Guest post by Christian Schoon + giveaway

Hey and thanks from Zenn and her author pal for making room in your blog’s parking lot for the Under Nameless Stars tour bus.

So, the starliner Helen of Troy. For the noobs here, this is the starship circling above Mars that Zenn smuggles herself aboard as the action of Under Nameless Stars begins. The Helen was built in the Delta Bay of the orbital construction platform Goliath by Tseng-Gupta Heavy Industries 60 Earther years ago. A “Diracian-Sovereign Class” luxury liner, she’s roughly a quarter mile in length (1,320 ft./402 meters) and is designed for flexible accommodation of between 1,170 and 1,540 passengers (depending on ports of call/alien race ratios and resulting cabin and suite configurations). She’s crewed by a compliment of 255 officers, engineers and hotelier staff, along with one Indra groom, her sacrist and an under-sacrist. And, of course, her Indra.

The ship conforms to the conventional design for Indra-drive starliners, with an array of dark matter collection plates at the bow, followed by the bridge, passenger decks and crew quarters, with a lengthy access shaft leading back to the pilot room, Indra chamber and Indra warren.

For those unfamiliar with Indra, or Lithohippus Indrae or Stonehorses, these creatures are vacuum-dwelling protosynapsid-like animals combining mammalian with reptilian traits. Mature adults can grow to more than 700 feet, with flattened, serpentine bodies ending in an elongated, vaguely equine head covered with inter-dimensional sensing barbels. Over billions of years of evolution, Indra developed the ability to metabolize dark matter into warping catalyst, allowing them to “tunnel” through the fabric of the space-time continuum. Emerging from the coiled interior of the Indra warren when summoned by their groom, the Indra moves into the chamber and, under direction from the groom, goes into tunneling mode to transport the ship to its destination.

After more than a century of safe operation by the Indra-drive fleet of ships, starliners suddenly began to vanish some twenty years ago. The ships, with passengers, crew and cargo, disappear without a trace. As the rate of ships going missing has increased, several high-level panels and/or investigative councils within the governments of the various Local Systems Accord planets were convened to seek answers. But as Zenn begins her journey on the Helen in Under Nameless Stars, no solution has so far been found.

So, that’s the general run down on the starships that Zenn and other people/Alien Sentients (Ascents) get around on in the two books. As for the settings of the stories, the pioneering Martian settlements of Zenn Scarlett are somewhat reminiscent of frontier areas of Earth’s American West in the 19th century, with shadings of the Great Depression from the 1930s. A trade embargo with Earth has left the colonies on Mars struggling to survive. The tech used to pressurize and terraform the deep Martian valleys is breaking down, and replacement parts are almost impossible to come by. As food supplies also grow scarce, fertile farmland is at a premium, and the social bonds of the colonies have begun to degenerate.

This worsening situation makes the Ciscan Cloister Exovet Clinic where Zenn is training into a target for the growing angst of the colonists, who feel that using the Cloister’s land to grow feed for the clinic’s menagerie of alien life forms is a serious waste. This, in their opinion, is ground that could be used to feed humans instead.

Contrasted with the deprivations being suffered on Mars is the environment of a starliner like the Helen of Troy. While the aging Helen has seen better days, she’s still a fully functioning ship, with adequate food supplies and other resources; something that Zenn immediately appreciates. Plus, unlike the increasingly xenophobic conditions on Mars, a starliner is a racially integrated, socially accepting milieu where all humans and Ascents are equal and welcome. (With the exception of the skirni, who are still discriminated against).

As Zenn’s adventure progresses, she’ll also explore a range of other starship environments, some hostile, some more luxurious than the Helen. But it would be spoilerific to say much more than that here.

So, very much appreciate your letting me drop in on you and the rest of your inquisitive tome-nibbling annelids as the new book launches into the wild. Zenn sez: “Thanks, Earther!”

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive | @cjschoon

To celebrate the launch of Under Nameless Stars by Christian Schoon, Strange Chemistry are running a tour-wide competition…and you can enter as many times as you like! Christian’s blog tour starts on 10 March; click here for the full list of blog tour stops.

Each tour stop has a question to answer, here’s mine:

7. To sedate the sandhog, Zenn uses a
a. Sleeping potion
b. Blow-gun dart
c. Seda-dish – x
d. Long, tedious story?

a Rafflecopter giveaway