mostly reports on Space 1889 miniatures games or articles on painting and building Victorian game miniatures with lots of photos (including the cool Steam Elephant shown above). If you love toy soldiers (and who doesn't?) it's worth a visit and a read through his archives.

Interview at the Traveler Steampunk Blog

As A Prince of Mars will be released any day now, the Traveller Steampunk Blog just released an interview I did a little while ago. It touches on a lot of stuff, but almost all of it is related to Space: 1889. Here's the link.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Some New Toys for Mars Needs Steam

I mentioned we ran Mars Needs Steam! at Winter War in Champaign last month. No pictures from the game, I'm afraid. But I've been finishing up work on some models for the games we'll be running this spring at Cold Wars in March and Little Wars in April. While I was doing it, it struck me that it is highly appropriate to do all these one-off conversions and models for a steampunk game. The thread which runs through most current steampunk fandom is a do-it-yourself craft approach to costumes and gadgets. Why not for gaming models as well? Certainly one of the appeals of Victorian Science Fiction gamining is the idea of strange, exotic contraptions. To the extent the players or game masters can customize the look of the game, all the better.

So here are some of my recent customizing efforts.

This is my new Belgian combat walker, complete with belly-mounted three-inch gun. It began life as a science fiction robot tank but had enough clunky detail it was easy to convert into a steampunk vehicle. All I really added was the gun, the hatch and commander, smoke stack, and a couple brass pipes. The rest is the original model, although painted to emphasize the pistons and gears. In painting these I try to keep a dark look and use the brass sparingly, to highlight or accent certain details. I've added a picture of the pre-conversion model immediately below. As you can see I really didn't do a whole lot, but it has an almost completely different look and feel now.

Here are two views of my new Auto-Mitrailleuse Blinde Legere Modelle 1887. This model began life as a horse-drawn fire engine. I added the armored compartment in front as well as the crew, and scratch built the mitrailleuse (not hard at all). Leaving it open-topped and adding the visible French crew helped the look a lot. The officer is a British naval officer from the original Space: 1889 Adventurers set, painted as a French officer. The forage cap makes a pretty good kepi. It's also the same figure I used as the commander of the Belgian walker above. (I have a bunch of these and you can only use so many naval officers.) The French standard bearer in the picture below (Liberty leading the masses to freedom) is courtesy of Tom Harris.

This is a less lethal vehicle: a steam tractor being used as a prime mover for a field gun. This was one of those plastic toy vehicles for one of the steampunk movies which came and went a couple years ago. The vehicle had a cab and engine -- basically what you see here -- attached to a big wooden keg trailer which opened up to show a rocket launcher. I didn't care for the trailer much but the tractor part was very nice so I cut it free and used it as a separate vehicle. I added the smokestack, some piping, and the driver (apparently from the Quartermaster Corps) but aside from that all I added was paint. I went for a two-tone white-over-black paint scheme inspired by the way a lot of battleships were painted back then.

This truck started life as a vehicle from the same movie (I think). It had a guy who popped out of a rear hatch and said "Boom!". I disabled the cute sound effects, added a smokestack, some piping, and a driver, and voila: a Heavy Steam Lorry. Just the thing for hauling supplies deep into the Martian interior, or hauling treasure out.

Last but by no means least we have a mad scientist and his gaggle of clockwork spiders. (Do clockwork spiders come in gaggles? I guess they do.) I was looking for something to use as the basis for a small clockwork spider at a game show and in one of the booths a guy had a bin of these little saucer-shaped spaceships -- I think they may be Cylon fighters -- for a quarter apiece. I grabbed a handful, added legs from fine wire, a little paint, and here you go.
I really like these a lot. I'm not sure they will be all that effective in a game (unless you judge effect by comic relief), but I've discovered that the things I lavish the most effort on are usually far less dangerous than just some big ol' tank.

I like imagining things with my hands. It's a good complement to writing. Sometimes coming at an imaginary world from a different angle than words can make the words come easier later.

Or if not, it's at least fun.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Putting Your Characters Through Hell

I am a big fan of suspense in writing and I’ve noticed something about both films and writing – if you know there are boundaries across which the author (or director) will not cross, the work loses an important element of suspense. I like it when those invisible boundaries get crossed.

This struck me when I watched, of all things, the 1988 version of The Blob – a monster movie I liked more than (apparently) most folks did. I liked it because there were a number of characters who you just knew weren’t going to get eaten – the little kid, the sheriff, the waitress – who got eaten! Some had story lines which you knew had to play out – but didn’t. Some were just off-limits. (Good little kids don’t get eaten, right?) So by half-way through the film, I had no idea who was and who was not going to make it. Usually in these things you not only know who lives and who dies, you know pretty much the order in which they’re going to go down. What did this have that those others lacked?


I’m not a fan of gratuitous violence, or crossing lines just to do it. But if, as a story teller, you find yourself in a situation where logic dictates a result which is off-limits, and you’re struggling with how to jiggle reality so that a “safer” outcome results, you need to stop for a moment and consider crossing that line into dangerous territory.

If there are things your readers know – just know – you will never let happen to a character, you may need to remind yourself who the story teller is. Your characters confront enormously dangerous situations – whether physically dangerous or emotionally dangerous depends on your subject -- but if the character does not have a lot at stake, maybe everything, then you probably are not telling the right story. You want your characters to be frightened by the possibility of disaster, and to communicate that fear to your readers. But if your readers know nothing really bad will happen, they cannot share the fear of your characters, and you end up isolating the one from the other.

The only way your readers can share the fear of your characters is if your readers believe you might really pull that trigger. And the only way they will believe that is if you are yourself actually willing to pull it, because it’s pretty hard to fool readers about stuff like that. Sometimes that means putting your characters through hell, through their worst nightmares, through the realization of their absolute worst fears. Sometimes you have to put them right in the belly of the whale to see what they’re really made of.

Doing so is scary, because there is always the fear your readers will hate you for what you are doing to the characters they have (we hope) come to love. But as General George S. Patton says numerous times in his memoir War As I Knew It, “I had to remind myself not to take counsel of my fears.”


In somewhat related news, Andy tells me the cover is almost done for A Prince of Mars. The text is all ready to go, so as soon as the cover corrections are finished my first novella will go live, probably early next week. Very exciting! Did I have the strength of my convictions about testing my characters in the belly of the whale? Well, only one way to find out.

An Interview With Andy

Andy Frankham-Allen, the series editor for Space 1889 And Beyond, was recently interviewed by The Comic Guru for his web series Under The Covers. Andy tells me it's his YouTube debut! Here's the link. Enjoy.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Space 1889 Player Aid from Savage Troll

In all the Christmas fun I forgot to mention thos earlier, but Savage Troll has a nice Space: 1889 player aid packet available to let you play Tales from the Aether using Pinaccle's Red Sands of Mars Space: 1889 game. It's got maps, vehicle deck plans, tokens for player characters and NPCs, lots of cool stuff. Check it out; here's the link.

Tales from the Savage Troll is a good blog in any case -- one which mentions Space: 1889 fairly frequently, which makes it a good blog in my mind anyway. I've added it to the permanent links so have a look.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

January Bestsellers From Untreed Reads

Well, the January bestsellers from the Untreed Reads online store are out and all four Space: 1889 & Beyond books made it into the top ten.

3. Abattoir in the Aether, L. Joseph Shosty
8. Ghosts of Mercury, Mark Michalowsky
9. Journey to the Heart of Luna, Andy Frankham-Allen
10. Vandals on Venus, K.G. McAbee

Congratulations, team! How many months in a row now has your book has been in the top ten, Andy?