Monday, September 29, 2008


New Celestial Empire story - "Mirror of Fiery Brightness"

A few readers of The Dragon's Nine Sons have pointed out that the "Mexica" Aztecs are fairly one-note black hats, death-worshiping villains for our heroes to defeat. That's a fair assessment, and one I should have anticipated. The idea with The Dragon's Nine Sons was to show the Mexica from the Chinese perspective, who naturally would few them in fairly stark and limited terms, and then in another story view the Chinese from the Aztec perspective. What I failed to consider, of course, was that readers would have no way of knowing my master plan, or that they were only getting one side of the story.

Well, the Aztec-centric story is still over the horizon, but I've written a new novelette that serves to bridge the gap somewhat, written from the perspetive of someone who stands between the two societies, and who sees more of the Mexic culture than other citizens of the Middle Kingdom normally do.

"Mirror of Fiery Brightness" is a spy thriller set during the Cold War between the Middle Kingdom and the Mexic Dominion, and takes place in Fusang, the Celestial Empire analogue for Brazil. The story is being serialized in the "pages" of Subterranean Magazine, with the first installment now online.

Here's how the story is introduced on the Subterranean blog:
Chris Roberson kicks off the Fall 2008 issue of Subterranean Online with part one of a long novelette set in the world of his Celestial Empire, in which the future space race doesn’t go quit as anyone intended. “Mirror of Fiery Brightness” is action filled, the result of strange conjectures, and imbued with humanity, as are most of Chris’ entries in this future history. Please check out part one today, and the other installments over the coming weeks.
For anyone interested in behind-the-scenes stuff, this story was greatly influenced by my reading of Charles C. Mann's 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, which I recommend to anyone with even the slightest interest in history, archeology, sociology, cities, nature, or the environment (which, really, should be just about everyone).

Aha! When I saw you at ApolloCon you were commenting on the effort you had put into not making the Mexic dominion "one-note black hats." I was wondering what I was missing, now I know.

BTW, I still have the impression that certain people should not have been on the team in Dragon's 9 Sons, and I keep suspecting that perhaps someone among the higher-ups in the Chinese gov't wanted the mission to fail. I imagine a book in the series with a name like: "Suan-ni's Wide Paw." (Since the Dragon Suan-ni is supposed to protect against betrayal, it would explore how the rogue elements in the Chinese gov't come to justice)
I can neither confirm nor deny your suspicions about machinations behind the scenes in D9S, but if you're curious to see revelations about some similar dirty dealing behind the scenes a bit further along the Celestial Empire timeline, you might want to check out “Dragon King of the Eastern Sea”, in the forthcoming Daw anthology We Think, Therefore We Are.
I admit that I was one of the ones who accused the Mexica of being solely black hats.

I will definitely want to check out the new story.

Chris, aren't you eventually planning on a collection of all of the CE stories in one volume?
A collection of Celestial Empire stories is inevitable (though at the rate things are going, it's doubtful that one volume could contain all of them), but there are no firm plans as yet. The idea has been discussed a time or two, but is still just hypothetical at this stage.
Certainly they're black hats...given the whole human scarfice thing, it would be hard to ever see them in even shades of gray. It'll be interesting to see what you come up with.

...and we definitely want a Celestial Empire collection!
Well, Howard, I won't say that they aren't still bad guys in my eyes--human sacrifice is pretty hard to whitewash--but they have more sides that we've seen so far. One of the things I found interesting about the historical Aztecs in researching them was that while they practiced human sacrifice regularly, the were a much more egalitarian society than just about any others that existed at the time, and their ideas of social organization were more in line with what modern Westerners would find familiar than the Europeans of the same period. Their leaders were chosen from among the people, and could be removed by a kind of "vote of no confidence," and anyone in the culture, regardless of the circumstances of their birth, could rise to the highest levels of society--provided they were successful enough in battle.
"Well, Howard, I won't say that they aren't still bad guys in my eyes--human sacrifice is pretty hard to whitewash--but they have more sides that we've seen so far."

I dunno how much human sacrifice is a disqualifier here. Carthage and the Phoenicians are generally regarded in a positive historical light, and they regularly practiced child sacrifice. The Romans are more of a mixed bag as far as perceptions go, but they weren't so much into human sacrifice as they were into torture and death as entertainment. Although the Mexica turn it up to 11, they are in good company I think.
All fair points, Jayme.
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