Ooh…what’s this? A new novel? Yes, I have finished my second story set in the far future of my space opera setting, and you can read it as an ebook or as a paperback. I’ll let my blurb speak for itself:
Over a thousand years in the future, mankind has become a spacefaring civilization, peered into the secrets of nature, and unlocked instant warp travel to anywhere in the cosmos. Countless space-habitat-sized starships roam about searching for the next cosmic wonder, including one that is home to only one girl, Calypso, a young woman who has never met another human or alien being since losing her parents years ago, the virtual bonds of the warp net being her only solace. Until one night she is met and befriended by aliens, who take her as their friend and travel companion, stoking a new drive in her to experience the human side of the cosmos. Finding human friends and lovers across colonies and outposts, and making Crystal City, a cosmopolitan diamond-ring-like space habitat next to a fulminating galactic core, her new home, she takes in all the pleasures and perils human civilization has to offer a beautiful, intelligent, and increasingly refined young woman, ultimately finding her old and new paths on a collision course, facing down the question of who she truly is, who she wants to be.
Sound interesting? I don’t know about you, but if I were a reader after a charming tale set in a bright future far from the cares of today’s mother Earth I’d be very intrigued!
Anyway, one aspect of this story that makes it unique among the eight I’ve made so far is that it’s my first that really gets into the world of mankind as a truly advanced spacefaring civilization without making the new technological developments a centerpiece, as “Warp Dawn” did. Rather, the technology is just sort of there in the background, a world for characters to explore and to find their place in, which is basically the story in “Calypso, Girl of the Crystal City”.
On Amazon I categorized my latest novel as Space Opera and as Hard Science Fiction and not as Romance, because although Calypso does find a beloved in the form of Azener, an artist who also lost his parents and who is somewhat reclusive on a planet of his own, it does not follow the beats of a romance story and is really more of a subplot. Another deviation is that Calypso, coming from a race genetically engineered by hedonists who think seeking pleasure with many others is a key part of a human life well lived, has not just one but many lovers in a revolving calendar of dates she casually sees, tends to, makes love to, and cares for, a tendency she finds makes her an ideal lady of the night, being recruited and trained in the arts of pleasure, joining the legion of courtesans who call Crystal City home.
The following is basically copied from my previous post “Crystal Cities in Other Galaxies”, but it just describes the world and the story so well why reinvent the wheel?
Exploring Threads from previous Stories
Although the setting, other galaxies in the 4th millennium as opposed to 21st century Ariel, is very different, the Ariel story and the Calypso story do contain a similar element at their heart: a space hermit who is contacted by the outside. But that’s where the similarities end, for the Ariel story follows the point of view of the leading girl who meets the hermit and (sort of) coaxes him out of his shell, whereas the Calypso story follows the point of view of the hermit (who is the leading girl in this story; can you tell I like leading girls?) as she is coaxed out of her shell, humans in the case of the Ariel hermit and aliens in the case of Calypso.
The Backstory of my Far Future Space Opera
As seen in “Warp Dawn”, there comes a time in the 4th millennium, which I have since decided is 1299 years after American indpendence, or AD 3075 (the only clue in-text is that it’s been over a thousand years since Ilmatar of Thalassa made first contact, which was circa 2060; thus it had to take place sometime after 3060), when ship-portable wormhole travel becomes affordable and commonplace, spreading like wildfire, ending the tyranny of fixed warp gates that only permitted a small number of destinations outside the “Gaiagen sphere” to be reached.
Now the sky is the limit, and this stimulates not only far greater intercourse within the Gaiagen sphere but also a truly extreme scattering of civilization across the cosmos. Indeed, “the sky’s the limit” is an understatement, considering that almost at once the bravest explorers open up wormholes that take them well beyond the limits of the observable universe as seen from Earth.
The upshot of all this is that if you have a starship (Perun and Emma of Atlas in “Warp Dawn” weren’t exactly wealthy and they were able to procure a ship miles in circumference…) you can go literally anywhere in the universe, and perhaps beyond. If there’s some destination you want to hang around that’s more distant yet more interesting, it doesn’t take any longer to get there anymore! It’s all the same jump, with only navigation offering a (rather weak) constraint on your travels, which I touched upon in a previous post.
Since most of the population lives in space habitats, it’s a simple matter for them to migrate through wormholes to various destinations. Since galactic cores tend to be the most fulminating locations, full of attractions and natural beauty, there’s a migration of colonies and ships to these locations. Alien races tend to share this view, so galactic cores tend to be heavily trafficked, the site of meeting all manner of fascinating people from uncounted light-years away as their ships and colonies pass through. Space is big, so there are countless destinations that are very uncrowded; an infinite universe offers something for everyone.
Calypso: Hermit Traveler of the Cosmos
Calypso starts off the story having lived on her space habitat all alone since she was orphaned; fortunately for her it’s a highly automated starship, so she’s able to stay there by herself and travel to any number of cosmic wonders, including a great many galactic cores. This is at least a century, possibly as much as three centuries (I’m thinking two centuries currently), after the events of “Warp Dawn”, so this is all a standard part of the human cultural-technological package.
She scrupulously avoids contact with human or alien society, except through virtual means, over the wormhole-driven far-future version of the Internet, the warp net. Virtual reality exists by her time, and robots and computers are advanced enough to provide companionship; far more sophisticated than the primitive methods available to Nemo on Ariel over a thousand years earlier.
If that sounds like a parallel to today’s “NEETs” and “hikikomori” shut-ins, not to mention the virtual-dominated “lockdown” lifestyle, it’s because it kind of is, though much more to provide a good story than to make any social commentary, aside perhaps from the virtual not being good enough to truly fulfill someone because they know it’s not real and it’s not the life humanity was designed for.
Genetic-engineering Races of the Far Future
“Design” perhaps being more literal for her, since genetic engineering is a technology long in use in this setting, including for her own forebears, and this has caused a divergence of human races. One of these races, an unspecified natalist culture that prizes the classically beautiful human form, the natural differences between men and women, and monogamous marriage, got a lot of coverage in “Warp Dawn”, being the race the main characters came from. “The Sisterhood” also got a lot of coverage, being a not-so-natalist not-so-monogamous race that prizes community and feminine dominance, though they share the naturalistic inclinations and a love of classical beauty.
Calypso comes from a yet different race, one which is not natalist or communitarian but rather hedonistic in their design philosophy; eroticism is paramount to them. As such she has inherited a body that has filled out to be very soft and voluptuous, her proportions opulent, her every movement oozing sensuality. But having missed the initiation rituals into the erotic, promiscuous, and hedonistic lifestyle of her people and having been alienated from them, and having become too scared, anxious, and intimidated by the outside world to come out of her shell, she has no one else to enjoy her sensuous gifts with, the only solace for her red-hot libido being a skin-tight computer-controlled pleasure suit.
Calypso’s new Life
All that changes one fateful night when she goes to the surface of a remote but very earth-like planet for a camping trip, and is contacted by aliens who coincidentally entered orbit around the same time and who are curious about her. Greeting her en masse when they come down they aren’t too intimidating, since these aliens are bioluminescent, glowing blue, flying creatures not that much bigger or bulkier than a butterfly who live in tight-knit colonies, always staying in large groups; so an alien who’s so solitary arouses their curiosity. At first she’s alarmed but then they soon make friends.
The aliens then travel with her with their starship, forming a small space fleet. Her confidence being rekindled by socializing with someone, even an alien, in person, she, at the aliens’ behest, starts traveling and socializing with humans in person, at first cautiously but then more boldly. Taking up a lifestyle of roaming big space habitats and watching people in their gathering places, she reaches out to others but doesn’t find anyone else she actually likes, leaving the glowbug aliens as her only real friends.
Space Habitat in Crystal: Genesis of Crystal City
This I have detailed before, but I have a new component to the Calypso story. Eventually she roams to a large space habitat she gets good vibes in, a habitat that will be made out of glass, or some futuristic transparent material anyway. Shaped like a Stanford torus or (and this is more like it!) a Bishop ring, there is a transparent circular ring that sparkles in the light of the galactic core it resides in, with equally transparent spires connecting the outer ring to the also transparent central core, a nearly weightless area where starships dock and disembark.
The effect of all this is to create a structure that looks like a giant crystal, sparkling from the light of stellar superclusters, pulsars, nebulae, and a supermassive black hole’s accretion disk. Since the visual is reminiscent of a diamond ring, and indeed might even be made out of diamond for all I know, I originally thought of naming it Diamond City, but I also floated Crystal City, Crystal Palace, Diamond Palace, or the Diamond Ring. Then again, why can’t all these names be used? After all, a place rarely has more than one name in real life; why not mix it up a bit? In the actual novel I mostly use Crystal City with a helping of the Diamond Ring.
Having had this inspiration, I decided the whole story would have a crystal and stained glass aesthetic as one of its thematic elements. Transparent shifting robotic rooms and spaces are featured in Crystal City, glass spire towers, chandeliers, and vaugely solarpunk stained glass windows and artifacts.
Calypso herself goes for a crystal and stained glass aesthetic, especially once she meets her new girlfriends. Yes, Calypso finds true friends, due either to sheer luck or the fact that the Diamond Ring is very cosmopolitan, with all manner of humans and aliens warping in and out of the Crystal Palace and the broader region. With so much turnover and so many rich and sexy men and women to share erotic bliss with it’s an ideal habitat for the whole group; Calypso is also struck by the beauty of the place, loving the airy, bright, and big nature of the place.
Making Sense of a Bishop Ring City
And big it is! With carbon nanotubes (not transparent, but a millennium of development should make glassier materials of such strength available) such a habitat, if it were a Bishop Ring, could be up to 1000 kilometers in radius, 500 kilometers wide, area comparable to India or Argentina!
Although it’s much too big to be a tight-knit city, I went for a really big habitat, which impresses the reader that this is not a rehash of a similarly-shaped habitat, with a similar role even, I already featured in “Dear Future Me” but rather something much more advanced and beautiful.
With an area of 1.2 million square miles, a million people, presumably the vast majority not being permanent residents, could be housed at Paleolithic-style population densities. Usually in my stories this would be accomplished by covering the ring with a wild forest, but this negates the beautiful transparent effect, so I made it a garden with bits and pieces of forest and flowers suspended in crystal containers across three dimensions, blunting the “wall of dirt” effect. This suggested the structure would be a giant hanging garden, which opened up a lot of beautiful possibilities.
Calypso: Courtesan of Crystal City
Taking up the crystal and stained glass theme, Calypso makes a home there as one of the few (semi-)permanent residents together with her new girlfriends. A multiracial group, not a group just of her own race, they’re courtesans of the Crystal Palace who are fascinated by her, and she with them. The introduction she gets into their lifestyle provides her with the initiation her own culture never gave her, and it’s here that her confidence and subsequently her popularity rises, with her unusual background turning out to be a big draw for men.
Training under her girlfriends at first, she eventually starts to go on dates independently, out on starships to nebulae, other galaxies, and the like. Despite a false start with an artist who she becomes a muse for, Calypso never has a romance in the
“one true love I want to build my life with” sense, but rather develops genuine feelings of love and tenderness for the men she dates regularly, without there being any real commitment or desire from her to go any further than having fun together, flouting the Adamas Nemesis girl norm of being a passionate wife and mother.
Courtesans in history often were very selective about the men they saw, and Calypso is no different in this regard. Given that most of her men see her frequently and over a long period of time the total sex partner count she accumulates from her life’s calling of companionship will be much lower than one might think.
Despite this, Calypso finds going to orgies and sex parties a lot to be irresistibly fun, which makes her more stereotypically promiscuous, but it’s such a sensual and novel aspect for me to include in a story I just couldn’t resist it, especially since it fits Calypso’s background and personality so well. Don’t worry: none of it is anything too explicit; I made a point of not turning it into an erotica story.
Slutty Girl, not so slutty Dress
You might think that such a free-loving erotic girl would strut through the bright and airy crystal streets of the Diamond Ring in the nude or in some revealing outfit, fulfilling our expectations of what a slut should be like. Well, you would be wrong!
As it turns out Calypso’s home culture, whose dress code she adheres to in order to market herself as that kind of girl, strongly discourages showing too much skin, not despite but rather because of their total eroticism, because they find the experience of unwrapping a girl’s dress at the orgies to be much more sensual than coming in naked or in some transparent garment. The reveal of the body is a centerpiece of their society and culture.
This also helps to project a classier image to her dates; then as now classy girls only reveal tantalizing hints of the delights their bodies offer before lovemaking begins. Calypso’s dress code is still very sexy, though, since every single garment she has perfectly fits her body very snugly, showing off her every curve to the world, often being made up of multiple sheer layers that show how transparent they are at the edges where the different layers don’t overlap as much.
So her body isn’t obscured, just wrapped up; remember, the idea is to adorn the body, not to hide it. Like all girls in all my stories Calypso only wears skirts and dresses, which with how conservative I want her apparel to be (not much cleavage or leg) might have presented a problem with showing off her (very shapely!) legs. I gave her shapely legs opaque hosiery covering every bit of skin as well as a hobble skirt to show off their shape, which is a very appealing look.
Slutty Dress for not-so-slutty (?) native Crystal City Girls
I contrast this with how the native inhabitants of Diamond City, being both its founding population and governing class (I’m thinking through some kind of Athenian-style sortition-and-referendum democracy), dress. Their women’s dress is much sluttier than the leading slut’s, being completely transparent excepting the sparkling effects placed strategically on the fabric. That way from a distance it looks like a real, if revealing, outfit, but up close one can see the entire nude body if one can look past the dazzling sparkles; the fabric, of course, is very tightly fitted to the wearer.
Crystals and stained glass also feature prominently in their fashion accessories, such as their earrings and jewelry, and their technological artifacts too. All their devices will look like stained glass crystals if at all possible, and be heavily adorned with them if it isn’t, which isn’t something I’ve done in a story before. Even their furnishings also have a crystal and stained glass theme.
As it turned out the furnishings didn’t make it into the story, but other aspects of the founders’ culture were built upon, in particular them being a more militarized culture inspired by the Sikhs, right down to wearing daggers on their person!
Calypso’s New Life
As Calypso explores the world of the future, meets a diverse array of people, and makes new friends, she will find herself being pulled between a life as a fun playmate of a courtesan on one side, a (decidedly more hypothetical) life as a wife to Azener on the other side, and her old life as a wandering hermit on the third side. The choices she makes in all those months of coming out into the world will define her path, and place her on a collision course with her true destiny, forcing her to choose who exactly it is she wants to be.
At almost exactly 50,000 words, “Calypso, Girl of the Crystal City” is actually my shortest novel! I didn’t expect it to turn out that way, given the complex worldbuilding involved, but I wanted to keep the action and the character development moving and not get bogged down with too much dialogue, which probably contributed to its eventual light word count. Still, I’m very pleased with how it turned out, and I hope you, dear reader, will be too!
“Calypso” is also the furthest-future story I have written so far, being set perhaps a century after “Warp Dawn”, which places it sometime in the late 32nd century AD. I’m thinking of actually setting it in the early 15th century AA, which is 3175-3200 AD or so. That is almost 1200 years in the future, 1300 years after this timeline’s point of divergence around 1900 (my universe is also an alternate history).
While I previously was of a mind that I would complete a romantic near-future space pirate story after this one, one centered on a “Rapunzel” Reinhardt in the 21st century AD, my feelings have since changed. With the calendar kick I’ve been on I’m more in a mood to write an in-universe textbook, reference book, encyclopedia article, or something like that describing “Calendars Across the Cosmos”. I’ve long wanted to write an in-universe reference text like that, and I think it’ll be fun!
Another idea I have for my worldbuilding is a parthenogenetic sisterhood of cosmographers and scientists as a foil to the Sisters of Mokosh from “Warp Dawn”, which is a fascinating concept I will worldbuild further about, and will likely be writing a story about in the future. So, sorry Rapunzel, but your story will in all likelihood be placed on the back burner again. On the other hand, it’s always good to have stories in the back pocket, isn’t it? Keeps the creative juices alive. And the Rapunzel Reinhardt story is far from the only one I have on the shelf…
In any case, I enjoyed writing “Calypso, Girl of the Crystal City” very much, and I hope you’ll enjoy reading it too!