Michael Moorcock is one of my favorite writers of all time. I have a huge library of most of his work. I don’t think he ever wrote anything in the military science fiction genre, but he certainly appreciated it. I recently picked up a anthology he edited of short stories and novellas written prior to WWI (Before Armageddon), and that’s where I found arguably the first military science fiction story – “The Battle of Dorking” published in 1871 and written by George Chesney.
It’s been awhile since we had a brand new BattleTech book to talk about, with the last one I remember getting published being Betrayal of Ideals back in 2016. That book, however, had originally been printed in BattleCorps back in 2006, so in terms of fresh content, we’re all feeling a little starved.
CGL seems to have heard our prayers and is announcing a brand new set of books to rekindle that love of BattleTech fiction for a whole new generation. The novels are to be penned by Jennifer Brozek, an award-winning author who also wrote The Nellus Academy Incident as well as the Shadowrun novella DocWagon 19. And while the new trilogy is being billed as “Young Adult”, Brozek certainly included enough death and heart-pounding action in The Nellus Academy Incident to satisfy even the most grizzled of BattleTech veterans.
We know that the new novels will certainly be set during the Dark Age era, and will share a lot of the themes explored in Jennifer’s earlier BattleTech novel. If you haven’t read Nellus Academy, I’ll let Jennifer explain:
“I’m thrilled to be writing in the BattleTech universe once more. After Nellus Academy, I thought my time for writing big, stompy ’Mechs was done. Fortunately for me, I get to dive into this universe again. I’ll be writing an ensemble piece focused on the lives of war-torn academy cadets. This coming-of-age story will forge teenagers, already wise beyond their years, into adults in a trial by fire that many won’t survive. Those who do will become the heroes of a new age.”
Jennifer is certainly no slouch as a wordsmith. She’s won the Scribe, Origins, and ENine awards, been a Hugo Award finalist, multiple Bram Stoker Awards finalist, and won the Australian Shadows Award for best-edited publication. She’s also been featured in numerous RPG sourcebooks, including Dragonlance, Shadowrun, and Serenity, as well as featured in the award winning HBS game, Shadowrun Returns. That’s quite the resume.
image courtesy of blainepardoe.wordpress.com
As perhaps the second longest running author in the BattleTech universe, Blaine Lee Pardoe knows more about BattleTech than I ever will. And as a celebrated author (at least certainly celebrated around here, and according to his blog celebrated in a bunch of other places too) he’s also come across some of the seedier aspects of the BattleTech universe – fan fiction.
He’ll be the first to admit that some fanfic is good, and the good stuff will find its way to BattleCorps, and maybe even one day become a published novel. But the vast majority of fanfic that crosses his inbox brings Pardoe, in his own words, “one step closer to that aneurysm that I know is coming.”
As a tribute to the many years of awful fanfic, Pardoe has created the ultimate BattleTech fan fiction
As a tribute to the many years of awful fanfic, Pardoe has created the ultimate, the alpha and omega, the supreme example of BattleTech fan fiction, titled Operation Total Freakin’ Awesomeness. It is his greatest literary work to date, and quite possibly the greatest literary work of all time.
I won’t go into too many details and spoil it for you, however as a teaser, Operation Total Freakin’ Awesomeness follows Lieutenant Cody Whiplash Brightstar – callsign Tight-Testicles – as he battles Star Commander Shamalamadingdong – a warrior of Clan Tin Sloth – for control of the Lyran planet Urban. Classic Inner Sphere versus Clan hijinx ensue.
I should also note that Mr. Pardoe has gone to great lengths to ensure that his greatest story doesn’t land him in legal troubles (as is so often the case with BattleTech) – the story is littered with trademark and copyright symbols, just in case people got any smart ideas on lifting his stuff.
With this latest short fiction sure to become canon, I eagerly await the creation of the Clan Tin Sloth emblem, for which I will pay real c-bills to put on a t-shirt and wear with pride. To those artists reading this post, I implore you to post your links in the comments section below.
MechWarrior 3 is somewhat unique in MechWarrior series. Whereas in every other game each engagement is a single battle where the player may kill a half-dozen enemy ‘Mechs and then move on, MechWarrior 3 is essentially one long guerrilla operation. In other games, when it’s all said and done you fly away in your dropship, sipping space martinis and laughing merrily at all the whacky robot hijinks you got up to. In MechWarrior 3 you don’t have that luxury – you’re stuck dirtside, on the run, fighting to survive wave after wave of Smoke Jaguar warriors.
So how many ‘Mechs did you bust on Tranquil? Reddit user hydra337 has helpfully done the math.
Short answer: it’s a lot.
“The Smoke Jaguar forces that did go to Huntress were enough to overcome Serpent, but not enough to eradicate them wholesale before Bulldog arrives. If that returning homeworld force had an extra Galaxy however [like the one you destroy in MechWarrior 3], Clan Smoke Jaguar may have been able to destroy Task Force Serpent, regroup, and be much more prepared for the Huntress assault of Bulldog.”
Trial Under Fire, the book based off of MechWarrior 3, is considered the canonical version of events, and in that story Clan Wolf actually does most of the destruction for you. But in our hearts we all know who the real hero of the story is.
With much thanks to hydra337 for agreeing to let me post his work!
Recently I had decided to pick up and read David Drake’s collection of military science fiction short stories called “Hammer’s Slammers.” I was a bit surprised by just how evocative it was of many of the central concepts of BattleTech universe writ large. We aren’t any better in the future than we are now. We still have unethical wars. We hold onto our religious and ethnic identities and use those to exclude and attack others. We still have these “us versus them,” mentalities. Technology has not led to morality.
There are a bunch of other similar things, like similar weapons, similar concepts of mercenaries, and more — and I was so taken aback by this pre-BattleTech story, that I wrote a review on it here. Having read that, I decided to eventually take on another military science fiction book as well and review it for you. Two weeks ago I was shopping at a Books-a-Million superstore when I came across “Redliners.” It was recently re-released in this prestige format as part of the 20 year anniversary of the novel. On the cover is David Drake talking about how this is his best work, to his mind, and the one that changed him the most after writing it.
Well that sounded compelling. So I picked it up and started reading.
Now as I have mentioned before, I’m very comfortable with David Drake. I’ve read a few short stories, and this is my 6th book by him. He’s not an author I follow religiously, but he’s good at what he does and I respect him for it. He was at a major school for studying Law when he was drafted in the 60s, and sent to work with tanks in Cambodia for two years, and then returned. He always found it difficult to re-assimilate into life. And this novel follows a similar track.
In a future war by a star-spanning human empire, a high reputation striker force does some bad stuff and loses a lot of people on the front line of a war against some aliens. They have crossed the red line. But instead of them being sent home to keep them quiet, the leader of the Empire decides to try something new. They are sent to escort a group of colonists to a hostile but potentially wealthy colony world. And they are pushed together and forged by fire. (I’m trying to keep this relatively spoiler-free).
Now the book itself has a lot of the typical military science-fiction accoutrements. Death. Weapons. Battles. And the style of Drake is compelling. It’s powerful and evocative. And while it’s not my favorite book in the genre by any means, I get where Drake is coming from. The book is worth the reading.
I’ve always wondered what would happen if David Drake wrote a BattleTech story. Would it feel like a conventional one? Would it be different? Would he continue down that path or hew something else? He has written in shared worlds before. He is a big fan of the Cthulhu Mythos and has written stuff there. So you never know.
Are you familiar with “Redliners?” Have you read it? What did you think?
Well I felt it was time. See, one of my passions in life is to read the books and works that helps to make something exist. Take Dungeons and Dragons as a good example. In his famous Appendix N at the end of the first Dungeon Master’s Guide, Gary Gygax listed a bunch of writers and works that were influential to the game, and as launching off points for campaigns. And slowly and surely, I’ve been reading Appendix N stories and writers. I enjoy reading pre-D&D writers that had an influence on that game. And I do this with a lot of stuff, from epic sagas from other cultures to forgotten gems that few appreciate.
And there’s where my decision to read Hammer’s Slammers, by David Drake came from. Published in 1979 and featuring an eponymous mercenary tank unit in the future of science fiction, it seems like a potentially interesting synergy with BattleTech. The book is a collection of short stories, and thus easier to read for those that are involved with doing stuff. So let’s read this thing!
The canon of official BattleTech continues to grow, and in my endless quest to get to know the people who are shaping what is to come, and what has already passed, I was able to catch the ear of BattleCorps author Cody Ouellette just long enough to get him to answer a few questions for me about his personal BattleTech journey and about his dreams to write BattleTech fiction.
Here is what Cody had to say:
Dave: What was your first experience with the BattleTech universe?
I recently ran a campaign through 3058 that included the module Living Legends. My personal mercenary unit had already accepted a contract to work for the Draconis Combine in anti-Clan efforts in the vicinity where the Manassas appeared. I did a little research and found this adventure was slated for that area and time frame. I bought it, and ran it with some modifications.
For those who may not be aware, this book chronicles a WarShip, the Manassas, from the original Kerensky fleet with an experimental modified jump engine that can jump an extra ten light years. It misjumps and leaps forward in time almost 300 years, into 3058. By the end of the adventure, this wonder of technology is destroyed.
One of the main concerns many have with Living Legends is that the time-travel component just doesn’t have the ring of the authentic BattleTech universe. One of the things I love about it is the feel of the universe. We are all alone out here. And things like time travel aren’t normally possible. And yet here we find a pristine ship from the Star League Defense Force on the backdoor.
Obviously, this adventure opens up other questions. Can a ship misjump backwards in time? Can the 40 light-year K-F drive be replicated? Can other misjumps from history be scheduled to arrive any moment?
What do you do with Living Legends? Do you run it? Do you modify it? Does it exist in your personal BattleTech campaigns and universe?
I guess it’s similar to the novel Far Country, where a misjump sends folks to a planet far away from humanity that has intelligent birdlike aliens running around. Do you add alien life to your campaigns? What about misjumps so far away as to be beyond known space entirely? Do you use the planet of Kaetetôã in your campaign?
It seems like we have similar questions. To what degree do these examples of out-of-flavor aspects of BattleTech populate your own universe? Do you use them for inspiration? Pretend they never happened? Modify them somewhere? What do you do with them?
Book Three of the Blood of Kerensky Trilogy by Michael A. Stackpole
Lost Destiny concludes the Blood of Kerensky Trilogy, which was preceded by the rather good Blood Legacy by Michael A. Stackpole. We’ll be concluding our retrospective look at Lost Destiny as part of a continuing series of articles (starting with Lethal Heritage and Blood Legacy) to look back at the 25th anniversary of the Blood of Kerensky Trilogy.
In the aftermath of the events detailed in Blood Legacy, Lost Destiny picks up the ball and starts to run with it at a breathless pace. With the events of Kai Allard-Liao being stuck behind enemy lines, to dealing with the aftermath of the Battle of Luthien, to the crazy one-on-many battles that Phelan Wolf goes through to earn a Bloodname, to a daring raid done behind enemy lines, to the final battle of ComStar vs the Clans. Although Blood Legacy had a lot of action, with most of the political stuff done in that book gives Stackpole a chance to get into some really hot ‘Mech battles. All the plotlines come together rather satisfactorily, but leaves enough of a hunger to find out what’s next.
In contrast to Blood Legacy, the characters in Lost Destiny are starting to trust in themselves and their fellow warriors, and in the case of Phelan he really starts to come into his own as a Clan warrior, besting many obstacles that are thrown their way. They’ve taken what they’ve learned and start to use that knowledge as a weapon, and leading to some interesting situations. Although the main focus of the book is split between Phelan, Victor, Kai, and Foct, you get a really interesting mix of points of view and how these characters respond to the ongoing changes. Along with their confidence, you can’t help but to cheer on these characters on their adventures, despite the sometimes terrible odds that they face.
IMPACT OF THE BOOK ON THE BATTLETECH UNIVERSE
This book was important because, for the first time, you see Inner Sphere nations start to come together to fight the larger threat that is the Clans. ComStar surprisingly also is a fascinating addition, as some of the secrets of this order are finally revealed. You also see that, yes, the Clans are extremely deadly foes, but they can be defeated and are not invincible. At the end of the book you have a very uneasy set of affairs, but a relative peace. With the Clans being a now-permanent fixture within the Inner Sphere, everything that had gone on before had been thrown out the airlock and a new destiny for all those in the universe to be charted.
With the political groundwork already laid down in the previous novel, the attention to the battles, and the ongoing character development, Lost Destiny is my personal favorite in the trilogy. Highly recommended reading for all BattleTech fans!
Book Two of the Blood of Kerensky Trilogy by Michael A. Stackpole
After the conclusion of “Lethal Heritage” you’re left in a bind. Michael A. Stackpole left us at the end of that book with a heck of a shock. We’ll continue exploring Blood Legacy as part of a continuing series of articles (starting with this one) to look back at the 25th anniversary of the Blood of Kerensky Trilogy.