Looking for Great Science Fiction Reading?

Venusian Job Cover

Bundoran Buddies Story Bundle

While you’re self-isolating during the COVID-19 pandemic, pick up some great ebooks in this story bundle offered by Bundoran Buddies Book Bundle for the next three weeks (through to the third week in April). Then read, read, read away the pandemic. Curated by Hayden Trenholm of Bundoran Press, you can get twelve books for as little as $15USD.

Here’s what Hayden says:

OuterDiverse-front coverScience fiction is our conversation with the future. That’s the philosophy of Bundoran Press Publishing House. But how can you have a conversation without friends? Even though in the days of COVID-19, most of those conversations take place on-line or by phone, there’s never been a better time to think and talk about the future.

That’s why I’m curating this twelve-book science fiction bundle for https://storybundle.com/scifi, made up of ten novels and two short story collections from established greats and rising stars. Half of the books were published by the Press and the other six come from some fabulous authors who have been our friends and supporters for years. As always, at Story Bundle, you decide what the books are worth and a portion of the proceeds go to charity.

The Bundoran Buddies Book Bundle includes Lazarus Risen, an international collection of stories focused on longevity and immortality, including Hugo nominated author, Sean McMullen.

Award winners and nominees abound in this bundle. Hugo and Nebula award-winning author Robert J. Sawyer offers up Space: Stories, a collection of his short stories, all of them set off-world, including a Hugo finalist and two Aurora Award winners.  Aurora Award winning Edward Willett gives us a Lost in Translation that explores the necessity of understanding the other in a taut tale of interstellar negotiations.

If your taste runs to near-future, BAFTA nominee, Fiona Moore, brings us Driving Ambition, where the murder of an intelligent car launches the protagonist, a mediator between humans and artificial intelligences, on a dangerous trajectory. Or you might prefer, Madelaine Ashby’s iD, the second volume of her Machine World series which “explores the uncomfortable possibilities and limitations of love within slavery and free will under constraint (Globe and Mail).”

At the other end of the temporal spectrum, we have The Better Part of Valor, the second of the Confederation of Valor series from multi-award-winning author Tanya Huff – still producing best sellers after over two decades in the field. Duatero from Brad C. Anderson, with his first novel from from Bundoran Press, is set on a lost outpost of humanity where moral dilemmas compete with fast paced action on a plague planet.  Jennifer Rahn’s Dark Corridor gives us a fun romp in a hard science thriller that includes cyborgs, drug lords and space Vikings.

But wait, there’s more. Ryan McFadden’s hilarious and exciting The Venusian Job pits thief, Emily Van Lars, a.k.a. The Engineer, and her motley crew of mercenaries against aliens, crime lords and a deadly AI. Gerald Brandt’s The Courier, the first volume of a trilogy, is an action-packed thriller in a dystopian future, Los Angeles. Charmingly written Brendan’s Way by Matthew Bin is set entirely aboard a colony ship heading off world in a novel dubbed “Heinlein meets Marx.”

Get Rhea-HawkeGOODLast but certainly not least, Nina Munteanu’s Outer Diverse, the first volume of the Splintered Universe series, introduces Galactic Guardian Rhea Hawk, who investigates the massacre of an entire spiritual sect, catapulting her into a treacherous storm of politics, conspiracy and self-discovery.

For $5USD (or more if you are feeling generous) you get four of the twelve ebooks – MOBI or ePub – and for $15 or more you unlock the remaining eight.

The initial titles in the bundle (yours for a minimum of $5) include:

  • iD by Madeline Ashby
  • Outer Diverse by Nina Munteanu
  • The Venusian Job by Ryan C. McFadden
  • Lazarus Risen edited by Hayden Trenholm and Michael Rimar

If you pay more than the bonus price of just $15, you get the remaining eight books, including:

  • Duatero by Brad C. Anderson
  • Lost in Translation by Edward Willett
  • Space: Stories by Robert J. Sawyer
  • The Courier by Gerald Brandt
  • Dark Corridor by Jennifer Rahn
  • The Better Part of Valor by Tanya Huff
  • Brendan’s Way by Matthew Bin
  • Driving Ambition by Fiona Moore

What better time to cuddle up with a dozen great books and explore the brave new worlds they present? Self-isolation will never seem so much fun.

The bundle is available for a very limited time only, via https://storybundle.com/scifi. It allows easy reading on computers, smartphones, and tablets as well as Kindle and other ereaders via file transfer, email, and other methods. You get multiple DRM-free formats (.epub and .mobi) for all books, but after the three weeks are over, the bundle is gone forever!

It’s also super easy to give the gift of reading with StoryBundle, thanks to our gift cards – which allow you to send someone a code that they can redeem for any future StoryBundle bundle – and timed delivery, which allows you to control exactly when your recipient will get the gift of StoryBundle.

 

Now, go get some books and read…

 

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Nina Munteanu is a Canadian ecologist / limnologist and novelist. She is co-editor of Europa SF and currently teaches writing courses at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for the latest on her books. Nina’s bilingual “La natura dell’acqua / The Way of Water” was published by Mincione Edizioni in Rome. Her non-fiction book “Water Is…” by Pixl Press (Vancouver) was selected by Margaret Atwood in the New York Times ‘Year in Reading’ and was chosen as the 2017 Summer Read by Water Canada. Her novel “A Diary in the Age of Water” will be released by Inanna Publications (Toronto) in May 2020.

Dreams and Perceptions…And ‘The Other’

Credit Riv path in snow

path along Credit River (photo by Nina Munteanu) 

It was a while ago, as I was driving home from a friend’s place in the sultry dark of night that I noticed the change…

Perhaps it was the rain and the winding road that nudged my psyche to wander into that other realm. Or was it the surrealistic motion picture The Fountain that I’d seen the evening before? Or had it more to do with the fact that I’d been, for various reasons, without sleep for over forty hours that I glimpsed the ordinary in an extra-ordinary light?

Light had everything to do with it…Amber traffic lights at a construction site pulsed like living things. Smoky back-lit clouds billowed over an inky sky. A garish screen of trees, caught in the beams of my car lights as I turned a corner, flashed. Nature recast. A half-built apartment building loomed up like some dark tower in Lord of the Rings. I was reminded of a scene early on in The Fountain where the viewer is disoriented initially by a busy street at night because it was shot upside down. Ironically, the picture was filmed in my hometown of Montreal and I didn’t even recognize it.

Have you ever done that? Looked backward while driving through a familiar scene to gain a different perspective? And felt different for just a moment? Like you’d briefly entered a different dimension and glimpsed “the other”?

What is it like to meet “the other”?

What is it like to approach the unfamiliar? A new landscape. A stranger in town. A different culture. An “alien” encounter. How do we react? Is it with wonder? Curiosity? Fear? Hatred? A mixture of these?

The genre of science fiction vividly explores our humanity through our reactions to “the other.” It does this by looking at both perspectives. By describing “the other,” science fiction writers describe “us.” In his book Orientalism: Western Conceptions of the Orient Edward W. Said contended that for there to be an ‘us’, there has to be a ‘not-us.’ According to Patricia Kerslake of Central Queensland University, this arises from a postcolonial notion of ‘the Other’, through a mutual process of exclusion. This exclusion inspires the very idea of ‘alien’ by imposing expectation on perception. Kerslake argues that: “When one culture imposes its perceptions on another, in that it begins to see the Other not as they are but as, in Said’s words, ‘they ought to be’, then the process of representation becomes inevitable: a choice is made to see a ‘preferred’ real.”

Ursula K LeGuin

Ursula K. LeGuin

In her 1975 article “American SF and the Other,” Ursula K. LeGuin unequivocally scolded the Western SF genre for representing and promoting colonialism and androcratic motives.

One of the great early socialists said that the status of women in a society is a pretty reliable index of the degree of civilization of that society. If this is true, then the very low status of women in SF should make us ponder about whether SF is civilized at all.

The women’s movement has made most of us conscious of the fact that SF has either totally ignored women, or presented them as squeaking dolls subject to instant rape by monsters—or old-maid scientists de-sexed by hypertrophy of the intellectual organs—or, at best, loyal little wives or mistresses of accomplished heroes. Male elitism has run rampant in SF. But is it only male elitism? Isn’t the “subjection of women” in SF merely a symptom of a whole which is authoritarian, power-worshiping, and intensely parochial?

The question involved here is the question of The Other—the being who is different from yourself. This being can be different from you in its sex; or in its annual income; or in its way of speaking and dressing and doing things; or in the color of its skin, or the number of its legs and heads. In other words, there is the sexual Alien, and the social Alien, and the cultural Alien, and finally the racial Alien.

Well, how about the social Alien in SF? How about, in Marxist terms, “the proletariat”? Where are they in SF? Where are the poor, the people who work hard and go to bed hungry? Are they ever persons, in SF? No. They appear as vast anonymous masses fleeing from giant slime-globules from the Chicago sewers, or dying off by the billion from pollution or radiation, or as faceless armies being led to battle by generals and statesmen. In sword and sorcery they behave like the walk-on parts in a high school performance of The Chocolate Prince. Now and then there’s a busty lass amongst them who is honored by the attentions of the Captain of the Supreme Terran Command, or in a space-ship crew there’s a quaint old cook, with a Scots or Swedish accent, representing the Wisdom of the Common Folk.

The people, in SF, are not people. They are masses, existing for one purpose: to be led by their superiors…

…What about the cultural and the racial Other? This is the Alien everybody recognizes as alien, supposed to be the special concern of SF. Well, in the old pulp SF, it’s very simple. The only good alien is a dead alien—whether he is an Aldebaranian Mantis-Man, or a German dentist. And this tradition still flourishes: witness Larry Niven’s story “Inconstant Moon” (in All the Myriad Ways, 1941) which has a happy ending—consisting of the fact that America, including Los Angeles, was not hurt by a solar flare. Of course a few million Europeans and Asians were fried, but that doesn’t matter, it just makes the world a little safer for democracy, in fact. (It is interesting that the female character in the same story is quite brainless; her only function is to say Oh? and Ooooh! to the clever and resourceful hero.)

If you deny any affinity with another person or kind of person, if you declare it to be wholly different from yourself—as men have done to women, and class has done to class, and nation has done to nation—you may hate it, or deify it; but in either case you have denied its spiritual equality, and its human reality. You have made it into a thing, to which the only possible relationship is a power relationship. And thus you have fatally impoverished your own reality.

You have, in fact, alienated yourself.

Diary Water cover finalWritten 45 years ago, Le Guin’s scathing article may have accurately represented the North American science fiction community of writers of that time. Today, despite the remnants of a strong old guard that still promotes a patriarchal colonialist hegemony, the science fiction genre has matured and grown beyond this self-limiting view. This is partly because current authors—many who are women and many who are representatives of minority or marginalized groups—have given SF a new face and voice that promises to include equality, inclusion, and a fresh look at exploration and ‘the other.’

The genre of science fiction has matured by diversifying to embrace “mundane science fiction,” literary fiction, speculative fiction, climate fiction, cli-fi, eco-fiction, indigenous futurisms and more.

memoryofwaterScience fiction that leans toward “mundane”(everyday life) and literary fiction include the works of Paulo Bacigalupi (Windup Girl), Margaret Atwood (Year of the Flood), and Kim Stanley Robinson (New York 2140). Literary fiction overlaps with science fiction through eco-fiction and climate fiction which address oppression, jingoism and neoliberalism often through dystopian themes—and often through the voice of women writers—such as Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower, N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Earth series, Emmi Itäranta’s The Memory of Water, Nina Munteanu’s A Diary in the Age of Water, Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior, Annie Proulx’s Barkskins, and Richard Power’s Overstory.

CliFi Tales of ClimateChangeIn 2017, several publications addressed different aspects of society through speculative fiction.  Laksa Media published Strangers Among Us: Tales of the Underdogs and Outcasts, which explores issues of mental health. Exile Editions published Cli-Fi: Tales of Climate Change with stories on personal experience with climate change. Reality Skimming Press published Water, for which I was editor, which explored optimism in the face of climate change.

In Ann Leckie’s 2014 Ancillary Justice, the main character is a space ship. The Gethenians in Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness are humanoids with fluid gender, adapted to environment. In Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312,  humans have abandoned the gender binary for an intersex existence based on proven longevity.

Borderline mishell bakerNovels and anthologies of short stories that feature disabled characters are also growing. Examples include Borderline by Mishell Baker, We Who Are About To… by Joanna Russ, Murderbot series by Martha Wells, and Uncanny: Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction (edited by Elsa Sjunneson-Henry, Dominik Parisien et al.) among many others.

Indigenous futurisms, speculative writings on issues of colonialism, identity, AI, and climate change include Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse, Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones, Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson, Take Us to Your Chief, by Drew Hayden Taylor, The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline, Walking the Clouds Anthology edited by Grace L. Dillon, and Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich.

Trail of LightningIn an introduction to seven Indigenous Futurism books, Barnes and Noble writes:

So many stories, well intentioned and not-so-well-intentioned, have fixated on the dark pasts of Indigenous people, assuming that colonization stole from them any future not involving slow decline and assimilation. Though there’s plenty of tragedy to be recounted, Indigenous history didn’t end there, and a wave of modern authors are exploring Indigenous cultures as living, vibrant, and firmly fixed in both the modern and furute worlds—sovereign nations with as much claim to an endless array of possible futures as any other culture. So much of what we call classic science fiction involves tropes that look very different to colonized peoples: the heroic space explorers who travel the stars visiting (and often conquering) alien worlds look very different to people whose histories are so strongly marked by the scars of colonization.

Of Indigenous Futurisms, the Seattle Public Library writes:

Indigenous Futurisms confront many of the norms of speculative fiction by challenging, subverting, or refusing to engage with colonial, racist, and otherwise oppressive genre tropes. Indigenous Futurism draws on the strength of Indigenous knowledge systems, worldviews, stories, languages, and traditions to reimagine the past, present, and future of this world and others. Yet it is not necessarily utopic or optimistic. Many authors writing within the Indigenous Futurisms genre engage with the realities of ongoing colonialism around the world, and the apocalyptic nature of the present for many Indigenous communities. However, characters struggle despite the circumstances for a better future.

 

Credit River first snow

First snow on the Credit River (photo by Nina Munteanu)

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Nina Munteanu is a Canadian ecologist / limnologist and novelist. She is co-editor of Europa SF and currently teaches writing courses at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for the latest on her books. Nina’s bilingual “La natura dell’acqua / The Way of Water” was published by Mincione Edizioni in Rome. Her non-fiction book “Water Is…” by Pixl Press (Vancouver) was selected by Margaret Atwood in the New York Times ‘Year in Reading’ and was chosen as the 2017 Summer Read by Water Canada. Her novel “A Diary in the Age of Water” will be released by Inanna Publications (Toronto) in May 2020.

The Invasion of Giant Crayfish Clones & A Diary in the Age of Water

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Marmorkrebs, giant marbled crayfish

In 2018, scientists reported that the giant marbled crayfish (Marmorkrebs [German]: Procambarus fallax f. virginalis) recently developed the strategy of being entirely female and cloning itself via parthenogenesis1; the female doesn’t require a male crayfish to fertilize its eggs. Despite the cloning procedure that makes them virtually identical genetically, the crayfish vary in size and pattern—no doubt due to epigenetics.2

First discovered by a German aquarium in the mid-1990s, these crayfish that developed from Florida-Native crayfish have migrated into the wild and are aggressively spreading in Europe, at the expense of the native European crayfish. The 8 to 12 cm long Marmorkrebs has been observed in Germany, Italy, Slovakia, Sweden, Japan, and Madagascar. The marbled crayfish prefers a warm and humid climate, suggesting that climate change may influence its distribution and success. The clones also thrive in a wide range of habitats—from abandoned coal fields in Germany to rice paddies in Madagascar, writes Carl Zimmer of the New York Times.

Given that every individual Marmorkrebs can reproduce (the advantage of parthenogenesis is that the female crayfish doesn’t need to find a mate—it just gives birth), one European scientist has dramatically suggested that, “we’re being invaded by an army of clones.” Zimmer shares the results of Dr Lyko and his team on how the all-female Marbokrebs came to be:

“Scientists concluded that the new species got its start when two slough crayfish mated. One of them had a mutation in a sex cell — whether it was an egg or sperm, the scientists can’t tell. Normal sex cells contain a single copy of each chromosome. But the mutant crayfish sex cell had two. Somehow the two sex cells fused and produced a female crayfish embryo with three copies of each chromosome instead of the normal two. Somehow, too, the new crayfish didn’t suffer any deformities as a result of all that extra DNA.” 

In its first couple decades, [Marmorkrebs] is doing extremely well, writes Zimmer. But sooner or later, the marbled crayfish’s fortunes may well turn, he adds. “Maybe they just survive for 100,000 years,” Dr. Lyko speculated. “That would be a long time for me personally, but in evolution it would just be a blip on the radar.”

marbled-crayfish2

Marmorkrebs

But what if this speculation isn’t the whole scenario? What if Marmorkrebs is just another example of climate change-induced adaptation and change through epigenetics? While climate forcing and habitat destruction is causing the extinction of many species; other species are, no doubt, adapting and exploiting the change. These generalists (born with change inside them) are poised to take over in Nature’s successional march.3

Bdelloid-rotifer-Philodina-gregaria

Bdelloid rotifer

Parthenogenesis and epigenetic change isn’t new. In fact, it’s very old … All-female bdelloid rotifers have been cloning a sisterhood for millions of years and using incorporated foreign genes through horizontal gene transfer4 (essentially stealing genetic material from their environment) to maintain a healthy diverse population. What’s new and weird is that this crayfish “suddenly” developed this ability—probably through epigenetic means (given this entire group is versatile in reproductive strategies in general). The real question none of the articles that covered this phenonemon ask is: WHY? Why is it happening NOW?

In my latest book A Diary in the Age of Water (due for release in May 2020 by Inanna Publications) I explore this “change” in a unique way:

Elora Park something river 4

Elora River, Ontario

Kyo finds a copy of Robert Wetzel’s Limnology on a lower shelf of the “L” section. It stands tall with a thick green-coloured spine. This is the book that Hilda, one of the Water Twins, had saved from the book burnings of the Water Age. A present from her limnologist mother. Hilda kept it hidden under her mattress. When CanadaCorp police burst into their home and dragged her mother away, Hilda was left alone with Wetzel. The limnology textbook was forbidden reading because its facts were no longer facts. 

After some coaxing, Myo shared a most bizarre tale of that time which led to the catastrophic storms and flood. What the governments hadn’t told their citizens—but what each citizen felt and knew—was that humans had lost the ability to reproduce. Then a spate of “virgin births” throughout the world spawned what seemed a new race of girls—‘deformed’, blue and often with strange abilities. Many considered them abominations, a terrible sign of what was in store for humanity—a punishment for their evil ways. Then, as quickly as they’d populated the world, these strange blue girls all disappeared without a trace. They simply vanished and became the Disappeared. Myo told her that some people called it a Rapture, a portent of the end times. Others suggested that the girls had all been murdered—a genocide, organized by what was left of the world government. 

Then … the storms … changed the world.

–“A Diary in the Age of Water” 

  1. Spontaneous Parthenogenesis: From the Greek Parthenon “virgin” and genesis “creation”, parthenogenesis is a natural form of asexual reproduction in which growth and development of embryos occur without fertilization. In animals it involves development of an embryo from an unfertilized egg; in plants it proceeds through apomixis. The production of only female offspring by parthenogenesis (such as with bdelloid rotifers) is called thelytoky.
  2. Epigenetics is the study of changes in organisms caused by the modification of gene expression (such as environmental triggers) rather than alteration of the genetic code itself. If genetics represents the hardrive of a computer, epigenetics is its software.
  3. Niche (the role or job of an organism or population) can be broad (for generalists) or narrow (for specialists). A specialist has superior abilities to exploit the narrow environmental conditions it lives in and is splendidly adapted to a fixed stable environment; generalists, less successful at exploiting than the specialist but more widely adaptive, can thrive in less stable environments that present a wider range of conditions.
  4. Horizontal gene transfer is the movement of genetic material between organisms other than by the vertical transmission of DNA from parent to offspring through reproduction. HGT is an important factor in the evolution of many organisms.

A Diary in the Age of Water will be released in May 2020 by Inanna Publications, Toronto, Canada.

 

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Nina Munteanu is a Canadian ecologist / limnologist and novelist. She is co-editor of Europa SF and currently teaches writing courses at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for the latest on her books. Nina’s bilingual “La natura dell’acqua / The Way of Water” was published by Mincione Edizioni in Rome. Her non-fiction book “Water Is…” by Pixl Press (Vancouver) was selected by Margaret Atwood in the New York Times ‘Year in Reading’ and was chosen as the 2017 Summer Read by Water Canada. Her novel “A Diary in the Age of Waterwill be released by Inanna Publications (Toronto) in May 2020.

Reminiscing on 2019…

Diary Water cover finalThis week is a wonderful time to reflect on the past year, 2019. It’s also a good time to be thankful for the things we have: loving family, meaningful friendships, pursuits that fulfill us and a place that nurtures our soul.

It’s been a very good year for my writing…and my soul…

Last year I received a writer’s dream Christmas gift: a signed contract with Inanna Publications to publish my ninth novel: “A Diary in the Age of Water” about four generations of women and their relationship with water during a time of extreme climate change. The book will be released by Inanna in May 2020 with a launch in Toronto on May 26th at Queen Books as part of the Toronto International Festival of Authors. The book is now available on Amazon.ca for pre-order!

Publications   

LBM 2019 ClimateInCrisis2019 saw several of my publications come out. In January 2019 the reprint of my story “The Way of Water” was published by Little Blue Marble Magazine. It will reappear in a print and web anthology devoted to climate fiction called “Little Blue Marble 2019: Climate in Crisis” on December 27, 2019. That will be the sixth time “The Way of Water” has been published!

EcologyOfStoryImpakter Magazine also published my article “How Trees Can Save Us,” an essay on five writers’ perspectives on trees and humanity’s relationship with them.

In June, I published the 3rd guidebook in my Alien Writing Guidebook series—called “The Ecology of Story: Worlds as Character” with Pixl Press in Vancouver. The launch on July 4th at Type Books was well attended with presentations by several local writers and artists.

Nina GroupOfSevenReimagined

Nina Munteanu with The Group of Seven Reimagined

I was commissioned along with twenty other writers to write a piece of flash fiction for a commemorative anthology to the Group of Seven, entitled “The Group of Seven Reimagined,” with Heritage House in Vancouver.

I’d never written flash fiction before and it was both exciting and challenging to write. I was asked to pick an artist’s piece as inspiration for a flash fiction story. The beautiful hardcover book was released October 2019.

October also saw another of my pieces published. I was asked to contribute something to the Immigrant Writer’s Association’s first anthology, entitled “Building Bridges,” about the immigrant’s experience in Canada. While I’m not an immigrant, I did share my parents’ experience who had immigrated to Canada from France. I wrote a piece on the hero’s journey.

 

Age of Water Podcast 

AgeOfWater-HomePage

On November 22, 2019, co-host Claudiu Murgan and I launched the Age of Water podcast.  The podcast covers anything of interest from breaking environmental news to evergreen material on water and the environment. We interview scientists, journalists, writers, academia and innovators who share their knowledge and opinions about the real state of the environment and what committed individuals and groups are doing to make a difference. We talk about the problems and we talk about the solutions.

Appearances & Media / News

On June 22, I traveled to Port McNicoll at Georgian Bay to help give a writing intensive, hosted by publisher Cheryl Antao-Xavier at IOWI. I was also invited to speak at The Word is Wild Literary Festival in October. The event took place in Cardiff, in the Highlands of Ontario. In late October, I traveled with friend and editor Merridy Cox to Vermont to give a presentation on water to the Lewis Creek Association. Entitled “Reflections: The Meaning of Water”, the talk focused on our individual connection with water. I will be reprising this talk at several venues this year.

Nina Munteanu

Nina Munteanu with a metasequoia in the Beaches (photo by Richard Lautens)

I was also featured in the news a few times. The Toronto Star asked me to answer two questions about climate change and the Vancouver Sun published an Oped of mine entitled “Why Women Will Save the Planet.”

Research & Adventure

Cedar Giants copy

Giant red cedars in Lighthouse Park

In Summer 2019 I travelled to British Columbia to visit friends and family in Vancouver and elsewhere. Following a dream of mine, I travelled with good friend Anne to Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island to see the ancient forests and the west coast. I had wanted to see these old-growth forests for some time since I’d been to Carmanah many years ago. The ancient forests were magnificent and breathtaking and so nourishing for the soul. Recognizing these forests as living cathedrals, I felt a deep reverence. The silent giants rose from wide buttressed bases into the mist like sentinels, piercing the heavens. A complex tangle of beauty instinct whispered in the breeze with the pungent freshness of pine, cedar and fir. Anne and I even had a chance to hug Big Lonely Doug, the second tallest Douglas fir tree in Canada.

Nina looking up dougfir copy 3

Nina Munteanu stands, dwarfed, by a Douglas fir tree in Lighthouse Park

While in British Columbia, I also visited a small enclave of old-growth forest in the heart of Vancouver at Lighthouse Park (West Vancouver). I went with son Kevin and then again with good friend Margaret. This majestic forest of redcedar, Douglas fir, spruce and hemlock is deeply awesome and humbling. And a real gem for the city.

Nina boot

Nina Munteanu in Ladner, BC

Then, with just a few days before my flight back to Toronto, I slipped and fell and broke my ankle. I got a “boot” and a cane then hobbled on the plane and went back to work at UofT.

It has been a wonderfully inspirational year for me in writing and teaching. I still actively teach at The University of Toronto in several writing centres and classes throughout the downtown campus. The students are bright and challenging. I also still coach writers to publication and have helped several finish their works in 2019.

 

I hope the beauty of the season has filled your heart with joy. Wishing you a wonderful 2020, filled with grace, good health, and sweet adventure!

 

 

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Nina Munteanu is a Canadian ecologist / limnologist and novelist. She is co-editor of Europa SF and currently teaches writing courses at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for the latest on her books. Nina’s bilingual “La natura dell’acqua / The Way of Water” was published by Mincione Edizioni in Rome. Her non-fiction book “Water Is…” by Pixl Press (Vancouver) was selected by Margaret Atwood in the New York Times ‘Year in Reading’ and was chosen as the 2017 Summer Read by Water Canada. Her novel “A Diary in the Age of Water” will be released by Inanna Publications (Toronto) in May 2020.

Lexicon of  “The Splintered Universe”

Aeon \ Æ-ôn \ n : in Gnosticism, a divine power or nature emanating from the Supreme Being and playing various roles in the operation of the universe

Ae•on Sun•tel•ia \ Æ-ôn-sün-tel-ia \ n : 1 : the End of the Age according to the ancient Greeks, described by Plato as a cycle of catastrophe 2 : a prediction made recently by Raphael Martinez, leader of the Hermetic Order of a violent end of an age; the destruction of the old world  according to self-proclaimed prophet “will be signified by the joining of twin soul-mates who will herald the coming of a New Age.” 

al•tru•ism \ ôl-trü-ism \ n : the principle or practice of unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others; a motivation to provide something of value to a part other than oneself; pure altruism consists of sacrificing something (e.g., time, energy, possessions) for someone other than the self with no expectation of compensation or benefits, direct or indirect

al•tru•is•tic \ ôl-trü-is-tik \ adj : describes the action of altruism

ammut \ am-mut \ n : a large invertebrate that makes its eggshells of swamp detritus. During their larval stage, they are extremely carnivorous and will devastate the swamp wildlife. They hatch and swarm during the season of the dead on Horus. The ammut eat the young apophus. As adults they become vegetarian and serve as food for the apophus

anti-Nihilist \ an-tē-nī-a-list \ n : someone who opposes either philosophically or through action the activities and philosophy of the Nihilists.

apophus \ A-pô-fəs \ n : a gigantic snake-like creature known through local myth that inhabits the Boiling Sea in the Weeping Mountains are of the planet Horus (47 Uma a) in the 47 Ursae Majoris system

Boiling Sea Horus

Apophus rising out of Boiling Sea in Weeping Mountains

Azorian \ A-zór-ēən \ n : a tall, heat-loving lean-limbed biped species with tough sand-paper hide, long snout and ferret face from Azor in the Beta Hydri system 

Bado•win \ badō-in \ n  1: a small, very strong, gnarled and hairy biped species of often ill-repute, originating on the planet Nexus in the M103 star cluster

barkhan (also barchan) \ bär-kən \ n : cresent-shaped migrating sand dunes that are wider than long. These dunes form under winds that blow consistently from one direction and may move over desert surfaces with remarkable speed, particular to Upsilon 3.

bastet \ bas-tet \ n : a genetically produced mammal that displayed aggressive co-evolution and wiped out the domestic cat population and Earth’s large feral cats.

Biomimetic \ bīó-mi-met-ic \ adj : the application of biological methods and systems in nature, particularly in living organisms, in the design by sentient beings of items they use such as houses, engineering structures, vehicles, etc. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Blanket bog

blanket bog \ blanket bôg \ n  1: an extensive peatland (wet spongy perched water ecosystem) formed in a climate of high rainfall and low level of evapo-transpiration, allowing peat development not only in wet hollows but over large expanses of undulating ground; an ecosystem usually consisting of hummocks and pools with specifically adapted plant and animal life; an extensive bog-fen landscape   

blenoid \ blen-óid \ n  1: a ferocious and dull-witted four-legged dog-like animal with three sets of razor sharp teeth, massive head with three eyes and tough red hide; indigenous to Upsilon 2 in the Epsilon Endari system 2 : term used for a person with these traits : CRAZY; MAD 

Bo•bo Bar \ bō-bō bär \ n : a snack bar comprising of chewy bobouris fruit jerky and artificial chocolate.

Boiling Sea \ boēl-ēng sē \ n : term used for the great convoluted inland sea surrounded by the Weeping Mountains, on the planet Horus

Borr \ bōr \ n 1 : four-legged gentle species, indigenous to the planet Borrias and extirpated by the Vos Nihilists 2 : a shape-shifting species thought to be from Borrias

buma \ bü-mä \ n : the inside muscle of the buiuma’s digestive tract that sloughs off as the buiuma inverts itself. This event occurs twice a year, during kelm, the wet season of the Eosian jungle. It is considered an Eosian delicacy.

Cerberus / Cər-bər-əs / n : the term Rhea coined for the tall cylinders that dispensed the drugged nourishment on the penal colony of Sekmet : “Each cylinder with its swollen bulbous reservoirs, resembled a three-headed cyber-beast, with flexible teets suckling its deformed young.”

chaos \ kā-ôs \ n 1 : the confused unorganized state existing before the creation of distinct forms 2 : complete disorder syn confusion 3 : common expletive to denote less than optimal to utterly calamitous or disastrous conditions syn “hell”

co•bal \ cō-bôl \ n :  a small vole-like burrowing rodent native to the deserts of Upsilon 3 and the mainstay prey of the blenoid

cozu shrub \ co-zü shrub \ n :  a silver-green small shrub with thorns, and “popping” seed pods, indigenous to the desert of Upsilon 3

creel \ crēəl \ n : a fungus from Omega 6 that grows naturally into a metallic burnished hard surface and used by biomimetic architects on Horus to build their floors.

creon \ crē-ôn \ n 1 : an individual of the main species from the planet Creos in the 55 Cancri system; known for their laziness, lack of good judgement and imagination 2 : term used to indicate an individual with these traits : FOOL; IDIOT; DULLARD

ocean waves

coastline of Mar Delena island

Delenean \ Də-le-nē-en \ n : furry simple creatures with six appendages, native to Mar Delena in the Fomalhaut system. This species is subservient to the AI community that runs Mar Delena

Diverse \ dī-vərs \ n : a term that describes the existence of two parallel and divergent universes that comprise a metaverse

Dreccaline \ drec-ca-lēn \ n : a non-specific highly potent nerve poison that kills all life

Du•en•de \ Du-en-de \ n : an old Spanish word that describes a heightened state of emotion, expression and authenticity, loosely meaning “having soul”; promoted and discussed by Spanish poet Frederico Garcia Lorca  as an inner transcendent emotional response and spirit of evocation with roots from Spanish mythology.

dust \ dəst \ n : a psychoactive drug that produces mild euphoria and drowsiness in most sentient species

endo•rheic \ en-dō-rē-ik \ adj : pertaining to a closed drainage basin (a lake) that retains water and allows no outflow to other external bodies of water such as rivers or oceans; a self-enclosed system equilibrated through evaporation

Eos \ Ē-ôs \ n : ringed jungle Planet in the Pleiades Nebula; original home of the vishna tree

collision with paradise-no title

Eosian with Scree on Eos

Eosian \ Ē-ōs-ē-ən \ n : principal sentient being from Eos in the Pleiades Nebula; originally from Earth (Atlantis) and responsible for establishing the Galactic Guardian force in the Milky Way Galaxy

Epoptes \ Ē-pôp-tes \ n : shape-shifting god worshipped by the Eosian species, and from whom the Eosians presumably take their instruction through dreams

Fauche \ Fōsh\ n : an ungulate-like biped species with very long ears, wide frequency hearing and large lustrous eyes, originating from Bedar 9 in the Sigma Draconis system

fok \ fôk \ n : excrement from a blenoid

gadpie \ gad-pī \ n  1: a tree indigenous to Iota Hor-2, the moon of Horologii b  2: the wood of the gadpie tree

ghost \ gōst \ n : a person acting as a portal, capable of recalling aspects of the other diverse through their other soul-half in a déjà vu experience. If they are capable of soul-drifting—locking into someone else’s dream or trance—a ghost can manipulate both the dreams and real aspects of that other person’s life in the other diverse, usually in the form of a lengthy déjà vu

desert barkhans

Ghouroud on Upsilon 3

ghou•roud \ gü-rüd \ n : 1 : Original French term for moving dunes;  2 :  fields of moving dunes (barkhans) resulting from shifting sands, particularly found in Upsilon 3

glit•ter \ glit-tər \ n : 1 : a psycho-active drug used by Gnostics to see God; 2 : a refined form of dust, glitter is obtained through the major drug cartel of Dark Sun, run by Barbaricca on Sekmet; also known as glitter dust; also see dust

Gness \ ness \ n : a gentle wolf-like species with translucent skin from the 61 Ursae Majoris system

Gnosis \ nōs-sis \ n : knowledge of God

Gnostic \ nôs-tic \ n : a follower of Gnosticism

Gnosticism \ nôs-ti-sizm \ n : a belief system based on early Christianity, Helenistic Judaism, Greco-roman mystery religions, Zoroastrianism and neoplatonism, which teaches that some esoteric knowledge (gnosis) is necessary for salvation from the material world, created by an intermediary (demiurge; considered evil or merely imperfect) to God

Gnostic Hermetic Order of Québec \ nôs-tic hər-met-ic or-dər of qā-bec \ n : an order devoted to Gnosticism. Founded by Rafael Martinez, the Hermetic Order is based on Earth but has several outposts throughout the universe

Gnostic Schiss Order \ nôs-tic shiss ōr-dər \ n : a very small Hermetic order devoted to Gnosticism with mostly non-human members. Targeted by an Eclipse assassin, the Schiss Order was nearly extirpated. Its remnants is currently based on Uma 1

Rhea tall

Rhea wearing her Great Coat

Great Coat \ grāt cōt \ n : part of the uniform and weapons arsenal of the Galactic Guardian; millions of thixtropic nano-sensors incorporated into its durable yet flexible fabric let it respond to any number of internal and external stresses, providing its wearer with a shield from the cold or from a weapon’s discharge

hedon \ he-dən \ n 1 : a mildly euphoric recreational drug that is smoked and produces a pungent yellow smoke 2 : used colloquially to indicate incredulity (as in “you must be blowing hedon”)

Her•metic Or•der  (see Gnostic Hermetic Order)

hes•i•um fuel \ hēs- ē-um feü-əl \ n : a highly inflammable and incendiary rocket fuel used by most Zeas Corporation ships

inner diverse \ innər dīvers \ n : the world or existence comprised within the inner twin universe of the metaverse and linked to its twin existence, the outer diverse, through transitional phenomena such as black holes and intuition

jag \ jag \ vb  1 : the act of straying off the space-time stream of faster-than-light travel and often accompanied by dangerous ship stress  2 : used colloquially to indicate a serious misjudgement (as in “he jags up all the time”)

jagging \ jag-gēng \ vb  1 : describing a ship that is straying off the space-time stream 2 : vb; adv : used as an expletive to  describe a person, concept or action that lacks sense or causes harm, embarrassment or discomfort (as in, “he’s jagging with your mind” or “she’s so jagging stupid”)

jagged \ jagd \ vb1 : past tense verb of straying off the space-time stream of faster-than-light travel  2. adj : colloquial expletive term for a serious error or bad circumstance; SCREWED, MESSED UP (as in, “we’re jagged”)

Gas giant and moon

Gas giant (and moon) with kappa particles

kappa particles \kap-pa pär-ti-cəlz\ n : energy particles that concentrate in the upper atmosphere of several gas giants; retrieved by Fauche ray class sentient ships for fuel using specialized fuel scoops

kelm \ kelm \ n : the wet season on the planet Eos

kepry \ kep-rē \ n : a flying crustacean-like creature on Sekmet that lives in the dung piles left by the sobek

Khonsus \ kón-səs \ n : tall, feathered biped creature with raptor head, wings, and liquid amber eyes able to mind-probe, origin unknown but currently in 47 Ursae Majoris system; these hawk-like people achieve their powers through a symbiotic interaction with the planet’s energy and forces

Legess \ lə-gess \ n : tall, slim praying mantis-like invertebrate creatures who colonized Chara and enslaved native Rills

L’Ordre de l’Arbre Sac•ré  n : see Order of the Sacred Tree

aum-mandala

Aum mandala

mandala \ man-da-lä \ n : an ornate, highly detailed geometric design made of colored sand and symbolic of the universe. Used in a sacred ceremony by Tibetan Buddist monks, it is painstakingly created over many days and represents their sacred world of balance held together by spirit. Once work of art is finished and revered in a short ceremony, it is destroyed

MEC \ mek \  n : acronym for Magnetic-Electro Concussion pistol, created by Rhea Hawke, which uses electro-magnetic wave energy to focus sub-atomic quintle particles into resonance with specific DNA

Metaverse \ met-a-vərs \ n :  a theoretical term that describes the composition of all matter and energy encompassed by divergent diverses; a whole quantum cosmos that includes all that was and will be

mev•lan•i \ mev-lan-ē \ n : term used on Sekmet to describe the leader of the penal colony

swamp trees

Migratory trees on Horus

Migra•tor•y Trees \ mī-grə-to-rē trēz \ n : a tree known in myth to migrate from one location to another in the Weeping Mountains area of the planet Horus; according to myth the Khonsus inhabited the trees in ancient times

nexus portal \ nex-əs por-təl \ n : a person who enters the state of acting as a portal with ease through meditation or a self-induced trance. See portal

Ngu \ nü \ n : a photosynthetic amoeboid-like creature with protuberances as sense organs that lives symbiotically with AI-machinery; from Virgil 9 in the 70 Virginis system

Nuyu \ noo-ēü \ n : a nano-chemical mixture, imbibed as a liquid, that acts at the genetic level to temporarily change small aspects of outer appearance such as skin, eyes, hair; used as make-up

Nihilist \ Nī-ə-list \ n  1 : a member of a militant splinter group of the Vos  2 : a specially trained death squad of shapeshifter assassins on the Vos payroll

Order of the Sacred Tree  n : a closed membership in Quebec on Earth, devoted to the divine nature of the vishna tree, considered the tree of life and knowledge and the answer to achieving the balance of all things. The Order believes in the notion that a messiah, connected to the tree, will bring balance and begin a new age of enlightenment and peace

Orichalkon \ o-rich-al-kon \ n : 1 : the durable alloy that the mythical Epoptes bestowed to the Eosians in Atlantis; 2 : an elite guard of five squadrons of highly skilled sleuth Eosian warriors (squadrons include Cadmus, Odysseus, Peometheus, Perseus and Daedalus) dedicated to guard Mon Seigneur Martinez and his Hermetic Gnostic Order

Ouroboros

Ouroboros

Ouroboros \ u-rō-bōr-ōs \ n : a mythical serpent eating its own tail; connected with the Suntelia Aeon that refers to the serpent of light residing in the heavens (the Milky Way); the ouroboros symbolizes an Aeon

outer diverse \ outər dīvers \ n : the world or existence comprised within the outer twin universe of the metaverse and linked to its twin existence, the inner diverse, through transitional phenomena such as black holes and intuition

Peeka \ pēka \ n : a small monotreme creature that produces eggs and lives in the marshes of Omicron 12

play•a \ plī-ä \ n : a dry desert lake that contains water for a short while after a sudden downpour, causing a flood; an endorheic lake that is smooth hardpan most of the time

plock nectar \ plôk nectər \ n : 1 : a tasty nectar that is normally a mixture of juices from various planets with 50% of the juice made from the plock root of Scandia; 2 :  100% nectar from the plock root, known for its medicinal properties

polysynth fiber \ pôlē-sinth fīber \ n  : nano-strings that resonate with matter

pocket \ pôk-et \ n : acronym for  PulsOniC Kinetic Energy Tracker created by Rhea Hawke , which tracks a target once the gun has identified their signature

pockta \ pôkta \ n : a highly nutritional leguminous plant from whose giant seeds a rich thick soup is made

poi mash \ pói mash \ n : a substance like tobacco that is either smoked or chewed.

Portal \ pór-təl \ n : 1 : a person capable of entering into the other diverse and through their experience capable of seeing into the future of their current diverse; 2 : a person in the act of said action; 3 : a person, when acting as a portal, during dreamtime or meditation, may open a gate to the other diverse.

pro•max•in \ pró-max-in \ n : a sleep drug activated by metabolism

pul•son wave \ pəl-sôn wāv \ n : 1 : an electromagnetic green energy wave emitted by a long range stun cannon to disable a ship; 2 : a wave discharged by a weapon used in ships of Tangent Shipping design

quintle \ quin-təl \ n  1 : dark energy particle found in everything  2 : destructive energy discharged from a weapon (Q-gun created by shape-shifters) that resonates with matter to dematerialize an object  3 : used colloquially to express something of importance (as in: “who gives a quintle about spice?”)

Rill n : a short, stout and smelly bog being with tube-eyes, webbed limbs, large genitals and sloughing outer skin from Omicron 12 in the Chara system

sabkha \ sab-kä \ n : a desert feature of Upsilon 3, in which the sand worm hides while waiting for prey

Scandi \ skan-dē \ n : a lizard-like lean-limbed biped with remarkable healing abilities; indigenous to the Upsilon Andromedae system

Schiss \ shiss \ n : a hermetic order of peaceful Gnostic priests, devoted to the use of dream-meditation, particularly lucid dreaming, to achieve transcendence and evolve closer to God and the universal consciousness; several of its older founders experienced the Gate Hallucination; targeted by Eclipse and massacred into near extirpation during a meeting in Paradise City on Uma 1

Skyland

frozen landscape of Uma 1

shallik oil \ shal-lik oil \ n : an oil that possesses natural narcotic properties that numb the nervous system of those in contact with it and make them docile; the oil is produced by microbes indigenous to the Weeping Mountains area of the planet Horus; when ingested, the oil ill make one very ill

shapeshifter \ shāp shiftər \ n : a being able to change his or her physical appearance and associated physiology into several other forms; considered an ability possessed by the Borr species from Borrias

SGT n : Standard Galactic Time; based on a decimal system from the basis of the Earth 24 hour diurnal cycle, with ten days equal to one month and ten months equal to one year; zero SGT is set at the moment of first alien contact with Earth

skipboat \ skip-bōt \ n : a two-man vehicle with skates/skis that is able to move rapidly over water, ice and snow; used by settlers of Uma-1

Uma-1 -- David-levy-storm

Rhea chases fugitive Serge on skipboats on the frozen sea of Uma 1 as a storm approaches

slave \ slāv \ n : 1 : a derogatory term indicating one of lesser standing, often in actual indentured status : 2 : a term used by crime lords to their own hirelings or any considered lesser being

sling rif•le \ sling rīf-əl \ n : harpoon-like weapon used by hunters, primarily blenoid hunters on Upsilon 3. The sling’s sharp harpooned projectile seldom kills. “Killing wasn’t its objective; maiming, injuring and demobilizing was the intent. The sling was popular with hunters and gamers looking to satisfy their brutal sport of tormenting lesser beings.” – Rhea Hawke

sobek \ sōbek \ n : a fierce crocodile-like native of Sekmet that digs underwater tunnels in the peat and drowns its victims

soul-drift \ sōl drift \ vb : the practice of entering another’s dreams, even one’s own, and change“reality” through them

soyka \ sói-kä \ n : a soy-based warm drink like coffee; stimulant

Spice \ spīs \ n : a mild psychoactive drug in common usage

Sporian \ spó-rē-ən \ n : a very tall, pear-shaped lanky greenish species with elongated head and leather-like skin, long limbs and large bulbous eyes from Spor in the 18 Scorpii system

stun stick \ stun stik \ n :  a high-energy weapon that resembles a staff. It is used by the Orichalkon, an Eosian elite guard of Mon Seigneur Martinez assigned to guard his gnostic order in their various outposts in the universe. The weapon is wielded like a staff in Tai Chi movements and discharges an energy wave that stuns all in it contacts

Sun•tel•ia Ae•on \ sün-tel-ia Æ-ôn \ n : 1 : the End of the Age according to the ancient Greeks; see Aeon suntelia

synthflesh \ sinth-flesh \ n : real skin molecules and synthetic materials combined by nano-technology, used in synthplast

synthplast \ sinth-plast \ n : prosthetic made of a combination of real skin molecules and synthetic flesh combined by nano-technology

Tangent Shipping \ Tan-gent Ship-pēng \ n : the name of a Fauche ship building company

tappin \ tap-pin \ n : a small domesticated cat-like mammal with fangs and three tails, indigenous to Iota Hor-2

tatsuk \ tat-sək \ n : 1 : original Turkish Earth term meaning prisoner  2 : used by the galactic crime sub-culture, particularly Black Sun, to designate someone under indentured servitude; 3 : slave

1teck \ tek \ n : a permanent genetic change induced through nano-technology developed by Eosians by acting at the DNA level

2teck \ tek \ vb : the act of applying a teck, usually done by a qualified nano-genetics doctor

thix•tro•pic \ thiks-trô-pic \ adj : describes the intelligent nano-sensors incorporated into the durable yet flexible material of a Great Coat, which respond to ongoing environmental stresses that protect its wearer from a range of assaults including disease, weapon discharge, extreme temperature, etc.; see Great Coat

Tocan \ tō-can \ n : a rare insect-like creature indigenous to the Upsion Andromedae system from whose larvae a natural protein fibre is spun to create the shimmering tocanai fabric used in the creation of expensive suits

Tocanai \ tō-can-aē \ n :  the name give to the fabric produced from the fibre spun from the tocan larva

Tree Cult of Earth \ trē cəlt of ərth \ n : see Order of the Sacred Tree

U•ly•sses \ eu-lis-sēz \ n : a space station built by Zeta Corp Aeronotics of Earth; a self-sufficient long term agrarian colony in the vein of an O’Neill Colony with a set of large rotating cylinders many kilometres long and thousands of meters across with large gimballed mirrors; the station maintains a circular motion of 1 rpm to create artificial gravity

Ve•nik \ Ve-nik \ n : a large reptilian-like scaled creature from the HD177830 system with indolent eyes with several sets of arms with poisonous claws and “mouths” or orifices; Veniks are known for their violent and unprincipled nature; they are one of the few species that still actively trade in slaves

Beautiful violet vibrant jacaranda in bloom.

Vishna tree, native to Eos

vish•na \ vish-nä \ n : a species of tree with thorns and violet flowers, thought to be sentient and linked to an ancient soul, of unknown origin but currently found as the major component of Eosian and Earth forest ecosystems

vizion \ viz-ēôn \ n  1 : a small very strong and tenacious mammalian creature of unknown origin  adj  2 : a term used to describe a powerful grip based on the vizion  

Vos \ Vôs \ n : presumed extragalactic war-like species of which very little is known

wakesh root \ wä-kesh root \ n : edible root, indigenous to the planet Sekmet, with strong psychoactive properties 

Weep•ing Moun•tains \ wēpēng Mountənz \ n : extremely steep and jagged mountains that define and surround the Boiling Seas of the planet Horus (47 Uma a). Microbes, created in the mountains and coat the surface of the Boiling Sea, excrete a narcotic oil (shallik oil) that numbs and hypnotizes prey 

Boiling Sea Horus dmitriy-kuzin

Weeping Mountains and the Boiling Sea

Xhix \ ziks \ n : a chameleon-like species with multiple eyes capable of wide wave-length vision and changeable skin according to mood, indigenous to the 37 Geminorum system

Zar•zo•za \ zar-zō-za \ n : the name for the Gnostic Sanctuary of the Hermetic Order of Québec on Upsilon 3

Zeas Corporation \ zēss cōr-pōr-ā-shän \ n : a galactic trading company specializing in exotic foods and merchandize

ZetaCorp Aeronautics \ ze-ta-cōrp ā-rōnô-tics \ n : a major galactic ship builder originating on Earth

Zi•bar \ zi-bär \ n : an ephemeral desert town on Upsilon 3, where blenoid traders congregate to hunt and process blenoid meat for export

Phonetic symbols based on Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary and the Dictionary of Pronunciation by Abraham Lass and Betty Lass.

 

You can listen to a sample recording of Outer Diverse, Inner Diverse, and Metaverse through Audible.

audible listen

Microsoft Word - Trilogy-Vcon-AD-2.docx

 

 

 

nina-2014aaa

Nina Munteanu is a Canadian ecologist / limnologist and novelist. She is co-editor of Europa SF and currently teaches writing courses at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for the latest on her books. Nina’s bilingual “La natura dell’acqua / The Way of Water” was published by Mincione Edizioni in Rome. Her non-fiction book “Water Is…” by Pixl Press (Vancouver) was selected by Margaret Atwood in the New York Times ‘Year in Reading’ and was chosen as the 2017 Summer Read by Water Canada. Her novel “A Diary in the Age of Water” will be released by Inanna Publications (Toronto) in 2020.

The Exotic Worlds of Rhea Hawke’s Universe

To catch her criminals, Galactic Guardian Detective Rhea Hawke travels far and wide through the Galaxy and beyond in her Ray Class sentient ship Benny. From the oozing Weeping Mountains of Horus to the debauched crime-ridden glassy Splendid City of Ogium 9, here are just some of the worlds Rhea must navigate in The Splintered Universe Trilogy

Mar Delena heavy rain by Luca Bottazzi

Rains in Del City (art by Luca Bottazzi)

The Acid Rains of Mar Delena (Book 1)

The trilogy begins on Mar Delena, a water planet in the Fomalhaut system, where Rhea has chased the Dust smuggler V’mer to the AI-run Del City. Unfortunately, she encounters more than the smuggler there, experiencing first-hand what Dust can do…

I found myself absently curling a lock of my hair around one finger and resting my leg on the console as Benny eased into a large circle of Del City. I peered down into the darkness and barely made out the AI city sprawled on a large island surrounded by a rough sea. The dark sea occupied 98 percent of this bleak water planet.

“Mar Delena’s ocean is toxic with a pH of less than two,” Benny informed me. My ship’s voice was a calm tenor. I dropped my leg to lean forward and gazed down at the lights of the city. I made adjustments to the primary controls as Benny descended. Sheets of rain veiled the sentient city in shifting curtains of a shimmering skyscape. “That’s because the sulphurous rain has a pH of three,” Benny went on. “The caustic rain is a maintenance chore for the AIs that run the city’s infrastructure. They’re always repairing. That’s why all the streets are just left as dirt. The dirt lets the acid rain percolate into the ground. Of course it makes for a muddy place, but the Delenians don’t seem to mind.”

“Wonderful,” I muttered, gazing at the towering buildings, whose rounded roofs encouraged the corrosive rain to sheer off harmlessly to the ground. “Remind me to come here for my summer vacation …”

“There it is, Rhea,” Benny said.

“I see it.” I peered out my portside window through the rain and recognized V’mer’s small scythe-wing below. The ship resembled a bird of prey with a head-like cockpit flanked by crescent-shaped wings that flared out to the bow in a point. By analyzing its heat signature, Benny confirmed that the scythe-wing had only set down moments ago.

We’d just jacked the particle-wave stream thousands of light-years to this ancient dusty solar system. I chased V’mer here from a mining colony on Nexus, where the Badowin ran the largest illicit manufacture of Dust in the galaxy for Dark Sun—all cleverly under cover of a mining operation for Spice, a less dangerous narcotic. A little Dust showed you ‘God’; but in larger quantities it threw you convulsing over the precipice straight to chaos.

 

Phoenix City

Phoenix City on Gleise-12

The Volcanoes of Gliese-876b (Book 1)

Rhea swiftly goes from detective on the hunt to hunted fugitive, wanted by her own Galactic Guardians and local PD for theft and other misdeeds. Disguised, Rhea sneaks into Phoenix City on the moon Gleise-12—home of a major Guardian precinct—in search of her truant and estranged mother to ensure she hasn’t been hurt by Vos terrorists. It doesn’t turn out well…

Gliese-12’s ecosystem wasn’t as friendly to its inhabitants as Iota Hor-2, I thought, gazing with a yawn down at the rich yellow-ochre tones that veiled the hazy moon of Gliese 876-b. Bathed in warm shades of a constant sunset, Phoenix City had been built under a giant energy-shield dome to protect its inhabitants from the incessant incoming stellar debris. As a result, we required special clearance to make port. Playing it safe, Benny had provided us both with an alias, in case the Iota Hor-2 Guardian precinct’s APB on my theft had already reached the Gliese precinct through the Galactic Net…

I strode with forced casual steps out of the Phoenix Sky Port and pulled out a stick of gum. I glanced at the security men and women as I passed the RADs unnoticed, chewing slowly to the rhythm of my steps, then emerged with a smug smile under a permanently blushing sky into the heat and sweet mesquite smell of Phoenix City.

Generally hotter, redder and louder than Neon City, the town was densely populated with towering buildings that rippled in the heat and glowed like burning embers under the fire of Gliese 876.  Many of the tallest buildings were capped with glass-domed promenades, gardens, restaurants, and landing platforms. Their orange reflections glinted like exotic lanky mushrooms.

The city bustled with the thrum of commerce; air vehicles of all sizes zinged overhead in a constant rush. Phoenix City was a major banking centre. Even the Galactic Bank, my bank, had their head office here. All of the tallest towers were banking facilities. Save one, the Guardian precinct.

 

SplendidCity-MartinParker

Splendid City, Ogium 9

Dangerous Glitter of Ogium 9’s Splendid City (Book 1)

I’d set a course for Ogium 9, a small terrestrial planet orbiting HD70642, a bright star ninety light-years from Earth. I hoped to get information on the whereabouts of the itinerant Ulysses space station from Zec in Splendid City. The very thought of returning to that nest of crime made me uneasy. I’d spent a significant portion of my youth there, surviving by using my brain and keeping my emotions in check. The last time I’d seen Zec, he’d sworn to kill me for jagging him—he nearly did.

Splendid City was, on the surface, quite splendid. I strode along one of the pedestrian air tubes that swayed over a thousand meters above the ground and gazed past my gravity boots through the transparent floor to the city, glowing in the warm blaze of the setting sun. Splendid City sprawled beneath me in a complex thrum and filigree of multi-shaped, rounded, and peaked rooftops. Translucent walkways snaked in and out of them. Catching the sun’s fire, they formed golden streaks across the sky. Air vehicles buzzed around the towers and walkways in swarms of synchronous order.

For some reason, Splendid City had become a Mecca for architects, and each building was a celebration of unique design. Several were modeled on biological creatures: tentacled jellyfish, or arachnids, spiked echinoids, or giant pollen shapes.  The poet Goethe had described architecture as frozen art. I thought it no more apt than here, in Splendid City, where practical design and imagination conspired in the myriad shapes, textures and colors that rose up boldly towards the heavens.

The buildings sparkled like jewels. But the glitter of the throbbing city lay just on the surface, I thought solemnly. Beneath those resplendent spires and glass towers lay a filthy dark underworld devoted to crime. Splendid City was built by crime lords from all across the galaxy. It had been a good place for me when I sold my weapons designs; the place was ripe with young scoundrels, eager to build their little empires by trading one illicit merchandise for another. I’d had no problem finding customers. My challenge had been to keep from getting swallowed up by them…

When the door slid open, I saw Zec right away, feet up on his giant gadpie desk, eyeing me critically with scorn. He was handsome as always with dark, slick hair drawn back in a loose ponytail, with beautiful large heavy-lidded eyes the color of Earth’s ocean, and the lashes of a girl. He wore an expensive silk jacket imported from Earth over a charcoal gray T-shirt and tacky lumi-trousers. Behind him the large windows provided a spectacular view of the city lights in the deepening lavender of dusk. A lecherous smile slid over his face as he looked me up and down approvingly. He’d fancied me as his girlfriend when we’d slummed together in the lower levels. Even tried to kiss me once. He had the scar to prove it.

I met his gaze head on, then glanced down with a smirk to where his tight pants bulged and decided to make the first move. Tongue brushing my upper lip in mock seductiveness, I sneered: “Is that a Q-gun in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”

 

 

Skyland

Uma 1 (art by Frederick Perrin)

The Treacherous Cold of Uma 1 (Book 2)

Rhea travels to the frigid moon Uma 1, to warn the Schiss leader Rashomon of a plan to assassinate him—only to inadvertently cause his gruesome murder and receive her own injuries. She then spots Serge. He bolts and she chases his fleeing figure into the frigid snow and ice sheet of Uma 1…

I pounded after him, ignoring my burning lungs and the pain that flamed up my leg. “Stop!”

He didn’t. An insane rage boiled inside me. It balled my fists and fired my legs into a galloping run. I was gaining on him.

He darted to the skipboats that lined the dock and untied one. He tripped the canopy open and slid into the boat with a sharp glance backward at me.

Just as I reached the skipboat, chest heaving with exertion, Serge started up the engine, and the boat leapt out into the water, accelerating with a high-pitched whine. It threw a pair of five-meter rooster tails behind, splashing the dock and soaking me with a slam of cold water. It almost knocked me off the wharf.

I recovered and scrambled, slipping off balance for a careless moment on the wet wharf, to the next skipboat and found the button to open the canopy. I untied the boat, dropped into the seat with a grunt of pain, closed the canopy, and started up the engine. It sputtered into a vibrating whine. Pressing my lips into a snarl of determination, I slammed on the foot pedal and was thrown back with sudden acceleration. Within seconds I’d reached his wake, skipboat screaming at top speed.

I could make out the end of the thermal shield, where the water abruptly ended in a vast sheet of crusted ice. Serge plunged into the cold, skipboat hitting the lip of ice at full speed and bouncing high. Hot on his heels, I kept my vehicle in full tilt and flinched when it crashed through the icy lip, soaring then landing with a painful jolt on the ice sheet. The vehicle’s thin pontoons allowed the skipboat to skate effortlessly at breakneck speed along the creaking ice sheet that covered the giant underwater city. My lip curled in a wicked smile as I noticed that I was catching up to him.

“Rhea!” the com spattered on with Serge’s voice. “Is that you?”

After a long pause I stabbed the com button and responded savagely, “Yes it’s me. Stand down, Serge.”

He didn’t respond.

“I repeat, STAND DOWN!”

“Listen, Rhea, I didn’t kill Rashomon,” he said in an almost pleading voice.

“No,” I retorted with scornful mockery. “I did.”

“I mean, I wasn’t involved in setting you up.”

“No, your sister did that,” I bit out. You were the bait. “You were probably just back up, in case I jagged up.”

“It wasn’t like that,” Serge protested, betraying some frustration. Why was he even trying to convince me of his innocence? Why did he jagging care what I thought?

“If it wasn’t like that, then what are you doing here, Serge?” I scoffed, forcing out words through shallow painful breaths. The windswept icy surface grew rippled and pitted with blocks of frozen ridges and pockets of water.

“The same as you. Trying to prevent his assassination. You have to believe me, Rhea.”

Serge skirted around several large ice buttresses and domes in quick succession, his vehicle pounding over frozen waves and curtained layers of debris and ice. I kept up, turning each time with grunts of painful effort and feeling each jar like a hard kick in my chest.

“Now, why is it that I don’t?” I snarled. “Maybe it’s because you’ve lied to me ever since we met … V’ser.” I realized that I was panting. “Everything you’ve ever said to me was a lie.”

The com went silent. The scene began to feel painfully surreal. A few times, I saw spots in front of my eyes and realized I was fighting from blacking out.

Uma-1 -- David-levy-storm

Rhea chases Serge in a skip boat on Uma 1 as ice storm approaches (art by David Levy)

Serge continued to maneuver through what resembled a giant storm that had been flash-frozen. Where the chaos was he taking us? The turbulent wind blew the snow into eddies of swirling sleet, and it became harder to keep on Serge’s tail. I pounded in and out of dips and waves, painfully chasing the shadow of Serge’s yellow skipboat. Serge led us through a series of looming ice columns toward a rise in the topography. It looked like a giant frozen wave twenty meters tall. Maybe it was …

In a rush of new determination, I pushed out my jaw and felt my teeth gnash.

“Stand down, Serge!” I snorted out the words through panting breaths. “Give yourself up. It’ll end up better for you with the Guardians if you do.” God! Even I didn’t believe that.

He obviously didn’t either. I winced at his sharp laugh of derision.

“My dear Rhea. Always the Enforcer, even when you aren’t. And always in control—even when you obviously aren’t.”

“Jag you, Serge. And I’m not your dear!”

“Well, in that case you’ll have to catch me and stop me first!”

“If you insist.”

I slammed on the accelerator. We reached the rise and were climbing. It was steeper than I had initially thought, and I had to fight the wheel to keep from tipping over on my side as Serge led me on a diagonal vector up the ice and snow slope. Face puckered in a tight snarl, I forced my skipboat to skirt around Serge’s, flanking him on the high side. I caught sight of his tense face through the canopy as he threw alarmed glances at me.

“Rhea, you don’t have any weapons and you’re hurt. I hear it in your voice. How are you going to stop me? With your bare hands?”

“If I have to.”

I came up beside him, nosing toward him to force him down.

We crested the hill at the same time with my vehicle on the outside and—Oh, God! My pulse raced. I knew what lay on the other side before I saw it.

frozen wave 7

Blue-ice domes as frozen motion

A sheer cliff! More than that, it turned into an inverted cliff at the bottom. I realized that this was just another dome and we’d climbed the windward side where snow and ice had piled to form an incline. I felt myself slide uncontrollably into that awful dreamstate and watched in horror as it played out like I knew it would:

In a panic, Serge overcompensated. I was too close! His tail skidded in counterpoint and collided hard against mine, forcing me over the cliff. Heart surging in a spike of alarm, I fought the wheel as my skipboat slid straight down the dome then hurtled into freefall …

“Rhea! NO!—”

I saw the icy ground rushing toward me then smashed into darkness.

 

Boiling Sea Horus dmitriy-kuzin

Boiling See in the Oily Range (Weeping Mountains )of Horus

The Boiling Sea of Horus (Book 2)

In search of answers to her past from her elusive grandmother—who has transformed into a giant snake-like Apophus—Rhea returns to the misty narcotic Boiling Sea within the Oily Range (Weeping Mountains) whose oily residue settles over everything like a clammy soporific slime:

I pulled out a second wad of soyka gum and chewed nervously then resumed paddling, eyes sharp for any boiling masses of water snakes. With each stroke of the paddle I disturbed the surface scum and left a wake of swirling colour. It released a foul stench of rotting compost. The brown mist hovered like a cobweb over the oily film. I searched for any sign of agitation and listened over the gentle chortling of the water between each paddle stroke…

I swept the hair back from my face and squinted, trying to see beyond the ten meters of visibility the dank mist allowed. Following my internal compass, I negotiated the towering islands with unease. The only warning that I was approaching one of their vertical cliffs came in the sudden slap, slosh and gurgle of the waves against the sheer rock face. Then within a heartbeat the slimy dark rock would thrust up like an apparition through the oily mist and I’d steer clear with a sharp intake of air. I must have passed at least a dozen islands as I continued toward my destination, a place in my mind, perhaps planted there by those beasts that had taken brief residence inside me. Ever watchful for the apophus, the giant snake that had previously batted my ship out of the sky then set its babies to consume me, I was acutely aware of my vulnerability in this small canoe. If the apophus was hungry it could easily overturn my boat and spill me into the churning water to either consume me directly or feed me in slow agonizing ecstasy to those nasty babies of hers.

My head began to spin and I felt slightly nauseous…the cloying smell was overpowering. Was I going the right way? Some compass in my head had compelled me to bear toward a northern point on the convoluted shoreline. I’d been paddling for hours, but I could make out nothing in the thick fog. I shook my head to clear my mind and pulled out another soyka gum wad then joined it to the mass already in my mouth. My gaze settled on the iridescent swirling patterns of the whirlpools left in the wake of the draw of my paddle…

…Why did all the women in my family do atrocious things? If Shlsh was telling the truth, my grandmother had been the worst. She’d betrayed all of humanity by letting the Vos into my world. It was inconceivable. How could someone, a single person, have that kind of power? 

>I didn’t…It wasn’t just me…I had help, Vos help…

“What—” I inhaled my gum and my hand slipped on the paddle. It fell into the oily water and drifted away from the canoe. I flung out my arms to retrieve it, throwing the boat into a violent rock. Warm water flooded into the boat with a burst of rank fumes and I jerked back, pitching the boat into a counter rock and nearly fell out. I threw myself onto my stomach and groped for the slippery handle floating in the iridescent scum. Hands scrabbling, I found purchase, bringing more water in. As I pulled the oil-covered paddle into the boat and kneeled to wipe the slime off my arms with shaky hands, the voice returned: 

>I was in love and I fell. Love tricks you. Love blinds you. I think you know about that, Rhea…

“Shut up!” I shouted, clamping slime-covered hands over my ears. But the voice was inside my head. I raked back the hair off my face in a brisk sweep and in a more subdued tone I asked, “Who are you?” 

>Come this way. You will have your answers soon enough. Are you brave enough to handle them? You are almost there…

 

swampy trees and moss

Migratory Trees of Horus

The Migratory Trees of Horus (Book 2)

Once the apophus captures Rhea, it takes her across the Boiling Sea to a swamp where Rhea encounters the legendary migrating trees and—when she escapes the apophus—she collides with something worse—carnivorous ammuts:

The pungent smell of anaerobic mud and crushed vegetation stirred my nostrils and I looked up. I saw that the serpent was lumbering into a narrow canyon toward a ghostly grove of lanky trees. They resembled mangroves in the swirling mist. Within moments the snake began to make those same lyrical sounds that had intoxicated me the first time I’d come here. At the time I didn’t know who or what had made the eerie but beautiful sounds. Within moments an equally beautiful and more eerie multi-timbral chorus of feral ‘voices’ echoed off the canyon walls as if riding on the moving mist. I concluded against my own logic that this was some sort of communication between the apophus and…what? Surely not the trees? I narrowed my eyes with sudden amazement. Was I seeing clearly? Were the trees moving?…

cypress-trees

Migratory trees, Horus

I pulled myself out of the brown-stained pond and waded in a hobble through the warm swamp, Great Coat trailing like floating sails on the water. The canyon eventually opened to a wide valley, surrounded by towering oil-covered cliffs.

A loud pop and crackle ahead made me skid to a halt. I watched with amazement as a ten-foot oval structure made of earth and debris emerged from the muck, creating a small wake in the black water just meters in front of me. I flinched as it snapped open at the top, releasing a sharp odour of clove and burning matches. I considered backing away slowly and took a step back then stopped dead in my tracks and held my breath as two long deep crimson ‘tails’ slowly whipped out. They looked suspiciously like motion-sensing antennae.

When a vicious insect-like head emerged, attached to the ‘tails’ and dripping slime from a long proboscis, I abandoned stealth and bolted through the knee-deep swamp, not waiting to see the rest of the creature. Oh, God! These were the carnivorous larval stage of the ammut that Ka had told me about. I’d picked a great time to return to Horus: the beginning of the ‘season of the dead’ when the ferocious ammut hatched and swarmed.

Within moments, I heard an ominous loud clap and buzz behind me. I forced myself to turn and dared a glance. I clamped terrified eyes on a creature rising in the air, then lost my balance and fell backward into the swamp. A twelve-foot long insect-like creature had unfurled four narrow dragon-fly wings that flapped furiously. Twelve jointed legs dangled below its thick body. Huge multi-faceted amber eyes roamed below its crimson antennae and its long proboscis twitched, hungry for its first meal. Catching my breath, I scrambled under a drowned shrub and the ammut flew past me, the machine-gun flutter of its huge wings reverberating in my gut. I swallowed down my terror and wondered what an adult looked like if this thing was its larval stage.

I backed further into the bush and heard the sounds that I dreaded—more popping and crackling. I stared at the emerging swarm of eggs in the wide valley. Like popcorn, they started with a few snaps here and there. Within moments a cacophony of eruptions and the heady odour of clove and burning matches pervaded. According to Ka these carnivorous larvae left a swath of destruction in the wake of their swarm. No wonder the migrating trees were heading out of the valley!

swamp trees

migratory trees, Horus

…Ankle throbbing, I sat in murky marsh water to my waist, Great Coat billowing up around me, and back pressed against a bush. I listened to the chaotic clamber of ammuts emerging and flying. It grew dark overhead as their swarming bodies veiled the orange sky with black. The deafening machine-gun stutter of their wings filled my head and throbbed in my gut. Any moment a stray would find me, sniff me out with its long blood-red antennae, and I’d have to run…and die. In a sudden flash of regret, I wished I’d kissed Serge one final time….

Heart pumping, I dashed out from my temporary cover and fell with a loud splash as my leg gave out painfully under me. Alerted, several ammuts veered down straight for me. Heart slamming, I scrambled into a painful run as the first ammut’s antennae whipped out. It lashed my face and leg with a crackling snap and drew blood. I cried out with the agonizing sting and smelled burning flesh and cloves. I immediately felt a weak numbness spread through my body. Suddenly losing all strength, I stumbled and fell backward into the knee-deep swamp with a gasp. My face plunged into the stained water. I managed to right myself, coughing out black water, and thrashed to keep from sinking in the soft mud. By then more ammuts had buzzed in. Seizing in sobbing breaths, I backed away by scrabbling on my rump, too weak to rise to my feet. The soft bottom kept giving way underneath my hands. They sunk into soft mud and debris.

I watched in terrified revulsion as the nearest ammut descended upon me then I gasped as its chitinous legs poked my breast, as if testing its texture. To my horror, the giant invertebrate then settled partly on top of me and slowly pumped its body up and down, as if excited, effectively pushing me further down into the murky swamp until my head was barely out of the water… I gazed up at the creature’s head, chittering directly above mine, and fought down a moan of terror. Slobber from the creature’s proboscis dripped over my head then plopped, reeking of cloves and sulfur, on my face. I jerked my hand to wipe off the slime, then seized my MEC from its holster in blind panic. I aimed it at the ammut’s head and, pressing the trigger, dialed through every setting I could think of with my other fingers. Nothing worked.

Dear God, I prayed, releasing an involuntary moan, make it quick

 

Bog planet-tina claffey copy

Blanket bog on Sekmet

The Blanket Bogs of Sekmet (Book 2)

When Rhea is captured for several murders she didn’t commit, she is sent to the penal planet Sekmet to serve her life-sentence in Hades, a 2-kilometre mining barge floating on the peat bog.

I gazed out my porthole at the barren patchwork of the small wetland-dominated planet, whose surface resembled an early impressionist’s painting. Dominated by sombre russet and indigo tones, the raised bog was dotted by a hasty spray of cobalt lakes and pools.

Although it was mid-morning on the planet, the mostly grey sky was saturated in low cloud and it was drizzling outside. Spates of wind drove sheets of rain hailing sporadically against my porthole. It was a wet desolate place. But then again, “A drowning man is not troubled by rain—Persian Proverb, Rhea,” I said quietly to myself. The weather was the least of my concerns.

As the ship descended, I could make out the individual pool system of the blanket bog with its inhospitable tapestry of dark and wet shapes. I dispassionately reviewed what I knew of the planet. Its cool wet climate and rich iron deposits promoted the development of muskeg, string bogs, darkly forested swamps and wildflower-filled fens. This was Sekmet, an Earth-sized planet that orbited the KO star, HD177830 in the constellation Vulpecula. My new home. Where I was going to die.

Within moments the ship landed with a sharp jolt in the open landing bay of the floating colony. Then the exit hatch door opened and the AI droned, “This is your destination, Rhea Hawke. Please disembark.”

My chest clenched. I swallowed down my fear and stepped out onto the platform of Sekmet’s landing bay, catching the faint sulphurous smell of the bog. The doors of the ship abruptly closed behind me, making me involuntarily flinch. Annoyed at my reaction, I gathered my composure and swiftly assessed the empty platform, hearing only the hum of the ship’s engine. My gaze rested on the endless hummocks and large meandering ponds of tea-stained water outside.

As the ship made ready to leave, I felt my heart pounding with the sudden urge to bolt. I had a panicked notion to leap off the platform into the murky bog. Swim, wade, scrabble to eventual safety in the wilderness of Sekmet in those distant hills. The ship lifted off the ground in a turmoil of dust and thunder. My face twisted with indecision as I tensed, poised to flee—

A male Azorian burst in from the adjoining chamber and I braced for an attack. He pelted right past me then leapt into the murky water. I watched him thrash through the undulating bog, stumbling, submerging and trying to swim—his left arm was amputated at the elbow. I was about to follow when laser shots peppered the water around him for several heartbeats. As suddenly as the shots began, they ended and the Azorian slowly sank until only his head remained above the water. I stood stiff, trembling hands over my mouth, and breathing hard. I stared at the head bobbing slowly in the water.

 

desert barkhans

Desert barchans on Upsilon-3

The Barkhan Deserts of Upsilon-3 (Book 2)

In a desperate attempt to find the Ancient One—the key to the mystery killings—Rhea steals a Vos ship and the Vos Commander. She forces the terrorist A’ler at gunpoint to take them to Upsilon-3, the inhospitable desert planet where the Ancient One has settled in an enclave created by an ancient civilization. It is also where Rhea was almost killed once in a rabid blenoid attack. She will meet these vicious predators again…

Bleary-eyed and very cross, A’ler took us down to the arid planet, piercing the cerulean atmosphere with a view of mostly ruddy sand dotted with grey-green scrub below. We then crossed a vast expanse of open desert. I gazed down at the waved pattern of cresent-shaped dunes, obviously formed by a constant wind. It was a harsh and miserable environment, I thought.

“Barkhans,” A’ler offered, pointing to the dunes and breaking her taciturn silence. “That’s the West Ghouroud. No one’s ever crossed it and lived.” She eyed me with a dismissive look of disgust as much as to imply, especially a puny like you.

I didn’t respond and let my gaze stray back to the dune sea. The dunes looked like the capped waves of a red ocean, the deep ochre of their shaded slipfaces contrasting with the harsh bright windward sides, still baking in the sun. The dunes looked small, but I guessed that some were at least three hundred meters high.

I’d been there before. I’d tracked and dispatched an Azorian assassin to the small ephemeral town there once—but at the cost of a blenoid attack. In his desperation, the Azorian had fled the ghost town into the arid wilderness, and if I hadn’t shot him, the blenoids would have torn him apart. If they hadn’t, he would have died a horrible death of severe hypothermia. As it turned out, my shot infuriated a pack of sleeping blenoids and I became the subject of their fury instead.

 

Beleus City

Beleus City on the moon Beleus off gas giant HD28185b

The Toxic sea of Beleus (Book 3)

Rhea makes a daring rescue of the bookseller Serge Bastion (Serge’s outer diverse twin), injured in a med-centre in Beleus City on Beleus. When Bastion refused to jump out the window to safety, Rhea belts him then gets him own by unconventional means to a nearby park.

I spotted it; a small peewee, parked a block away on the side of the road. The small two-seater resembled an ancient Earth motorcycle, except that it could fly. I pelted toward it and, after a brisk glance over my shoulder, straddled the vehicle and jimmied the starter lock then kick-started the engine. The vehicle stuttered on and I drove it to the bush where I’d stowed Bastion. I leapt off and pulled Bastion out from under the bush.  After struggling with his dead weight, I finally got him, still in his pajamas, in the back-supported passenger seat and seat-belted his slumped form in. I jumped in the pilot’s seat, grabbed his limp arms so he was leaning against me and secured his arms around my waist by lashing them together with chord from my pocket. Then we were soaring up just as several Eosian guards ran up to us, waving nokerig pistols and shooting. 

Nihilists had perched themselves on the roof and caught my peewee in a salvo of torpedoes. I veered us out to sea but not before one grazed the vehicle. I felt the hard jerk to the right and craned to look over my shoulder. I noticed to my dismay that a green cloud of hesium fuel was spraying out of the fuselage. But we’d at least cleared the distance they could shoot. I had no idea where I was going, except that it was far from the Med-Facility and the city.

For now I spotted no pursuit. That would change quickly, I thought, glancing down at my options. We were heading out to sea toward a long string of islands. The Beleus Sea shimmered in the sunlight with mercurial hues of lavender, deep purple, aqua green and blue. So different from the oily seas of Horus, the Beleus Ocean was extremely clear, reflecting the shifting light of the planet’s atmosphere in an exotic glitter.

Bastion stirred, head still lolling against my shoulder, and I reached behind me to jab him awake.

“Where are we?” I said gruffly. “We’re low on fuel.” I didn’t tell him we were losing fuel. “And we need to land somewhere fast…and safe!”

I had to give him credit; he sobered fast and unfastened his hands then leaned forward to point to our left, toward a cluster of extremely tall islands. “There. Go there, to the Broken Islands. They won’t find us there.”

That was what I needed to hear. I veered hard to port and heard Bastion grab my waist again and moan out some expletive at me. I glanced over my shoulder and found him glaring at me and rubbing one hand over his sore jaw.

“Sorry,” I muttered. “You weren’t going to jump.”

“What’d you do? Throw me over?” he asked in a sarcastic voice and felt himself gingerly.

“No, I just changed into a bird and flew you down to this vehicle that was waiting for us,” I said, meeting his sarcastic tone.

He remained silent. The truth is always more bizarre than any made up story, I thought dismally.

We were fast approaching the tall island spires. Hundreds of them dotted the iridescent sea. It was obvious to me that we’d reached the Broken Islands. And good thing too, because the engine began to stutter. It spluttered and whined as if in objection as I gunned it. Then I hiked in my breath as we went into a silent glide.

“Are we—” Bastion stopped himself.

He decided that he didn’t want to know; unfortunately I didn’t have that luxury. It’s not enough to know to ride; you must also know how to fall—Mexican proverb. Ok…here we go…

 

Mont Sacre-Coeur Granby, QC

Original seminary in Granby, Quebec on Earth

The Re-Imagined Earth (Book 3)

Rhea returns to Earth—now transformed by the Eosians who have settled there—She goes there with her inner diverse twin and Serge to warn the eccentric Gnostic Rafael Martinez of plans to assassinate him and also to borrow some of his elite guard to find the hidden Vos weapons facilities and destroy them. But Martinez turns out to be far more than an eccentric priest, challenging Rhea existentially a key to her past and her future…

Martinez had taken up residence in an old Catholic seminary just outside a derelict town in what used to be the rural Eastern Townships of Québec. I thought it apt that he chose a theological school for his Gnostic teachings.

As Benny entered atmosphere and circled down, I gazed through my starboard porthole at the familiar landforms and water masses of Earth. It was a lot greener than the last time I’d seen Earth through my view port aboard the shuttle that had taken me away from my home. Since the Eosians had colonized the planet thirty years ago, Earth had reverted mostly back to wilderness. Eosians were master ecologists who had honed their healthy symbiotic skills with nature into an art.

The planet, Gaia, was certainly healthier and happier now that her ancient prodigal civilization had returned. These former Atlanteans had brought back the wisdom of millennia about living in concert with and through nature’s arcane powers. They’d torn down humanity’s great cities and replaced concrete and glass with natural organic, living materials. They’d uprooted the roads and bridges and introduced their native scree, an intelligent giant raptor, as transportation. They’d let nature absorb the massive agricultural fields and clear-cuts, to harvest and recycle her bounty in beneficial ways. They planted their native tree, the vishna, everywhere. They’d restored the natural environment from the ravages of strip mines, oil fields and gas plants and replaced them with their non-intrusive crystal technology.

I gazed at the endless rolling hills covered in a lush purple and green carpet of young vishna and native trees. It was a monument to a simple and gentle life, a respectful pantheistic life. I could have wept; it was so beautiful. But it wasn’t Earth anymore….

V’rae wept for me. She and Serge had come beside me to watch once we’d entered atmosphere over North America. She said in a wavering voice, “It’s so beautiful…but it isn’t Earth anymore.” Then she burst into tears.

Martinez’s estate, the Solstice, was an island of lavish order in a green frothy sea of mixed wild forest. The derelict farming town of Granby had been demolished and absorbed back into nature since the Eosians had taken over as Earth’s new custodians. I could barely make out a criss-cross pattern of lighter greens in the forest mosaic that betrayed where old foundations and roads had previously lain not far from the current estate. Martinez’s estate was one of the few human-built structures that the Eosians hadn’t torn down and replaced with their symbiotic organic structures or left to natural and enhanced regeneration.

Martinez’s estate, the Solstice, was an island of lavish order in a green frothy sea of mixed wild forest. The derelict farming town of Granby had been demolished and absorbed back into nature since the Eosians had taken over as Earth’s new custodians. I could barely make out a criss-cross pattern of lighter greens in the forest mosaic that betrayed where old foundations and roads had previously lain not far from the current estate. Martinez’s estate was one of the few human-built structures that the Eosians hadn’t torn down and replaced with their symbiotic organic structures or left to natural and enhanced regeneration.

I frowned at him and saw V’rae look puzzled and clutch his arm. “Well, be that as it may,” I returned coolly, “he’s on the hit list and we still have to warn him. Plus he does have the largest and most capable independent Eosian guard in the galaxy.”

His brows came together. Then he bolted forward, bumping past my shoulder with his face so close to mine I could feel the heat coming off him. His arm brushed mine to touch the navigation screen. “I really think we should reconsider and—”

V’rae seized his other hand and pulled him back. “Let her land the ship, V’ser,” she commanded quietly. “We’re here now.” She was right and Serge knew it. He straightened with a sigh and I started to breathe again.

Metaverse-FRONT-web copyThen we were being hailed and I got on with the task at hand. “Strap yourselves in,” I instructed once I’d been given the go ahead to take port in Hanger B, below the seminary. After a long intake of air, I took us down.

 

In Metaverse, the third and last book of The Splintered Universe Trilogy, Detective Rhea Hawke travels back to Earth, hoping to convince an eccentric mystic to help her defend humanity from an impending Vos attack—only to find herself trapped in a deception that promises to change her and her two worlds forever.

You can listen to a sample recording of Outer Diverse, Inner Diverse, and Metaverse through Audible.

audible listen

Microsoft Word - trilogy-poster03.docx

GIVE AWAY! GIVE AWAY! GIVE AWAY! GIVE AWAY! GIVE AWAY! GIVE AWAY!

Rhea likes to use proverbs as barbs and to unhinge her opponent when she gets nervous or feels trapped. Send me a good proverb for Rhea to use and I will send you a code to obtain a free Audiobook from Audible. Codes are limited, so it will be first come, first serve until we’re out. Send your proverb to Nina Munteanu at: nina.sfgirl[at]gmail.com.

 

nina-2014aaa

Nina Munteanu is a Canadian ecologist / limnologist and novelist. She is co-editor of Europa SF and currently teaches writing courses at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for the latest on her books. Nina’s bilingual “La natura dell’acqua / The Way of Water” was published by Mincione Edizioni in Rome. Her non-fiction book “Water Is…” by Pixl Press (Vancouver) was selected by Margaret Atwood in the New York Times ‘Year in Reading’ and was chosen as the 2017 Summer Read by Water Canada. Her novel “A Diary in the Age of Water” will be released by Inanna Publications (Toronto) in 2020.

Rhea Hawke’s Ultimate Weapon: the MEC

Rhea tall

Rhea Hawke (Valie Gurgu) on Iota Hor-2

Rhea Hawke and weapons seem inexorably linked. As a Galactic Guardian Enforcer in a large galaxy of alien technology, Rhea Hawke knows her weapons. She’s used and been shot at by many. During her pre-Enforcer days, when she slummed with gangster Zec Zebalion on Ogium 9, Rhea made a dubious living as an arms dealer. She even designed some (like the Pocket and the MEC). Now, as ex-Enforcer, she finds her designs in high demand…

The Q-gun

The Q-gun is a shapeshifter’s preferred weapon; the handgun discharges dark energy quintle particles that resonate with matter to dematerialize it. In the first scene of Outer Diverse, Rhea is held at Q-gunpoint by the dust smuggler, V’mer on the rainy planet of Mar Delena. Later in Book 1, Rhea visits her old gangster “friend” Zec in Splendid City on Ogium 9, hoping for some information:

I met his gaze head on, then glanced down with a smirk to where his tight pants bulged and decided to make the first move. Tongue brushing my upper lip in mock seductiveness, I sneered: “Is that a Q-gun in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”

SplendidCity-MartinParker

Splendid City on Ogium 9

The Q-bomb

Q-bombs are genetic-specific explosives with nano-bots that can be programmed for a specific frequency wave or genetic signature such as DNA. The Q-bomb (or its cousin Q-gel) is used often by various people, including Rhea, throughout the trilogy. In Inner Diverse, Rhea’s bookseller friend Serge Bastion (outer diverse twin to inner diverse V’ser) is supposedly killed by a Q-bomb, rigged into a book by a Vos terrorist, who had booby-trapped it with a DNA-sensing device linked to an inverse Q-bomb.  Later in Inner Diverse, Rhea embarks on an ambitious mission to blow up a Nihilist weapons facility using a set of Q-bombs. But to do that, she must visit her slimy “friend” Zec:

He glared at me with new respect and some fear. “What do you want, Hawke? I know you didn’t bring me my payment.”

“For what?” I challenged him, sauntering closer to him with my MEC still levelled at his crotch. “You’re half right, though. I do have payment. But for a Q-bomb, fifth quintle level with a five hundred charge. And I need it now.”

He threw his head back and laughed. “Whose ship are you blowing up this time?”

I smiled wryly. “Do you want the credits or not?”

I’d never known Zec to say no to a potential deal to make money. “Five thousand,” he said with a sneer.

“Up front.”

“That’s…” I began in a flustered tone, feigning affront.

“Particle-stream robbery?” He grinned. “That’s the deal.”

I looked directly at him with a hard gaze. “I pay only on delivery. And only if it’s within the hour. That’s the deal.”

 

Q-gel

Q-gel was used by the Nihilists in Metaverse to kill Rhea Hawke and Serge Bastion at the Beleus City Med Facility. Like the bomb, the intelligent blue-green slime is driven by nano-bots, and can be programmed to detonate with a specified distance from a specific object.

Then I saw it: a blue-green slime, seeping under the door…

We had seconds. I leapt onto Bastion, seizing him as he yelped, and rolled us off the bed toward the window. We thudded to the floor and I winced at his cry of pain. Calling forth an invisible burst of Badowin strength, I heaved the bed onto its side in front of us and pushed Bastion gruffly down just as the gel ignited with a loud ear-splitting bang.

The blast threw the bed against us and together we collided into the far wall as the windows shattered. Shards of tiny glass rained on us. Bastion squeaked then whimpered.

“You okay?” I asked once I’d gotten my breath back. My voice sounded like I was underwater and my ears were ringing.

He nodded, grimacing tightly with wide eyes. I saw blood trickle out of both his ears and felt a warm flow down my left one. The blast had probably burst our eardrums. We were lucky, I thought, that it hadn’t done more.

“Come on,” I said, pushing the bed off us and scrambling to my feet. “This is our exit call.” I lowered my hand to help him up. He just stared. All around us, embedded in the walls and the far side of the bed were thousands of knife-like spicules. Dozens would have impaled us had we not been shielded behind the bed.

Bastion shivered.

Beleus City

Beleus City, Beleus

The Kappa rifle

The Kappa rifle with its metre-long barrel acts like a chemical weapon discharging kappa particles that slowly eat away flesh. Kappa particles are also used by Fauche shipbuilders as a fuel system for their ships. In Outer Diverse, Rhea first runs across a kappa rifle pointed at her by the bounty hunter Pentas in the Tangent Shipping hanger in Pyramid City on Horus:

Pulse racing, I turned and beheld two large purple Eosians standing at the entranceway. The larger one was in a Great Coat, snarling, and pointing a pocket pistol at me. The other wore a faded ranger and pointed his Kappa rifle with its meter-long barrel at me. I stared at the Kappa rifle. It was a cruel weapon, killing slowly. Mistakenly classified as a Class C weapon, [the Kappa rifle] was released as regulation issue to civilians like this bounty hunter. Guardians and bounty hunters often worked in pairs to find their quarry, usually splitting the reward. I’d done the same on a few occasions.

In Inner Diverse, on the planet Kraal, the terrorist A’ler shoots her brother Serge with a Kappa rifle:

Serge gave his sister a confident smile. “You wouldn’t shoot your own brother—”

The loud report of the kappa rifle made me flinch. Serge’s eyes widened in shocked disbelief then he looked down at the small wound in his chest.

Feeling a sympathetic stab of pain in my tight chest, I stifled a shriek and helplessly watched Serge fall to his knees then lose consciousness and flop over into a heap on the ground.

“NO!” I rushed to Serge’s limp body and knelt over him. I opened his shirt and gaped at the very small but deep wound. It leaked a small bit of blood mixed with kappa-induced fluid. The wound didn’t look like much now but already the flesh surrounding the small hole was reacting. It raged like an angry red boil. Serge’s face was grey with shock. Kappa particles didn’t usually kill right away but they were relentlessly deadly as they ate away the flesh of any creature they entered. It was a painful, long, but usually inevitable death.

“Enough blenoid crap!” A’ler shrilled. “He’ll die for sure if you don’t tell me where you put the bomb. Right now!”

snow mountains

Kraal

The Concussion rifle

The Concussion rifle, used mostly by Guardians, first makes its appearance in Outer Diverse in the ship hanger in Pyramid City on Horus when two Eosian Guardians emerge from a falcon ship to neutralize Rhea as she attempts to steal a viper. The concussion rifle operates mostly like an old 20th century ballistic firearm.

Flicking my gaze in rapid fire between the console I was trying to un-encrypt and the falcon ship, I eventually caught sight of two Eosians emerging from the falcon, bearing concussion rifles. They were heading in my general direction.

I continued to fiddle with the ID key pad, feeling panic edge in as the Eosians approached. For the love of Creos! I’d opened hundreds of these before. They’d been the easiest ships to steal during my dubious career as arms dealer. And I’d practically taught the vehicle BNE lessons in Stealth 101 at the Guardian academy—

They’d spotted me and were running toward me!

The engine sputtered into a reluctant idling whine. I seized the controls and the viper lurched into the air just as they opened fire.

Chaos! My heart slammed as a few shots pinged across the vehicle’s hull. I carved a tight turn and whipped over my two pursuers, forcing them to instinctively duck, and soared out of the hangar into the sunset.

aliencity04

Pyramid City, Horus

The Sling rifle

The Sling rifle is a harpoon-like weapon used by hunters, primarily blenoid hunters and meat traders on Upsilon 3—many of whom are smugglers and thieves. The rifle is essentially a harpoon with narcotic discharged with a sling line. in Inner Diverse, Rhea meets up with a gang of nasty meat-traders, who capture her and A’ler:

Lars laughed loudly and spit again, brown spittle landing on A’ler this time. “I do smell myself a barbeque.” Without a second thought, he aimed his sling rifle and shot. The rifle cracked, followed by the whiz of the harpooned sling line. The blenoid yelped then slumped, instantly knocked out by the strong narcotic. I flinched. He’d shot the leader of the pack and I knew what would happen next as the foreman released his sling. The blenoids fell upon their unconscious leader, flaying her alive to shreds…The men shouted with excitement, waving their sling rifles in the air.

The sling rifles discharged, cracking the air like whips, followed by their singing lines. As each blenoid tumbled under the deep penetrating harpoon hook, the men reeled them up as the remaining blenoids charged and dragged down their unconscious mates. It was a cruel game of cat and mouse and the sling rifle was luridly suited to it. A primitive weapon, the sling’s sharp harpooned projectile seldom killed. Killing wasn’t its objective; maiming, injuring and demobilizing was the intent. The sling was popular with hunters and gamers looking to satisfy their brutal sport of tormenting lesser beings. And torment they did. I watched in sick disgust as the men screamed with malicious amusement and reeled in the harpooned blenoids like fish in a writhing sea.

desert-rocks

desert and rock of Upsilon 3

The Stun stick

The Stun stick is a high-energy weapon that resembles a staff. It is used by the Orichalkon, an Eosian elite guard of Mon Seigneur Martinez assigned to guard his Gnostic order in their various outposts in the universe. The weapon is wielded like a staff in Tai Chi movements and discharges an energy wave that stuns all in it contacts. In Inner Diverse, Rhea is rescued by them when she is thrown by the traders into the blenoid pit to die:

The blenoids never reached me. They yelped and wailed and flew in all directions. Two large Eosians, garbed in jet black had dropped from the crane arm to the pit. They wielded stun sticks in swift fluid motion like acrobats, flinging stunned blenoids away from the platform. The Eosians’ choreographed dance reminded me of my Tai Chi form as they knocked every blenoid unconscious.

desert planet-noah-presnel

Upsilon 3

The Nokerig Pistol 

In Metaverse, Nokerig pistols were deployed by Nihilists in an attempt to immobilize Rhea during her rescue of Serge Bastion from the Beleus Med Facility.

The guard at the exit was expecting me but not my MEC. I burst out shooting and caught him as he raised his weapon. He fell with a thud. I raced down the hall to the exit on the far end and bolted down the stairs to the third floor, hearing my pursuers clattering behind me. More shots zinged past me from the stairwell and I felt a sharp sting on my left arm.

I hissed out a curse and threw open a door into a narrow corridor with my good arm. I looked down at my bleeding arm. They were using Class D nokerig pistols, ancient ballistic weapons with projectiles that festered in your body wherever they embedded. Although it hurt like chaos and bled copiously, the bullet had only grazed my arm, I noticed with relief.

 

The Pocket

Rhea designed her own weapons with great success. One currently used exclusively by the Guardians is the Pocket (PulsOniC Kinetic Energy Tracker)—a small lightweight pulse pistol that can track a target once the gun has identified their signature.

 

Rhea’s MEC (Magnetic-Electro Concussion) Pistol

Before she joined the Guardians, Rhea had hung out with the gangster Zec on Ogium 9, dealing illegal drugs and weapons.  But Rhea’s claim to fame in the galaxy of criminals and enforcers is her MEC, a coveted weapon of her own design and, in some ways, the ultimate weapon.

“I’ve got you, creon,” I whispered smugly, slowing to a walk and raising my MEC pistol.

Unfortunately, everyone and their tappin wants her MEC and its design. In the opening scene to Outer Diverse, Rhea is ambushed by the dust smuggler and shapeshifter V’mer:

He dropped the Q-gun and scooped up my MEC then squatted gleefully down beside me, keeping my arms pinned.

“Ah, the MEC.” He ran the thick gun barrel through my wet hair and leaned closer. “Operates like a sophisticated Q-gun.”

He couldn’t have been more wrong. The Magnetic-Electro Concussion pistol was the best—and worst—thing I’d ever made. The image of Officer Asphalios’s face melting in front of me came back to haunt me. Out of hubristic genius, I’d tailored the MEC to behave uniquely by species, based on their DNA structure. I could sweep my MEC in a crowded room and melt all the shapeshifters, only knock out Eosians and leave humans totally unscathed. But Asphalios hadn’t been what I’d thought he was. He wasn’t what anyone thought he was. And I was still paying for that.

After Rhea is fired from the Precinct for her last blunder (killing the only lead to a spiritual sect massacre), she meets the attractive stranger Serge, who asks her rather unusual questions:

He broke the silence with a question: “So, this MEC of yours … did you design it all by yourself?”

I raised my head and eyed him warily. “Why do you ask?”

“I just thought it was an interesting sideline for a Guardian Enforcer, that’s all. So, are they complicated and do you do it in your head or on some holo design program?”

My eyes narrowed with distrust. “Everything’s up here.” I tapped my head with my finger. “I make it a point not to keep records.”

Later in Outer Diverse, Rhea makes a daring gambit to flush out where the fugitive Serge has gone from his terrorist sister A’ler by disguising herself as an arms dealer for the MEC design and travelling to the Ulysses, an Eclipse space station:

I held up my MEC. “You were after this, weren’t you?” Among other things. I let my smile turn into a smirk. “Well, here it is. But you’re going to have to pay for it, fair and square, like anyone else.” I had the satisfaction of seeing A’ler’s eyes light up with self-absorbed interest. “It’s called a MEC, which stands for Magnetic-Electro Concussion pistol,” I continued, making my pitch. “It uses electro-magnetic wave energy to focus subatomic quintle particles to resonate with specific DNA, rather than randomly concentrating energy on tissue like your Q-gun does.”

“Ah, very clever,” A’ler said, eying the weapon. She held out her hand to inspect it. I hesitated, then reluctantly handed it over and watched, tight-lipped and fidgeting, as A’ler casually played with the controls.

“It’s lighter than I’d thought,” she shared.

“The MEC has three possible settings, based on three unique DNA signatures,” I explained, nervously watching A’ler play with it as though it was a toy. “The first is to kill by essentially melting the tissue that its electromagnetic wave resonates with. The second setting acts as a concussion wave and knocks out the target with matching DNA. The third setting does nothing except scan. One can, of course, choose any combination of the three settings. For instance you could choose to scan three different species or kill three different species.”

“So, it can have these three settings on three different DNA types at the same time?”

I nodded. “With one single sweep of the MEC in a crowd, you could kill all of one genetic type, knock out another, and leave the third intact but scanned and targeted. I’ve catalogued over 200 DNA types.”

“Impressive,” A’ler said, nodding. “Does it have a universal setting?”

“Of course,” I said, a little impatient. “You can choose to scan every DNA type on the MEC’s database—”

“Or kill every DNA type?”

I frowned and curled up my lip in a snarl of confused disgust. “That defeats the purpose of the MEC. You could just as soon use a Q-gun for that,” I said. “The MEC’s advantage lies in its ability to discriminate.”

A’ler stunned me with her next question: “Can you set the MEC to recognize and alert you of a specific DNA type?”

It was a question no one had ever thought to ask and a feature I tended to keep to myself. “Yes,” I admitted with some discomfort at revealing this ultimate property of the MEC. “But only from a limited proximity.”

“How close?” A’ler seemed hardly able to contain a glowing smile of glee.

“The subject has to be within five meters of the MEC.”

“Really!” Her eyes flashed. “And?” she prompted.

“It alerts you by vibrating against your body with a silent Beta frequency.”

A’ler nodded, forcing on a pensive frown. “A Beta frequency, eh?” She looked like she was pretending to know what I was talking about but didn’t. “So, how do you do that?” She turned the MEC over in her hand several times.

“You have to set it on permanent scan.”

“Show me,” she said…

Rhea discovers too late why A’ler asked her to demonstrate these MEC qualities. When she meets the remaining Schiss priest, a Gness named Rashomon, to warn him of his planned assassination by terrorists, it is her own weapon that kills him. When A’ler had briefly handled her MEC, she had surreptitiously set it to recognize the presence of a Gness. Rashomon—known for his obsession with weaponry—had expectedly wanted to handle her unique weapon. A’ler had set the bomb and Rhea had delivered it right in his hands.

I recognized the effects of a Q-bomb. What a fool I’d been. Tricked into playing the role of a weapon again. I’d set out to save this alien and ended up killing him instead. A’ler had obviously planted a Beta-frequency detonator on the MEC. She’d planted the tiny but lethal Q-bomb after she’d tricked me into setting the MEC to scan and alert me with a Beta-frequency in the presence of a Gness.  Then all A’ler needed to do was lead me to Rashomon, by cleverly providing me with the one thing I so obviously desired: Serge.

Skyland

The extreme ice environment of Uma 1

Throughout the trilogy, Rhea must finally come to terms with one of the largest blunders of her ill-fated career as an Enforcer: her slaughter of seventy-seven Rills on Omicron-12.

The Rill possessed two very different arms. His right arm was particularly large and clawed and resembled a weapon. It was tailored no doubt for digging in the bogs of Omicron 12. It had been my undoing, that weapon-like arm.

Just before she’s fired by her boss, Ennos in Outer Diverse, he lets her know what he thinks of her mass-execution:

“I say monitor a native uprising on Omicron 12 and you exterminate a whole insurgent army singlehandedly with that genocidal weapon of yours.”

Not even Ennos believed me about mistakenly setting my MEC to kill instead of stun those Rills; my reputation for anti-alienism had preceded me. Despite repeatedly telling myself that they were just vulgar Rills and murdering terrorists, I suffered guilty nightmares of the incident and had secretly wondered why the Guardians hadn’t thrown me into Sekmet for it. Finally, I’d rightfully come to the conclusion that the insane cruelty of the incident had not bothered Ennos, so long as I hadn’t embarrassed him in front of the Legess with whom the Guardians had a relationship; Ennos didn’t care about the Rills anymore than the rest of the Galaxy did.

The_Hub_by_EStreet

Iota Hor-2

In Inner Diverse, Ka challenges Rhea to the core of her prejudiced mind:

Isn’t that really why you made the MEC? To rid the galaxy of those unsavoury races? Isn’t that what you were doing on Omicron 12?”

I swallowed convulsively and tightened my hold on the MEC. It was slipping in my clammy hands. “I’m not a fascist.”

“Aren’t you?” Ka challenged. “Admit it, Rhea, you mercilessly killed all those Rills without the slightest remorse—”

“It was a mistake. My MEC was—I wasn’t used to its settings and—”

“There are no mistakes, Rhea,” Ka cut in. “There is only duende. And for every action a reason, and a consequence, even if unclear to the doer.” Then he leaned forward. “You’ve long harboured anti-alien sentiments. And you particularly despise baldies.”

Even in Hades on Sekmet, the prison planet, the mevlani (prisoner in charge) Barbariccia berates Rhea for her treachery:

“When you were an Enforcer you self-righteously and viciously dispensed your version of law and order,” he said in a voice of open contempt. “Death was your calling card and your answer for everything. Over a standard galactic year ago, on Omicron 12, you went way beyond your mandate with the Legess and intruded on a revolutionary meeting of key insurgents. You crushed a whole race with ruthless precision, killing seventy-seven unarmed Rills with that menacing weapon of yours.”

I bit back a retort and felt saliva collect in my mouth. I’d convinced myself that they were armed, but they weren’t. It was a lot easier to justify why I kept shooting even after I realized that my MEC was spitting out fatal waves rather than debilitating ones. My tormented mind had repeatedly gone over that lurid scene, trying to sort out what had triggered my tragic blunder of insanity. I couldn’t help my panicked reflex of misguided self-defence; it was the rationale that I’d fed myself later that shamed me now. They were only Rills, I’d thought. Only Rills…. I had wondered briefly at the time why Ennos hadn’t sent me to Sekmet for my overly ambitious deed. The non-native Legess were clearly the aggressors, enslaving the obsequious Rill, and for decades had exploited their labour for keen profit…with the full support of the Guardians—perhaps the real reason I hadn’t been sent to Sekmet for my act of treachery. Although it looked bad, I’d done exactly what both the Legess and the Guardians quietly wanted: I’d crushed their revolution.

Bog planet-tina claffey copy

Sekmet

As the trilogy progresses, Rhea’s MEC design plays a pivotal role in the war brewing in the galaxy. Her MEC technology is coveted by Guardians, Eclipse criminals and Vos Nihilist terrorists alike as a weapon of genocide. Rhea finally realizes that she cannot distinguish ally from foe in the chess game to seize her weapon of destruction. Once she trades the MEC design to a Nihilist for the life of a colleague—setting in motion a treacherous escalation toward galactic war—Rhea must fight to save the galaxy and ultimately reconcile what she started with the Rill uprising on Omicron-12.

In Metaverse, the third and last book of The Splintered Universe Trilogy, Detective Rhea Hawke travels back to Earth, hoping to convince an eccentric mystic to help her defend humanity from an impending Vos attack—only to find herself trapped in a deception that promises to change her and her two worlds forever.

You can listen to a sample recording of Outer Diverse, Inner Diverse, and Metaversethrough Audible.

audible listen

Microsoft Word - trilogy-poster03.docx

GIVE AWAY! GIVE AWAY! GIVE AWAY! GIVE AWAY! GIVE AWAY! GIVE AWAY!

Rhea likes to use proverbs as barbs and to unhinge her opponent when she gets nervous or feels trapped. Send me a good proverb for Rhea to use and I will send you a code to obtain a free Audiobook from Audible. Codes are limited, so it will be first come, first serve until we’re out. Send your proverb to Nina Munteanu at: nina.sfgirl[at]gmail.com.

 

nina-2014aaa

Nina Munteanu is a Canadian ecologist / limnologist and novelist. She is co-editor of Europa SF and currently teaches writing courses at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for the latest on her books. Nina’s bilingual “La natura dell’acqua / The Way of Water” was published by Mincione Edizioni in Rome. Her non-fiction book “Water Is…” by Pixl Press (Vancouver) was selected by Margaret Atwood in the New York Times ‘Year in Reading’ and was chosen as the 2017 Summer Read by Water Canada. Her novel “A Diary in the Age of Water” will be released by Inanna Publications (Toronto) in 2020.