Points of Entry into Aurora Universe-3

By Brantley, with input from Shadar

What is called the Aurora Universe took shape gradually in the works of “Sharon Best,” now known as Shadar, beginning at least as early as 1993. It took its name from Aurora Fairchild, the original heroine, a Velorian who is transported to Earth, discovers her super powers there, and has a series of adventures. Long after that incarnation, now known as AU-1, went offline, Shadar put up a link to Aurora’s story:




There was a transitional phase, in which Sharon had a site that combined comic book and Aurora Universe fiction. The earliest Wayback Machine archive I can find for it dates back to the end of 1998:




This was all before my time, but the evolution from AU-1 to AU-2 continued with a new web site that had debuted by the beginning of 2001 and focused on Shara’lynn Beset’yul, the Velorian sent to Earth as a Scribe, and Kara Zor’el, Earth’s Protector, and introduced the Arions — the dark superhumans. There were other characters like Aimee of Velor, and a number of unfinished stories such as “Heart of Darkness” and “A Dark Supergirl Arises.” Much of the action took place on Earth, but Shadar also got into the history of the Velorians and Arions going back to the war of the Galen and Elders, and continuing with the genetic engineering that produced the tset’lars. Here’s a Wayback Machine archive of that incarnation:




But just as central to AU-2, in my mind, was the late Douglas Macbeth’s Infinity Bridge, where his classics like Lillith of Velor appeared. Shadar argues, however, that as great as Mac’s stories were, they were a side-show of the AU with a fairly small following. They weren’t a hit with the core readership. Susan a non-AU story by Toomey Starks, actually did better at that. No matter to me; Mac gave me the Velorian language – just a few examples, but those I have used all came from him. And he was the first to introduce true aliens into the AU saga – the spider-like Tetrites. I can never forget Phil, whose “Invalid information is never welcome” is a classic line.




Also influential on me were two other sites, AK’s Julie of Velor and Tarot Barnes’ Alternate Histories, both since taken down but archived by the Wayback Machine. (AK’s stories were extremely popular with hundreds, perhaps thousands of readers, Shadar tells me; Tarot’s not so much.)






Yet another now-deceased site was Lisa Binkley’s Jolie Howard Fiction, devoted mostly to other kinds of fiction but featuring the saga of Nov’ayul, a troubled Protector in the early years of the Enlightenment during a lull in the war with the Arions:




Lisa’s first Nov’ayul story, “Questlings,” is mirrored at The Bright Empire (the full AU text was taken offline after a non-AU revised version was marketed as an e-book in 2005), and its uncompleted sequel “Exile” has to be accessed chapter-by-chapter; the links from one chapter to the next to longer work.


Elements from all these sites worked their way into AU-3 after Sharon Best took down the AU-2 site in 2003 and returned as Shadar a few months later, and the basic mythology, as we developed it at both our sites, came to include stories set on seeded worlds (worlds settled in centuries and even millennia past by humans abducted from Earth — first by the Galen and later by their Surrogates from earlier seeded worlds). The Scalantrans, mentioned in AU-2 stories, became major players, and there was more about the Vendorians, the suppliers of Vendorian steel for starships. The founding mythology of the Aurora Universe remained pretty much the same as in AU-2, but the details were elaborated.


Here’s Shadar’s own take on it, adapted from a post at Superwomenmania; as he puts it, “Given this was quickly and casually written for the SWM audience, I’ve made further tweaks below that make it a more suitable background. See the refinements below… by the way, the Viking hook is an open door I might someday take advantage of. As Josh Whedon is fond of saying, the secret to sequential story telling is having lots of open doors. You never know when you want (or need) to exit an old door and do some roaming around, maybe coming back in through a different door.”


1) It begins with the Galen, a very advanced alien race who discovered that humans are both intelligent and resilient, and have a genome that’s easy (for them) to create "client races" who can populate Earth-like planets across the galaxy. They’ve secretly been abducting people (and whole villages in ancient times) from Earth for thousands of years, with their peak activity taking place a bit over a thousand years ago. The abducted people are tweaked to be able to live in the various environments on the worlds they want to populate. There are now thousands of human-populated worlds out there


The only people who don’t know any of this are the people of Earth, who the Galen keep in the dark so as to not corrupt the wild seed source of their genetically-engineered human races. Basically, we’re a seed bank, and we’re being mushroomed. You know, kept in the dark and fed sh*t.


2) The Galen have been fighting with another ancient alien race called the Elders for millions of years. Somewhere along the way, the Elders managed to render all Galen females infertile, presumably with some bio-engineered orgasm that even the Galen couldn’t stop. This dooms the Galen to eventual extinction, although they live a very, very long time.


3) The Galen decide to bio-engineer a group of humans into dedicated procreators, or surrogates, to allow their race to survive. They scoured the Earth for a robust, homogeneous breeding group to simplify their work, and found a village of remarkably tall, athletic, blonde-haired, blue-eyed Nordics in a region of what would someday be called Sweden, over near the current Norwegian border. Glaciers and other inhospitable terrain had isolated this pre-Christian population in an otherwise fertile valley for many hundreds of years. The timeframe is the height of the Viking era, and the Vikings are the only outsiders who know of this village, and they protect it from any travelers. Unknown to history, a handful of Viking royalty have chosen wives from this village for many generations to strengthen their line.

Given that the Galen are very powerful beings, they have to greatly enhance these new abductees with their own DNA so they are able to survive the act of mating and also to protect and raise their immensely powerful children, who are powered by an energy form called Orgone. They enhance these humans by eliminating most of the human non-coding (junk) genes and replacing them with ones analogous to their own. They then place their newly engineered humans on a gold-cored planet named Velor, thus creating the Velorians. The Galen call this new subspecies of humans, Homo Sapiens Supremis to distinguish it from the other surviving subspecies, Homo Sapiens Sapiens.


They also engineer in a control mechanism so the Velorians can’t escape Galen control, and they base the control on the presence of gold. The Velorians themselves don’t know that when someone is taken by the Galen to become a procreator, she begins to metabolize the intense energy of the Galen, called Orgone, once out of the planetary gold field. When that happens, the Velorian women become immensely powerful. These procreators never return to tell the true story to the people back on Velor.

The Galen care nothing for Velorian men. It’s only their finest females, a genetic class called Prima-1 that they want for procreators. They install a Maternity Engine on Velor that purifies and tweaks the ova and sperm before in-vitro fertilization to ensure their needs are met and the race doesn’t mutate or diverge. This way they crank out both the Primas to be their surrogates, but also lesser classes of people to support them.


Also, given that the Galen goal was to create Procreators, they amped up Velorian’s pheromones and hormones to make them extremely sexual beings. After all, they had only one use planned for them, and they wanted them to be very willing.


4) A religious group of Velorian Natural Lifers eventually emerge who believe that old fashioned reproduction is the sacred way of life, and they believe the Galen plan of using them only for procreation is an abomination. This leads to a cultural split in Velorian society that threatens to become a civil war. Fortunately, the Naturals discover an ancient Galen transporter machine and use it to flee to a planet they name Aria (or Aurea). They all leave, once again restoring harmony to Velor.


The split is so acrimonious in the eyes of the religious zealots, however, that these new Aureans (Arions) attempt to eliminate any reminder that they were once Velorians. Since Velorians are 100% blonde and blue-eyed thanks to the narrow gene pool they brought from Earth, the Aureans decide to release a wild retrovirus into their population on Aria to insert a dominant gene for hair color (black) into their population. Something goes drastically wrong, and the retroviral infection mutates to reduce the physical powers of most of their people (the Betans) and enhances the physical power (even above Velorian levels) for a small percentage, the Primes.


5) Both Aureans and Velorians remain trapped on their own planets. Only the Galen know they exist, and all they care about is using the Velorians. The rogue Arions (Aureans) do not exist in the eyes of the Galen.


This situation remains until an alien race of traders called the Scalantrans discover Velor. They find nothing to trade on that backward planet, but find to their surprise that the small number of humans who work on their trade ships are very taken with the Velorian women. While Sclalantrans themselves have no concept of human beauty, the humans working with them report that the Velorians are all unimaginable beautiful blondes, and sexually willing to the extreme. One of those humans proposes a basis for commerce that would allow Velor to become a Scalantran trading partner. Since the Velorians are desperate for something to trade, they take the Scalantrans up on the radical idea of offering some of their young women as indentured servants to the Scalantrans. The plan is for the Scalantrans to transport these women (who they call Companions) to worlds with wealthy Terrans and sell their contracts for vast sums of money. In so doing, they discover (in almost disastrous ways) that these women become incredibly power once they leave Velor. They gain the strength of a thousand men, the ability to fly, to see through things and even burn things with their eyes, and they cannot be injured by any known weapon. The Scalantrans nearly pull the plug on the whole program when they realize that transporting these superwomen is very dangerous. That is, until they discover that a band of gold around a Velorian’s neck (think slave collar) will reduce their strength to a dozen times that of a human, and eliminate all their other abilities. (Gold interferes with the pituitary gland which controls the hormones that allow Orgone metabolism).


The Velorian Council, which by now has had a taste of real wealth, accelerates the sale of its daughters into indentured servitude to gain the hard capital they need to trade with the Scalantrans. They make laws that guarantee that Companion contracts are inviolate for 100 years, and order Companions to serve their contract holder in any way he or she wishes.


Once the wealthy and powerful Terrans on seeded worlds realize that they can buy a 100 year indenture for the most beautiful women they’ve ever seen, they all want a Companion. Not only to warm their bed, but to protect them from any foe. These Companions help some of those men crewe dynasties on their worlds, given that their contracts are handed down from one generation to the next until the 100 year term is completed. (Velorians live for a thousand years or more). Many Companions become so bound to their new families, and so estranged from Velor, that they remain after their contract ends.


6) As this horrific trade in human flesh unfolds, the Aureans develop their own spaceflight technology and begin a conquest to sweep the Terran worlds into their Empire. They try to convince the Companions who are in place that they are slaves of the Terrans. They believe that the Supremis, Velorians and Aureans, should be the dominant humans. They also believe that only through shared strength and military alliance can they protect humanity from further exploitation by as yet undiscovered alien races.


7) As the Aureans begin conquering worlds, the Companions who reject the Aurean argument of slavery find themselves having to defend their contract holders. But they are outclassed by both the ultra-powerful Primes and a new weapon called a GAR (a weapon that shoots a circular laser beam to evacuate a tunnel to the target which they shoot a bit of anti-matter down). The matter/anti-matter reaction at the target is like a micro-nuke. These weapons can actually harm a Companion, although not with a single shot. Also, while Companions are educated and skilled at many things, especially the loving arts, they aren’t trained as warriors.


8) One Companion decides to break her contract and travel back to Velor with information about this GAR so a defense can be created. She winds up kicking off a revolt on Velor that leads to the collapse of the Companion program. Soon after that, a Galen woman who is horrified at the rise of the Aurean Empire allies herself with Velor, and begins to further enhance Companions into warriors that are even more powerful than Aurean Primes. In such a way are the Protectors born.


9) Velorian Protectors are soon stationed on many Terran worlds to protect them from the Aureans. On some worlds they are visible, and they form the Enlightenment, an alliance of worlds which opposes the growing power of the Aurean Empire. However, on undisclosed worlds, like Earth, they operate secretly.


10) Earth is unique in that the Galen will not allow either Velorians or Aureans to operate openly for fear of spoiling the seed bank. They don’t want the people of Earth to realize that there is a vast galactic civilization out there, populated by abducted and tweaked humans.


However, a few Terrans become friends with the Velorians on Earth and work with them to find undercover Aureans who are infiltrating governments and corrupting Earth. The Aureans are hoping for a total breakdown of our societal and economic foundations. They believe the subsequent wars will be so disastrous that they can force the Galen to relent and allow the Aureans to come in and salvage their wild seed stock by making Earth part of the Empire. Or so goes the yet unrealized Aurean plan.


An underground war is now being fought on Earth between these two forces, but we ordinary humans usually can’t see it. We see the disintegration of culture, war and terrorism that results from the Aurean’s attempts to subvert Earth, given the Aureans are behind most of Earth’s instabilities and chaos.


This, then, is essentially is the story-space for all AU writing, with the additional caveat that many stories also take place on the seeded, terraformed worlds out there.


— Shadar



[In 2017, Shadar has come up with yet another take on the AU.]


My own AU-3 fiction, whether original or growing out of scenarios abandoned by Shadar, has taken its own direction of its, because my background is different from his. Shadar grew up on superhero comics; I grew up on science fiction. I loved the idea of the Velorians for the same reason Shadar and his fans loved it, but I wanted to combine the mythologies and literary tropes of sf with those inspired by the comic books.


Of course, some of the borrowings from comic book mythology are absurd, like the use of gold as a variation on kryptonite — Velor even has a “gold field.” Orgone is somehow a form of energy, sometimes sourced from another dimension. What is Vendorian steel? It’s an alloy derived in part from xintanite, but what’s xintanite? One writer (I forget who) thought it had something to do with technetium, which is actually an unstable element — any starship using it would come to pieces when it decayed! Some of the borrowings from genre sf are just routine, like the wormholes — none of us really try to get into the “science” of them or, for that matter, the science of sundry weapons like the GAR. The canonical account of how Velorians came by their superpowers and invulnerability through DNA manipulation is just double talk (The AU-1 version even cribbed from DC’s explanation of Kal-El becoming Superman under a yellow sun as opposed to Krypton’s red sun.). But these elements are so basic to the Aurora Universe that it would be impossible to get rid of them now — and any substitutes would have to be just as superficial or absurd. It would be almost as hard to tamper with the tradition that only one Protector is assigned to each world, although we’ve cheated on that when it comes to Earth.


Other aspects of the mythology come from science fiction rather than the comics. Seeded worlds settled in our historic or prehistoric past (as opposed to those colonized by our descendants in the historic future) go back at least as far as Ursula K. Le Guin’s Hainish novels, based on the premise that Earth and other planets were seeded eons ago with variations of humankind by the genetic engineers of a world called Hain. In Catherine Asaro’s Skolian Empire series, now-vanished aliens carried out seeding from Terran stock in prehistoric times, so that when Earth finally achieves interstellar travel, our descendants find their distant cousins in the far reaches of space — where rival empires vie for dominance. There are any number of other examples of rival interstellar empires in genre sf, and the idea of empires that pursue quasi-religious crusades goes back to Olaf Stapledon’s Star Maker (1937), an imaginary history of the universe:


In time there grew up several great rival empires of the mad worlds, each claiming to be charged with some sort of divine mission for the unifying and awakening of the whole galaxy. Between the ideologies of these empires there was little to choose, yet each was opposed to the others with religious fervour. Germinating in regions far apart, these empires easily mastered any sub-utopian worlds that lay within reach. Thus they spread from one planetary system to another, till at last empire made contact with empire.

Then followed wars such as had never before occurred in our galaxy. Fleets of worlds, natural and artificial, manoeuvred among the stars to outwit one another, and destroyed one another with long-range jets of sub-atomic energy. As the tides of battle swept hither and thither through space, whole planetary systems were annihilated. Many a world-spirit found a sudden end. Many a lowly race that had no part in the strife was slaughtered in the celestial warfare that raged around it.


Shadar is engaging in some revisionism with regard to the Velorian-Aurean war, proposing that the Empire takes up the cause of the “enslaved” Companions. But I think that, for the most part, this should be taken as a cover story (“Agreed!” – Shadar). The war began with the First Strike by the Scalantrans against Aurea, and the Scalantrans are trading partners with the Velorians. It will have taken a number of years, with the return of the first ships that engaged in the Companion trade, for Velor to even realize that the Companions have become super-powered beyond the Gold Field, and still longer for it to appreciate what that means. It will likewise take the Aureans some time to realize that it can make an issue of the Companions; its focus has been on vengeance against the Scalantrans. At some point the Scalantrans agreed on the First Consensus, conceding seeded worlds already conquered by the Empire and breaking off contact with them. But there are seeded worlds that profit from trade with the Scalantrans, and don’t want to lose that trade. Some of those worlds are home to Companions – who are obligated to defend the holders of their indentures, therefore their worlds, against the Aureans. There must also be worlds where Companions have been obligated or felt obligated to support local tyrants against their opponents, and the Aureans can take advantage of that in their propaganda. But where the Companions come to defense of their worlds against the Empire, it’s a different story, and the Aurean focus shifts from to the Velorians and a pan-Supremis ideology (analogous to Russia’s pan-Slavism). When the Scalantrans gain access to Vendorian steel, that gives them a military advantage over the Aureans as well as fostering increased interstellar trade by reducing travel time between worlds and wormholes. But it takes the bureaucracy on Velor longer to face up to the situation, with measures like the Exception (mentioned in Companions) that frees Companions from masters who side with the Aureans, and the introduction of military training for new Companions.


The version of revisionism associated with The Bright Empire emerged gradually from works by Shadar (before and after his 2003 vacation and reboot of his site) and myself set on seeded worlds, and involving new elements like the Companions and the Scalantrans (mentioned before, but never described until Velvet Belle Tree weighed in.). But AU-3 fiction, at the suggestion of Tarot Barnes, replaced Kara Zor’el with Kira Jahr’ling to break the connection with DC Comics. And I began calling Arions Aureans because in a work-in-progress set on Earth during World War II it would be confusing to have both Arions and Aryans (There was already a problem in The High Cruel Years: a faction on Reigel 5 called Aryans,). As for Aurora, Tarot had given her an entirely new backstory in the last AU fiction he wrote before setting out to create a new universe of his own:




Beyond all that sort of revisionism are the literary influences I have brought to AU-3 fiction. One of them is Cordwainer Smith (1913-66), whose real name was Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger. Raised in partly in China, where his father was an advisor to Sun Yat Sen, he was an authority of Far Eastern affairs and psychological warfare, but is today best known for his sf. His daughter Rosana maintains a website devoted to his life and work:




Most of Smith’s stories are part of a future history in which Earth and, later, many other worlds, are ruled by an elite called the Instrumentality of Mankind. Two themes in the later stages of that history, 15,000 years or so hence, are the Rediscovery of Man – a deconstruction of the bland utopia created by the Instrumentality itself – and liberation of the Underpeople, human-like people created from animal stock. But more important to my version of the AU-3 is the manner in which the stories are told.


The opening of Empress of the Dawn, for example, was inspired by those of two Smith classics, Norstrilia (1975, from excerpts previously published separately) and “The Lady Who Sailed the Soul” (1960).


The story is simple. There was a boy who bought the planet Earth. We know that, to our cost. It only happened once, and we have taken pains that it will never happen again. He came to Earth, got what he wanted, and got away alive, in a series of very remarkable adventures. That's the story.




The story ran—how did the story run? Everyone knew the reference to Helen America and Mr. Grey-no-more, but nobody knew exactly how it happened.


There are all sorts of cross-references and cross-allusions in his stories. At the end of “Under Old Earth” (1966), for example, we learn that the woman who has been introduced to us as Santuna has a future role to play under another name:


In later centuries, she brought disease, risk and misery back to increase the happiness of man. She was one of the principal architects of the Rediscovery of Man, and at her most famous she was known as the Lady Alice More.


Lady Alice More had previously been introduced to sf readers in “Alpha Ralpha Boulevard” (1961). Like stories of the Aurora Universe, Smith’s sf stories didn’t appear in the same order as they take place in his imagined history. I adopted the same trick of cross-allusion for the epilogues of Homecoming III and “Incident at Madstop.”


Then there is Smith’s sense of ritual and formality, perhaps inspired by classics of Chinese literature like Journey to the West and The Romance of Three Kingdoms that he acknowledged as influences (I’ll have to read them some time!). In a scene from “The Burning of the Brain” (1958) for example, there is this exchange between the Stop Captain (sort of a steward) of a faster-than-light planoforming ship and the Go Captain (the actual pilot):


“Sir and Colleague, is everything ready for the jonasoidal effect?”

“Truly ready, Sir and Master.”

“The locksheets in place?”

“Truly in place, Sir and Master.”

“The passengers secure?”

“The passengers and secure, numbered, happy and ready, Sir and Master.”

Then came the last and the most serious of questions. “Are my pinlighters warmed with their pin-sets and ready for combat?”

“Ready for combat, Sir and Master.”


Now you know where I got the dual honorific used by Kelsorians. Where Smith got it, even Alan Elms – who has been working on biography of Linebarger for decades – hasn’t been able to determine. But there are a number of rituals in Smith’s stories, most notably that for the induction of a new member of the Instrumentality:


That you take power to serve, that you serve to take power, that you come with us, that you look not backward, that you remember to forget, that you forget old remembering, that within the Instrumentality you are not a person but a part of a person—


I brought that sense of ritual to Ordinary Velorians in a scene where the presiding Elder of the High Council welcomes candidates for Protector:


“Protectors there were of old, Protectors there are today, Protectors there will ever be. So was it ordained by Skietra."

"It has ever been so, and ever will be," intoned the Witnesses.

"And thus do we gather here to fulfill her ordinance. Here come all that be new to try their vocations before the Great Door. And here today, on the ninth day of the eleventh month, come --"


And the induction of Alisa as a citizen of Kelsor 7:


"What is your true name, and whence come you?"

"Alisa-zar Kim'Vallara. Velor."

"By what name and world of origin shall you be known to us?"

"Alisa Liddell. Reigel Five."

"What do you bring to us?"

"My mind. My hands. My heart."

"Do your come to us without reservation, forswearing allegiance to any other world or polity?"

"I do."


From “The Burning of the Brain,” you know that Cordwainer Smith was a man of odd word coinages – “planoforming” (travel in Space-2), “jonasoidal effect” (the means of planoforming), “pinlighter” (a warrior who fights the hostile creatures of Space-2 in telepathic communion with cats). Shadar had already done much the same with such AU coinages as “tset’lar.” I threw in one of Smith’s – “menschenjager,” for hunter-killer machines – in The High Cruel Years, but I’ve generally stuck to invented words already familiar to AU readers.


Another key influence is C.J. Cherryh, creator of the Alliance-Union future history that centers on rival interstellar powers that arise on distant space stations and colonies. In a coincidental parallel with the Maternity Engine, Union has built up its population by producing specialized humans in birth labs. In Forty Thousand in Gehenna (1983), Jin 458-9998 is one of these, selected by lot as a colonist on another world as part of a plot against Alliance. Only he doesn’t know the why, only the what:


They had taken him into the white building on the farm and given him deepteach that told him the farm was no longer important, that he would be given a new and great purpose when he got where he was going, and that there would be other tapes to tell him so, very soon.


Deepteach is a term I adopted beginning with Empress of the Dawn; it seems to be original with Cherryh, but it’s similar to what Aldous Huxley called hypnopaedia in Brave New World (1932). In Huxley’s novel, sleep-teaching can’t enable people to learn anything but isolated facts, but in Cherryh’s series they can learn skills, and even be given false memories. We see that in Downbelow Station (1981), where Joshua Talley is believed to be, and believes himself to be, a war refugee. He remembers an idyllic childhood with a loving family on Cyteen, capital planet of Union. Only, he is actually a deep cover agent for Union, on a mission to sabotage the Earth Company station that has given him refuge. It is a fellow agent who reveals the truth, which devastates him:


He killed. That was what he was created to do. That was why the like of himself and Gabriel existed at all. Joshua and Gabriel. He understood the wry humor in their names, swallowed at a knot in his throat. Labs. That was the white void he had lived in, the whiteness in his dreams. Carefully insulated from humanity. Tape-taught… given skills; given lies to tell — about being human.

Only there was a flaw in the lies… that they were fed into human flesh, with human instincts, and he had loved the lies.

And lived them in his dreams.


It is that flaw which enables him to break free of his conditioning, and side with the stationers who have sheltered him. For the first time ever, he has a life of his own – “the only real thing. All that I value.” Yet in Cyteen (1988), we see another side of the birth lab program, the very program that produced Talley. Ariane Emory is the head of Reseune, the genetic engineering operation behind the azi, as the lab-born people are known. But in a taped interview, she invokes a higher purpose for the program:


We do not create Thetas because we want cheap labor. We Create Thetas because they are an essential and important part of human alternatives. The Thr-23 hand-eye coordination, for instance, is exceptional. Their psychset lets them operate very well in environments in which CIT geniuses would assuredly fail.


Ideally, only one generation of each type is needed; in interbreeding with other types, even with born men, each will contribute its characteristics to the wider gene pool. Azis themselves can become citizens; their offspring surely will. Emory has also been working on the problem of sociogenesis, which she considers vital to human survival as a species. If mankind is not to end in the universe as it began on Earth—‘scattered tribes of humans across an endless plain, in pointless conflict”—it must be educated, on a fundamental level, in all the wisdom gained from millennia of racial experience. As she puts it in one of her secret memos to her daughter to come, “Ultimately, only the wisdom is important, not the event which produced it.”


The Galen, too, were specialists, and they created the Velorians and other protos with definite ends in view – but they couldn’t foresee the future, any more than Emory and Reseune. In Forty Thousand in Gehenna, the colonists are abandoned to shift for themselves, their children and grandchildren grow up without tape and have to learn the old human way – something for which they have no training. Some of their descendants enter into cultural symbiosis with the Calibans, dragon-like natives of Gehenna.


In my version of deepteach, introduced in Empress of the Dawn, I assume that there has to be a period adjustment – Kalla (and others like her) can be fed the words and grammar of a new language, but it takes a while for them to assimilate them and actually think in that new language instead of thinking in Velorian and searching for the right words and syntax of Romaic or whatever. I imagine that’s how it might actually be.


In another long-running series by Cherryh, Foreigner (1994-), a starship gets lost in space and its humans stumble across a world inhabited by aliens called the atevi, who are at a medieval level in technological development. The humans build a space station to live on while the ship they came on searches elsewhere for a place to plant a colony. But the ill-treated workers manage to bail out and start a colony on an island the atevi world; when the ruling class follows, war breaks out. The price of peace is for the humans to gradually introduce their technology to the atevi – there may be a parallel between that and what the Scalantrans to on seeded worlds, and more particularly what the Indrans are doing on Andros. But the complications are more than Machiavellian — because the atevi have an alien psychology based on a hierarchical loyalty without the kind of love or friendship humans are used to.


One thing I see in the works of Smith, Cherryh and my own interpretation of the Aurora Universe is a tension between high purpose and realpolitik. That comes to the fore in The High Cruel Years, where the ideological and ethnic loyalties that lead to civil war have to yield to sheer practicality at the end: differences aren’t so much resolved as put on the back burner. The way Shadar had set up Reigel 5, it was an accident waiting to happen, even if there hadn’t been instigation by the Aureans, and his world building there influenced my own — although my brand is more systematic.


On an interstellar scale, one of my influences is Babylon 5, which compares to literary sf in its complexity. There is a historical backstory, involving a war more than a thousand years ago that pitted a number of species, led by the Vorlons, against the evil empire of the Shadows – who are once again becoming a threat, although they are not known to latecomer civilizations like Earth’s. Earth has barely survived a war with the another species, the Minbari, and there are two other races – the Centauri and the Narn – that have fought one bloody war and are embarking on another. Babylon 5 itself is a huge space station in neutral space that trying to maintain the peace, but is drawn into the war with the Shadows and into rebellion against a corrupt Earth government. There are a number of fascinating characters, human and alien, ranging from heroic to tragic in the roles they play, and although the aliens have to be played by humans, they and their worlds and cultures are remarkably diverse.


When it comes to world-building, my work in AU-3 is seen by Shadar and others as state-of-the-art. But it’s actually a far cry from what real science fiction writers do. As practiced today, that art began with Edgar Rice Burroughs and Barsoom – his fictional take on Mars. Later romantics like Leigh Brackett perfected it for romantic versions of Mars and Venus that are now only fantasy. Frank Herbert took it to epic proportions with Dune (1965), and writers like Jack Vance have created many distinct human-populated worlds in their imagined futures. Hal Clement pioneered the truly alien world in Mission of Gravity (1953), and there have been many others since. Ursula K. Le Guin and other contemporary writers have drawn on the art of created worlds, making them believable and even compelling.


Me, all I’ve done is try to avoid the obvious and, to me off-putting absurdities of worlds hundred of light years away or hundreds of years in the past that somehow have jazz, beach volleyball and cities with a Lower East Side. But I cheat a lot. Andros, in Empress of the Dawn, has a language called Romaic. But there’s no such thing, and never has been. Its people speak Greek, but if I specified that, it would confuse readers. There’s ancient Greek and modern Greek, and there was medieval Greek – which is what people spoke in the Byzantine Empire. Only the Byzantines didn’t call it that; they called it the Kingdom of Rome, and thought of themselves as inheritors of the classical Roman Empire. There was a continuous history to justify this, after the Empire was split between East and West, with the East surviving the fall of the West. In any case, I don’t know just how medieval Greek differed from ancient Greek; the most I can do is dig up Byzantine-era names for the characters, and throw in what is known about Byzantine politics (the system of themes, “Sebastos” as a formal address for the ruler) and culture (the Suda, modes of dress, etc.). It’s the sort of thing I can get from Wikipedia.


But even with Wikipedia, I have to cheat. For Indra, another seeded world that figures in Empress, the origin of the seeded people is the Gupta Empire in India of 320-550 A.D., which was strong on science – a tradition that those taken by the Seeders could plausibly be bring to a new world. There really was a system of guilds as Kumar describes that dominated commerce, and could likewise be recreated on a new world. India really did create uruku steel, later known in the West as Damascus steel, and the Kama Sutra was part of Indian culture by 200 A.D. India also invented chaturanga, the ancestor of chess. On the other hand, I have Kumar and Akash and other Indrans using technical terms and other words based on Hindi – a modern language. Whatever language was spoken in the Gupta Empire and later on Indra would surely be no closer to Hindi than Old English is to modern English.


With Tanzrobi, my world creation was more arbitrary, since there wasn’t a clue in AU-2 fiction as to what part of Africa its first inhabitants came from. The very name is an anachronism, of course – neither Tanzania nor Nairobi existed when the Galen created the Azizi and other protos. But I figured the herder cultures of East Africa were the most plausible candidates, so I Googled up a few actual details, then made up the septs and other invented details, using mostly Swahili for terms – even though Swahili and other current languages didn’t exist at the time Tanzrobi was seeded. As in the case of Indra and, for that matter Andros, I could have done deeper research, but it would have taken too much time and trouble and even expense. And I could create some local color off the top of my head, like the greatoxen and brightbears of Andros.


In the case of Encounter at Westfold, it was simpler, because Shadar imagined the world as having been seeded by the Aureans only about 200 years ago. It was easy to incorporate elements of what England and Africa were like then, although Shadar hadn’t done so himself. Turning his aborted version into my steampunk version allowed me to make use of steampunk imagery as well as ideas, and to throw in bits like the police being called runners because the only professional police force in England at the time of the seeding had been the Bow Street Runners (founded by Henry Fielding, the author of Tom Jones, and carried on by his brother John).


Besides this sort of world-building, I like to connect the dots left by Shadar and a few others. One of the reasons for writing Companions was to account for the existence of the Christla, a religious sect, generations later, on Kelsor 7 – which was supposed to be a strictly scientific world. “An Unsuitable Job for a Messenger” was written, with the approval of Lisa Binkley, to tie in the story of Belside and Nov’ayul with the AU-3 history; it was possible to do that, because nothing in her account was incompatible with the AU-3 continuity, something that wasn’t the case with Mac’s Lillith saga – I might imagine an alternate version of Lilith’ story, but it would be practically a sacrilege to try to write it. Emigrants, in which refugees from Belside colonize Kelsor 7, grew out of the same connection.


There are other connections I’ve thrown in from the start. “Mundane Secrets of the Yo-Yo Brotherhood” takes place in one of the locales of Twin Peaks, and I had to justify that later in “Deer Meadow Shuffle” by making a connection between the Black Lodge in David Lynch’s mythology and renegade Diaboli. I haven’t done much else with the Diaboli, but in “Finding Sanctuary,” Ultrasybarite tied them in with AU-3 stories of the same created world by Shadar and myself. There may be other tie-ins of this sort still to come….


Reading Order for Major Stories:


“How to Succeed in Religion” (ca. 30 A.D.)


“Close Orbit” (ca. 1130 A.D.)


Empress of the Dawn (1158-ca. 1400 A.D.)


Companions (1477-78 A.D.)


Homecoming (1478-85 A.D.)


First Protector (1488-1492)


Incident at Madstop (1532)


“Lifesaver” (ca. 1550)


“An Unsuitable Job for a Messenger” (1606)


“Questlings” (ca. 1620-25?)


“Exiles” (ca. 1625-??)


Emigrants (ca. 1710-20)


“Castaway” (1700’s?)


“Arden” (ca. 1750)


Aurora’s Tale (1940)


Sleeping Beauty (2002-3)


Ordinary Velorians (2003-4)


Blind Justice (2004)


McCloud’s Daughters (2006-7)


“Alisa’s Story”/Shore Leave (2007)


Bird in Paradise, Finding Sanctuary (2008)


The High Cruel Years (2008-9)


Pictures of an Expedition (2010)


“Double Blind” (2012)


Corrididor (2030)


Throne of the Gods (2032-3)


Terms of Enhancement (2034)


The Mission (2036-9)


The Popcorn War (2040)


Encounter at Westfold (2044)