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Synopsis

Time has passed since the crew of the League of Planet’s spacecraft “The Duster” played out a desperate gamble, crash-landing into the primal dawn of an alien planet. Alone on this sterile world, light years from rescue, Sam Alder, now commander of the survivors, faces desperate times. The ship is dying, the crew is dying, his beloved Elana is dying. Failure is not an option, Sam must find a new home…for the children.

Chlorophyll Probes is part two in the three part Alder’s World series set in the Dryden Universe, a Creative Commons science fiction environment open for development by writers and artists of all kinds.

ReviewCheck out my review of Alder’s World (Part 2).

About Author

Like many great storytellers, Stottlemire made his break in the short fiction market. After a run of more than twenty short science fiction and horror sales and a several years writing articles, Stottlemire turned his attention to longer works, producing the novella “Summer of the Masters” and the novel “Season’s of Fire” within a year of each other.

Stottlemire is most noted for the surprising range of his voice. While clearly a master of genera fiction, he shows no difficulty switching to character driven novels (Seasons) or highly symbolic allegorical work (Summer.) He is equally versed in poetry which he publishes occasionally in limited release.

A true polymath, Stottlemire has also found success as an artist, creating ethereal, half guessed landscapes that he describes as locations found “at the edge of the dream.” He is also owner of The Dryden Experiment, an independent publishing house whose catalog includes both fiction and graphic novels.

A long time resident of Kansas, Stottlemire lives at the Eastern edge of the Flint Hills, a space he describes as, “As unbounded as the horizon as close as the wind across your ear.”

Buy Links

Alder's World (Part 2)

Alder’s World (Part 2: Chlorophyll Probes) is available now: Amazon / Smashwords / Kobo / Barnes & Noble .

Alder's World (Part 1)

You can get Part 1 free on Smashwords.

 

 

 

 

Dryden House Publishing

Part 2 of Alder’s World is out today, and I was fortunate enough to get an advance copy for this review. I was not disappointed.

Review

The book picks up the story ten years after the conclusion of Part 1, showing us what’s happened to Alder and his crew since the Duster crash-landed onto the new planet formed by Mass 17. There’s a few glimpses of what happened in the immediate aftermath of their landing, including some vivid descriptions of the wreckage and the accompanying deaths, but most of Part 2 is set later in the timeline.

Alder has become the leader of a strange tribe, with the survivors forced to live inside of their ship’s corpse and make use of whatever limited resources they have to stay alive in the harsh conditions. His concern for his wife Elana, who’s never quite recovered from the crash, is eating away at him more every day, and he’s in denial about how much her condition continues to deteriorate. The enigmatic Technoprey roam the planet, sending out scouts and groups of “cutters” that raid the broken ship, seeking out sources of electricity and damaging more of the makeshift colony each time. They’ve managed to survive for a long time on the alien world, but sooner or later, they’ll need to find a location to build a new home.

Everything I loved about Part 1 is here again, and more. The scenes are constructed in such a way that the reader sees and knows everything they need to, without ever feeling bogged down in the text. I read through this second volume of Alder’s World with as much ease as the first, leaving me to focus on the story without needing to decipher any tangled prose or confusing exposition. The ambient lore of Dryden Universe is a steady presence, even if it takes a step back in favor of the newly settled planet, and every little bit that we learn about the Technoprey adds to their infamy for those who’re aware of how they fit into the shared universe.

One of my concerns was the lack of development for secondary characters in Part 1, but this book addressed that in abundance. Characters that flitted in and out of the story have a much stronger presence this time around. While Alder’s personal development continues to take center stage in the novel, we’re also learning more about characters like Harshaw, Mbaka, and Koriminski.

The biggest addition here comes in the form of emotional impact. While the first volume of Alder’s World definitely had some cool moments, this follow-up packs more of a punch in terms of its ability to connect with the reader on an emotional level. Perhaps it’s partially because we’re a little more familiar with the characters, but overall I felt more connected to them. This stands out particularly toward the end of Part 2, which I don’t want to say anything too specific about. It’s a good ending, and much like Alder in the book, I couldn’t prepare myself for what happened, despite all of the signs that are woven into the narrative.

If you liked the first part of Alder’s World, you’ll like this one, too. Joel Stottlemire has created a fascinating slice of Dryden Universe to tell us a profound story about people fighting to survive and overcome the challenges of their past, present, and future among the stars. The characters have become stuck in my head, and I’m sure they’ll linger there for some time. Outwardly, it’s a novel about scientists and engineers, filled with nanobots and alien encounters, but Alder’s World continues to impress me with its sense of immediacy and deeply human concerns. Introspection, evolution, love, triumph, and tragedy all have their place here—right alongside gyrocopters, chlorophyll probes, and genetically engineered gill fish. Alder’s World is science-fiction, no question there, but it’s grounded in our familiar, imperfect human vision that’s as burdened by our limitations as it is spectacularly rendered by the wonders of our imagination.


Alder’s World (Part 2: Chlorophyll Probes) is available now: Amazon / Smashwords / Kobo / Barnes & Noble . You can get Part 1 free on Smashwords.

For more on Alder’s World and The Dryden Experiment, check out my interview with author Joel Stottlemire: Talking Alder’s World and Talking Dryden. Get the latest updates on what’s happening in The Dryden Experiment on the Author and Artists Page on Facebook.

Alder's World (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of my interview with Joel Stottlemire, founder of The Dryden Experiment. Alder’s World (Part 2: Chlorophyll Probes) releases this Thursday, October 29. To celebrate the release, I invited Joel to answer some questions about his book and his adventure into a new model of publishing. If you missed Part 1 of this interview, you can find it here. Below, Joel talks about his vision for The Dryden Experiment, how it’s come together so far through the use of Creative Commons, and what the future holds.

When did you first start thinking about making a shared universe?

Joel: I spent several years in the 90’s and early 2000’s selling short stories and articles to magazines. For a while, it was pretty fun. I’d write a little story, send it off to a few places. Eventually, it would sell and I’d see it in print somewhere. I started getting really frustrated with the rights structure. If a publisher buys your story outright, they own it, just like you’d sold them your car. Even if they buy just first rights, no one buys second rights. I sometimes get pretty attached to my characters and it felt like, if I sold them, I was pretty much assuring that I could never visit them again.

I’ve always really admired big universes with books and movies, and lots of different media in them. I thought I could write a big world into a novel, but how to get it out there into other media and how to keep it from getting caught in the rights dead end?

The answer, of course, is Creative Commons. In the spring of 2013, I laid out the background and history for a science fiction universe, put the whole thing under the Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0 (then 3.0) license, and started recruiting authors and artists. Essentially, I decided that I would give my material to my fellow creatives where it can live on forever, rather than sell it.

What’s the most surprising thing that’s happened since you created The Dryden Experiment? What’s something you really didn’t expect?

Joel: That it worked! And that it worked! The Dryden Experiment has grown so fast. We’ve expanded beyond science fiction and are working to develop horror, steampunk, post-apocalypse, and fantasy environments.

Tracy Vincent, Gavin Revitt, and I started Dryden House publishing this year.  We service the Dryden authors and artists exclusively.  While our 2016 schedule hasn’t been finalized yet, we expect to release more than one project per month.  Just looking at science fiction, 2016 should bring:

Alder’s World (Part III: Technoprey)
Alder’s World, the full text (untitled)
The Bleeding Mind expansion for the Big Damn Dryden RPG
The Big Damn Miniature space combat game (untitled)
“The Ms. Okuda Appreciation Society” Collection (Short Stories)
The Dark Abyss by Daniel Hunt

Additionally, still just in sci-fi, there are several “in development” projects that might or might not make a 2016 date:

Untitled novel by Laura Konrad
Untitled novel by Eugene Kelly
Untitled novel by Kitty Sarkozy
Small organizations rules expansion for Big Damn Dryden RPG (untitled)

Since the beginning, I’ve been preaching that, using Creative Commons, we could really build awesome environments for all of us to share and work in. I don’t think that I was really able to process just how big we were getting until I saw the full layout, with full color maps, of the Big Damn Dryden RPG. That game is based on my universe, using rules written by Nicholas Moll, with art by Gavin Revitt, Charlotte Garneau, and Don VanAusdoll, and fiction by Dan Hunt and me again. That list covers four countries on three continents. Damn!

When you put out a call for stories for the Rise of the Europan anthology, what kind of vision did you have for the book? Now that we’re almost done with that project, how does it compare to your original concept?

Joel: The Rise of the Europan, which releases on Nov 30th, is a key moment in the Dryden Universe history. The alien who lives in the under ice ocean of Europa, decides it’s had enough of humans…this is very bad for the humans. When I suggested we do the book as a collection of short stories by our authors (including our host Damian Roache), I guess I sort of imagined the Jaucques Costeau kind of adventure where the under ocean creature gets concerned about the environment, etc. etc.. The shockingly real stories of human struggle against an inhuman alien startled and impressed me. That book in no way reflects what I thought the event would be like. Two of the stories don’t even happen on Europa. Seeing it all come to light was pretty staggering and really impressive. There are some very talented writers in Dryden.

What does the future of Dryden look like a year from now? How about five years?

Joel: Look at my answer to question six [where he lists all those upcoming Dryden projects] and add, “Conquest of all creation!” to the end.

Our growth has just been so amazing. Seriously, we’re in year three and we’re beyond any real goals I had. I hoped we could build a cadre of authors, artists, and game designers who could riff off of each other and back each other to help gain market share. Yeah, got there last year. Started a company to support them all this year. Next year? I don’t know. Maybe someone will make a movie or video game? That would be cool.

I really, really hope that, whatever happens to those of us directly involved in Dryden, we have set a precedent. There is so much talent out there in the creative community. It is just terrible that we sit around and wait to get discovered. The two things that I would like for everyone who touches Dryden to come away with is first, the idea that their work has value. That the line between creator and consumer is dissolving, and it’s great fun to bring your vision out where others can see it. I hope that there’s an equally valuable lesson taken that cooperation is better than competition. As much as anything for myself or for Dryden, I’d like to see more and more people believing in themselves and working with their peers as we move forward into the future.

Is there anything you want to say, or that you want to let other people know about?

Joel: Yes. I think it’s terribly important that everyone spend at least a few minutes each day working on whatever it is that you are passionate about. If you let ‘life’ keep you from being and doing the things that are truly in your heart, you are letting your fears and the opinions of others decide the value of your life. That’s never going to be fulfilling and it’s never going to be authentic. The things you do and create out of your passion have a quality and a strength that can’t be matched. Whatever it is, go for it, do it. Just remember to take the rest of us who are also working on our passions with you.

When I adopted these two simple rules, the stories in my head in my head became novels, games, videos, music. Literally music. Check out “The Secret Life of Lucy Okuda” on soundcloud. Yeah, Okuda is a character that I created for the Big Damn Dryden RPG. Gavin Revitt drew her. Nic Moll gave her game stats, and then Gavin came back around and wrote a song for her. The character in my head…she has her own song. It’s pretty kickass. Everyone really should live like this.

See you in the stars!


Part 2 of Alder’s World is available for pre-order on Amazon and on Smashwords, and Part 1 is currently free to download.

If you missed it before, here’s my review of Alder’s World (Part 1). To learn more about The Dryden Experiment, check out the Dryden Author and Artists page on Facebook.

Alder's World (Part 2)

This is Part 1 of my interview with Joel Stottlemire, founder of The Dryden Experiment.

Part two of his three part novel, Alder’s World (Part 2: Chlorophyll Probes) releases this Thursday, October 29. To celebrate the release, I invited Joel to answer some questions about his book and his adventure into a new model of publishing. Bringing together people from across the world, Joel aims to be part of a revolution in art and publishing. He’s found an idea that grips him, and his passion is the spark that set off an international collective of authors and artists working together in amazing shared spaces. The Dryden Experiment is exactly that, an experiment seeking to test the power of individuals working under a common banner, and it’s showing results.

Over the past few years, Joel has grown a collection of shared universes using Creative Commons, beginning with Dryden Universe: a sci-fi world with four expansive eras, and made to allow for every kind of science-fiction you can imagine. It’s home to Alder’s World; The Eclipsing of Sirus C by Daniel B. Hunt; the roleplaying-game Big Damn Dryden; A Matter of Trust by Greta van der Rol; and next month’s release Rise of the Europan, an anthology featuring stories by six Dryden authors. That’s only some of what Dryden Universe has to offer, and it’s growing as more people continue to share their ideas, stories, and experience.

Joel built the timeline of Dryden’s sci-fi universe, his early ideas shaped the setting, and now he’s helping to expand it even further. He’s currently working on the final volume of Alder’s World, due out next year.

Was there a reason you chose 2360 as the year that Alder’s World happens? Did you think about its place in the timeline of Dryden Universe as you were writing it?

Joel: Unless otherwise specified, we always assume the current year in the Dryden Universe to be 2503. The role-playing game is set there. While there are known events for thousands of years on either side of that date, I tend to set everything I’m working on relative to 2503. I wanted the voyage of the LOP Duster, the ship in Alder’s World, to be legendary, so I needed a date well before 2503.

2360 happens to be not long after the League of Planets took over League Prime, so it seemed like a good time for them to be sending out deep space research ships.

Why did you decide to write the story in three parts?

Joel: I wanted to be able to give people a free introduction to the story and the Dryden Universe in general. I could have written three novels and made the first one free, but that would have taken forever. Instead, I’m writing a single novel and making the first part free. After Part III releases in April 2016, we’ll go back and do a full version bundling all three earlier versions together. Part I will still be free on epub though. That’s just how we roll.

Can you talk about the Technoprey some, and their role in Dryden Universe?

Joel: The Technoprey (originally designed by Gavin Revitt before there was such a thing as Dryden) are our answer to the question, if there are other spacefaring races in the galaxy, which Dryden needs for there to be, why haven’t they stopped by Sol?  Why aren’t there local empires?  Why aren’t we the vassal planet of some more advanced civilization?

The Technoprey live in gas giant planets and stay dormant for thousands of years at a time. When their mating cycle starts, they rise up from the planets and destroy everything in sight. It was a really great way to have other races in the galaxy, but not close enough to disturb the first few hundred years of human expansion into space. Every 40,000 years or so, basically everybody in the galaxy gets reduced to rubble by this unknown threat.

In Alder’s World, the crew of the Duster, who, like the rest of humanity, have never heard of the Technoprey, stumble onto a little Technoprey…project, much to their regret.

Why did you decide to split Dryden Universe into four eras?

Joel: One of the big questions we faced early on was how to make the Dryden sci-fi universe available to all the different kinds of science-fiction that’s out there.  The movies Wizards and Contact are both science fiction but that’s about all they have in common.

My solution was to have “Epoques” in our universe. The first 700 years or so are pretty hard sci-fi and cyberpunk-ish.  In 2700, there’s a radical shift (you’ll have to read Rise of the Europan to find out what happens), and we leave the hard sci-fi Epoque for a more space opera era. Later there’s room for horror, and eventually wild space fantasy. The hope is that no matter what kind of science fiction you like to create or consume, you can find it in the Dryden Universe.


Tomorrow, I’ll have the second part of this interview here, where Joel talks about his experience of creating The Dryden Experiment and what it’s like using the Creative Commons model to bring artists together. Part 2 of Alder’s World is available for pre-order on Amazon and on Smashwords, and Part 1 is currently free to download.

If you missed it before, here’s my review of Alder’s World (Part 1). To learn more about The Dryden Experiment, check out the Dryden Author and Artists page on Facebook.

Alder's World (Part 2)

With Part 2 of Joel Stottlemire’s novel arriving on October 29, I thought it would be a good time to review Part 1. There’s a lot happening in Alder’s World—we meet the crew of a ship on an historic exploration, learn about several important factions, see one of humanity’s earliest interactions with an alien species, and along the way we discover that there’s an entire universe just beyond the boundaries of this novel. The reason all of this comes together: The Dryden Experiment.

Before I delve into the book itself, I’d like to situate it in its proper context for those who aren’t familiar with The Dryden Experiment. Using Creative Commons to promote, collaborate, and expand upon existing works, the artists and authors of Dryden build fictional worlds bigger than the sum of their parts. Alder’s World is connected to a large framework of stories, characters, settings, and history, all part of a shared science fiction universe known as Dryden Universe.

Alder’s World is set in the first of four eras, known as the Primer. The Primer chronicles a new age of space ventures for the people of Earth and the rise of a trans-galactic society driven by powerful corporations. You don’t need to know the history that exists outside of the book, but if you do, the experience of reading it will be so much richer. I should know. On my first read-through of Part 1, I enjoyed it but some of the details overwhelmed me. The second time, I went into it with more knowledge of Dryden Universe and having read stories by other authors writing in-universe. Different parts caught my attention. I noticed bits of the story that escaped me before, which made it more fun, regardless of the fact that I already knew what came next.

Part 1 begins with the crew of the LOP Duster encountering a strange object in space, the eponymous Mass 17. Commissioned by the League of Planets, the Duster is on a deep-space research mission that’s brought them farther than anyone yet. On the very fringes of their known universe, Samuel Alder and his crewmates find that their newest discovery is a terrifying glimpse of just how little they understand about their place in the cosmic food chain. Alder finds himself thrust into a position of great responsibility as the ship’s chief scientist. It’s up to him to unlock the secrets of Mass 17 and prevent the Duster’s prolific voyage from ending in devastation.

One thing I loved about this book was its pacing. From the first page, we’re in the story and important events are unfolding; you won’t find wasted words in Stottlemire’s prose, as he neatly moves from one scene to the next, marching the story along. I never felt bored, never questioned where the story was going, and it led to me saying, “Well, I’ll just read one more chapter…” Soon, I had finished it, still stunned by the furious burst of action in the ending.

Even as the plot continues to roll and kick open doors on its way, the reader meets a fairly large group of characters who serve alongside Alder. Apart from seeing their place in the ship’s hierarchy, the reader gets a sense of these characters as individuals whose distinct personalities and abilities make each of them valuable to their mission. The relationships are realistic, too—not everyone on the Duster gets along with each other, and even those who do, have moments of frustration and misunderstanding that add depth to the novel’s realism. It’s a strong cast of characters that I wanted to succeed, because I’d been pulled into their lives and seen their struggles. Like many of my favorite stories, Alder’s World shines because of its focus on characters. Yes, there are all sorts of science-fictiony things going on here, but it’s really about the people.

Don’t get me wrong, though. This is definitely science fiction, complete with the wonders of space exploration, speculation about future lifestyles of people on long-term voyages, and various nods to the array of technology present in the wider realm of Dryden Universe. Some of the best moments in the novel involve the mysterious Mass 17 and the phenomena that Alder’s trying to figure out. I’d really like to say more about that, but I’d run the risk of spoiling the most important events in the story. Whatever is going on with Mass 17, believe me when I say it’s some scary shit.

The book isn’t without its flaws. Some of the text isn’t as polished as it could be, which might cause someone to slow down at points where it wasn’t intended. None of these issues proved too overwhelming for me, and overall they were cosmetic problems rather than essential faults of the story. A missing comma or space between words wasn’t enough to stop me from enjoying Alder’s World.

Maybe I’m being greedy, but I also would have liked to know more about the secondary characters. They’re believable and each one has a definite place in the narrative, yet sometimes I felt like there was a little more to them that could have been explored further. With a few notable exceptions, we don’t learn much about who these people were before they signed up to serve on a deep-space mission that would take them away from everything they’d ever known. I’m sure part of this is due to the fact that this is only Part 1, but I still wanted more.

Overall, I give this one high marks, because it’s an engaging read that held my attention throughout and made me care about the fate of the Duster’s crew. I think this novel succeeded in that I felt like I’d been brought aboard the ship, part of the unfolding adventure on the new frontier. There’s comradery, mutiny, madness, survival, rich environments, a strong plot, and more than a hint of the terrors of space. Part 1 of Alder’s World never let me get too comfortable, which mirrored the experience of its characters, and its conclusion is a satisfying resolution that made me eager for Part 2.

"The Cube" by Gavin Revitt

Alder’s World  (Part 1) is available on Smashwords, and it’s currently FREE to download.