Category Archives: Novels

Talking BattleTech Fiction with Philip A. Lee

A few weeks ago, Nic managed to catch up to prolific BattleTech writer Philip A. Lee at GenCon 2019, who graciously agreed to an interview. I’ve read a few of Philip’s stories, so it was my absolute pleasure to pick his brain on how he got into BattleTech, how he started writing BattleTech, and how he managed to kill a Jenner in the most hilarious way possible. Well, he didn’t really kill the Jenner, but it was still hilarious and you should read about it.

On top of that, we also get a grade A. Lee-preview of the next story we can expect from the prolific author. So once again, sit back, relax, and enjoy another story from the many corners of BattleTech.

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Catalyst Releases New Map Pack, New Fiction From Michael Stackpole In March Update

Catalyst Releases New Map Pack, New Fiction From Michael Stackpole In March Update

Catalyst has announced more new products to continue BattleTech’s 35th-anniversary celebrations.

Hello again, ‘Mech fans! We’re back with another update from Catalyst Games as they’ve announced new products to add to the successful release of the latest box sets, starting with the previously mentioned new map packs.

The first new map pack is simple called “Grasslands”, and as the name implies, it’s all about fighting on generally flat, grassy plains. Not a whole lot of difficult terrain, forests, or water to get in the way of a good slugfest here. Just a good, old fashioned, stand-up shootout.

Grasslands comes on 6, double-sided, 17″ x 22″ paper sheets, which means there’s actually 12 maps total. Each map can be flipped and swapped to either side and then lined up to make whatever grassy battlefield you desire. All maps feature the new art aesthetic that’s showcased in the new box sets, and 10 of those maps are brand new, never-before-seen designs.

You can pick up Grasslands for $29.99 on the Catalyst store, or wait until April 17th for them to arrive at your local games retailer.

Next up is an even more exciting map pack called BattleMaps. These are 4, larger, neoprene maps that come in 4 different flavors: Desert, Lunar, Alpine, and Savannah. But wait, that’s not all! On the other side of these maps are the Grasslands maps, so you get to double your battlefield possibilities.

Each BattleMap is 36″ x 22″ and is only available on the Catalyst web store. Each one sells for $29.99, but you pay for durability on these bad boys.

Along with new maps comes new fiction. Everyone’s favorite Michael Stackpole is back with a trilogy of new short stories that describe the Kell Hounds’ founding an early years as Morgan and Patrick Kell fought tooth and nail to create their own mercenary company.

The first book is entitled Way the Smart Money Bets and is available now, while A Tiny Spot of Rebellion arrives March 22nd. A Clever Bit of Fiction concludes the trilogy on March 27th. Each is available for $3.99 wherever good e-books are sold. Sorry, no paper release is yet planned for this trilogy.

We’ll conclude this bit of BattleTech consumerism with a bit of an update on the Beginner Box Set, which is back in stock online and in store. The reprinted Total Warfare manual is now out of stock, but a reprint is underway, while the reprinted TechManual is currently available online but not quite yet available in print–but Catalyst expects to have it available soon.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Forever Faithful, Blaine Lee Pardoe’s Latest BattleTech Novel, Now Available For Pre-Order

Forever Faithful

Blaine Lee Pardoe has announced his latest BattleTech novel is officially available for pre-order.

Has it been a hot minute since the latest BattleTech novel? It sure feels that way. The last full BattleTech book I read was The Nelus Academy Incident and before that another Pardoe masterpiece in Betrayal of Ideals.

Now Monsieur Pardoe has returned, but instead of telling the tale of the late, great Clan Wolverine, we get to hear the story of another dead Clan, the Smoke Jaguars.

As we all know by now (and if you don’t know, SPOILER ALERT), the Smoky Kitties bought the big one at the end of Operation Serpent, which you can read all about in the Twilight of the Clans series and is probably the best stretch of BattleTech fiction you’ll ever read.

But while the Smoke Jaguars were erased as a Clan, that doesn’t mean everyone that used to comprise the once great Clan completely disappeared. Scientist, technician, merchant, and laborer castes all were taken in by various Inner Sphere states and rival Clans, and the fallen Smoke Jaguar warriors who survived escaped to form various bandit groups.

But not all them. One, a Smoke Jaguar MechWarrior instrumental in the fall of his own Clan, survived the battle of Huntress. We never did find out what happened to Trent at the end of Twilight of the Clans, and now we’ll have Pardoe tell the rest of his story as well as the tales of several others.

Forever Faithful

From his personal blog, we get the first draft of the back cover for Forever Faithful:

“One is the traitor that brought the enemy to their doorstep: one is the Smoke Jaguar who was tasked with rallying them and failed; one is a Nova Cat Warrior with a vision of their true role in history; and the other is from Clan Goliath Scorpion who wants to harvest their remnants as museum exhibits.”

This was apparently edited and will not be exactly what we see on the back of Forever Faithful (if you see a back at all since I’ve certainly gone digital for my reading these days), but it gives us an idea of what we’re in for.

Apparently, this novel is a sort of successor to Surrender Your Dreams, a Dark Age novel that delves into the Fidelis, a special forces warrior sect within The Republic of the Sphere. Pardoe describes in his blog post that there was apparently a lot of debate following that novel as to just who the Fidelis were, and he pretty much just up and confirms that they are indeed Some Jaguar survivors.

There’s more behind-the-scenes stuff over on his blog post, which you should definitely read. And pre-order his book on Amazon or wherever you prefer to get your reading material.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Catalyst Announces 35th Anniversary BattleTech With New Available Products

35th Anniversary

courtesy of Catalyst Game Labs

Catalyst Game Labs is celebrating 35 years of BattleTech with a huge release of new products.

Way back in 1984, FASA corporation created a game universe that would inspire countless novels, sourcebooks, and video games. Well, actually, not all that countless, but I’ve never bothered counting them all, and I’m sure it’s a very high number.

To celebrate BattleTech’s 35th birthday, Catalyst Game Labs–the lovable rapscallions that serve as arbitrators of BattleTech lore and it’s tabletop roots–are giving in fully to their capitalist urges and holding a massive release of some exciting new products.

On Wednesday, January 23rd, a bunch of items went up for grabs on Catalyst’s website and in your local games retailer, starting with the box sets. Both the Beginner Box Set and BattleTech: A Game of Armored Combat will be available in-store and online starting on Wednesday.

That’s not all: Shattered Fortress will also be available in major retailers on January 23rd, and is already available on Catalysts’ website (and has been for a few weeks now). On top of that, a 35th Anniversary Edition of the BattleTech Manual will hit Catalyst’s online store which features all previous errata and the coveted 35th-anniversary logo.

Look at that Warhammer. Doesn’t she look pretty? Wouldn’t you like one on a t-shirt or something?

Well, good news! Catalyst has developed a mind-reading machine that can also see into the future and has prepared a bunch of 35th-anniversary merch with that same Warhammer logo! That includes a t-shirt, hoodie, and a pin for when you’re forced to be fancy but still want to show your love of BattleTech to the world.

And the Warrior Trilogy is back in stores for an anniversary edition PDF or Print on Demand. I’ve read all those stories twice now, so it’s a little less interesting to me, but if you haven’t read them before, you really should.

Now, normally we stick with BattleTech related items on Sarna, what with it being a BattleTech wiki and all, but Catalyst also watches over Shadowrun which is another FASA-born universe that I have much love for. If only the rules weren’t a complicated mess in desperate need of some D&D 5th edition simplification, I’d be playing it as my tabletop RPG every week.

It’s also Shadowrun’s 30th anniversary, so Catalyst has a bunch of new PDF sourcebooks and merch on sale too. A unique 30th-anniversary logo adorns a t-shirt, hoodie, and pin just as with the BattleTech merch, allowing you to show your love of the Sixth World in style.

Full details can be found over on Catalyst’s website.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy

stay syrupy

Community Outreach – Interview with Jennifer Brozek, Author Of “The Nellus Academy Incident”

Catalyst Announces New YA BattleTech Novels

courtesy of Amazon

Welcome to another episode of Community Outreach! The famous and handsome owner of Sarna.net recently went down to Gen Con and had a chance to speak with Jennifer Brozek, author of The Nellus Academy Incident as well as the upcoming Rogue Trilogy of YA BattleTech novels. Using his rugged good looks and amazing charm he somehow convinced her to agree to an interview, which must’ve made the fact the interview was done by me all the more disappointing. 

Disappointment aside, Jennifer brings a new voice to the BattleTech narrative. We chat about how she got roped into writing about giant stompy robots and how important it is to include death in a YA novel. Enjoy! Continue reading

Fidelis, Stone, The ilClan? Oh, my!

Warning: potentially accurate theory regarding upcoming novels below.

Blaine Lee Pardoe, author of numerous BattleTech novels and source books, recently reported in his blog about a third BattleTech novella he is writing. The story, focusing on Wolf’s Dragoons, is scheduled for release in 2019, following two other novellas from Mr Pardoe, The Anvil and Forever Faithful.

We know that Forever Faithful will center on the Smoke Jaguars after their downfall in Twilight of the Clans and follow them through, I believe, to the ilClan era. We also know that Clan Goliath Scorpion will feature. It’s common knowledge that the last of the Smoke Jaguar warrior caste created the “Fidelis” (a Latin word meaning Faithful) and this elite force served the Republic of the Sphere following the Jihad. The name taken by the Smoke Jaguars, and the title of their upcoming novella, Forever Faithful, are unusual choices for a Clan that was known to openly mock mysticism. To what, exactly, are they “faithful”?

In his blog, Mr Pardoe hints at a number of “seeds planted” that tie in to a “big story arc”. There has been an incredible amount of fan speculation as to what this could mean and a number of conspiracy theories regularly pop up. I’m going to weigh in here with a few thoughts of my own that may or may not coincide with others.

I’ll start by tackling two with one blow: the Fidelis and Devlin Stone. Who the Fidelis are is well known. Why they had such a change in ideals is not. Also shrouded in mystery is the “debt” that they apparently repaid, granting them their release from Republic service in 3150. It seems clear that something significant happened resulting in a major shift in the Smoke Jaguars’ ideals. The annihilation of their Clan is major, of course, but would this alone really cause a transformation from aggressively martial (almost to the point of barbarism) to a more faith-based mind set?

The answer to that is hidden within the identity of the person who gave them their freedom: Devlin Stone.

There are many theories, and still so much mystery, surrounding who Devlin Stone really is. One idea that has crossed my mind (and it’s by no means an original one, I’m sure), is that Devlin Stone was created in an Iron Womb. There are certain links – tenuous I’ll grant you – that may suggest that at least part of Devlin Stone’s DNA came from Nicholas Kerensky. Let’s have a look at some of these:

  • Both have a very charismatic leadership style, politically and militarily;
  • Devlin Stone created his Republic from the Terran Hegemony;
  • Both have an affinity for the Atlas II, with Nicholas piloting an Atlas II throughout his Clan life,
  • They are eerily similar in their portraits;

  • But possibly the most telling of all – the control that Devlin exerted over the Smoke Jaguars.

If Devlin knows of his origins and imparted that knowledge to the remnants of Smoke Jaguar, that would cause the marked change in their philosophy that we have witnessed. Additionally, the “debt” that the Jaguars, in the guise of the Fidelis, owed could well be the ideals they held when invading the Inner Sphere. If Aleksandr’s wish was for a peaceful return to the Inner Sphere, and his son held to that vision, then the Jaguars’ methods were in direct contravention of that. If Devlin is being perceived as “The Great Father Reborn” then that could account for their shift.

On the subject of Aleksandr, the “Smoke Jaguar Remembrance” (also titled “The Unopened Work”) states the following (from the Dark Age novel Surrender your Dreams):

The betrayers came and claimed to be our friends. The Custos knew better. He trusted them only as much as necessary. When we learned of their betrayal, he changed us forever. He taught us that freedom, with rules and guidelines, was the key to our survival. We shed the old ways that held us back. We found The Republic and tied our future to the Great Father – Stone.

 Here they actually refer to Devlin Stone as the Great Father. That is a title that has only ever been reserved for Aleksandr Kerensky among the Clans. Coincidence or one of those planted seeds? Could it be that Devlin Stone is an amalgamation of the DNA of both Aleksandr and Nicholas?

And who are these “betrayers” that this passage refers to? It could be the Word of Blake, though the passage suggests that there was some trust between them and the fact that the Smoke Jaguars were imprisoned in Blakist re-education camps suggests that no trust was evident there.

That leads me to another possibility: The Blood. Whether it is to be believed or not, the sourcebook Jihad Secrets: The Blake Documents tells of contact between ComStar and Clan Wolverine during that Clan’s flight from the Homeworlds. The tale goes on to suggest that these Wolverines become “The Blood”, a fanatical group that was originally led and shaped by a person called “Marillier”. If these Blood are descendants of Clan Wolverine and form(ed) the core of Word of Blake, it would make sense that the Jaguars sought any way to eradicate them, even joining the Republic’s crusade. This also supports the Devlin Stone/Nicholas Kerensky connection and Devlin’s drive to wipe out the Blakists.

And that leads us right back to the aforementioned novella featuring Wolf’s Dragoons and, potentially, the ilClan. If there is a Kerensky on Terra, will we see Clan Wolf become the ilClan and will Wolf’s Dragoons finally be “coming home”? It’s all speculation, of course, and even if none of it is accurate it can be fun to theorize. What are your thoughts on this? Let me know in the comments below.

Blaine Lee Pardoe Provides Some Clues On His Next Book

UPDATE: An earlier version of this story stated that The Anvil was the Dragoons novella. I have it on very good authority that this is actually incorrect, and that The Anvil is a completely separate book. So that would be three books total. Math is hard.

Blaine Lee Pardoe has just completed his first edit pass on his latest BattleTech novella. We know this because he said as much on one of his most recent Twitter posts.

But we got even more info from his blog, which told us that the new book will center around everyone’s favorite mercenary army, Wolf’s Dragoons.

Unfortunately, as this is a book that’s yet to be released, Mr. Pardoe was unable to spill all the beans, but he was able to give us a few tantalizing tidbits–as well as a look behind the writing curtain–in the form of an impromptu Q&A session between himself and the many BattleTech fans who email him on a daily basis.

The first question had to do with how he actually plans out a battle between the towering behemoths we call ‘Mechs and whether or not he uses the tabletop as a starting point. I’ve always wondered about this personally–whether or not the great BattleTech writers actually sit down and play out every war from start to finish with friends, or if they even boot up some old-school vidya games to gain inspiration that way.

In Pardoe’s case, the short answer to either possibility is ‘no.’

“I do not put ‘Mechs on a map, fight a battle, then document it,” Mr. Pardoe wrote. “Why? Because I believe that the characters, not the battle, need to drive the story.” I couldn’t agree more.

He did admit to tracking damage with actual damage sheets from the tabletop in order to ensure that no ‘Mech’s damage ever grossly exceeds what is possible according to the rules. However, Blaine further clarified that in the ‘theatre of the mind’ battle damage isn’t just a series of boxes and numbers, and that a PPC blast to a ‘Mech’s thigh isn’t considered cumulative with a laser blast to its shin as it is in the official rules.

Or as Blaine put it, “I am aware of the rules and apply them as appropriate.”

The second question answered was regarding just how much freedom he has while writing, which turns out to be quite a bit. However, the BattleTech overlords over at Catalyst still set guidelines that need to be followed with respect to what happens in-universe. This can mean that novels might sit in waiting while we wait for the BattleTech universe to catch up.

Dragoons

courtesy of Broke Low on Blogger

As it turns out, this has actually happened to Pardoe for another forthcoming book entitled Forever Faithful. We don’t know much about that one other than it’s all done and it’s been sitting in a file folder on his desktop just waiting for the universe to catch up to the point where publishing the book makes sense.

Mr. Pardoe does sit in Catalyst meetings where the BattleTech powers-that-be discuss far-reaching narrative plans, so he’s not entirely powerless when it comes to influencing the direction that the universe takes. Blaine also mentioned “there’s a big story arc in play” and that he’s one of the many architects putting it all together.

Finally, if you’ve read all of Pardoe’s giant stompy robot books as I have, you might have picked up on his tendency to throw in some random names here and there. Turns out those are indeed fan requests, but they’re most certainly not from people who email him asking to be written into his books. That’s a quick way to get on the persona-non-grata list.

Instead, you gotta use the BattleTech International fan page over on Facebook. Occasionally, Mr. Pardoe will post a request for names, to which you might be the lucky winner to appear in one of his stories.

Well, luck might be a strong word.

courtesy of shimmering sword on DeviantArt

“Just because you are in a novel doesn’t mean you are an awesome heroic character,” cautioned Pardoe. “You could be a douchebag, or a street, or a river, or a throw-away character that gets a freaking headshot with a gauss rifle at the start of the battle and becomes a gooey paste. Be careful what you ask for.”

Oh, and one more thing: Mr. Pardoe is working on “a BattleTech novel of immense proportion that is due next year.” So keep an eye out for that.

Check out Blaine Lee Pardoe’s blog for more. And if you’re a fan of true crime stories, then you’ll find a kindred spirit in the rest of Mr. Pardoe’s website.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Retrospective Review of “The Battle at Dorking”

Battle Indeed

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.

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Catalyst Announces New YA BattleTech Novels

Catalyst Announces New YA BattleTech Novels

courtesy of Amazon

Hot off the digital presses from Catalyst Game Labs comes news of a brand new BattleTech novel trilogy set in the dark times following the Jihad.

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.

  Jennifer courtesy of jenniferbrozek.com

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.

You can check out the Catalyst website for the official press release, and for more on Jennifer, you can peruse her website over at jenniferbrozek.com.

Blaine Lee Pardoe wrote an April Fools’ day BattleTech Fan Fic, and it’s Awesome!

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.