It's late Spring 1996 and I'm cycling to work one morning. I've taken the long way round through winding country back roads. There is no traffic and the birds are already chirping from the tall hedges that line the road. I have made good progress and am almost at the factory where I work. The last stretch is a long but gentle up-slope. As I drop a gear or two and put my legs into auto-pilot my mind begins to wander.
The idea comes to me quite unexpectedly. It is probably due to the fact that I'm immersed in multiple cycles simultaneously. There's the:
The idea starts as a realisation that so much in life is highly repetitive. We keep going through the same cycles and loops again and again day after day. Then further questions began to form in my mind.
What if the cyclic nature of life is due to the fundamental nature of time?
What if TIME itself is fundamentally cyclic?
I tried to imagine what life would be like if time kept looping back on itself at short intervals. From this grew the concept for the Orb space opera.
Orb is not a single story. It was to begin with but it isn't any more. The original kernel of the concept was indeed a single story that looped back perfectly on itself. Over the years since the original conception it has grown. In fact, it has grown a lot.
There are now several story threads. Some of them are circular and some wind and twist along. None have a perfectly straight plot. After all, nature abhors a straight line. Neither are they fully independent from one another. They intersect in many places so that it is possible to take several different paths through the web. Furthermore, because some stories loop back on themselves, it's difficult to say which should be considered the first.
However, it isn't a totally jumbled mess. There are several common elements that run through it all. I have grouped these into two categories Themes and Threads. Weaving back and forth these bind Orb together into something resembling a well oiled Persian Rug....
....or whatever. Anyway, check out each of their tiles for a (marginally?) more coherent explanation.
Once I had plotted and combed out the tangled story lines I soon realised that no single character could experience it all. There could be no SINGLE protagonist, no ONE hero or villain to link everything together.
After a lot of head scratching I came to a simple, yet challenging, solution. Every book in Orb will be told from a different character's perspective! So far I have envisaged about 25 books in the whole saga. So that's:
I am sure that, if you are a writer yourself, you can appreciate the size of this task. However, it doesn't end there. It is likely that even more Threads and stories will be incorporated leading to more books and necessarily requiring more lead characters.
Another aspect of the Orb saga is the vast array of settings. From primitive tribes in primordial forests to bustling commuters in futuristic space ports, it's got the lot. Not all books cover the whole range. Some are indeed very busy and scramble about all over the cosmos and even beyond. Others are more dignified and prefer a primary setting with maybe only occasional small excursions.
Again, just as with the multi-dimensional protagonists, this is going to involve a herculean task of creative world building. It's not good enough to simply paint a panoramic backdrop. Each place has to be detailed and sensuous with depth and history. Furthermore, just as with the story lines and lives of the protagonists, there is also going to have to be interaction between the various locations.
In short it is gong to contravene the basic story telling regulations of Greek Theatre in a major way. One place, one time one action? No chance!
Finally, I have to make a confession. This is all a selfish opportunity to unashamedly indulge myself in my two favourite book genre, Sci-Fi and Fantasy. Obviously, I'm not the only person that likes both and there are many cross-over genres too. Personally, I enjoy my Sci-Fi 'hard'. Thanks to my technical background in engineering I like rational, plausible cause and effect. I generally find Handwavium is the biggest turn off.
Nevertheless, I also like the idea of things happening due to reasons that we simply don't understand yet. In this way my fantasy writing also tends towards the 'hard' end of the scale. Just as with the Sci-Fi stuff I like to work out a set of cohesive game play rules in the back ground of every book. The only real difference between stories of the two genre is that I tend to include some kind of explanation in the Sci-Fi stuff whereas I tend to leave it obscured in the background for the Fantasy stories. For instance, I am passionate about the principle of 'Conservation of Energy'. I don't care what the genre is, this rule HAS to be obeyed. Nevertheless, banging on about the necessary thermodynamics of dragons is not what most readers are interested in. I hope this approach doesn't take the magic out of magic for you. It certainly doesn't for me.
The Orb saga is a network of interconnecting stories. Behind all of these lie a set of core themes. They represent some basic concepts that interest me. To a large extent they are what has motivated me to write Orb in the first place. My intention is to better understand these concepts myself by investigating them through the mechanism of story telling. I hope that they are also of interest to you and that you also want to understand them better. Perhaps, we can even start a meaningful dialogue to gain an even deeper understanding.
If they come across as a bit dry and philosophical, I hope that my stories also bring a bit of colour and fun to them.
The Orb saga is a network of interconnecting stories. Though many intersect with each other, some do lead on sequentially from one another. These sequences are the threads of the Orb tapestry. They form extended story arcs that often stretch over multiple books. Here comes the fun bit of story telling. The threads are less interested with the 'big questions'. Instead, they get up close and personal by following the passions and anguish that fill individual peoples' lives. Nevertheless, they do still leave some space for whimsical fancy.
If you've read this far I think it's safe to assume we have gained your interest. Take a short break and subscribing to the newsletter to never miss out on updates....
The more and more I think about it the less and less convinced I am that Time is in fact linear. I am sure it is curved by nature. I shan't go into this discussion in any greater detail here. Instead, you can read my technical discussion in the Hyperphysics section. Instead I shall concentrate on the treatment of Time in Orb. In accordance with the Mass/Time (M/T for short) model of the cosmos, Orb treats time as a mutable quantity.
Einstein is famous for his Theory of relativity. Einstein is famous for his Theory of Relativity. Intrinsic to this is the idea that everyone has a personal and unique experience of time. Relativity explains that the RATE at which time appears to progress is dependent on the observer's current viewpoint or state. The M/T model takes this one step further. Not only is the SPEED of time but also the DIRECTION in which it flows unique to the observer too. Orb investigates this premise from a story telling angle. It asks questions like:
People have been thinking and arguing about 'The meaning of life' since time immemorial. So far nobody has really come up with a definitive solution. One reason for this might be that nobody can agree on what 'Life' is in the first place.
For its own purposes, Orb adopts the entropy vector definition (see our definition in the Hyperphysics section). Though many people would argue that this is an over simplistic model, it does give the story teller plenty of interesting room for intriguing manoeuvre. Orb does its best to use all of this available space. Many of the living things in Orb do indeed appear quite familiar (Bipedal Humanoids feature quite strongly). However, the borderline between Animate and Inanimate can get very blurry. Orb experiments with, amongst other things, Sentient Objects and Inanimate Creatures.
I find intelligence a fascinating subject. It appears that I am not the only one. I have participated in many conversations that revolve around questions such as 'What is more intelligent, a dog or a dolphin?'. The problem with such questions is that they are impossible to answer because intelligence can't be measured reliably. Many claim that this is not true. Standardised IQ tests do exist. Following years of cross-checking and continuous improvement, these promise a definitive method for scoring and ranking the intelligence of test subjects. The problem is that they simply don't deliver on the promise.
Over the years it has become clear that intelligence is a far more complex quantity than first thought. Most importantly, for the purposes of Orb at least, intelligence is highly contextual. An organism's intelligence can only be considered and appreciated within the context of its sensory world. Dogs live in a world of smells whereas dolphins exist in a sonic environment. This makes comparisons of intelligence between them absolutely meaningless.
Orb avoids comparisons and just considers Intelligence on a per entity basis. It considers questions such as:
We don't promise to have all the answers yet, but if you subscribe to the newsletter you'll be sure to hear about our latest Thematic updates.
I find them intriguing. There are so many things about them that are mysterious. Where did they come from? Why are there fewer today than in the past? How can there be so many different and conflicting stories about them?
This thread attempts to answer these and many other questions about Dragons. It is not about picking one Dragon story that is the best. Nor do I try to describe what a TRUE Dragon must be like. I am far more interested in cementing and preserving the diversity of Dragon-lore. Why can't every single kind of Dragon and Dragon Story be true all at the same time? Even when they appear to directly contradict each other. They are 'magical' beasts after all. Why shouldn't they be capable of the seemingly impossible. Subscribe to the newsletter to get the latest Dragon News as it happens.
Lots of people do. It is for this very reason that there are countless computer simulation games about empire and civilisation building. It seems to be a lucrative branch. Personally, I am not interested in such games. Not only do I find them too inflexible but also excessively time consuming. Frankly, I have no idea where people get the time to play them! Instead, I am always skipping ahead to the interesting bit and imagining strange and wonderful worlds of my own. However, I'm never happy with a simple description. A world is not static. It undergoes change. So, to be plausible a civilisation needs history. The big challenge is to know where to start. No one event or snippet of history stands alone. There is always precedence and consequence.
From a technical point of view, the only valid place to begin is the very beginning and then to carry on through to the very end. Orb does just this. However, in order to avoid the chronic boredom of geological time Orb approaches the task in its own unique way. Creation, evolution and destruction of civilisations are all covered, just not necessarily in that order or in sequence or even in the same place. Yes, even whole civilisations can benefit from a bit of Orb style distortion occasionally. If you kindly subscribe to the newsletter then we shall politely send you civilised updates.
To be frank (as opposed to Fred), Orb wouldn't be Orb if Orb didn't include Orb. Orb is the first and original Thread. Indeed Orb is such a fundamental element of Orb that it could be argued that it is the original Theme around which all the Threads (including Orb itself) have been woven. Yep, nothing is more quintessentially Orb than Orb itself. In short, if you love getting a face full of Meta then Orb is capable of delivering the juice.
Other than that, it is all about what might happen if that infamous component of modern physics, the Space / Time (S/T) model, were to become hopelessly damaged and unusable. Orb presents the Mass / Time (M/T) model as a robust workaround and then has plenty of fun messing about with what then becomes possible. Basically, rather than limiting itself to character or even world building, Orb turns the dial all the way up to 11 and builds a whole cosmos. Want to experience the act of creation from the VIP Box? Subscribe to our newsletter for front row seats at the birth of a universe.
Some people think of a Legacy as simply everything we leave behind us. Others like to think of it the other way around. It is the things we can't take with us. What the spirit can't absorb, assimilate or carry with it on the onward journey gets left behind. This detritus remains in the temporal world to form a (temporary?) footprint by which we may be remembered.
Obviously, a legacy can be a good or bad thing. It really depends on how it came about. This Thread considers many different kinds of legacy and looks at the different ways people interact with them. Of all the threads this is the one with perhaps the most romanticism. However, contrary to popular misconceptions, this doesn't mean it's just full of smoochy scenes and boxes of chocolates. It does have these too but it is about far more than pheromones, hormones, passion and heart break. By definition, for a legacy to exist in the first place, there must be a bereavement. With this in mind Legacy necessarily takes on even the most negative of emotions such as loneliness, loss and sorrow. Don't forget to subscribe to the newsletter and awake your inner romantic.
Hybrids crop up again and again throughout the whole history of human art and literature. We appear to have a morbid fascination with the idea of unnatural creatures. Sometimes they are considered as benign or even divine. At other times they represent evil corruption or are harbingers of terrible events. Almost always, humans approach the idea of Hybrids from an ego-centric viewpoint. In what way would meeting a hybrid effect me or those close to me? Furthermore, hybrids often appear to have fantastical abilities that neither of the donors enjoy. In fact, it is arguable that the whole mythos of comic book super heroes and villains is based on the principle of hybridisation.
However, this Thread prefers to take a different approach by trying to answer a different question altogether.
What is it like to be a hybrid?
A 'Snaguin' (the Snake:Penguin hybrid shown above) might be equally at home in both the frozen Arctic and the burning Sahara or it might be unviable in both. What's more, many hybrids are depicted as being unique so it must surely be terribly lonely with no-one else of your own kind for companionship. In order to investigate these internal implications, Hybrid calls a series of hybrids into existence and then shadows them to paint a series of portraits. Think of it a bit like a 'monster profiler'. To really get its money's worth this thread tries to be as original as possible in creating hybrids. Several are unlike anything ever portrayed before in popular culture. Fancy a trip around a Chimera safari park? Subscribe to the newsletter and get to sit right up front with the Game Warden.
Barren, uninhabitable and forever corrupted the Borderlands lie at the outermost edge of the Rationale in the very shadow of the Realm of Chaos. Beneath this darkness, the Aether Guard perform their terrible duty, hunting down and destroying the vile spawn of Chaos before it can corrupt the innocence of the homelands.
However, when a vile shape shifting flesh-eater slips past the renowned Cpt. Banak Doneir and his men, he is drawn into a deadly game of cat-and-mouse as everything he holds dear is threatened.
Can the Captain save his beloved homelands from the poisonous encroachment of Chaos whilst remaining true to his profoundest convictions or must he himself become the very thing he most despises in order to overcome the enemy?
Begin your first patrol though the Borderlands right now and find out where the adventure leads.