I’ve lived with the Telemass future for around thirty-five years.
I wrote my first Telemass novel when I was nineteen, a weak effort of forty thousand words; the only decent thing about it was the idea of interstellar expansion linked by vast Telemass Stations, able to beam things – people and products – from star to star. In the ’80s I wrote four novels set in this milieu; these were a little better than the first effort, but not much. I wrote a few stories set in the Telemass universe, and then some of them started selling. Meridian Days, my first novel published in 1992, used the idea – but set at the end of the days of Telemass Stations, when it was becoming no longer financially viable to maintain thousands of stations strung out through the Expansion.
Then, around 2005, I had an idea for a series of novellas set in the Telemass universe – these were inspired by a few stories I wrote about Dan Henderson and his life in the coastal town of Magenta Bay, Delta Pavonis. I kept the town for the novellas, changed the name of the planet and its star, and got rid of Henderson. The first novella, Starship Summer, came out in 2007 from PS Publishing, followed in turn by Starship Fall, Starship Winter and Starship Spring. They are what I call Quiet SF, following the lives of a group of friends on the backwater world of Chalcedony and the universe-changing events that sweep them up.
The series sold well, and last year Pete Crowther at PS Publishing asked if I had any ideas for a further quartet of novellas.
I wanted to write more stories set in the Telemass Universe, but before the time of the Starship novellas. These would follow the format of the Starship tales: each would be independent of the rest, but, taken as a whole, they’d read as a novel, following the same character through a series of events, each novella set on a different colony world.
The first volume, Famadihana on Fomalhaut IV, came out from PS this year. Matt Hendrick is a Dutch ex-cop attempting to track down his daughter and wife, who are on the run from world to world. The twist is that his daughter is dead, kept in a suspended animation pod against the day when the disease that killed her might be cured. His ex-wife has run away with a lover, and the novellas track Hendrick’s progress around the Expansion; he meets weird and wonderful people, aliens, and customs along the way, and find himself in various adventures.
In Famadihana on Fomalhaut IV, he becomes involved with a strange religious cult which seeks to raise the dead through a bizarre alien burial rite. (Famadihana is the Malagasy practise of digging up the bone of ancestors and parading with them around the streets every seven years.) His wife has became entangled with the cult, and Hendrick follows them deep into the alien jungle, and then underground, in a bid to save his daughter.
The second novella, Sacrifice on Spica III , follows him from Fomalhaut IV to the world of Kallithea, Spica III, to which his ex-wife, lover and daughter have fled. He here becomes embroiled in a murder mystery involving an old lover, and a suicidal cult founded by the messianic Cavendish Sagar.
Each novella, as well as taking Hendrick to an exotic world, will pitch him into a different adventure and delve, along the way, into his past and what made him the person he is. Each will be stand-alone, a complete story in itself but, taken as a whole when published by PS in a single volume, will read as a novel.
I’ve recently completed the second draft of the third novella, Reunion on Alpha Reticuli II, set on the world of Tourmaline. Here, as the title suggests, Hendrick is reunited at last with his daughter as he attempts to prevent her falling into the hands of an alien faith healer. Along the way Hendrick falls in with – and falls in love with – the telepath Mercury Velasquez, who will assist him on Tourmaline and his final destination.
The final novella is still the germ of an idea in my head; but it will be a story of redemption and triumph set on another exotic colony world… and, yes – it will have another suitably over-the-top, alliterative title.