Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Dark Side of Luna is Live!

Yes indeed, Dark Side of Luna, the sixth and final installment in Series One of Space 1889 and Beyond, is now live. It is available from the Untreed Reads online store, Amazon, Scribd,, Barnes and Noble, and Lightning Source. As always I encourage you to purchase it directly from the Untreed Reads online store as the publisher and authors both get a bigger piece of the action, and of course in this case I am one of those.

The next book, which starts Series Twio but picks up right where Dark Side leaves off, is co-authored any Andy Frankham-Allen and myself, and it's a real plunge into the seamier sides of London and international politics. But that's a different matter. For now, enjoy Dark Side of Luna.

It’s been almost a month since Nathanial and Annabelle rejoined HMAS Sovereign. For Annabelle it’s been a journey of uncertainty; she had expected a happy reunion with George Bedford, first officer of the flagship of Her Majesty’s Royal Navy, but instead he’s been distant. She fears it has something to do with her newfound disability. For Nathanial, however, the journey has been uneventful since he’s spent the entire time locked in the brig under the cloud of treason.

Things change abruptly when Sovereign is ordered to return to Luna, and retrieve Doctor Cyrus Grant, who has been sending increasingly confusing heliograph messages back to Earth. There is an air of uncertainty in Otterbein Base, and concern over Grant’s well-being. Once again he’s gone missing, turning his back on the Selenites and the British research team stationed there – leaving with creatures who are neither human nor Selenite.

A search-and-rescue mission is soon underway, taking our heroes deeper inside Luna than ever before. There they will discover the mysteries of the Drobates, and their amazing City of Light and Science. Annabelle is concerned that her uncle will no longer accept her, and Bedford is concerned that being on Luna once again will have adverse effects on his captain, but these things are the least of their worries. Grant is close to uncovering the answers to an age-old secret, but he is not the only one who seeks this knowledge. A creature stalks the dark underworld of Luna, a creature once human, and quite insane.

Dark Side of Luna is the series one finale of Space: 1889 & Beyond, and signals a new era of political upheaval and adventure for the series, as the key to humanity’s future is unveiled.


BEDFORD LOOKED out of the thick glass of the cutter’s forward lower viewing port and shook his head. He expected robust security at the landing ground of Otterbein Base, but he had not counted on a mob of turbaned and khaki-clad Indian Army men swarming over the area.

“Have a care, Coxswain. Let’s not crush any sowars today when we set down,” he said and the helmsman smiled slightly in reply. The cutter settled gently to the gravel landing ground and had scarcely come to rest when Bedford heard an insistent banging on the main hatch. A Marine corporal undogged the hatch and swung it to the side to show a European of medium height and swarthy complexion in khaki drill and an officer’s Sam Brown belt, but no badges of rank on his bush jacket.

“Who’s that and what’s your purpose?” the man demanded.

“I am Lieutenant Bedford of HMAS Sovereign, and I’m here to see Captain Folkard.”

The man nodded. “Harrison, Punjab Frontier Force, and officer commanding, Otterbein Station.”

“Ah, Colonel Harrison, of course. I did not expect the commanding officer to meet us, sir.”

“Didn’t intend to. We’ve suffered a security breach. Regrettable. Losses, you know, losses all around.”

“Losses all around?” Bedford asked, and he felt his heart accelerate. “The young lady in the party was not…”

“What? There’s a lady down here, too? Damn me if I can keep track. But no, it’s your young officer, Ainsworth. Identified him from his papers. Sorry, one of those damned ants got him. Chopped him up rather badly. Care to look? No? Just as well. Private Anil Singh suffered the same fate. Ghastly. Good chap, Singh. Why’d your people take the cutter away and leave this Ainsworth behind alone, eh?”

“Our people did not take the cutter. The Selenites, probably the ones who attacked him, did. Five of them, with Russian-made Berdans. They took the cutter up and attacked Sovereign.”

“What’s that? Ants with Berdans? Well then, where are your people?”

Bedford stifled an exasperated sigh. “They are still here, Colonel. As I said, I came here to find my captain. I take it you haven’t seen him?”

Harrison looked around, as if he might find the others from Sovereign standing within arm’s reach, then he looked back at Bedford, his expression a mixture of irritation and confusion. “Well damn it, man, if they’re still here, who flew your cutter full of ants away?”

“One of the Selenites, I imagine, as only they were on board when they docked with us.” Bedford no longer kept the sarcasm from his voice, but it was lost on Harrison, as a good deal else seemed to be as well. Bedford caught a faint odour of gin on the colonel’s breath.

“What? No. Ants can’t fly one of those cutters. I’ve never seen one at any rate,” Harrison declared and then nodded forcefully, as if that settled everything.

Bedford judged Harrison the sort of man who considered the absolute boundaries of possibility to be the things he had actually witnessed with his own eyes. Bedford thought that made Harrison a singularly bad choice for lunar duty. Well, that was the Army for you.

“I wonder, Colonel, if you could have your men clear enough of the landing ground for my coxswains to bring the other three cutters down? One of the men is new to his job and I wouldn’t want him to injure any of your sowars.”

Harrison turned away to clear his men off the field as another man, of slighter build and in a suit coat instead of khaki, trotted up from the direction of the main building. He paused for a moment to catch his breath and mop his brow with a handkerchief, and then extended his hand.

“Professor Robert George, director of the base,” he said. Bedford shook his hand and introduced himself and again asked after the landing party.

“Captain Folkard and his men, and Doctor Grant’s niece, have gone in pursuit of Grant. Three Selenites accompanied them. They have been gone some hours, I know not in what direction.”

“You do not think they have approached the Heart?”

“The Heart is made up of many parts, Lieutenant. Colonel Harrison has posted guard details at those nearby parts we know of, but I doubt any man, even Grant, knows where every piece of the Heart is located.”

Bedford frowned. He hadn’t really expected to find Folkard and the others here at the base, but he had hoped for more useful intelligence than this. The Marines poured out the open hatchways of the cutters and now formed a double line on the gravel landing ground, barked into place by their colour sergeant. Major Larkins and his vice, Lieutenant Booth, joined Bedford and Director George.

“Ships troops assembled and ready,” Larkins said casually after Bedford made the introductions. “Your orders, Lieutenant?”

Bedford noted that Larkin stopped short of calling him “sir”. Larkins outranked Bedford, but as a Marine officer he was not in the ship’s chain of command, and so long as he was assigned to Sovereign, he obeyed its master. It may have rankled him to take orders from someone this junior to him, but that was the Navy for you. Colonel Harrison wandered back to join the group and Bedford used the opportunity of another round of introductions to think through what his next move should be.

“Colonel Harrison,” he said, “I believe the Berdan rifles suggest a continued Russian presence on Luna. Someone armed those red Selenites, someone taught them how to use a breach-loading rifle…”

“Not very well, I shouldn’t think, or you wouldn’t be standing here now,” Major Larkins put in.

“Thank you, Major, that may be true. But the fact remains someone did arm and train them, however inadequately, and most importantly someone taught one of them to fly a cutter equipped with a Grant-Stone-pattern aether propeller governor.”

“Oh, I see,” Director George said and mopped his brow again. “That is quite extraordinary. I should like to have seen the Selenite pilot your craft. I would not have thought they had the forelimb manual dexterity to do so.”

“Nevertheless,” Bedford said.

“Well I still don’t believe it,” Harrison grumbled. “Oh, the Russkies are probably behind it all, you’re right on the score, but I warrant some tsarist hero piloted the ants to your ship and jumped clear immediately before they docked, just to throw us off the scent.”

“How would he have survived?” Director George asked.

“Survived? How does that enter into it? Those chaps don’t put the same value on human life we do,” Harrison said.

Major Larkins looked at Harrison and then at Bedford. Bedford met his eyes and, though neither man’s expression changed, they understood each other: Harrison was a fool.

“It’s still very odd, though,” Harrison continued. “I haven’t seen evidence of Russians in this part of Luna for quite some time. Indeed, the only relic of their occupation left is the wreck of their flyer Borodino, on the opposite side of the reservoir.”

Bedford narrowed his eyes. “Take me there.”

Sunday, April 22, 2012

It's A Small World After All

I'm always interested in where my readers come from, both geographically and philosophically. The software for the blog hosting service I use gives me some insight into that, and I though you folks might be interested as well. In the last week there have been approximately 1200 page views to the blog and for the first time (I believe) the United Kingdom has been edged out of second place as the country of origin of viewers by -- drumroll please -- Russia.

Добро пожаловать, мои друзья!

This is not necessarily a breakdown of the nationality by headcount, of course, but rather by pageviews. If we've had a growth in new Russian readers, they may be catching up with a large number of looks at older pages. On the other hand, a very high proportion (over a third) of the total pageviews in the last week have been of that great artwork for the upcoming German RPG, so it's hard to tell for sure.

Here is the approximate percentage breakdown of pageviews based on country for the last week. It doesn't quite come out to 100 due to rounding, but close enough. I find it very interesting that almost half of the pageviews are from non-US readers. Steampunk is clearly an international phenomenon.

USA -- 56%
Russia -- 11%
UK -- 9%
Germany -- 5%
Sweden-- 4%
France-- 4%
Canada -- 3%
Spain -- 2%
Australia -- 2%
New Zealand - 1%

For my Russian readers, in Dark Side of Luna (which will be live any moment, I am told) I think you will particularly enjoy the character Lieutenant Gurayev of the Lifeguard Jaegers. He does not appear until the closing chapter of the novel, but he makes quite an impression in his short time "on page".

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Character Art from the German Space 1889 Game

The German Space 1889 role-playing game will be released later this year by Uhrwerk Verlag and here is a sneak peek at two of the character archtype illustrations: the female scientist and the gentleman adventurer. I love this artwork! If the rest of the game is to this standard (and that of the other material I've seen) this will definitely be a winner.

These were posted by Patric Goetz of Uhrwerk Verlag on the new Space: 1889, Science Fiction Roleplaying In a More Civilized Age Facebook page. I've added that to the links section (as Space 1889 RPG, because the full title wouldn't fit). The page was just started within the last month or so but is active and will probably see a lot of news of upcoming products as well as discussions about the game. Worth a look.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Dark Side of Luna -- Coming This Week

Book six, and the finale to the first season of Space 1889 and Beyond stories, will be out from Untreed Reads by the end of this week. The finished cover is above and it has a suitably menacing look to it. I co-authored this piece and I think you'll really like it. Dark Side of Luna has lots of action, including a sort of "small war" military campaign (if you can conduct an extended campaign with one section of Royal Marine Light Infantry -- and it seems you can if you are a sufficiently determined and resourceful chap).

So those of you who have purchased A Prince of Mars but not yet read it might want to, so as to be primed for this new epic adventure. Those of you who have not purchased it . . . well, I hardly know what to offer you other than a revolver and some privacy.

Andy Frankham-Allen , the series editor, and I are co-authoring the lead book in the second series, Conspiracy of Silence, which picks up where Dark Side of Luna leaves off. In fact, I've got to finish up the last chapter, so back to it.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Abney Park -- Steampunk Revolution

For those of you primarily into gaming and/or reading -- and I think that's most of you -- I've suggested before there's a whole other steampunk world out there. Here's a nice taste of it, a really arresting music video from the renowned steampunk band Abney Park. Definitely worth a look and listen.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Murdoch Mysteries: A Fun Steampunkish TV Series

I recently was pointed to a very fun TV series with a definite Steampunk flavor, called Murdoch Mysteries. It's a Canadian-produced series now in its fifth season and available through a variety of cable outlets and on DVD, but also with a lot of episodes up on YouTube. It follows the crime-solving career of police detective William Murdoch in 1890's Toronto, Canada. He uses many unconventional scientific techniques to solve cases -- fingerprints, trace evidence, etc. -- and is supported by his young assistant Constable Crabtree, his superior Inspector Brackenreid, and the lovely medical examiner Doctor Julia Ogden. The show has frequent nods to future science and regular encounters with famous historical characters. Nikola Tesla is in the first episode (dealing with a murder by electrocution and touching on both the commercial struggle between AC and DC current and the bitter rivalry between Tesla and Edison). H.G. Wells, Buffalo Bill Cody, Jack London, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Queen Victoria all appear in various episodes, to drop just a few names.

It's good fun. I think it suffers a bit from having only four regulars, which is a bit thin for an ensemble cast, (seven or eight seems about right) and a bit much for a classic mystery duo (Holmes and Watson, Poirot and Hastings, Dalziel and Pascoe, etc.), which keeps the character interactions between them fairly predictable. That said, the show is great fun and touches on a few interesting social issues, including the impossibility of Murdoch ever rising above detective due to his catholic faith.

Here's a link to the first episode on YouTube, the one featuring Tesla. It's worth a look. See if you like it.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Upcoming Mars Needs Steam Convention Games

I'll be running Mars Needs Steam at two conventions in the coming month, both in the mid-west.

The weekend of April 27/28/29 I will be at Little Wars, sponsored by the Historical Miniature Gaming Society (HMGS) Mid-west chapter, at the DuPage Expo Center in St. Charles, Illinois (Chicago-land) . Tom Harris and I will run a big Mars Needs Steam game. Heres the link to their website.

The following weekend, May 4/5/6 I will be out at Kansas Ciy, KS at Border Wars, sponsored by HMGS Heart of America. I'll be attending that show with my old pal Duke Seifried, where we'll be the convention's special guests. We'll run a big refight of the Battle of Borodino from 1812 (it's the centennial, after all) using his beautiful figures and terrain and my Volley & Bayonet rules on Saturday, but on Friday I'll be running Mars Needs Steam, probably with him sitting in as a co-referee, or color commentator. Here's the link to their website.

If you're in the area, why not stop in and play a game or two or just have a look?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

What Is Steampunk?

Yes, yes, I know. This is something people can argue about endlessly and never resolve to everyone's satisfaction. But if you are more interested in exploring the question than proving one opinion correct to the exclusion of all others, there is a fair amount of interesting material out there. I recently read a column on this subject by author G. D. Falksen. I think his position is thoughtful and informed without becoming either authoritarian or dogmatic, an approach I appreciate. Here is a link to his column, which is short, to the point, and worth a read.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A Blog Worth Following

J. Womak, Esquire, friend of this blog, has his own blog entitled Victoria's Boys in Red. As you might imagine, it deals with things military and Victorian, with a heavy emphasis on miniature gaming and modeling. The above picture of his new steam tank, HMLS Suffolk, is one of his recent blog entries.

This month he is starting a regular daily feature entitled Victorian Science Fiction A to Z, with tomorrow seeing the first entry. As you'd guess, tomorrow's entry will feature the letter "A" and so on until he's reached "Zed." I've added the web address to the main links. Should be worth following.