The blog takes the form of a series of questions and answers. If I haven’t asked a question for which you would like an answer, please feel free to e-mail me (address on “Contact” page) to ask it.
When is the series set?
About 3 to 4 centuries in the future. This gives the people of Earth the chance to develop their space exploration technology and take part in the action.
In terms of technology the speed at which it is developing here on Earth is hampering me a little. No sooner do I imagine some new gizmo for the book than Google, Apple or Microsoft have something similar on the market right now! For the purposes of these books, if things sound familiar, just imagine what they may be like in a few hundred years time.
One of the themes of the technology that persists throughout the books is that things don't just get smaller, they get easier to use. For example, a phone in a watch may be a cool idea, but it isn't necessarily easier to use; so I don't put phones in watches.
After centuries of inter-steller warfare the beings of the galaxy realised that something needed to be done to restore peace before the galaxy destroyed itself. A peace treaty proposed that the galaxy be divided into 9 sectors and each sector should elect or appoint one being to represent them in government. These nine are the Magi – the wise rulers of the galaxy.
Why only 9 Magi?
Well, it’s a lot easier than each inhabited star system sending a representative, which would result in a parliament made up of millions (see Star Wars Episode III to get a feel of what this might be like). Even one representative for a group of star systems could mean a parliament made up of hundreds of thousands, so the decision to ‘go small’ seemed the best option. It’s also a lot cheaper and no one was keen on paying high taxes just to fund the government’s expenses claims.
They are a group of 14 opportunists who saw that a galaxy at peace was a galaxy that was undefended. Some are bankers, some criminals, some business people; basically, the usual corrupt suspects. Using criminals, especially space pirates, to do their dirty work they attempted a take-over of the galaxy that was partially successful and throughout the series they attempt to consolidate their position.
Why are bounty hunters so prominent in the story?
There is no intra-galactic law enforcement agency and very few extradition treaties between star systems. That means that criminals and suspects can flee from their crimes and take refuge on any planet that will allow them, or where they can hide. Bounty hunters fill the gap in law enforcement by bringing fleeing criminals and suspects back to the star system where the crime was committed, to face justice. For a bounty hunter to arrest a criminal or suspect there must be an arrest warrant out on them, but bounty hunters may also make an arrest if they see someone committing a crime.
Given the alternatives of “Wanted - dead or alive”, too many bounty hunters were taking the “dead” option when dealing with criminals and suspects. Even if taken alive they were being treated badly, often being beaten and/or raped, as well as being kept in primitive conditions and starved. In short, bounty hunters were becoming worse than the beings they were pursuing.
A small group got together and formed the Guild, which set about restoring the reputation of the profession and making it more accountable. Their first action was to draw up a code of ethics for bounty hunters which focused on the rights of the prisoner to fair and humane treatment under galactic law. Some star systems started to pay bounties only to Guild members, which encouraged more bounty hunters to join the Guild and more star systems to pay only Guild bounty hunters. As well as capturing suspected criminals, bounty hunters may also be employed to recover lost or stolen property, and to free kidnap victims and hostages. Some also work in personal protection.
There are still non-Guild bounty hunters, called “freebooters”, but they find it hard to make a living and they can’t join the Guild because of their previous bad record.
You keep using the term “beings”. Why?
To use the words ‘people’ or ‘humans’ or ‘man’ and ‘woman’ would be to make the stories Earth centric. Most of my characters aren’t from Earth, so why would they use words created on Earth, to describe the beings that exist elsewhere in the galaxy?
In my books, these words are used specifically when referring to the people of Earth. There are only two exceptions to this rule, but they emerge later in the series.
The Magi eggs are electronic memory devices into which the intelligences of the 9 Magi were download when the Fell threatened to kill them. These eggs were being transported to a safe place when the spaceship carrying them was attacked by pirates. They fell into the hands of a criminal genius by the name of Su Mali who wants to retire on the proceeds of their sale to the highest bidder. If the eggs can be recovered, the intelligences can be uploaded into new bodies and the galaxy will rally behind the Magi once again to defeat the Fell – or so the theory goes!
For that reason the Fell want the eggs destroyed.
The Guild of Bounty Hunters has been retained to recover the Magi eggs and An Kohli is one of those assigned to the task. Over time she becomes the only bounty hunter capable of finding them, for reasons explained in the books. An Kohli is in a race against time to find the eggs before they fall into the hands of the Fell.
Just as Star Trek has Warp Speed and Star Wars has Hyperspace, I have used the idea of travel through wormholes.
When a ship reaches a certain speed it becomes capable of opening a wormhole through which it can travel across the vast distances of space in very short time periods, without exceeding, or even approaching, the speed of light. Think of it a bit like having to drive around a range of mountains, or just driving through a tunnel from one side of the range to another. In this case the space ship builds its own tunnel whenever it needs it.
By the way, this idea isn't too fanciful. There are scientists at NASA who believe this form of space travel is a real possibility.
We all have our own ideas about what alien life forms might look like, so I'm not going to force my ideas on others. With this in mind I have deliberately kept some of my descriptions vague. However, evolution will work in different star systems in different ways, but using the same principles.
If a specific feature of an species's make up allows it to survive, it will be passed on to the next generation. If it hampers survival it will be bred out over time. Some features that neither hamper nor enhance survival may continue to exist even though they don't serve a purpose. For example, some species might still have tails that no longer serve any purpose.
One of the features we know is essential to the use of tools, and therefore the development of technology, is the opposable thumb. So species that are able to develop opposable thumbs and pass them on through their genes are likely to dominate. However, that doesn't prevent them from developing from a wide range of life forms, so please don't assume that all the beings I mention in the book are humanoid in form.
One thing that is clear is that if species evolve in different ways, then they will procreate in different ways, so some species are unable to mate with others. For this reason, the issue of sexual compatibility is mentioned occasionally.
How many books are there in the series?
I have a target, but even if the Magi are eventually recovered it doesn’t mean that the series will end. Just as the universe is infinite, the number of Magi books could also be potentially infinite. But the actual number of books I write will depend on whether or not my readers get bored with the stories and stop buying the books so, ultimately, you will decide how many books there will be.
Why do you always include a “glossary” in the books?
Basically, there are three reasons:
- Not all readers have the same grasp of science, so some explanations of scientific terms are necessary to aid understanding of the stories. Besides, I'm not going to let all those hours of research go to waste.
- I use a lot of made up words to describe the animals and artifacts that exist in the galaxy. The glossary allows me to explain to you humans what these things are.
- It allows me to inject a little humour into the books without describing them as being comedies. For example, this is my definition of “hippies”:
They can usually be recognised by the fact that they are pale, look hungry, smell bad and have difficulty lifting even the lightest of burdens. They use words like holistic, spiritual and mystic without any trace of irony. Often seen in the company of large groups of children, some of which might actually be their own, but they aren’t too sure.
Hippies are always seeking places where they can live without rules and without interference ‘from the man’ and so seek to colonise uninhabited planets, where they live in communes. This allows them to take drugs without being arrested, but they won’t admit that this is the main reason that they do it.
After colonisation there will usually be a schism within the commune over some minor infringement of the communal living agreement, often in relation to whose turn it is to do the washing up, with one faction accusing the other of behaving like fascists. The smaller faction will then leave to found a new commune on another unsuspecting planet and so the cycle continues.
Because of the diminishing size of the communes, caused by the constant schisms, the size of an individual community is usually reduced to two by the time hippies reach middle age. These older hippies live on canal boats or in caravans that are supported by bricks and the state benefit system. They will always travel in the most environmentally unfriendly vehicle available.”
Are these books actually comedies then?
No. To describe a book as being a comedy is to create a certain level of expectation and therefore a hostage to fortune. Humour is a very personal thing and what one person finds funny (that definition of “hippies”, for example) another person might not. If people don’t laugh at the jokes then they will feel cheated. They may not even realise that they are jokes, which is even worse. If you spot a joke and laugh, then that’s great, but if you don’t then don’t worry – it’s a sci-fi series.
Are any of the characters based on real people?
You decide. Do any feel familiar?
Well, if you want a little bit more, please go to my publisher’s website where you can download a free prequel to the series called “The Death Of Biggar Fro”. Just click this link.
If you want more than that, then you can find out about all three books that have been published so far by clicking on the “Books” tab at the top of this page, or you can go straight to Amazon by clicking on this link.
You can also go to the Ex-L-Ence website to find out about other sites where you can by the books in different formats, by using the button below. News about future books in the series can be found by clicking on the “News” tab at the top of the page.