Archive for March, 2013


the-next-big-thing1Thanks to the kindly C.B. McCullough (still not sure if a distant relation!) Pan Spectrum Analyzer has been nominated for a blog-hop: The Next Big Thing.  I’m a bit too humble for my own good, so writing something like this feels rather weird to me, but here we go.

What is the title of your book?

And we’re off to the hard questions already.  It actually doesn’t have a name yet, so I’ve been forced to resort to “Pan Spectrum Analyzer” or just PSA to tag it.  Its not even really finished, but it is kinda. I have no idea what it might finally be called.

What is the genre of your book?

Considering the specification of what science fiction is, I’ll have to say Sci-Fi, as the novel itself isn’t based on a scientific notion. It is slathered with science-fiction tropes though, with nods of space opera through and through.

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Upper deck detail of the Latent Pulse, showing crew related features.

Upper deck detail of the Latent Pulse, showing crew related features.

I find that designing deck plans for imaginary spaceships to be a meditation into pseudo-engineering. At its most basic level, it draws us further into the imaginary world of our creations, encouraging us to think about aspects of it we wouldn’t do otherwise. As a writer and game designer, I’m able to visualize the action of my stories, or the progress of a player, or the inhabitants of this imaginary environment. At the other end of the spectrum, it is an exercise of applying all kinds of reasoning to its imaginary function, strengthening a concept and bringing change to it to make it feel more… real, though it is unlikely any of these exercises will be made into real things.

There is no real methodology for the process of creating one – our approaches will be entirely different based on our purpose for hashing the design out from thin air. It may be about visualizing the environment, so one can describe a single room; it may be the act of arranging obstacles or furnishings to provoke game play strategies, it may be to stage an action sequence in a novel, or an encounter in a tabletop RPG.

Copyright Ken McCulloch 2012

Latent Pulse development Concept sketch

What is going to be put forward here is a collection of points for the Starship designer to consider while planning their decks, in the hopes of drawing about a deeper sense of accomplishment and rationality within the design. Regardless of the actual result of the process – whether a “realistic” design is achieved or not, since how can we prove it one way or another – the most rewarding aspect of it is the thoughts that arise from it. Just as in meditation.

These thoughts are what came to me as I designed the Latent Pulse, a medium sized FTL freight/trading vessel from my WIP novel, Pan Spectrum Analyzer. Each one forced me to move elements about, rethinking their placement, use and relevance both to the design and to the narrative of the novel.

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There’s an interesting aspect to the thing referred to by fans as “Canon” with regards to the individual creations. Its forms a life raft, if you will, of information, upon which the imaginations of both the creator and fan (viewer, reader, player, etc) stays afloat. Without the idea of “canon” material, a creation cannot have its own fundamental identity.

Wikipedia defines the term “canon” as:

In fiction, canon is the conceptual material accepted as “official” in a fictional universe’s fan base.

By default, this is the set of information defined by the author(s), creators and other people working creatively on a specific. When writer Jimmy Joe describes his character smoking Indonesian Kretek cigarettes, that’s canon. When fanfic author Jammy Johns suggests he smokes Camels, its not.

Canon is what keeps the wolves and bears at bay. But it can also be a hazy, vague and infuriating thing to define properly and protect. Yet it is also the first thing to lay by the wayside when popularity hits and more and more people want to share in it.

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My short e-book “The Unorthodox Eater” is now available on Smashwords and its affiliates for the incredibly low price of zero, zilch, zip, nada to celebrate its six month riding the interwebs.  Not sure how long it will stay at this price, could be over in a week, could be permanent, but if you’d like to get it for the most painless price, I’d grab it while you can.

What is it? Basically, three short stories about a guy – Phileas McNeil – who wants to eat one of everything, but may have met his match – the Ullyean Shrimp. Semi-humourous, semi-philosophical, its really what happens when a writer needs to write something to change the pace of his life.

Reviews? Well, no one has said anything bad about it. You could be the first! 🙂 Reviews welcome.

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 7TH - 2011 - For story on 'Picky Eaters'.

Phileas McNeil started his quest young…

Image: Andrew Tolson for Macleans magazine article, “Picky Eaters”

Karyss_Prologue

Karyss aboard the Hegemony ship, Respondent.

I’ve posted a lot about my science fiction novel in progress. I’ve talked about the illustrations I’ve done for it and plastered them across this site. I’ve blabbed about the processes I’ve used to get my head in its reality. I’ve mentioned the spacecraft and its denizens, and blah blah blah…  but I’ve never actually shown anything from its pages.  I guess its about time, eh?

Like all things, there are reasons for that.  Creative types can be insecure about their work, especially their “favourite child.” But a protective father needs to let their sweetheart out of the house to live her own life, so here we go.


Pan Spectrum Analyzer (working title)

“We all aspire to take upon ourselves a Great Journey, but only a few of us ever do.”

Prologue

Mbali Sector, deep space, T + 65 days (Starship Sequential/Chronological Time)

“Collision imminent!”

Karyss was only dimly aware of the vacc-suit’s alarm klaxons insistently sounding off, somewhere deep under layers of her ragged, forced breathing. The shrieking rush of blood in her ears was far clearer than the proximity warnings and victimized screams leaping from the comms. Too much was happening, too fast to follow. Overwhelming. Soul crushing. She needed to focus and figure out what was important.

“Collision imminent!”

Deep breath, girl, deep breath. She clawed air into her lungs, bringing brief clarity. She shrugged around in the stiff vacc-suit, glancing around as much as she could, snatching glimpses that brought her situation into an even starker reality.

Incandescence surrounded her – the dying breaths of a hundred spacecraft exhaled as violent flowers of burning vapour miraculously blooming from their hulks: volatile gas spilled from shattered starships shocked to ignition by radiant, prismatic showers of sparks. They rapidly boiled away into the void, eerily silent, their passage illuminating skeletal wrecks, scattered bodies of crew, faint zig-zag plumes of lifeboat burn motors; the embers of a once proud navy.

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