Thursday 29 August 2019

Guest Blog Post - D. Ellis Overttun

Hosting a guest post on my humble blog isn't something I have ever done before, but when the author D. Ellis Overttun asked if I would mind posting something about his Terra Nova novels I jumped at the chance. As he will explain below, I read his first novel, Universe: Awakening and although it was a little rough around the edges the story and themes were gripping and extremely thought provoking, with several layers of interpretation.

We got to talking and I suggested ways in which the novel could be improved and tightened up. He decided to act on my advice and the revised edition together with its sequel are now not only brilliant and well-written stories, but examples of how a science fiction setting can be used to highlight cultural, philosophical and political issues.

What follows should whet your appetite for the depth and ambition of the series. There is the prologue for the first book and some commentary by the author and also a discussion of the front cover picture. What follows is the synopsis for the first book and then a series of links to other excepts, reviews and and discussions.

Enough from me. Over to David

Universe: Awakening Prologue Background, Commentary and Excerpt

I met Phil shortly after I published the original version of Universe. He was one of the first reviewers to follow me back when I used to be on Twitter. More importantly, he was the first person (other than my wife, Natasha) to both encourage and challenge my writing. He pointed out that I tended toward tell rather than show. I knew it was there. It was one of the things I really liked about my writing. However, he was trying to tell me something more. That something didn’t dawn on me until I was well into writing the second book in the series. Once that happened, I looked back on my first work and said, “Ugh.” What followed was a major rewrite, not of plot and characters but narrative. I substituted as much “show” for “tell” as possible. In the process, I also discovered there was nuance to the relationships between and among the characters that had not been fully explored. The result was the Redux Edition.

“Prologue” is an addition to the storyline. In doing these WWIT guest posts, I thought it apropos that I ask Phil to post this one, the beginning of the book, the beginning of the series. My thanks to the person that made me think WWIT.

The great thing about a prologue is that there is no set-up to the narrative required. The only thing I have to do before we start is present the pic Natasha created.

Theia strikes Terra
Creation from destruction
Our Selene is born
Birth of Selene | Natasha Evelyn Overttun

* * * * *
Darkness, silence and cold. That is what defined this world. It had been that way since the beginning. But now for the first time, a small gray dot appeared in the distance. After a time, it expanded. Perhaps, it was a gateway to another place. No matter. The grayness transformed into a milky-white cloud. It coalesced into a room, an examination room with a conference table. Seated along one side were three grim-faced individuals clad in pale-yellow hooded robes. A young man stood before them. Beside him was a large three-dimensional hologram of a moonslowly orbiting a planet.

“As has long been observed, our moon is slowly moving away from us. Since we know that orbital angular momentum must be conserved, if I wind back the clock…”

The moon reversed its course. Its orbit began to increase in speed as it moved closer and closer to the planet.

“Yes, yes. We are all familiar with this concept,” one of the seated individuals said impatiently.

“The interesting thing is,” the young man continued seemingly unfazed, “the equations that govern this momentum.”

“Equations that we are also well-acquainted with,” another one of the seated individuals said.

“Display equations,” the young man called out, ignoring the comment.

A set of equations appeared highlighted in front of the orbital hologram.

“There comes a point where the angular momentum of the system becomes undefined.”

“Yes, yes. As the radius between the two bodies approaches zero. What is your point?” the third seated individual asked in a very irritated voice.

“It is undefined because it is outside the frame of reference,” the young man continued.

He waved his hand and the equations disappeared. At the same time, the moon struck the planet with a glancing blow and then a much larger object began to move away.

“Stop,” the young man called out.

There was no reference indicating direction. However, it looked like an impending impact of a large celestial body.

“We know from all the research done to date that our moon was created by a planetoid impact.”

“Again, what is your point?”

“This is the frame of reference that is outside the frame of reference of the equations. The equations cannot tell us what it is but it tells us that it exists. Now, if I take that concept and apply it to the universe…”

He waved his hand in front of the hologram. It disappeared and another hologram appeared of stars and galaxies moving away from each other.

“Stop. Reverse.”

The celestial bodies began to move closer to one another.

“We encounter this same problem in our study of the beginning of the universe. There comes a point where the math becomes undefined.”

“So, what are you saying?”

“There is a frame of reference that exists which is outside of our universe.”

* * * * *

The young man exited the examination room. A young woman and another young man were waiting for him. Her blue eyes focused intensely on the doorway. The other young man looked as though he was hoping for the best but expecting the worst.

“So, brother. How did it go?”

“I got a three,” he answered dejectedly.

“Well,” the other young man replied, “at least they let you finish your presentation.”

“And a three,” the young woman said, “that’s pretty good for such a radical concept. I’m proud of you!”

“Me too,” the other young man said, although with much less conviction.

“Those fools!” the young man exclaimed. “One day…one day, they will see I am right.”

“Dinner, my treat,” the young woman said patting him on the shoulder.

“You two have fun. I have other plans.”

“Another night of womanizing, drinking and brawling?” the young man asked.

“Well you know me,” the other young man said with a grin.

Then, he suddenly turned serious.

“Look over there,” he said in a low voice.

Their attention turned to the approach of six men.

“Well, what do we have here?” one of the six called out. “Hello, Ali.”

“Ali” was an extremely derogatory term for “Alidyr”, a race of people who were part of the servile class. The young woman’s face turned angry.

“For once, I would like to beat the shit out of those bastards,” she said under her breath.

She had suffered taunts like this ever since her elementary education.

“Maybe you can,” the young man said in a low voice.

“Really?” the other young man responded with a smile.

They had always been outnumbered. Not only had the odds always been against them but there were strict social protocols against physical confrontations.

“We have finished our final exams brother. Our graduations are irrevocable and…”

“Our ‘friends’ over there from the Faculty of Arts would never admit to losing to someone like me,” the young woman added.

“Shall we?” the young man asked.

“We shall!” the other young man said with a smile. “You know brother. If I realized that getting a three would do this to you, I would have been more willing to help you with your research!”

* * * * *

The first half of “Prologue” was inspired by a 2007 episode of the History Channel series, The Universe entitled “The Moon”. There was a part that described the research on tides done by George Darwin, son of his more famous father, Charles. The junior Darwin used his observations to wind back the clock but, at some point, he had to stop because the denominator in his equations was approaching zero and it became undefined. What does that mean? To me, as a layman, it means there was a scenario that existed outside of the one currently being described, one that cannot be derived from the existing mathematical statement(s).

I imagined this undefined scenario looked like the giant impact hypothesis or Theia impact which postulates that the creation of our moon was the result of a collision between Earth and a celestial object called “Theia” named after the Titan who gave birth to the moon goddess Selena. You can now see the connection to Natasha’s pic.

More than that, this part gives you a taste of the setting for the story to follow. The method of presentation is light-years beyond anything you would see at the Worldwide Developers Conference. Voice-activated holograms have replaced remote control devices, large screens and PowerPoint. This is Earth far off in the future. Right?

While this may be a futuristic wonderworld, some things never change. People are judged, not by the content of their character, but by what makes them different. We have all suffered “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” to quote Shakespeare. When it happened to me as a child, I wanted to crack heads. Most times, I would refrain because my mother always told me, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” But, children are relentless and everything has limits. On those occasions, I reached that Popeye moment: “That’s all I can takes and I can’t takes no more.” Then, I would wade in regardless of numbers with an attitude reminiscent of Saw Gerrera, “One fighter with a sharp stick and nothing left to lose can take the day.” (Yes, I have a temper.) My exploit would eventually reach my mother. I remember once replying to her admonition (I am paraphrasing), “Yeah, only if the guy with the pen stabs the guy with the sword.”

This attitude is reflected in the closing lines of the prologue where those who hide behind propriety are about to be taken to task by a small but intrepid group seeking payback.

In closing, I have to give credit to @Trevornoah (I’m a huge fan) for some of the dialogue in the second part of “Prologue”:

“So, brother. How did it go?”

“I got a three,” he answered dejectedly.

“Well,” the other young man replied, “at least they let you finish your presentation.”

“And a three,” the young woman said, “that’s pretty good for such a radical concept. I’m proud of you!”

It was inspired by his discussion of Bafana Bafana.

The cover ties in two of the science themes in the book. It is meant to give the reader a sense that awakening has something to do with genetics since the double helix is easily identifiable as DNA. The woman seeming to emerge from the strand in a burst of light is a visual rendering of awakening. The sphere in the background is not a planet. It is a universe surrounded by what the reader will discover is the volume. The green patches represent the encroachment of an alien energy known as the “ether” foretelling the end of existence.


The year — 526,780. A probe is deployed from ISV Intrepid at the outer edge of the universe. It is the last of a complement of twelve that is part of the Deep Exploration of Uncharted Space or DEUS. Its mission: collect data on the redshift of light and spatial distortions. Time horizon: 1,000 years.

Before ISV Intrepid can return to base, something goes wrong. There is an accident. The ship is later salvaged but its pilot is missing, its copilot in a coma.

The probes collect their data with uneventful regularity.

Fast-forward to 526,880. A sole-surviving probe still sits in the darkness at the outer edge of the universe. Now, unseen to the naked eye, the space around the probe begins to stretch and distend. Then, the probe disappears, engulfed by an energy of unknown origin and unknown composition. However, it manages to transmit one final message.

CD3C has monitored the disappearance of each probe over the last three years. While the interpretation of the data remains a mystery, speculation is that something has invaded the universe and is moving a superluminal velocity. Its effects could be manifested in as little as the next thousand years. To the Celesti, this is one lifetime.

What can be done?

The one person who might be able to solve this problem is the copilot of ISV Intrepid. He has been lying in stasis suffering from mental trauma. He has been this way for the past century, the longest recorded case in medical history. His unchanging condition has been a convenient solution to stall any inquiry into the accident that put him there.

This threat changes everything. Now, he is needed.

Is it possible to unlock his mind?

The task falls to Auberon, a career nobody inhabiting the lower level of the hierarchy of the Ministry of Science. Can something be awakened in him to allow someone ordinary do something extraordinary?

Universe: Awakening answers this question. In the process, it explores the world of the Celesti, a highly evolved humanoid species with advanced technology, physiology and a unique way of procreation. It blends science and political intrigue to reveal the interplay of storyline and character development that forms the staging ground for the Terra Nova Series.

Universe: Awakening - Excerpts and Commentary:
Chapter 2 – “Beyond a Program” posted on The Magic of Wor(l)ds
Chapter 8 – “In the Darkness” posted on Zooloo’s Book Diary
Chapter 46 – “Tsai and Citrus” posted on Herding Cats
Chapter 66 – “The Second Way” posted on The Tattooed Book Geek
Chapter 83 – “The Dream” posted on Reads & Reels
Chapter 85 – “Heron of Edenoud” posted on On The Shelf Reviews

Series Overview:
Author Q&A posted on The Magic of Wor(l)ds
Author Q&A posted on On The Shelf Reviews
Author Q&A posted on The Book Hole
Author Q&A posted on From Belgium With Book Love
Background to Universe: Awakening posted on Zooloo’s Book Diary
Cover Makeover Genesis: Vision of the New World posted on On The Shelf Reviews
Indie Spotlight – Terra Nova Series posted on beforewegoblog

For a deeper dive:
Universe: Awakening on Amazon
Genesis: Vision of the New World on Amazon

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