MLR Press Authors' Blog

Author Post: Starlit by J.V. Speyer

by on May.04, 2017, under Author Posts

Starlit by J.V. Speyer


Starlit is due out soon, and I’m excited to share Sahak and Azat’s story with you.  When I sat down to write it – well, I sat down to write something else, in response to a call for submissions someplace else, and it was terrible and I hated it.  What I wanted to write was a fun, romantic adventure in the stars.  I wanted there to be action, and some close calls, and a happy ending with strong lovers who could build something new together.

I wrote that instead, and here it is.

Of course, a person can’t write a swashbuckling boy meets alien romantic adventure in the stars without putting humans into the stars in the first place.  Starlit is set in the far future, when humans have escaped the confines of our current solar system.  I’d love to say we did that because exploration is just that important, and maybe some of the earliest advances took place out of scientific curiosity.

People don’t tend to leave their homes and their families, and the places they and their ancestors have known, without something strong pushing them forward.  In the Starlit universe, Earth was dying.  People had enough warning that they could work together to get away, and they did.  They built generation ships and filled them with people of childbearing age, at least one ship from each country and ethnic group on the planet.

Then they scattered the ships throughout the universe.  Humanity, in all of its forms, would survive.

Those ships reached their destinations.  Some found planets with few resources, other than good quality soil.  Others found mineral rich environments, and others found worlds awash in oil.  They built new societies, retaining some traditions from the past and losing some to the mists of time.

Technology evolved, and humans were able to move from planet to planet without having to make use of generation ships.  They expanded beyond their initial planets and made colonies for themselves, thriving in their new environments.  They named their new worlds after places or historical figures from the past.  Starlit takes place mostly in systems named for kings from pre-Islamic Iranian history, for example.

Some groups saw the advantages of banding together, at least in part.  The Federated Systems, who are the enemy in Starlit, is a federal system of quasi-independent systems.  They grew out of an Arabic-speaking system, so the standard language of the Federation is Arabic.  (I chose it because it looks pretty.)  People still speak their own languages as well, but not in any kind of official capacity.  We see Sahak and Siran speaking Armenian amongst themselves and with Azat, for example.

The Feds aren’t the only game in town.  The Rebels are fighting against the Feds, of course.  As the Federated Systems expand, the Rebellion expands as well.  Another large player is the Holy Empire in the Stars, known colloquially as the Holy Rollers.  The Rollers are a theocracy born of an English-speaking system at some distance from where the action takes place in Starlit.

“But what about the aliens?  There’s a big purple guy running around, there was another short gray dude, what about them?”

As I was building the Starlit universe, I tried to look at population movements through history.  Some of them have been hostile.  Some of them haven’t been overtly hostile, but the new “neighbors” haven’t been all that cognizant of the fact that there were actual people living in the place they were now occupying.  I didn’t think it would be all that different if humans moved into space already inhabited by non-humans.

Some alien species became extinct.  Humans are hardy, we’re adaptable, and we’re patient.  I figured we’d be likely to outlast most other species.  Some species retreated, such as the Arascids.  Some adapted, and found ways to live among humans.  Some don’t want any contact at all.

And I don’t blame them, honestly.

The world behind Starlit was fun to create, and it was fun to live in while I wrote.  Any time I look up at the stars these days, I can’t help but wonder.

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