Far Worlds “A Pelnodan Bounty” – The Making

“How exponentially difficult would relationships be if a race had three sexes, all three of which were necessary for reproduction?”

Far Worlds

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With the upcoming release of Far Worlds, I thought I’d take a few minutes to discuss where the wild ideas for the space western and crime drama piece A Pelnodan Bounty came from.

Pelnoda is a dry planet home to two races; the trimortals who have three sexes and the guests, a race who crash landed on the planet ages ago. Having been mind-wiped, the guests have no idea where they came from.

The trimortals welcomed and integrated the immigrants into their society. Grig is a guest who lives the quiet life, raising crops on his ranch. But when his old pal Zax comes along, asking a huge favor to find a pregnant trimortal, Grig is forced to confront his former life as a bounty hunter.

A Pelnodan Bounty was actually the result of merging two ideas into one.

Alien Families

The first idea was inspired by some gender studies non-fiction I’ve been studying on top of reading Ray A. Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles. It’s astounding to me that although human beings have recorded our history for millennium, we’re still debating and trying to figure out the dynamic between men and women. We’ve built up many laws and views, philosophies and studies just trying to make sense of our sexual dimorphism and apply some semblance of envisioned legal equality.

As I observed our changing acceptance of what constitutes family and reproductive strategies, I wondered, “How exponentially difficult would relationships be if a race had three sexes, all three of which were necessary for reproduction?”

This is an incredibly thick idea. And I’m loathe to admit that there are tons of unanswered and unexplored aspects. How would a three sexed race view family? How would such a species construct their laws and rights in a democratic manner? What about homosexuality? Inheritance and property rights and respect for privacy? The Martian Chronicles reminded me that sci-fi is a fantastic vehicle for envisioning and writing about these speculative theories. But as a short story, I would never have time to answer them all.

I also wasn’t very wild about my original idea by itself. The concept was simply an alien drama which explored the conflicts through casual conversations between neighbors, as a male and female trimortal searched for a pregnant, missing caretaker (the term for the third gender.) While curious and interesting, I wanted to hit a wider appeal…

A Space Western

Then the idea hit me. No one submitting to Far Worlds wanted to do a space western.

I used to hate westerns when I was a kid. But the older I get, the more they become a weakness of mine. Movies like No Country for Old Men, 3:10 to Yuma and The Good, The Bad and the Ugly had changed my displeasure with the wild west. So had Cormac McCarthy’s* novel, All the Pretty Horses and Rockstar Games’ amazing Red Dead Redemption. And I had visited the American mid-west a few times. The gorgeous landscape is something that must be experienced, not described.

One problem I had was that, without an outside viewpoint, you only ever see trimortal relations through the eyes of other trimortals. They can only ever accept it as “normal.” As I thought about the problem, I came up with a solution. Far Worlds rules said no faster than light transportation. But it said nothing about cryogenic transport. Andrew cleared the idea, so I introduced a second race that was named the guests.

Are the guests technically human? Not even they know. But they gave me the outside perspective I needed. They also permitted me to expand the depth of the world. They were also something the reader can more readily identify and attach themselves too, as we often prefer characters with whom we sympathize and connect with.

Connecting these two ideas into one, I had only to come up with an overall plot. That was the worst of it, as I couldn’t concoct something off the top of my head. So I wrote. Then proofread it. Then wrote and edited it. When I finished, I realize there was a good plot there, it just needed to be shuffled around and organized. This approach took longer than planning it out ahead of time, but it still got me to what I needed.

After that, it was a few touch ups, and the rest was history.

*- McCarthy wrote the novel No Country for Old Men upon which the aforementioned movie was based. I loved the movie but the novel is still on my to-be-read list.

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Culture Absorption

Books: My bread and butter. As of late, I’m half way through A Feast of Crows. I understand people’s dissatisfaction with the heavy novel, given that almost all the main characters from the previous three installments get no chapters of their own until the next book. Barely Jon Snow, no Tyrion Lannister and no Daenerys Targaryen.

Instead, we get an assortment of supporting characters with their own chapters. Samwell Tarly, Brienne of Tarth, and a handful of characters in Dorne to speak of events down there. Cersei gets her own chapters, finally gives some insight into her attitude. One has to be willing to accept some slow down of the story in order to enjoy a more robust tale I suppose. I keep trying to slow down since the sixth book is going to be a while, but I’ll probably crumble and just read A Dance with Dragons after this.

I’ve also been picking up and putting down Thus Spake Zarathustra. The reading itself is slow, but the resulting discussions with the book’s owner about Nietzche’s philosophy are stimulating and interesting.

Television: I’ve been slacking on my television. Between the ending of Breaking Bad and the wait for the new seasons of Mad Men and The Americans, I have a period of time to try and catch up on The Walking Dead or polish off Battlestar Galactica or The Wire. I should probably get on with that.

If there was ever a reason to be disappointed with reality television, it has to be the direction that Top Chef has gone. The winner of the New Orleans season was made to appear as a some what conniving, foul tempered fellow whom the show seemed ready to dump several times. And the fact that he was instead the winner was nothing less than aggravating. I feel the show has let something wrong guide it. Even if ‘reality’ television can’t convince you it isn’t fake, it should be entertaining. As of late, Top Chef has failed to do both.

I have however, gotten back into watching Golgo 13. The strange thing about this show is that it’s effectively nothing but episodic flash fiction starring a sniper protagonist. The plus side is that the show is easy to pick up and put down. You miss nothing, there is no ongoing story or events that change anything. Every episode is open and close, making it great for working out too. The downside is that the writers struggle to make the main character interesting. Thus, every two episodes are crap but the third one often has some great ideas in it.

Movies: I saw American Hustle a few weeks ago. I enjoyed it, but I get how people might not have liked it. Some felt the story was too predictable (it was based on true events). Others were probably ill at ease with the story’s themes of infidelity. But I was very entertained by it.

Aside from that, I saw Danny Boyle’s Trance and Prisoners with Jake Gyllenhaal. I was disappointed with the former. Boyle tried too hard to create Inception and while it wasn’t bad, it was filled with needless sexuality and a little over the top with the violence. Prisoners was an all around good movie but just didn’t ring my bells. I can’t complain about it- it was very well done, just not to my taste for some reason.

Looking forward to the new Robocop. Critics be damned.

Games: Still chugging through Red Dead Redemption. Getting lost in the side quests and challenges has slowed me up, so I end up doing one or two tasks, then doing regular story missions. So far, I’m sixty percent through the game. 

Big thing of note is that I finished The Banner Saga: Part 1 for the second time. I kept failing on the last battle, so I decided to go ahead and reduce the difficulty to Easy from Hard and just wrap up the game, collecting a couple of achievements but not everything I wanted. A play through takes about 12 hours, so I can try it a couple of times, then replay it when part 2 nearly comes out.

The thing about the game is that losing a battle isn’t game over. It just grinds on, though you do get thoroughly punished for it. You get less renown (a character building currency), some side characters may die, and then there are injuries. Injury is interesting, as it decreases your characters strength drastically. It doesn’t just happen when you lose, but whenever a character is harmed badly or knocked out. Thus there are Pyrrhic victories, and when you start losing, it becomes increasingly harder to stop. I’ll replay the game on hard later, but I do need to totally rethink my strategies to be more forward thinking.