Thursday, October 13, 2011

Villainous Hordes and Free Giveaway

We have another guest with us today on The Villain's Worst Nightmare. I met Joe on the Kindle Boards and he offered to provide a guest post showcasing the inspiration for his own Villainous Hordes from his exciting new epic space opera series.

Without a doubt, the most badass warriors in all of history were the Mongols. Not only did they build an empire stretching across Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, but in 1258 when they conquered Baghdad--then the center of the civilized world--they completely annihilated the city, leveling every building and massacring almost a million people!

When I learned about this in college, I immediately knew that I would have to write a story about it. Instead of setting it in the Medieval Near East, however, I decided to set it in space. I'd already come up with a far-future universe where Earth was a forgotten holy legend, and the idea of a barbarian horde in space fascinated me.

One of my favorite Heinlein novels is Citizen of the Galaxy, which features a society of interstellar traders who spend their entire lives on their starships. Heinlein is a master of the genre, and the way he built the society from the ground up completely entranced me, so that by the end of the book I wanted nothing more than to spend the rest of my life on a starship.

I decided to take the same world building approach when I wrote my spacefaring barbarian horde. First, I tried to imagine what their universe would look like. Terraforming takes a long time, so the fringes of colonized space would feature several uninhabitable or barely habitable planets, with scattered small settlements and outposts. Without the major capital to build large ships from raw material, the only way for a spacefaring society to expand would be to conquer living space from their neighbors. Therefore, barring any central authority to keep the piece, society would soon fragment into a collection of warring tribes, each with their own battle fleets.

War would be a way of life among these people, because they would live and die on their own battleships. As with Heinlein's traders, their society would be extremely hierarchical, since failure to obey orders could threaten the survival of everyone on the ship. Captains would hold nearly God-like status, while slaves and prisoners would be treated like cattle, tossed out the airlock if there weren't enough resources to justify keeping them.

All of this was good and well, but to make them truly terrible, I needed to give them a secret weapon--something that made them almost invincible. The Mongols had horse archers, a type of unit that the Arabs and the Europeans had no idea how to face. For my space barbarians, I decided to make their leaders telepathically linked, so that they could instantaneously communicate by thought.

Battlefields in space aren't like battlefields on Earth; distances can span hundreds of thousands of kilometers (or more), and orbital dynamics and delta-V govern where your battleships can go and how fast they can get there. Throw in jump drives and hyperspace, and you get a situation where the enemy can knock out your entire fleet the instant your defenses get knocked out--if they can coordinate an attack.

Since I decided not to incorporate ansible technology in this universe, most battle fleets would only be able to communicate at the speed of light--a difficult task when your forces are scattered across half a star system. But these starfaring barbarians don't have that problem, and so they can bring their forces to bear almost the instant an opening presents itself.

Once I had all this figured out, I knew I had the makings of something awesome. I named my starfaring barbarians the Hameji, after the Arabic word for "barbarian," and the story practically wrote itself.

Now if this were an epic fantasy, it would probably be about the little boy from Samarkand who forms an unlikely bond with some misfit friends and somehow manages to kill Genghis Khan just as his forces lay siege to Baghdad. Yeah, this isn't that story. My little boy from Samarkand doesn't know it, but his sister has become a concubine to the Hameji overlord, and his brother has been brainwashed and turned into an elite soldier in the Hameji army. With his homeworld slagged in the second chapter, he'll be lucky just to survive.

The book is Bringing Stella Home, and it's the first in an epic space opera series where I hope to bring back the Hameji many more times in the future.


For followers of The Villain's Worst Nightmare, I'm doing a week-long giveaway for the companion novella, Sholpan, which follows the events of the first half of the novel from the viewpoint of Stella, the girl who becomes a Hameji concubine. To download a free copy, select your preferred format on the book's Smashwords page and use the coupon code WN98M (not caps sensitive).

You can also find me online at my blog, One Thousand and One Parsecs.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Steve I have given you the leibster Blog Award. Go to my site at to find more about it.