Elite Dangerous Lore: The Thargoids

Posted by on Jan 6, 2017 in Lore, Progress Report

This is one of a series of guides to the Elite Dangerous Universe. You can read the others here. The Thargoids need little introduction to those well versed in Elite lore, but not all players of Elite: Dangerous may be au fait with their complete background. What I have attempted to do below is summarise information on the Thargoids and set it in context within the known game Lore (Elite, FE2, FFE and ED). There is a lot of fan produced content on the Thargoids, and I have deliberately not referred to it here. What is below is, as far as I’m aware, established canon. I reserve the right to edit this if I’ve missed something, or new information emerges. Summary 2850 – Unconfirmed suggestions that some kind of covert war was started with Thargoids, ostensibly by a trigger-happy Fleet Commander. 3125 – Thargoids alleged to be ‘ripping’ ships out of witchspace and destroying them. Thargoid ‘warzones’ widespread 3200 – Thargoids reportedly retreat from human occupied space for reasons unknown 3255 – Reason for Thargoid retreat was reported to be down to human-engineered ‘Mycoid’ virus which impacted their hyperdrive capability 3302 – Reports of curious wrecks of unknown vessels. 3303 – 8 sided alien ships rip CMDRs out of witchspace (hyperspace high wake) First Appearance, the year is 3125. In the original game of 1984 the Thargoids appeared to be the classic villains of the piece, the indefatigable evil of the spaceways, plucking ships out of witchspace and despatching them far from the safe zones of human habitation. The year is 3125. The Thargoids make their first appearance in the original game manual, and are referenced as “Thargoid Invaders”. Later on we are informed that their “Captains have had their fear glands removed.” and are thus fearsome combateers. An encounter in the original game was fast and brutal. You were lucky if you survived the experience. Thargoids ships were fast, heavily armed and deployed remote controlled ‘Thargons’ to supplement their fire power. There were, reportedly, 50 war zones between humanity and this “insectoid” race. They were also believed to be able to “hover” in witch-space, ambushing human spacecraft whilst using their hyperdrives to travel between systems. It was speculated that they existed as a “group mind”. Thargoid spacecraft were large, swift and powerful with multi-axis symmetry. They had no obvious drive outlets as still required on human vessels, leading to speculation that Thargoids had mastered inertialess drive technology, otherwise known as the ‘spacedrive’. It appears that Thargoid technology was significantly more advanced than ours. In-game, Thargoids tended to ambush human players during hyperspace transits, pulling them out of witch-space and attempting to destroy you with no preamble. They attacked on sight. Throughout the original game it was claimed we were “at war” with the Thargoids. Incidentally, it is alleged that ECM technology was reverse engineered from captured Thargoid ships and many other...

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Signing off for 2016

Posted by on Dec 23, 2016 in Progress Report

It’s been such a busy year! When I entered 2016 I was putting the finishing touches to the second book in the Shadeward Saga, Exoneration and planning to start work on the third. Since then my plans for the rest of the year were majorly disrupted (again!), by not just one but two new official books drawing the inspiration from halcyon days of the 1980s. First up was Lords of Midnight, the epic game by Mike Singleton. I’ve been fortunate to be working with Chris Wild, who was responsible for the iOS and Android ports of the game and was a close friend of Mike Singleton. Lords of Midnight was my second favourite game from those early days of computing. A game that showed real genius, flair and innovation in its design. An entire world, with characters, adventure and drama which allowed you to explore its every nook and cranny. And the opportunity to work once more with Frontier Developments: David Braben, Michael Brookes and the rest of the hardworking team there to tell the story of Elite Dangerous and what its players have done since the game was launched back in 2014. Premonition is on its way. I consider it a huge privilege to be working on both of these projects, though it’s often difficult and painstaking work. I was there when both of these games were first launched. 1984. I played them both, unaware as a wide-eyed 14 year old that I was taking part in a bit of history, a very special formative time in computing history in the UK. The ZX Spectrum that my parents bought me in 1983 now has pride of place on my study wall, reminding me of how much I collectively owe the writers of those games and the designers of that 8-bit computer, with its 48k RAM, cassette interface and ‘high resolution’ colour graphics. Not only books, but a career in computing too. But with both books in flight, I owe more nowadays to the fans of what I’ve written. I’ve been delighted with the response to my original Elite book, Reclamation. The fact that there is another book on its way is very much down to readers of that first book making a groundswell of noise and demanding that the story continue. You can very much thank yourselves that another book is on its way. So many of you have said “It couldn’t be in safer hands.” Thanks for that. The fans made it happen and I’m very honoured to be asked to do it on your behalf. Rest assured I’m doing my very best to make sure it’s worthy of that trust. Lords of Midnight? We’ll, if I didn’t have a reputation for making a good story out of a computer game, that likely wouldn’t have happened either. Thanks again. Those reviews you’ve left me? Gold dust. Whilst I...

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It is nine score and four days since the writing began…

Posted by on Dec 21, 2016 in Progress Report

A year from now we will be launching the novelization of Mike Singleton’s epic game, the Lords of Midnight. Here at the Winter Solstice itself, it only appropriate to have a little bit of a status update. How are things going? Are we still utterly invigorated and confident that victory will go to the free? In short. Yes! Progress has been very good. We’re on track with the novel. I have been writing as fast as I can. Chris gets a version of this whenever I save it out, via the magic of Dropbox, and I thus get feedback on the new sections within days – very handy. At the moment we’re sitting at just over 56,000 words. I’m aiming for a finished first draft in the order of about 140,000 words, so with a bit of deft calculator action that means we’re about 40% of the way through that. The first draft is only half of the work though. There will be a second, third and probably a fourth draft. Editing isn’t nearly as much fun as the initial creative work, but an essential part of the process of turning writing into a finished novel. There are no shortcuts here. Characters have to be checked for consistency, plot-holes eliminated, pacing, tension, dialogue and all manner of other essential components reviewed, adjusted and tweaked. It’s never really ‘finished’, but my personal litmus test is to keep working until I really find it a chore and I can’t stand the sight of it anymore – about then is when the book is ready! As I mentioned before we’ve had to take a long hard look at all the elements of the story. Lords of Midnight was created in the 80s, but we’re now putting this together for an audience of fans from that time and new readers here in the 21st century. In the same way as a stylistic choices, enhancements and tweaks have been made to the original games in order for them to be ‘acceptable’ to modern gaming tastes on Android and iOS, we have had to consider how readers will respond to this story with modern eyes. Diversity is a bit of a problem. The Lords of Midnight is unremittingly male dominated in its original incarnation, with a series of Lords who are superficially identical. In the same way that the Hobbit faced the challenge of differentiating between a collection of Dwarves, we have a similar problem with Midnight. We have solutions however! For original players we have the challenge of writing a story which will entertain and delight, despite the fact that the players know the ending. We don’t want to change the established facts (in fact we can’t if we want to go on to write sequels) so we have to accommodate the known ending. There’s a danger that the book is a little too obvious....

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Roleplaying in the Elite Dangerous Universe

Posted by on Dec 14, 2016 in Progress Report

I recently had the privilege of being interviewed on Lave Radio after a gap of about three years. If you haven’t listened to it you can catch it here thanks to the wonderful Chris ‘Fozza’ Forrester. We only had an hour or so, not much time to delve into the detail of the topic at the end. I’ve been giving it a little thought since. Back in 2013 when I original wrote Elite: Reclamation I was aiming to produce a very traditional outcome. A book. A novel. A story. My original plan was simply to produce an ebook and I was mostly concerned with the quality of the story, paying homage to the previous Elite games, giving something back to the fan community (as it was then) and doing my best to look forward to what Elite: Dangerous would become. I hoped to write a book that Elite fans would look at and go “Yes, Drew nailed it.” During the writing of that first book, I only had reference material, not the actual game itself, until very late in the process. I got the ‘Alpha’ drop of the game in the closing stages of editing and made a few changes as a result. Many things happened in the following year. Fantastic Books Publishing raised the profile of my book and many others, turning them into paperbacks, hardbacks, special editions and audiobooks. This far exceeded my original plans. But the story hasn’t stopped. Whilst there are many fans of the original Elite games still represented in Elite Dangerous, I’m pretty sure that the overwhelming number of players today have joined the adventure since the advent of Elite Dangerous itself. They have embraced the background and features of the game and shaped how it has evolved since. Back in 2013 there were no minor factions, no game communities, no reddit fora. Since then we’ve seen the rise of prominent youtubers, twitchers and facebook groups. Many player factions have their own websites and forums – there are literally hundreds. Today the expanse of subsequent activities that orbit around Elite Dangerous is enormous, certainly beyond my ability to catalogue. Some are funny and mischievous, others are deadly serious. I was quite overwhelmed with the response to my book at the time of launch, but the reaction to it and the characters within has only increased since. Reclamation was a point in time, but the story I told and the idea that it was connected to a game in which players could begin to tell their own stories… the sheer possibilities that transpired from that were beyond my imagination. Which brings me to my topic. I’m not talking about RPGs (RolePlaying Games). If you want that you need to check out Dave Hughes’ Elite Encounters. There’s another ED one in the works too, if it achieves Kickstarter funding in January. No, I’m talking about...

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Thoughts on dialogue

Posted by on Dec 6, 2016 in Progress Report

I’ve blogged before on some of the differences between sci-fi and fantasy. There are many of course, not least the source material itself and the sorts of rules and ‘laws’ which govern the two genres. There is overlap too, both deal with the ‘fantastic’ and pushing the boundaries of the imagination. I’ve majored on SF to date, with my current WIP Lords of Midnight being my first major foray into the realm of fantasy. To squirrel down on the genre a little more, this is a form of ‘High Fantasy’, involving, as it does, the affairs of an imaginary world, featuring creatures and races native to that world. They are similar, but very different from our own. Part of the tone of any story is the dialogue, the prose which the characters use to communicate with each other (and tell the story to the reader). In SF this is typically not so much of an issue unless too much techno-babble is employed, or a large number of conspicuously made up words are introduced. In fantasy there is a tenancy towards ‘epic-ness’. Characters may strike a rather old-fashioned, perhaps even ponderous, tone in their style of speech, with the author hoping that lends a sense of occasion to the proceedings. Often characters will avoid contradictions (e.g. saying “can not” rather than “can’t”). Less familiar words such as “Verily” or “Yonder” may be employed. This may give a flavour, but unless you know what you’re doing it can come across as rather false and stilted, particularly to more modern readers. Some of this depends on the ever changing arcs of fashion, with prose styles falling in and out of vogue depending on the views of fantasy panelists or reviewers. It has also been argued that you can either write as if you are listening into to a conversion in that world, in which case employ the style of that world (medieval or otherwise), or you can argue that you are transcribing the dialogue for your reader, thus you should write in plain english. Is Shakespeare ‘best’ in the original prose, or a modern translation? It depends on your definition of ‘best’. There’s also the problem of being true to source material. Take the Lords of Midnight  as an example. Here is a piece of dialogue uttered (said?) by a character from the second original novella “Doomdark’s Revenge”. “I bid you welcome, sir, to the Forest of Dreams. Will you not tarry a while? ‘Tis a long and lonely road you follow.” Now that piece is attributed to a young Fey girl, her age unknown, but assumed to be 18 or thereabouts. Clearly that’s not how a contemporary piece of dialogue would look for a teenage girl. That would be something like this… “Yo wassup, you in m’forest man! Hanging out here? Where you been?” Yes. I’m kidding. 😉 Straight forward English would be something...

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Fantasticon Readings!

Posted by on Nov 25, 2016 in Progress Report

Hi Folks, A bit of a delay on the blog I’m afraid. Not only have I been rather busy with the prep for Fantasticon, writing the novels and the day job – I’ve also been off sick this week, which has put a bit of a crimp in my plans, and slowed down progress. However, I’m on the mend and should be back up to speed next week – though I’ve lost a bit of time and am now a little behind schedule. Nevertheless, the weekend just gone was significant as I was able to launch my latest book, Shadeward: Exoneration and give exclusive readings of two upcoming books, the first volume of the Lords of Midnight and, of course, the Elite Dangerous novel, Premonition. These were supposed to streamed live, but as is often the case with these sort of things, technical gremlins conspired against us. They have now been uploaded to youtube and will give you the benefit of hearing them at a much higher quality than on the day. 🙂 So, with no further ado. Here they...

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