The Death Seeker is a character who wants to die, but for whatever reason isn’t willing to commit outright suicide. The TVtropes page has a good summary:
At some point in the past, some characters have had a traumatic experience, found themselves dishonored, committed a crime they could not repay, or lost everything worth living for. For whatever reason, rather than turning to suicide, they went off seeking battles to fight, hoping to find an enemy who would kill them, and achieve an honorable, heroic, awesome, or otherwise acceptable death, sometimes going as far as outright surrendering and offering their life to their enemies.
I’ve written a surprising number of these characters, but more often than not they end up living instead of dying. Quite often, they have a mentor who used to be a death seeker themselves, who makes them promise to find a reason to keep on living.
Escapist fiction is fun, but I like to read stories that are meaningful as well. The two are not mutually exclusive. When the protagonist is a death seeker, the question “what is worth living for?” tends to be a major driver for the story.
One character who’s very much on my mind right now is Mara Soladze from Sons of the Starfarers. A refugee turned marine, she has a traumatic experience in Comrades in Hope that very nearly pushes her over the despair event horizon. She can’t just give up and die, though, because there are people depending on her. As she climbs up the ranks from first mate, to captain, and finally to commodore, that tension never goes away.
Probably the biggest difference between a death seeker and someone who’s simply suicidal is that the death seeker is looking for something to die for. They’re much more likely to make a heroic sacrifice or go out in a Bolivian army ending.
But if something is worth dying for, isn’t it also worth living for? That is ultimately the question.
In fiction, the fight against the Empire usually follows a clear progression.
If they aren’t immediately crushed, the Resistance eventually turns into the Alliance. Only slightly more organized than the Resistance, it’s still not unheard of for members of the alliance to turn on each other if the right opportunity arises. That said, when they’re united, the Alliance can muster a lot more firepower than the Resistance could ever hope to bring.
The Alliance is what happens when the local powers commit to the fight. It’s what happens when a low-level insurgency turns into a full-blown civil war. Whether or not everyone in the alliance trusts each other, together they have all crossed the Rubicon in the fight against the Empire.
If the Alliance is successful and defeats the Empire, it will either turn into the Republic or the Federation. The Republic is much more centralized and behaves like a single nation, whereas the Federation is a collection of semi-autonomous states united under one banner.
To pull a page from history, the United States started as the Resistance, with the patriots dumping the tea at the Boston tea party. With the Declaration of Independence, the Resistance turned into the Alliance as the minutemen became the Continental Army. With the Constitution of the United States, the Alliance became the Federation, which (depending on your reading of history) has either endured to the present day, or transformed into the Republic and/or Empire.
Star Wars used to have a very clear progression from Republic to Empire (episodes I-III) and Resistance to Alliance to Republic (Rogue One, episodes IV-VI, and the expanded Star Wars universe), but the new movies have apparently thrown all that out and moved us from Resistance to Alliance to… Resistance again? And the Empire went from Remnant to Empire, even after losing Starkiller Base in episode VII? Yet another reason why The Last Jedi really did not impress me.
In my own books, this progression figures prominently in Sons of the Starfarers. It starts with the Resistance in Comrades in Hope, but soon transforms into the Alliance and stays that way for most of the rest of the series. It’s on my mind right now, as I finish An Empire in Disarray and get ready to write the last book, Victors in Liberty.
A friend of mine recently asked me to give him a list of all my books in series order. That was just the kick in the pants I needed to put this page together. For your convenience, I’m putting it up as a blog post too. The links to all the book pages will appear on the series page as soon as I can get around to it.
The Gaia Nova books are all mid-sized novels (75k to 110k words). It is a far-future space opera series that takes place in a galactic empire long after Earth has been lost to legend. They can be read in any order, but they take place in the same universe with recurring characters. They are listed in the order in which they were published. Heart of the Nebula is a direct sequel to Bringing Stella Home.
Bringing Stella Home
Stars of Blood and Glory
Heart of the Nebula
Mercenary Savior (forthcoming)
Empress of the Last Free Stars (forthcoming)
The Star Wanderers books are novellas (15k to 35k). They take place in the same universe as Gaia Nova one thousand years earlier. The first four books are linear, while the last four books are parallaxes of the first four, from the point of view of the side characters.
The Jeremiah Chronicles (Omnibus 1-4)
Tales of the Far Outworlds (Omnibus 5-6)
Sons of the Starfarers
The Sons of the Starfarer books are short novels (35k to 45k words) that take place in the same universe as Star Wanderers, with a few recurring minor characters from those books. It is a linear series.
Brother in Exile
Comrades in Hope
Strangers in Flight
Friends in Command
Captives in Obscurity
Patriots in Retreat (forthcoming)
A Queen in Hiding (forthcoming)
An Empire in Disarray (forthcoming)
Victors in Liberty (forthcoming)
Sons of the Starfarers (Omnibus 1-3)
These books are all short to mid-sized novels (50k to 90k words). They take place about 40 years in the future, after Earth makes contact with the galactics.
Gunslinger to the Stars
Gunslinger to the Galaxy (forthcoming)
Gunslinger to Earth (forthcoming)
The Twelfth Sword Trilogy
These epic fantasy books are all mid-sized to long novels (85k words and up).
The Sword Keeper (forthcoming)
The Sword Bearer (forthcoming)
The Sword Mistress (forthcoming)
Genesis Earth Trilogy
These are all mid-sized novels (about 70k words) that take place in the near to mid-future.
The Stars of Redemption (forthcoming)
Short Stories and Novelettes
Below are all of my short stories and novelettes, in the order in which they were published. If they first appeared in a magazine or anthology, I’ve included that in parentheses.
Decision LZ1527 (Leading Edge Magazine, December 2009)
Memoirs of a Snowflake
A Hill on Which to Die
L’enfer, c’est la Solitude (Perehilion SF, March 2016)
The Curse of the Lifewalker (Sci Phi Journal, June 2016)
The Gettysburg Paradox
Utahraptors at Dawn
Welcome to Condescension
Killing Mister Wilson
My Name is For My Friends
Jane Carter of Earth and the Rescue that Never Was
The Open Source Time Machine
Worlds Without Number
I don’t know how many people are looking forward to the last four Sons of the Starfarers books, but I feel like I owe you an explanation for what is (or rather, isn’t) going on with the series.
I started the series back in 2014, after publishing the last Star Wanderers novella. Star Wanderers was an experiment with the trendy advice among indie authors at the time, to split up a wider story arc into lots of short books in a linear series, with the first one permanently free.
For the first two years, the experiment paid off—so much so that I decided to write another series using the same trendy publishing advice. That series was Sons of the Starfarers.
But then, things started to go downhill. Amazon introduced Kindle Unlimited, and the algorithms changed in ways that no longer favored the trendy publishing advice. Star Wanderers began to languish, and Sons of the Starfarers never took off in the way I’d hoped that it would. Up to this point, 90% of my sales were on Amazon. Needless to say, my career took an enormous hit.
Most indie authors in my position reacted by going all in with Kindle Unlimited. Essentially, they dumped 2012’s trendy advice for 2014’s trendy advice. I took the opposite tact and went back to basics.
This still left the awkward question of what to do with the unfinished Sons of the Starfarers series. Abandon it? That was unthinkable. But it wasn’t practical to finish it either, seeing as I needed something that would actually pay the bills.
So I kicked it around for a couple of years, working on it between other projects but not making it a huge priority. In this way, I wrote and published Friends in Command and Captives in Obscurity. But as more time passed, it soon became clear that this wouldn’t work. The books were getting harder to write as I became more distanced from the story, and releasing them piecemeal wasn’t exactly boosting sales of the previous books in the series.
A couple of days ago, I wrote up a publishing schedule for 2017. My goal is to have a new release every month. A couple of novels are on the schedule, including Gunslinger to the Stars and The Sword Keeper, but as of now there are no Sons of the Starfarers books.
This is not because I’m abandoning the series, however. Far from it. My goal is to release all of the last four books together, within a month of each other. In order to do this properly, I’m going to write them all together in one big sprint, probably sometime next year.
I haven’t planned out everything yet, but I do have all the titles figured out. They are:
- Brothers in Exile
- Comrades in Hope
- Strangers in Flight
- Friends in Command
- Captives in Obscurity
- Patriots in Retreat
- A Queen in Hiding
- An Empire in Disarray
- Victors in Liberty
If I had the money, I would commission all of the covers right now (my poor cover designer thought this job would be finished a year ago—at least he got an advance!), but what money I have needs to go toward producing Gunslinger to the Stars. No idea how long it will take. And the books themselves probably won’t come out until 2018.
So don’t worry, I have not and will not abandon this series. If you’re waiting, I apologize for taking so long, and also for the fact that you’re probably going to be waiting a while longer. But the good news is that when the last four books do come out, they will come out in quick succession. So there’s only one more big wait. Hopefully that’s good news.