Jonny Nexus

Writing, life, politics

Game Night – A Relaunch For The Streaming Era

I first self-published Game Night (Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com, Goodreads), my novel of six Greek-style gods roleplaying with the mortal realm below, in December 2007. This was a different world. D&D’s Fourth Edition was just launching to a largely lack-lustre response, at a time when the RPG industry was a pretty low, post OGL boom, ebb. Amazon’s Kindle had literally launched only twelve days previously; Game Night was paperback only, and would be for another three years or so. It wasn’t even strictly speaking self-published – my friend the gaming publisher and writer James Wallis published it through his Magnum Opus gaming imprint.

Considering the choppy waters into which it had been launched, it did pretty well, getting some strong reviews and an ENnie nomination in the Best Regalia category (where it lost out in the popular vote to WotC’s Confessions of a Part-Time Sorceress), and eventually selling something like eighteen hundred copies in paperback over the next few years via a combination of Amazon, games shops, and sales at conventions (with Gencon 2008 being a particular highlight).

Since then, I’ve published a lightly re-edited second edition with an updated cover, but I haven’t perhaps given it the marketing love it deserved. Meanwhile, the world has moved on. Fourth edition has been replaced by a better received Fifth. A new generation of gaming companies and gaming systems have exploded onto the scene. And the rise of RPG streaming channels on Twitch and YouTube has bought “old-fashioned” pen-and-paper roleplaying into the cultural mainstream in a way that back then, we could only have dreamed of.

So I think it’s time to try and remind the world that Game Night exists. I’m looking to send out review copies to bloggers, podcasters, YouTubers (both BookTubers and streamers). If you think that might be you, drop me a line at jonny@jonnynexus.com. In the meantime, I’m going to be reaching out to folks who I think might like the book. If you’ve got any thoughts about who those folks should be, again, let me know.

Sleeping Dragon Advertising Images

To advertise the Sleeping Dragon, I’ve created a number of images, which I’m pretty pleased with. Here they are:

Jonnycon II: Full Story With Pics

Today is the morning after the night before, where the night before was Jonnycon II, the launch party for my latest novel, the Sleeping Dragon. That actually makes it sounds a tad more debauched than it was; it was actually a quite sober though still enjoyable occasion, and we’re all fine the next day with the possible exception of my daughter, who stayed up way, way past her bedtime and is just a little tired today as a result.

It was a great occasion. I should say that if you’re looking to host an event in the Rochdale / Littleborough / Todmorden area, I can strongly recommend the Hollingworth Lake Rowing Club. It’s a lovely venue, and in the summer, when it isn’t pitch-blank, the views must be superb.

I’ve made the short video above giving some of the highlights, but I do just want to say that I was very pleased that people turned up. I have to give thanks to all my family, including my mum and dad, but very special thanks must go to my wife Jules and my sister-in-law Angela, for helping to organise the event, and inviting a lot of their friends, and to my niece Emily for organising the brilliant brass band who played after my reading. Also, I cannot not mention my very good friend Gregor Hutton who came all the way from Edinburgh for just this one night.

Finally, my daughter Violet turned out to be an excellent and enthusiastic sales-person. It appears that when a six year old hands you your goodie bag containing your free copy of the Sleeping Dragon, and then asks you if you would like to purchase her daddy’s previous two novels at a price of £6 for one, or just £10 for two, that’s an offer you just don’t feel able to refuse.

Launch Day Has Arrived!

Today is Sunday 24th February 2019, and that means that after what seems like a very, very long wait, the Sleeping Dragon is finally being published, worldwide, in paperback and in Amazon Kindle. The paperback is priced at $9.99 / £6.99, and for the time being, the Kindle version is at a special launch price of $0.99 / £0.99.

Last night, I, my family, my friends, and a few members of the public held a launch party, Jonnycon II. I’ll do a follow up post for that.

I first outlined the basic plot of the novel in early 2008; I think I finished that outline whilst on a flight to San Francisco with my wife.  I wrote half of it back then, then abandoned it to write an (as yet) unpublished time travel novel, and then wrote If Pigs Could Fly, before finally returning to it in 2016. Even then, going through the structural edit and then the copy edit has taken a long time.

But I’m really hoping it’s all worth it. I think it’s a good book, I’m very proud of it, and I really hope you all like it.

* * * * *

In the run up to the launch day, I did a series of “Countdown to Sleeping Dragon” blog posts. Click here to read them.

* * * * *

The Sleeping Dragon is now available for order worldwide in paperback at $9.99 / £6.99 and on Amazon Kindle at an introductory price of 99p in the UK and 99c in the US:

UK Link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sleeping-Dragon-Jonny-Nexus-ebook/dp/B07KWFNXVS/

US Link: https://www.amazon.com/Sleeping-Dragon-Jonny-Nexus-ebook/dp/B07KWFNXVS/

(Those are the Kindle links, but with one click form those you can switch to the paperback version).

The Cast of Sleeping Dragon: Darick

The cast of the Sleeping Dragon is an ensemble one, featuring five misfits bought together by circumstances beyond their understanding, who swiftly realise that only by working together can they work out just what the hell’s going on and, more importantly, just how the hell they can get out of it.

In this post we look at the man who gives the group its spiritual heart.

* * * * *

Darick is an ordained priest in the Church of the Holy SkyFather. His religious faith, whilst beset by fear and doubts, is both deep and sincere, which is where his problems begin, because in this new modern age, the Church and its leaders don’t feel it appropriate to be seen to “do religion”.

Men said many things of the Great Cathedral of the SkyFather. Some declared that the scale of its architecture taught an individual humility, and that the glory of its finish taught them awe. Some called it a place of spiritual cleansing in which life-damaged souls could shine once more. The Central Tourist Board of Empire City’s municipal council described it as “an indispensable visit” that was “the perfect preliminary to lunch in the Cathedral District’s many and varied high-quality eating establishments.”

Right now, Father Darick would have described it as the last place in the universe he’d ever want to be. The man sitting on the other side of the large and impressive desk – Archbishop Ulfred, priest of the Great Cathedral, leader of the Empire City diocese, ultimate controller of a number of extremely wealthy investment portfolios, and Darick’s boss – leaned back, stroked his chin, and finally spoke. “Darick, Darick, Darick. What are we going to do with you?”

As the story progresses, Darick finds his faith tested by events more real, and more terrible, than ever he could have imagined.

It was a scene beyond any horror Darick could ever have imagined. He would have closed his eyes were it not for the certainty that the scenes would continue to play on the insides of his eyelids. There was nothing good in a place like this. Nothing of worth. Nothing that any decent person could possibly hold dear. He took another look at the plate held by one of the sneering waiters as it glided past him. Gluttonous sins aside, the food did look awfully good, and he was quite hungry.

He reached out to grab a canapé, muttering a silent prayer of forgiveness to the SkyFather as he did so.

But in this modern age, priests do have other skills.

Back in the seminary, when he was training to be a priest, Darick had attended a course in conflict resolution. It was part of a new package of training for what the church described as “the challenges of the modern age”, and which also included public relations, relationship counselling, and a whole bunch of psychological screening tests that had a fancy name but basically amounted to “Dear gods, we can’t afford any more scandals with small boys.” He thought perhaps he should put that conflict resolution training into practice. “Let’s just say that we were to decide to do something,” he said.

“We haven’t agreed that,” said Dani.

“No, but let’s just say for the sake of argument that we did.”

“Okay.”

“If we did decide that, what would we do?” He looked at Blade.

The sportsman thought for a moment, then shrugged helplessly. “I don’t know. I just figure we need to do something.”

Darick often feels himself to be superfluous, a prisoner of doubts that tell him that faith is futile in this harsh modern world. But beneath the bumbling exterior, there is steel in this priest. Faith will prove its purpose.

* * * * *

Just for fun, I created some mocked up RPG-style character sheets for Sleeping Dragon’s five protagonists. Here’s Darick’s:

* * * * *

Click here to read the other posts in the “Countdown to Sleeping Dragon” series.

* * * * *

The Sleeping Dragon is now available for pre-order on Amazon Kindle at an introductory price of 99p in the UK and 99c in the US (it’s also available in all the various international Amazons at the equivalent price in local currency). If you like what you’ve read here, then please consider pre-ordering it.

UK Link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sleeping-Dragon-Jonny-Nexus-ebook/dp/B07KWFNXVS/

US Link: https://www.amazon.com/Sleeping-Dragon-Jonny-Nexus-ebook/dp/B07KWFNXVS/

The Sleeping Dragon will be published in February next year, in both Kindle and paperback formats.

* * * * *

Jonnycon II Makes The Local News

A press release I put out about Jonnycon II (the launch party for the Sleeping Dragon) was picked up by our local web news site, Rochdale Online. I was quite chuffed about that.

…Jonny said, “I’m a Londoner originally, but my wife and I moved to the Littleborough area nearly three years ago. It was here that this book came together, helped in a large part by the folks at Rebecca’s, the Cherry Tree, and the Wine Press, who kept me fuelled up with coffee while I was bashing away at my laptop in their establishments. So it seemed only right that I should launch the book here, in my new home town.”

Sleeping Dragon’s Phonetic Alphabet

Like our world, the world of Sleeping Dragon has a phonetic alphabet. However, given that world’s history, the words chosen are rather different.

A – Amulet B – Bard C – Candle
D – Dagger E – Elven F – Flame
G – Griffin H – Hammer I – Ice
J – Jade K – Kraken L – Lamp
M – Mace N – Net O – Opal
P – Paladin Q – Quill R – Ruby
S – Sword T – Torch U – Unicorn
V – Viper W – Wand X – Xavier
Y – Yaeger Z – Zombie

In the story of the Sleeping Dragon, the phonetic alphabet is seen being used to identify carpets and skyships, using the last two letters[1] of the vehicles’ unique four-letter registrations, as in the following conversation between Blade and Sky Traffic Control.

In the driver’s seat, Blade was talking into his headset. “Craagon Control, this is carpet Candle Dagger requesting vector approach.”

The reply came back within seconds, blaring out of speakers set around the carpet’s cabin.

Carpet Candle Dagger, this is Craagon Control. You are cleared for visual approach on vector fiver-niner.

Blade punched a few buttons on the crystal screen in front of him. “Craagon Control, this is carpet Candle Dagger beginning approach on vector fiver-niner.”

Happy landings carpet Candle Dagger.

The voice paused for a moment, and then continued, presumably talking to someone else now.

Skyship Sword Griffin, please descend to flight level two-three…

The carpet swung through a graceful turn and then began a slow descent.

[1] This is the way it’s done in our world. A former boss once took me for a flight in his helicopter, which had the registration “[letter][letter]DX” painted on its boom, and which was referred to by air traffic control as “Helicopter Delta X-Ray”. What struck me about the whole thing was the need to constantly multitask, in that you were simultaneously flying the helicopter while conversing with air traffic control (admittedly we were flying across Heathrow airport at the time). I couldn’t do it. Imagine if it was this way for driving a car? A car journey would consist of you having to commentate your entire journey. If, say, you were approaching a roundabout you’d have to thumb your transmit button and announce, “This is car Whiskey Lima requesting a the right turn at the Clockhouse roundabout”, then wait until given permission to enter the roundabout, before navigating across the roundabout without crashing, only to then launch straight into the next bit of commentary. All the while changing lanes if requested by road traffic control, and changing your speed when requested by road traffic control. And always being aware that if you sound flustered, the controller might report you. Me? I’d hand my license back in.

* * * * *

The Sleeping Dragon is now available for pre-order on Amazon Kindle at an introductory price of 99p in the UK and 99c in the US (it’s also available in all the various international Amazons at the equivalent price in local currency). If you like what you’ve read here, then please consider pre-ordering it.

UK Link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sleeping-Dragon-Jonny-Nexus-ebook/dp/B07KWFNXVS/

US Link: https://www.amazon.com/Sleeping-Dragon-Jonny-Nexus-ebook/dp/B07KWFNXVS/

The Sleeping Dragon will be published in February next year, in both Kindle and paperback formats.

* * * * *

The Cast of Sleeping Dragon: The Storm

The cast of the Sleeping Dragon is an ensemble one, featuring five misfits bought together by circumstances beyond their understanding, who swiftly realise that only by working together can they work out just what the hell’s going on and, more importantly, just how the hell they can get out of it.

In this post we look at the man who like the bards of old, supplies this particular group of adventurers with their musical heart.

* * * * *

As lead lutist of Northern Fire, the biggest rock band on the planet, the Storm might appear to have it all: fame, money, and the adulation of fans. But a decade spent touring the Empire in a battered wagon to reach those heights, and then a further decade and a half trying to stay there, takes a toll on a man’s spirit. The music still makes sense. But little else does.

Gekk looked over at him, a sneering smile on his face. “What? Trying to say you can write the songs instead of me? Dream on, mate. You’ve either got it, or you ain’t; and you ain’t.” He didn’t wait for the Storm to answer, but instead tapped out a line of herb on the dressing room counter and carefully snorted it up one nostril. He sniffed twice, and then smiled. “Stick to lead lute, mate. It’s what you’re passably good at.” He looked around at the others, an unnatural shine in his eyes. “We going on then, or what?”

One by one, the band rose and walked through the dressing room’s open door. It was only a short walk down a bare corridor to the stage; much shorter than some nightmarishly maze-like arenas they’d played at – although contrary to legend, and a few close calls aside, they’d never actually got lost on the way.

Then they were there, on stage, plugging in their instruments and launching straight into the first song, “Warriors of the East”. The Storm crashed into the intro with Eddie’s drums backing him up and Gekk coming in on the aurabox; all of them feeling more than hearing, sensing the change in the crowd. As always, the Storm found himself in awe at the effect music could have: uplifting, transforming, empowering. Fifty thousand faces were lifted towards them, a hundred thousand entranced eyes. A sea of waving hands that soothed nerves and fired the soul.

Arguments. Addictions. Money. None of it mattered when they were together on stage. This was what they did, and damn they were good.

The rock star isn’t the most active member of the team; he is after all, inhabiting a mid-forties body that’s suffered a couple of decades of hard living, and is nursing a pretty big herb addiction, as well as suffering from doubts about his place in all of this. But he does offer the team a pragmatic, if cynical, view that can often prove useful:

The Storm thought for a moment as he zipped up his flies. “Didn’t the god-prophet Muna once steal a loaf of bread from a tax collector?”

“Well, I think you’re drastically simplifying the theology behind–”

“Muna’s the patron-god of grifters,” interrupted Dani.

“Yeah?” replied the Storm. “Never knew that.”

And as events progress, the Storm forges a friendship with Blade, the two men united by the shared experience of a life lived in the floodlight of publicity.

The Storm nodded. “Family’s the thing you miss, once you haven’t got it anymore.”

Blade gave him a “go on” type of nod. The musician paused for a moment, and then continued.

“I never really knew my dad. It was my mum who bought me up. She scrimped and saved to get me lute lessons because she was convinced I had some sort of talent.”

“Well, she was right!” said Laliana, who was sitting on the sofa next to Blade with her feet curled up beneath her. “Look at what you achieved with Northern Fire.”

The Storm gave her a wan smile. “I don’t think Northern Fire was what she had in mind. Anyhow, she never lived long enough to see it, so I guess it doesn’t matter.”

She leaned over and gave his knee a quick pat and him a quick smile. “At least you got to know her. I don’t remember either of my parents.”

“Yeah. Dani told us. Sorry.”

She shrugged. “It’s okay. Never miss what you never had and all that.” She paused for a moment. “What about you, Blade?”

This wasn’t something Blade normally dwelled upon. Serious A-Sport fans generally knew his family history anyway, and made sure not to ask. “My dad was in the game,” he told them. “Pretty good, but not great. So he decided that what he couldn’t do, I would. Drills, practice, and games from when I was four years old.”

“Is that so bad?” the Storm asked. “Look where he got you.”

“Yeah, but I wasn’t a son to him, I was a project. And my mum just left him to it. Only real family I ever had was Toozie and the kids, and I sure screwed that up.”

Laliana gave him a reassuring smile. “Maybe when this is all over, you might get a chance to try and make that better?”

“You think this is going to get better?”

Laliana fixed Blade with a stern look. “Well, if this Toozie was so great, why’d you screw it up?”

It was a question Blade had asked himself a thousand times, but one he’d never had the guts to actually answer. He looked at the Storm for support, but only got a not-so-helpful shrug in return. “I was eighteen when we got together, she was seventeen. Things were different then.”

“How so?”

The Storm answered while Blade was still thinking. “That was before you were famous, right?”

“Yeah. I was just an apprentice; a trainee on a youth feeder team trying to prove that I was more than just my father’s son. I think most people figured I was only there because he’d pulled strings. No one thought I’d amount to much, including him. Then I met Toozie, and she didn’t care who my dad was, or what I could do in an A-Sport arena.”

“So what went wrong?”

What had gone wrong? They’d been an item within a day, soul mates within a week, and living together in a one-room hovel within two months. By his nineteenth birthday Blade had graduated to the junior warrior’s slot on a senior team and they’d moved into their first proper home, a two bedroomed apartment on the edge of the canal district. Blade had once heard it said that life was wasted on the young, and he now knew that to be true. Those years in that apartment had been the best years of his life, but he’d let them slip through his fingers like sand in the surf. Too young to appreciate what he’d had; too stupid to realise that he’d never have it again.

“So what went wrong?” Laliana asked again.

“What he said,” Blade told her. “I got famous.”

As the story progresses, the Storm finds himself tested in ways he would never envisaged, and a truth will be revealed: that there is more to this rock star than a gaudy costume and a rollocking riff.

* * * * *

Just for fun, I created some mocked up RPG-style character sheets for Sleeping Dragon’s five protagonists. Here’s the Storm’s:

* * * * *

Click here to read the other posts in the “Countdown to Sleeping Dragon” series.

* * * * *

The Sleeping Dragon is now available for pre-order on Amazon Kindle at an introductory price of 99p in the UK and 99c in the US (it’s also available in all the various international Amazons at the equivalent price in local currency). If you like what you’ve read here, then please consider pre-ordering it.

UK Link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sleeping-Dragon-Jonny-Nexus-ebook/dp/B07KWFNXVS/

US Link: https://www.amazon.com/Sleeping-Dragon-Jonny-Nexus-ebook/dp/B07KWFNXVS/

The Sleeping Dragon will be published in February next year, in both Kindle and paperback formats.

* * * * *

Elven Vision In The World Of Sleeping Dragon

“Every moment of a science fiction story must represent the triumph of writing over worldbuilding.” – M. John Harrison

When writing a fantasy or science fiction novel, authors generally find themselves engaging in quite a lot of world building in an effort to create a world of depth and detail sufficient that the resulting story will appear to readers to have both authenticity and consistency. The general consensus is that having performed that world-building, authors should then leave 95% of it the cutting room floor. (Nobody cares about the complete set of custom rules you developed for how heraldry works in your world. Just describe the design your bad guy has on his shield, and move on.)

Full disclosure: what you’re about to read is the product of my metaphorical cutting room floor, and does not make an appearance in the Sleeping Dragon. But I think it gives an insight into the approach I’ve taken when creating the world of Sleeping Dragon, and I just thought people might find it interesting in itself. I should also say that it also takes a certain liberty in that it describes how the Elven vision of Sleeping Dragon works in the context of our world’s physics, even though Sleeping Dragon’s Manaverse setting runs according to its own form of magic-based physics. But I felt this reasonable in order to avoid the article sinking under multiple layers of recursive meta-references.

Oh, and if you like it, feel free to rip it off for your homebrew D&D campaign!

* * * * *

A recurring trope in fantasy has been that of Elven senses, and in particular vision, being more highly attuned than the senses possessed by “men” (a.k.a. human beings). Tolkien’s elves, back when this trope was birthed, merely had “keener” vision, but by the time First Edition AD&D rolled along, this ability had been dialled up to a full, Spinal Tap-esque eleven, with Elves that could quite literally see in pitch darkness through “infravision” – an ability that functioned in pretty much the same way as the thermal camera on a police helicopter. (You know, the ones that allow Channel 5 documentaries to show you grainy, black-white-and-alien footage of a scroat-shaped blob abandoning a stolen scooter and sprinting through a housing estate while a bored household name dials in a mock-shocked, censorious narration).

I hated it. (Infravision, not Channel 5 documentaries).

It seemed to me to be crude, unimaginative, unbalanced, and narratively-flawed. Crude, in that it seemed both artificial and shoehorned in, arising not from the setting but from the game-mechanics. Unimaginative, in that instead of thinking of how Elven vision might differ subtly, but significantly from human vision, they’d simply copied our world’s thermal imaging cameras. Unbalanced, in that Elven vision was simply better, with no trade-offs, and life just shouldn’t work that way, even in magical realms. And narratively-flawed, because the ability to see heat is potentially hugely over-powered, giving as it does not only the ability to see in the dark, but to see footprints, to see items that have been touched, sense whether an individual is warm (and thus strong), or hypothermic (and thus week), and even see if machinery has recently been operated.

Essentially, we’d gone from “keen vision” to Star Trek medial/engineering tri-corder.

(Over the years, infravision has dropped out of D&D, replaced with Third Edition’s darkvision, only to then return in Fifth Edition, leading to posts attempting to explain how the hell it all works, and posts that just plain damn (in their own words) rant about how daft it is.

For Sleeping Dragon’s elves, I wanted to take a different tack, one that still respected the trope of broadly superior vision, but was more internally consistent, less ambiguous, more balanced (vision that was better than human in some ways, but worse in others), and most importantly, more interesting from a storytelling point of view.

So here’s where it gets sciency. (Until an actual biologist turns up of course, and points out that I’m talking some degree of bollocks, in which case I’ll immediately point out that when I say sciency, I do of course mean pseudo-science with a shitload of magical frosting).

Sleeping Dragon’s Elves obtain their broadly superior vision from two separate and distinct abilities:

  1. An ability to see in lower light levels.
  2. An abiity to see in the very near infra-red (not to be confused with “thermal” vision).

Low Light Vision

Like canine and felines eyes, Elven eyes incorporate a layer of tissue called a tapetum lucidum, which lies immediately behind the retina and acts as a retroflector, reflecting visible light back through retina. This has the effect of increasing the light available to the photoreceptors at the cost of producing a slightly blurred image.

One side effect of the presence of the tapetum lucidum is that when a bright light is shone into Elven eyes (such as a flashlight), they can glow with an iridescent shade of green.

Essentially, Elves have far superior night vision to human beings at the cost of their ability to resolve detail during the day being slightly reduced. (For reasons that human researchers would love to establish but which the Elves are disinclined to discover, this reduction is believed to be much less than that experienced by cats and dogs, possibly due to the compensatory effect of greater functionality in the “image processing” areas of the brain, or possibly some beneficial side-effect arising from Elves’ supposedly inherently magical nature).

Ability To See In The Very Near Infra-red

In both human beings and Elves, vision is produced by the presence in the eye of photoreceptor cells, of which there are two types, rods and cones. Rods are essentially monochrome but more sensitive, allowing them to function in lower light levels than cones (which is why both humans and Elves see in “black and white” when light levels are low).

Human beings have three types of cones (which is known as Trichromacy), allowing them to see a range of colours across what we term the visual spectrum, with the sensitivity peaks of the three cones being blue, green, and red. (i.e. humans have one type of cone for each of the three primary colours). By contrast, Elves have four types of cones (which is known as Tetrachromacy), with sensitivity peaks for blue, green, red, and the very near infra-red.

A few humans with a rare mutation, various mammals, and birds, also have four types of cones. However, unlike Sleeping Dragon’s Elves, the additional cones don’t cover the very near infra-red. In birds, it extends the visible spectrum into the ultraviolet, while in humans it merely divides the same visible spectrum into four “primary colours” (which means that they see colours in a more nuanced way, but don’t necessarily obtain more visual data).

Now, at this point I need to explain what the very near infra-red is, which means I need to reach back some thirty years to the remote sending module I did as part of my BTEC National Diploma in Cartography and Surveying. (The module was basically about how you can make various kinds of maps using the pictures produced by remote sensing satellites such as Landsat, in case you were wondering).

In my experience, people get very confused when they talk about “infra-red”, and that’s because as a term it covers a huge range of the electromagnetic spectrum. And under that spectrum’s conceptual umbrella are gathered a number of things that we people-in-the-street think of as totally separate, distinct concepts, but which are merely the manifestations of electromagnetic radiation at different frequencies (a.k.a. wavelengths). Going from the shortest frequencies to the longest, we have: gamma rays, X-rays, ultraviolet, visible light, infrared, terahertz waves, microwaves, and finally radio waves.

(I always found it hard to wrap my head around the idea that visible light and radio waves are simply different manifestations of the same core thing at different frequencies, but the good thing is that once you just decide to accept that, the fact that astronomers use radio telescopes to study stars doesn’t seem quite so bizarre).

The key point here is that the very near infra-red is not the thermal of D&D’s infravision that I so hated, but is instead the next colour beyond red. But let’s dig a bit deeper, because there’s more to it.

Science!

Ish.

Both planets and stars emit electromagnetic radiation, and their behaviour in this regard can be modelled according to what physicists call a “black body”, which is a hypothetical body that emits electromagnetic radiation in a “shape” determined by its temperature alone, with its size or structure playing no part. The physics behind this is described by Planck’s Law, which states that as the temperature of a black body decreases, its intensity decreases and the frequency at which it emits electromagnetic radiation moves to longer wavelengths.

In practical terms, this means that:

  1. The Sun emits a lot more electromagnetic radiation in total than the Earth, because it’s a lot hotter.
  2. The frequency at which the Sun emits the most electromagnetic radiation is at a much shorter wavelength than the Earth’s equivalent peak.

The diagram below shows this in graphical form.

Credit: David Babb / Dept of Meteo & Atmos Sci / Penn State University. Used with permission. Thanks David!

The orange line shows the Sun’s output, as dictated by its 6000 degree Kelvin temperature, with the peak wavelength at around 0.5 microns, or as we humans call it, “green”.

Yes, that portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that we humans refer to as light is nothing more than the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that is the peak output for the star under whose light we evolved.

The bluest colour we can see has a wavelength of about 400 nanometers and the reddest about 700, meaning our visual spectrum is nicely balanced around the Sun’s output. (I think the visual spectrum in the above diagram is for broad effect and not necessarily to scale with the X axis). Had we evolved under a cooler star, with a peak output that lay beyond red in what the above diagram refers to as the “Near IR”, then I suspect that our eyes would have involved to be sensitive to those longer wavelengths.

Meanwhile, the black line shows that the Earth’s peak is at around 10 microns, deep into the infrared, and not surprisingly at the portion of the spectrum sometimes termed “thermal”.

I should point out that the Earth’s line is at a completely different Y scale, being measured against the right rather than left axis. The Sun’s output is so massive that it out-emits the Earth at all potions of the electromagnetic spectrum.

So the very near infrared has nothing whatsoever to do with thermal imaging cameras, or an ability to see in the dark. It’s simply the next colour beyond red, a colour that for various reasons our eyes failed to evolve to see. Whereas “thermal” energy is at the other end of the “infrared” range, where you’ll find the frequencies that newly laid asphalt, people, and hard-revved motor-scooter engines emit as radiated heat energy when hot.

But what would this mean for Sleeping Dragon’s Elves? Well simply that to them, we’re colour-blind. Items that with our three cones might appear to be the same colour might be distinctly different colours to them. For example, to us, trees are green. But in the very near infrared, coniferous and deciduous trees are a totally different shade.

Back in the days where aerial photography used actual film cameras, photographic film was developed that was sensitive to the very near infrared, enabling aerial surveys to map different types of trees, simply by their “colour”. Back in college, when our remote sensing lecturer told us this, it just sounded really, really cool. (It’s what got me thinking about this, way back when).

Now you might be thinking that the fact that an Elf could look at forest from a distance, and know what kind of trees it contains, merely by what colour he or she seems them as, is cute, but no particularly big deal. But consider a human Robin Hood type, who wraps himself in a green cloak, thinking that he’ll be invisible among the green trees? Yeah. That ain’t going to work so well, is it?

You can imagine how human vision would appear to Elves by comparing how dog vision (two cones, one blue, one red-green, which is known as dichromatic vision) appears to humans. (At least to non-colour blind humans. Apologies to the many, many people who are to some degree colour blind, and please be assured that it’s not my intention to imply that you are in some way less than human!)

I once bought my dog a set of balls, one green, one red. Here they are below (for the benefit of those readers who suffer from colour blindness, the red is on the left and the green is on the right):

The first evening, I took the green ball out. Even when it got pretty dark, she was still able to pick the green ball out from the grass upon which it lay. The next lunchtime, in bright sunlight, I took the red ball out.

And she just couldn’t see it when it was lying on the grass. At all.

It was bizarre. She was hunting round for it in circles, repeatedly running past it, while I pointed at it, shouting, “It’s there! There!” After each throw, it would take her twenty to thirty seconds of “quartering the area” to find it. Which was when I figured out that dogs are red-green colour blind, something which a quick Google search on my phone confirmed. (As an aside, this is why dog trainers use blue toys, because that colour’s visible to dogs against everything in nature).

What I think was happening was that to Pebbles, both balls were the same colour, red-green, as was the grass. But the green one was a slightly lighter shade of red-green than the grass, while the red one was the exact same shade of red-green as the grass. If I’d come back later in the year when the grass had faded, we might have found the opposite occurring, with the green ball being the one she couldn’t see.

As an aside to the aside, my wife might point out that if we ignore biological reality, Pebbles is very much her father’s daughter because we (my wife and I) experience many occasions where I desperately quarter an area in search of something that I just can’t see while she screams, “It’s there! There!”, which suggests that were a human woman to find herself married to a male Sleeping Dragon Elf, she’d still find herself having to find things for him, four cones to three be damned!

But to get back to the point, that’s how it would be if a human sharpshooter and his Elven companion found themselves being shot at by our Robin Hood type bandit. You’d have the Elf, to whom the bandit was as visible as he would be to us were he wearing a bright red cloak, pointing, and screaming, “There! There!” while the human desperately scanned across what was to him, a sea of green.

Beyond rendering human camouflage outfits embarrassingly inefficient, the wider visual spectrum of Elven vision and the resulting different, and perhaps richer, way in which they could perceive the world would have psychological and cultural effects. Things which appeared beautiful to humans might appear less so to an Elf, and vice versa. An Elf might rhapsodise about the multi-coloured plumage of a pigeon’s wings, for example, much to the confusion of humans who see only grey feathers. A human would look at a forest and see only green where an Elf would see an array of colours, which might explain why Elves really, really like trees. The Elven equivalent of a Jackson Pollock painting might appear to human eyes to be more akin to the monochromatic paintings of Robert Rauschenberg, while human art might, to elves, appear fundamentally broken.

Why?

Imagine a human painter who finds a combination of chemicals that, when mixed, produce a blue colour that matches the blue of the sky. For us, that’s all good. But it’s highly likely that in the frequencies of the very near infra red, this substance will emit a completely different level of energy, with the result that to Elven eyes, the resulting sky in the human artist’s painting would be totally the wrong colour. (Imagine a human artist who’s completely red / green colour blind finding some dirt that to his eyes, is exactly the same shade of red / green as grass, making some paint out of that, and then painting a picture that depicts rolling hills of scarlet grass).

And this is more than merely a difference in art: it feeds both into the belief of Sleeping Dragon’s humans that Elves are essentially alien, and into the specieist belief of Sleeping Dragon’s Elves that humans are cruder, less sophisticated beings. The ability of Sleeping Dragon’s Elves and humans to view the same world in such different ways is yet one more factor keeping their societies apart.

Which ultimately I think’s a lot more interesting than the ability to see glowing blobs in the dark.

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So that’s how Elven vision works in the world of Sleeping Dragon. The Sleeping Dragon will be published on the 24th February 2019. It’s a story set in a realistic fantasy world with a twist, which I’ve described in a series of blog posts of which this is the latest. If you’re a Kindle reader and what I’ve written about my world here interests you, I’d be hugely grateful if you’d consider pre-ordering it at the links below. (If you’re not a Kindle reader, it will be available in paperback at cost of UK £6.99 / US $9.99).

UK Link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sleeping-Dragon-Jonny-Nexus-ebook/dp/B07KWFNXVS/

US Link: https://www.amazon.com/Sleeping-Dragon-Jonny-Nexus-ebook/dp/B07KWFNXVS/

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The Cast of Sleeping Dragon: Presto

The cast of the Sleeping Dragon is an ensemble one, featuring five misfits bought together by circumstances beyond their understanding, who swiftly realise that only by working together can they work out just what the hell’s going on and, more importantly, just how the hell they can get out of it.

In this post we look at the man who is arguably the most talented and skilled of the group.

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Born the child of two high-flying wizarding professors, Presto Tannarton was destined for greatness. From an early age he demonstrated a potent mixture of magical aptitude and keen intelligence, and having graduated with honours from the famed Magical Studies department of Empire City’s Imperial University he embarked on what all predicted would be a glittering academic career. Then it all came crashing down.

“That’s where I’ve seen you!” exclaimed the Storm. “There was some kind of shit storm a few years back at the Imperial University. You said something dodgy that got a load of ink in the press, and the University, like, sacked you.”

Presto said nothing for several long seconds, then delivered a tight-lipped reply. “Yes.”

A long, but expectant silence greeted that reply, a silence that eventually compelled him to elaborate. “I was teaching an archaic but still useful branch of magical theory relating to the discernment of inner nature and morality.”

“Which means?” asked Dani.

“Spells that detect the presence of inherently evil people or things.”

“And that got you sacked?”

“Strictly speaking, no. Saying that men exhibit a significantly higher tendency to possess such markers of inherent evil compared with women was what got me sacked.”

“But isn’t that a bit, well, sexist?” asked Darick.

Presto shrugged. “Well in my defence the statistics I quoted were correct, and I thought it raised some interesting philosophical questions. But with hindsight I could perhaps have raised the question in a different way.”

“And that got your license taken away as well?” asked Dani.

“Let’s just say that I didn’t handle my sacking in as mature a fashion as I could have done.”

We meet Presto more than ten years later, with him scratching something that barely qualifies as an existence, let alone a life.

Presto took a look around his apartment, and wiped a finger along the arm of his chair. Dust. An opened bottle of beer sat beside him. It was already a quarter empty and it wasn’t yet ten. Was this what his life had come to? Destined for glory, now rotting in the slums? He grabbed a cigarette from the pack that stood beside the bottle, shoved it into his mouth, and brought his finger to its tip.

Flame, he thought.

A small jet of fire erupted from his fingertip. He sucked gently on the cigarette, until the tip glowed. The smooth smoke in his lungs merged with the ecstasy of magic cast and a universe tamed. But then the bitter sting of realities remembered came crashing back in. I once commanded the forces of creation, he thought. Now I light my cigarette.

Presto initially resists cooperating with those that fate has bought him together with; he was a natural loner to begin with, and a decade of poverty and social isolation has done nothing to help with that. But as the quest to uncover the mystery of the Sleeping Dragon progresses, and his skills and talents become ever more indispensable, he begins to not only accept the role that destiny has dealt him, but to enjoy it.

This was highly illegal, but Presto didn’t care. Sure, they’d shamed him, taken his license away, taken his life away, told everyone that he was no longer a wizard and that the magic was no longer his. But he still knew how to punch a hole in the universe and make it scream, and no one could ever take that away. For ten years he’d cast nothing save minor cantrips too small to register on the Kellen-Rettner scale, and too trivial to raise an alert on a spell-cop’s monitor. For ten years he’d denied himself the ecstasy that came from grabbing hold of reality and making it dance. For ten years he’d rotted like a fallen leaf.

No more.

Breaking through to the ethereal plane was a force five casting or more, but it was a cast he was damn well going to make. The words of magic erupted from him, power words, syllables that turned locks built into existence itself and threw open the doors of space and time. Power flowed through his body, his waving arms directing it like a conductor directs his orchestra. It built to a crescendo, paused, reality itself laid out before him, and then–

He was somewhere else.

* * * * *

Just for fun, I created some mocked up RPG-style character sheets for Sleeping Dragon’s five protagonists. Here’s Presto’s:

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Click here to read the other posts in the “Countdown to Sleeping Dragon” series.

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The Sleeping Dragon is now available for pre-order on Amazon Kindle at an introductory price of 99p in the UK and 99c in the US (it’s also available in all the various international Amazons at the equivalent price in local currency). If you like what you’ve read here, then please consider pre-ordering it.

UK Link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sleeping-Dragon-Jonny-Nexus-ebook/dp/B07KWFNXVS/

US Link: https://www.amazon.com/Sleeping-Dragon-Jonny-Nexus-ebook/dp/B07KWFNXVS/

The Sleeping Dragon will be published in February next year, in both Kindle and paperback formats.

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