I’m hosting a guest post for the book tour for space opera series “First Admiral”. The guest post is about views and values. Enjoy.
Views and Values
(William J Benning)
We all tend to have a pretty strong view on what is right and what is wrong – unless, of course, you are a total psychopath!!
And, writing science fiction is no different to any other genre in that respect. Yet, it is the one with the greatest potential to challenge all of our pre-conceived notions. Crime thrillers and detective stories can give us a window into a disordered and dysfunctional personality. But, we will always tend to view that experience through our own inbuilt/conditioned lens of ‘good’ or ‘bad’. There are very few characters of the real utterly selfish sociopathic persuasion that anyone could consider to be ‘loveable’. We may admire them for standing against convention; appealing to our inner rebel, or we may identify with them in some of our more wishful moments of anger, outrage and desire for vengeance. But ultimately, we may never live out those darker fantasies. The ‘bad’ guys may win the odd battle but ultimately the desire for the right or happy ending consigns them to final defeat. Bonnie and Clyde ended up dead, and in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ it was a short lived victory – a blip in the progress towards the eventual and inevitable outcome.
Another aspect to the crime thriller is that the villain is human. They have human frailties, weaknesses and are, therefore, judged in terms of purely human values.
In science fiction, the audience may be human (well, most of the time they’ll be human!) but many of the characters may well not. To attract, and retain, our audience, do we not appeal to those values that we believe we share with others of our species.
Isn’t that a wonderful opportunity to throw off our notions and expectations of good and bad? After all, we’ve come a long, long way since the days of everyone in the entire universe speaking English – well, at least in the world of TV and Cinema. Black and white costumes eventually went the way of black and white film. The magical properties of universal translators may never be fully explained to us primitive Earthlings (!), but, somehow, they work. And, as a result inter-species communication becomes commonplace and credible.
But, how about extending that suspension of disbelief just a little bit further?
How about looking at what we consider to be ‘bad’ from a different perspective? Watching some of the “Star Wars” prequels, how many representatives were in the Galactic Senate? How did anyone manage to get any degree of consensus with so many Senators? How did any legislation manage to get through? Wasn’t there case for the foundation of the Empire? Wouldn’t things have run a lot more smoothly with an autocracy?
Oh, but we do love our ‘Freedoms’ don’t we? – no matter how illusory they are. But, that depends on what kind of freedoms they are. Are they “freedoms to…” or “freedoms from…”? And, therein lies a whole philosophical debate. One person’s ‘freedom’ may be someone else’s “oppression”!
And, yet, why do we tend to view democracy as ‘superior’ to everything else? Is it because we like some degree of control in our world or do we simply not trust the autocrats – no matter how benevolent or kind they are?
The Klingons, the Romulans, the Go’auld and many others have all had the very nasty habit of not being democratic in their forms of government. The aggressive, militarist and expansionist bit was an unfortunate coincidence (!) But, as spectators, we have no real idea of how Mr & Mrs Average Klingon or Mr & Mrs Average Romulan get by on a day to day basis. For all we know, they may live in a society with an incredibly high standard of living, medical advances beyond our human knowledge, full employment, no debt and streets safe to walk on at night. So, they don’t get to vote for untrustworthy politicians and charlatans – that no one really trusts, anyway – every now and then. What kind of loss would that be…realistically?
No, I think we might be dismissing the benefits of autocracy, as well as what are considered other negative attributes, just a bit too quickly in our sci-fi!!
In the First Admiral series, I have to hold my hand up and plead guilty as charged. The human lead; Billy Caudwell, embodies many of the human virtues that a lot of human readers admire. His youthful – and, at times naïve – idealism, allows him to make the right moral choices. And, by the magic of my being the author, things generally work out for him.
However, things are about to change. Billy is going to face some serious setbacks in future titles which will bring out a much darker side to his personality. The idealistic schoolboy will go through his particular rites of passage, bringing to the surface some very unsavoury attributes. However, that is what makes Billy Caudwell and everyone else human. And, despite the almost dogmatic belief, in the universe of sci-fi, of the superiority of homo sapiens, a little walk on the dark side will, hopefully, make Billy Caudwell a much more rounded character.
So, moving the lead character away from his traditional good guy expectations will, hopefully, make for a more enjoyable series.
The Garmaurians, the most advanced species in the universe, wiped themselves out with a bio-weapon in a senseless civil war. And, in a desperate attempt to protect the secret of the potentially dangerous Trion technology – the ability to manipulate the fundamental particle of the universe – their leader sends one last covert mission to Earth. The mission goes horribly wrong, leaving Billy Caudwell; an overweight, acne-scarred 14 year old, with the Mind Profile of a military genius, a huge battle fleet and a mission to unite the intelligent species of the universe in a Universal Alliance.
With people to rescue, space fleets to battle and villains to defeat, Billy has to overcome his own inhibitions, insecurities and a vicious bully before he can start saving the universe.
Welcome, dear readers, to the exciting universe of First Admiral. – Over 3,000 copies sold.
The Burning Sun
The Bardomil Empress, eager to avenge the defeat of her Imperial Fleet at the hands of Billy Caudwell, acquires a weapon that can generate super-charged solar flares and incinerate entire planets. Having tested the weapon, the Empress discovers a strategic territorial weakness in Billy’s Alliance and launches the solar flare weapon at Planet Earth as a diversion to a full-scale assault on the Alliance. Billy Caudwell, still trying to stay on top of his dangerous double life, now has to protect Earth and save the Alliance from annihilation.
And, as if that’s not enough, Billy also has girl troubles!
The third installment in the exciting First Admiral Series, Time Commander follows the continuing adventures of Billy Caudwell; the teenage First Admiral of the Universal Alliance Fleet as he strives to prevent a long, protracted and bloody war with the Ganthorans.
Having defeated a Ganthoran Frontier Fleet General in battle, Billy Caudwell must undertake the dangerous ‘Time Warrior Ritual’. In the ritual, Billy has to re-fight (and win) a major battle, that in the history of his species was lost – and in which the losing Commander was killed. To prevent years, possibly decades, of costly warfare, Billy must complete the ritual and claim the Crystal Throne of Ganthus. If Billy completes the challenge, he will become the Emperor of the Ganthorans. If he fails, he will die on a historical battlefield from Earth’s past.
Sinister powerful and xenophobic forces among the Ganthoran aristocracy and military are ranged against Billy, determined to prevent an alien claiming the Crystal Throne.
Can Billy survive the challenge and avert a brutal and costly war?
The Ganthoran Gambit
However, he has little time to savour his triumph. Even as Billy emerges from the Time Warrior Arena, the four remaining Frontier Fleets have mutinied against him under the influence of a mysterious and anonymous shadow Emperor. A sociopathic Frontier Fleet General has occupied the Empire’s capital city, wreaking a terrible vengeance upon his enemies and the civilian population.
With the shattered remains of a Frontier Fleet and a weakened Alliance contingent, Billy Caudwell has to take the biggest gamble of his life. With the fate of an empire at stake, Billy has to risk everything to prevent decades of war and bloodshed.
The author, William J.Benning was born in Dumfries (south west Scotland) in 1963. With his 50th birthday fast approaching, Benning has decided to grow old disgracefully. An intensely private individual, Benning recently returned to his home town seeking inspiration for his passion of creative writing. At age 18, Benning left home to take an Honours Degree in Psychology at Strathclyde University in Glasgow. He has some very fond memories, and many nights of vague recollection – which are, on the whole, probably best forgotten (!) – from his student days. After graduating, Benning had a career “false start” moving into the world of Pest Control Management. However, after several unhappy years, he switched tack and took further qualifications in Personnel Management, carving out a successful and enjoyable career in Human Resources as well as Learning & Development. Throughout his career, Benning has worked to support the activities of the British Red Cross.
From his early days as a First Aid Volunteer, he enjoyed working for the organisation which gave him further skills and built his self-confidence. Progressing within British Red Cross, Benning became a First Aid Instructor (Trainer), Assessor and Lecturer plus becoming invoved in training other Trainers and Assessors. Having returned to Dumfries to further his writing career, Benning now lives alone, but has been adopted by four members of the Canine Community. With four dogs in his life – and a newly arrived litter of Tibetan Terrier pups – plus a newly published novel, life is never going to be dull for Benning. William likes his sci-fi, but is also keen on military history and speculative fiction. Among his fiction favourites are Harry Turtledove, the late George MacDonald Fraser, Bernard Cornwell and Clive Cussler. William collects Edinburgh Crystal and has a terrible weakness for malt whisky. He has published his novel First Admiral with Malachite Quills in 2012.
Buy your own copy of the First Admiral series here: http://www.clockworkquills.com/the-first-admiral-series.html