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Mar. 30, 2018
Good Friday, and an update to Power of Blue (2010), which I had neglected to include in updated AU-3 references to Aureans as opposed to Arions (to avoid confusion with Aryans on both Earth and Reigel Five). Also, I had set my edit of Shadar's story on Varig, a seeded world that appears in a different context in other stories. So now it's I
Mar. 8, 2018
It's Interstellar Superwomen's Day, and we finally conclude First Protector Two, after three years, as Vespyr Tal'esta and her partner Alexios embark on their first mission – to redeem Tazzi, the world where she had served as Companion, from the Aureans. It's a learning experience for her as well as an adventure and a love story – a test of her commitment as a Protector, and of her loyalty to a new vision of the role of Velorians in the universe. And there are some surprises along the way at Freiwelt, a world where another Companion has embraced a different vision of her role; and at Tazzi itself, where personal redemption awaits...
Feb. 1, 2018
A major update to First Protector Two that brings the story to the climactic conclusion of Part Two. Vespyr Tal'esta is truly a Protector now, having found a sense of commitment as well as mastering her new power – and having also found, in Alexios, a man to share her life and her mission. Aphro'dite may have ushered in a new era for Velor, but the details of its relationship with the Scalantrans and the scattered worlds that will become the Enlightenment are still to be worked out. No matter: Vespyr is ready to carry the battle against the Aureans to Tazzi, the world where she had been a Companion.
Jan. 8, 2018
Just a few tweaks to Incident at Madstop (2010), to reconcile it with First Protector Two in its account of the emergence of the Enlightenment.
Jan. 4, 2018
It's the eleventh day of Christmas, just barely in time to post "A Visit from Supergirl," Moxie's genre spoof of "A Visit from St. Nicholas." We can use something light these days, and we haven't heard from Moxie in ages!
Dec. 21, 2017
It promises to be a day of triumph for Vespyr T'alesta in First Protector Two, but things don't go entirely to plan in her debut as First Protector – at least, not as she understood the plan. That's how it can be, dealing with the Galen and their agents and their penchant for creating legends: the end justifies the means. But fear not; Vespyr has a new ally, and together they will find a way to bring her own vision of her mission into being. Perhaps that was even Aphro'dite's intention all along, devious as she may seem...
Dec. 15, 2017
I've been editing Empress of the Dawn III for some months now. But during the past few days I've come up with a new approach for the run-up to the Battle of the Triple Moons, focusing on a new secret Kalla has learned that could undermine the essential morale of the Androsians if it got out. And this leads her to ponder the true meaning of her role, and what part that may play in the greater scheme of things. The story has also been restructured in other ways, including an account of the sacrifices made by generations of those who train for the war, never knowing whether it will come during their lifetimes.
Nov. 21, 2017
It's almost Thanksgiving, here and on Velor, where Vespyr is meeting her destiny as a Protector, the first of her kind, in Book Two of First Protector. It is only now that she learns she has been chosen for that role by Aphro'dite herself, albeit with a little help from a friend – the First Sponsor, as it were. They are playing with history and mythology, creating the very foundations of the Aurora Universe as we have known it since Sharon Best (now Shadar) began writing about it in 1995. But there has been a lot of universe building since then, and there is more to come.
Sept. 21, 2017
It has been ten years since Homecoming III ended with an epilogue in which Aphro'dite reveals her plan for the creation of the Protectors and all that follows. It has been more than six years since the first book of Empress of the Dawn, Book Three of which told of the exile of Alexius, a scion of the royal family of Andros inadvertently enhanced by the Companion Kalla. Today these stories are about to finally come together in the latest update of Book Two of First Protector.
It's been a labor of world-building, but also a labor of character building and a labor of collaboration. The story line of Homecoming began with Velvet Belle Tree, and was a spin-off of our Companions but which was also to create the Scalantrans as a people with a nature and culture all their own. The idea of Companions, of course, originated with Shadar, and the Empress series was based on an outline of his. First Protector likewise originated with Shadar, who wrote the first version of what is now Book One. But I've put my own spin on the saga of Vespyr, just as I have on that of Kalla. And the history in which they play key roles has other spin-offs, as in Incident at Madstop.
But for now, it's all about Vespyr, who is finding a new destiny.
Sept. 1, 2017
Book Two of First Protector is finally approaching its climax in today's update. But it's been necessary to revise Chapter Eight and add a Chapter Nine to develop the relationship between Vespyr and Dar'yul, the junior High Councillor assigned to the case against her as a deserter who has actually taken up her cause and in whom she is able to confide about herself and what really happened – and what she only believes happened – on Tazzi, and how it changed her life and gave her a new sense of mission. There are seemingly small but significant revelations about other players, with more of these yet to come – including about the cult family Vespyr left behind when she became a Companion.
June 29, 2017
Book Two of First Protector is working its way towards its climax.
Vespyr Tal-esta, the Companion who has come home from Tazzi to bring proof about the heavy GAR being deployed by the Aurean Empire against the Velorians and the innocent worlds where they serve, has no idea that the Galen are about to intervene on their behalf.
But their advance man Alexios Tornikios and the Galen he speaks for, Aphro'dite, likewise have no idea what is happening on Velor, where rival factions on the High Council are faced with how to deal with the threat from the Empire with whatever resources Velor itself can muster. Story lines that began in the Empress of the Dawn and Homecoming series are about to come together.
The Aurora Universe has always been about superheroine adventure and romance, and my version of it has always been about world-building in the science fiction tradition. But here it is about Big History.
June 21, 2017
It's the summer solstice, and time to celebrate the new Wonder Woman movie starring the wondrous Gil Gadot. As usual, I have my own take on it. But it's a great movie, and a real advance in the portrayal of the classic superheroine created in 1941 by William Moulton Marston as a role model for women but often reduced since then to something less -- as witness a failed pilot in 2011 reviewed here by Tarot Barnes.
April 27, 2017
Another edit of First Protector, Part Two. Some mistakes corrected, section titles changed and key passages edited. A new scene makes the first allusion to the finale of Homecoming 3, but of course Vespyr and the rest don't know it's an allusion...
April 1, 2017
There is yet another take on the Aurora Universe, this time from its original creator. A few days ago, at Superwomenmania, Shadar posted his rationale for a new variation of AU-2 that will include at least two novels, Imperial Earth (of which "A Dinner Party" is the first part) and Golden Planet. "A Dinner Party" has been a hit here at The Bright Empire, with more than 400 downloads in the first week... Another new link here today is to "Prelude," a story posted at Deviant Art in 2013 by Joshua McFarland, who writes as True Spartan. He posted three chapters of his AU story, but so far there hasn't been a sign of a promised fourth.
March 22, 2017
A special treat today: A new story by Shadar that offers a new take on the Aurora Universe. And it's also ripped from tomorrow's nightmares of terrorism, while touching on the culture of CNN, The Late Show and all that – I won't go spoil your fun by going into the plot twists or revised mythology or other details here. Yet "A Dinner Party" goes back a long way. I'm letting him explain here:
Mike is an escapee from the high tech world who has used his small fortune to retire at an early age to a mountaintop mansion he shares with a remarkable girl who was originally born on the planet Velor. She is all that stands between the Arion Empire and Earth, but she is not a mighty Protector nor does she have any training for that role. Something she discovers very quickly when an innocent dinner party becomes a battleground for dark forces who want to destroy Earth and all its lifeforms.
In 2004, I wrote a short story called "Dinner Party" as a tribute to an Aurora Universe contributor. He wasn't a prolific author, but he was the source of many ideas.
The characters I used were inspired by my circle of friends back when I was an executive in the high tech business in both California and SE Asia. A strange time filled with very strange people that culminated in a very odd dinner party. This story grew from that seed of reality... with a great deal of amplification and no small amount of imagination.
That original short-story has now grown into a novella that is the beginning of what I hope will become a trilogy. It introduces several changes to AU canon that old readers might notice, but it's truly intended to introduce new readers to a 21st century version of the Aurora Universe.
Also new today is "Rambles in the Brambles," a semi-comic take on gold and Velorians that began as a discussion at Superwomenmania.com. All to do with hair...
March 8, 2017
Things change. They get harder.
It's still International Women's Day, but in the real world some women are taking the day off as a political protest. Only that presumably doesn't include doctors, cops, firefighters and other emergency workers. In the unreal world, it certainly doesn't include superwomen like Kalla Zaver'el of the Empress of the Dawn series.
The unreal world, like the real one, can be unpredictable. Just a year ago today, I had committed myself to a fourth book in the series. But that depended on outside input for the Battle of the Triple Moons, which hasn't been forthcoming. And my second thoughts have given way to third thoughts: I can't get a handle on how the build-up to the battle and the battle itself could make for a short novel of close to or even more than 50,000 words.
I had actually begun work on Book Four, but I sensed that it was taking a different direction than I had first imagined. It still had to do with how the long-freed Companion Kalla would become the savior of her adopted planet Andros, but it was now past time for superheroics as such. Part Three of Book Three, "The Final Battle," has to do with her variation on the loneliness of command, with how she has to deal with political necessity, including necessary lies – and with unexpected setbacks. She must also deal with personal heartbreaks, and gain a measure of wisdom in both the personal and political spheres...
I've also done some heavy editing to Part Two, "Love Found and Lost," to better tie in with Part Three, as part of the 12th anniversary of this site.
On a lighter note, some added links to Tarot Barnes' long ago (13 or 14 years) essay Boobs and Bullets.They include short videos, an anime and even a comic strip.
Dec. 21, 2016
For the Winter Solstice, three seasonal gifts.
First, an update to the First Protector saga, short but crucial. In Book Two, we finally learn how Vespyr was taken in by Mal'kar, the Aurean Prime who led her to believe there was an alternative to her mission to Velor to warn the High Council about the GAR and bring the proof (see Behind the Stories). This had only been hinted at in the last update, and it is her encounter with a Velorian official who has also been taken in by Mal'kar that triggers her rage and what lies behind it. She has been suppressing it during her journey to Velor, for the sake of her mission, but her outburst will complicate that mission. Thanks to Shadar for advising me that a recollection of her life with Gazrall on Tazzi, and how he got her involved with Kevin, didn't belong in Chapter One – that will now be reserved for her testimony before the High Council. Cosmetic edits to Book One are also part of today's update.
I've also wrapped up "Delphic Obstacles," the story of how Peter Durgin finds a new life and a new love on Delphi, a mining colony of Reigel Five. Durgin had become a pariah on his homeworld Kelsor 7 for having tried to blame Alisa Kim'Vallara for what went wrong on the mission to Cygnias 275, out of jealousy for her having spurned him for Andre Kalik after both he and Kalik were enhanced in Shore Leave. Alisa's mother Naomi has played a role in bringing about his redemption in "Moment of Truth," but along the way I decided to tie the Delphi story in with Shadar's "Blind Justice" – bringing in Jonah Begglestrom, son of an assassin Naomi had dealt with in that story. She plays a hidden role in giving Jonah a chance for a new life, an act of redemption on her part; but while Durgin offers advice on where he and his family might find it, I finally decided to stop short of revealing where they might actually end up – perhaps Shadar could follow up on that. Durgin's new love Sirren was inspired by images of a muscular porn star with abstract tattoos that I imagined could be Aurean military insignia, and their story had turned into a garden variety fuckfest. But I decided at the end to make it more than that, as she and Durgin share in adventure and exploration with the starship Second Chance after finding a new home on Bering's World.
Finally, an update to the Links page, under the Aurora Universe logo, with archives from the Wayback Machine for two previous incarnations of Shadar's site during his Sharon Best days. The first is from Feb. 9, 1999, when he hosted a subdomain at indra.net and was collaborating with AK, S.T. Mac and Toomey Starks. The second is from Feb. 20, 2003, the final version of the Sharon Best site velorian.org. There's a lot of history here...
Dec. 6, 2016
Not a new story, but an updated link to the Julie of Velor archive on the Links page, which was originally posted more than a year ago. Although the Wayback Machine link worked, the sublinks to stories didn't. I still don't know whhy, but I came up with a workaround -- an intermediate file with the link to the archive itself linked there. It's been working so far, and I hope it keeps working. Please contact me if problems recur.
Dec. 4, 2016
Hoping for some major updates for the Winter Solstice, but meanwhile here's a blast from the past: "Goddess of Thunder," written 20 years ago by "Sam," one of the early acolytes of the Aurora Universe. Things were a lot wilder then; Velorians could be mixed up with the Greek gods and even dragons, and that could be a lot of fun. The original version of the story is still up at Diana the Valkyrie's site, but I noticed that it has a number of spelling and grammatical errors, which I've addressed in the mirrored version here.
Nov. 11, 2016
"Getting Home" is a new story by Tarot Barnes. It was intended to be part of my 75th Birthday update, but came in a couple of days late. After that, I was busy with a lot of other things, including serving as an election judge in my hometown.
Although it isn't obvious, because the setting is enirely Earth, this story takes place in an alternate supremis universe. Ever hear of Eigheim? Not mentioned here, but it's the home of the Fj‡ndmethra, whence come the Guardians, who fight on Earth and elsewhere against the Andskoti (who are mentioned here). It was first introduced here at The Bright Empire in "The Long Night," posted Dec. 22, 2010, without any fanfare. It wasn't until March 10, 2012. in an Occasional Blog entry, that I alluded to the series-in-progress of which it was a part. I wish there were more to share now, but I can only hope that this belated exposure will encourage him to pursue what promises to be an alternate epic.
Nov. 3, 2016
Today I turn 75. I wanted to make it a special occasion at The Bright Empire, and for the past week I've been devoting myself to the completion of "Walking Tall." Frustration at having so much trouble with the story turned to inspiration – I saw my way clear, and ran with it. More important, I've finally done right by Patricia Ortiz, the Velorian Legionnaire heroine, and her family and friends, and the romance she finds at the end... Thanks to Jordan Taylor, who began the story more than 11 years ago – wherever she is today, I hope she would find the final version worthy of her.
Also new today, with help from Velvet Belle Tree, is "Timeless, Clueless, Senseless," a takedown of time travel series on TV – especially one called Timeless, which has to do with a plot to change American history and even destroy the country by doing so, but which never makes any sense despite a supposed Master Plan by the chief villain.
Oct. 17, 2016
Another chapter of "Walking Tall" today. Patricia Ortiz faces a showdown with the forces behind the murder of her uncle and stepfather Teo Garcia. They've been trying to put the family business on Alguna Parte out of business, but as a Velorian Legionnaire on leave she has an advantage over her merely human enemies.
Only, those human enemies have been working with at least one Aurean infiltrator, and she may have to face him down before long. Yet she has some allies, including the Vigilancia Mundial, the global police that her one-time boyfriend and now ally Reynaldo Lopez has persuaded to intervene against the corrupt local police and the enemies they have been protecting. And there's a Velorian auxiliary Protector playing a role too... her name is Axinia, and she'll have a backstory in chapters to come. Tomas Oriol will also figure in more ways than one... other inspirations: Mandi Steele's photo set "Houseguest," in which a drop-in at some (lucky!) guy's house turns out to be Supergirl; and Sharon Best's "Evana" (recently rewritten by Shadar as "Evan'ya"), in which a Vel rewards an ordinary guy for showing bravery. In my own "Houseguest," I wanted to make the Mandi Steele fantasy come alive, do something fresh with the Sharon Best fantasy, and tell a story worthy of Arish'ka -- even though I don't use her name.