The PV-3 Mutagen Blog Tour: Two Planets, both alike in Dignity
Two Planets, both alike in Dignity
One crucial element of writing speculative fiction is worldbuilding. The author does not only invent the story, but also the entire world the story takes place in. Creating settings that are vastly different from our world allows both the author and the reader to examine human interaction with much more contrast. And to both Beryll and me, this is a big part of what makes writing the ‘Virasana Empire’ novels so much fun.
Take the two main characters of our recent release ‘The PV-3 Mutagen’, Rene and Riccardo.
Both of them are young, human and male – and that’s where the similarities end. While Rene has grown up in the relative safety of his family and their secret underground society, Riccardo has been through quite some hardship before he ended up behind the sturdy walls of a Belligra monastery. Rene is an introverted, sometimes nerdy scholar, Riccardo is a warrior priest who knows how to put both his strong arms and his poster-boy looks to good use. Rene is quite worldly, if inexperienced, while Riccardo is idealistic to the point of being naive.
It was only while writing the first draft of ‘The PV-3 Mutagen’ that we realised how much these two actually carried with them the planets they grew up on. Rene is a born and bred Floorian, while Riccardo comes from the Empire’s other trading hub: Isfahan.
At first, both planets seem to have more similarities than most other planets in our purposefully diverse setting. Both are well-connected centres of commerce and industry, both are old settlements with rich histories and among the most densely settled planets of the empire.
But where Isfahan is ruled by a Noble House, the Floor belongs to the commoners, and more specifically, to the merchant guilds. But the more we looked at these two planets, the more we realised that the true difference wasn’t so much coming from their ruling classes, but from their general culture, and more specifically from their understanding of ‘commerce’.
Floor, in that regard, is a classic example of capitalism. The rich make the rules, enshrining their positions of power and wealth. And everyone below them is in a rat race scavenging for bits of prosperity, freedom and even hope, fighting each other instead of those who are responsible for their misery because they are simply too far out of reach.
On Isfahan, everything is for sale, too. Everything can be bartered for, everyone has a price. Famously legal cases are won by the side that presents more witnesses, with witnesses for hire literally waiting on the court’s doorsteps. But – and that’s where things become interesting – the price of those ‘witnesses’ isn’t fixed. It varies with the involved parties and the circumstances, and will change with every new bit of evidence that comes to light. So even a poor seamstress could win one of these ‘rigged’ court cases if she and her case are sufficiently charming and sympathetic – the price of witnesses would drop to almost nothing for her. There were enough cases dismissed by the courts for no other reason than the price per witness of one party dropped so close to zero it basically amounted to the entire planet voting in their favour.
Something like that would have never happened on Floor. Yes, what little there is in terms of court proceedings is just as corrupt, but no one would lower their price just because, say, the accused party was nicer, or needed to win the case more urgently. Quite the contrary, most Floorians would use any bit of knowledge gained to figure out how to wring a few more coins out of either of the parties.
Originally, we had created those planets independently of each other, and they had both started out simply as trading centres with different visual and historical skins. Now several years into this project, we realised that over the course of countless stories we had created around the Empire, these planets had evolved into two very different systems. Yes, we had a clear feeling of how things were done on Isfahan and Floor respectively, but we had never put those structures into words. It was more of a distinct flavour these places carried with them, and we were genuinely surprised and delighted to realise the depth of this approach.
So what was the root of that difference?
We discussed it for quite a while, and it was obvious that this difference didn’t stem from anything any sort of authority had decreed. These striking differences were found in every small daily interaction, and no ‘orders from above’ would reach this deeply. So it had to be something cultural, deeply rooted, something that everyday people would be as hard-pressed to put into words as we were.
Why were people on Isfahan acting so differently? How did they manage not to descend into the same rat-race scenario that had most Floorians on the brink of subsistence? In the end, it was the beggars of Isfahan who brought us an answer.
Unlike most places, it was always a given for us that there were two kinds of beggars on the streets of Isfahan. One group was garishly clad, dramatically disfigured (real or otherwise), clamouring for alms with the same lively exuberance as they would display gratitude for any coin given. The other group was quiet, polite, waiting at the exits of subway stations or bazaars, quietly holding out their hands, waiting for those passing by to drop them a coin.
The first group were professional beggars, considered entertainers of some sort, and paid as such. If you needed a pick-me-up, you threw them a coin, and they showered you with compliments and blessings in return. The others were ordinary people fallen on hard times, who needed assistance to get their families through the day. They waited humbly for donations, and almost invariably were given so much money that they could leave after a few hours. And they would leave as soon as they had enough.
That last part made us listen up. Why would they leave? Staying there for another hour would surely bring more income, maybe ensuring they wouldn’t have to return the next few days. But they didn’t, because they knew they would take away the spot of someone else who needed those donations more urgently than them.
They left because they had empathy.
From that moment on, everything began to make sense. Isfahani interactions were grounded in a sense of common responsibility, a sense of community from top to bottom. Yes, everything there had a price, but that price was always calculated with an eye on the consequences for society. Any trader would gladly dupe their competition, but shy away from ruining them. Well, most of the time.
Floor, however, was egoism personified. No one cared about the wider consequences of their actions as long as they had a few coins more in their purse.
Laughing, we realised that we had unintentionally written a classic sample of ‘Capitalism’ vs ‘Social Market Economy’ into our books. Looking at all the current political discussions in the real world, this felt oddly timely. Our books are for entertainment, primarily, but if we manage to tickle our readers’ brains in the process, all the better.
So to those reading ‘The PV-3 Mutagen’, enjoy the deep look into the workings on Floor. Rest assured that Rene and Riccard will return to Isfahan in a future installment – let us know what you think then!
Beryll and Osiris Brackhaus have a new sci fi/space opera book out, Virasana Empire: Dr. Laurent Book 1: “The PV-3 Mutagen.”
As a history scholar and courier for the secretive Circle of Thales, Rene Laurent is a man of many talents – none of them lending themselves much to a life of adventure.
But when a chance meeting with a young, idealistic Belligra priest drags him into a wild quest to keep a dangerous mutagen off the streets of Floor, his curiosity gets the better of him. Between monsters both human and man-made, he realises that maybe fieldwork is more of his game than he had ever thought possible…
Written by Rainbow-Award-winning authors Beryll and Osiris Brackhaus, ‘The PV-3 Mutagen’ is a colourful non-romance sci-fi adventure set in the wildly diverse ‘Virasana Empire’, and the first novel of the ‘Doctor Laurent’ series.
Warnings: Not a romance. Harsh setting, but hopeful.
Chapter 1 – Info Brokers
There were five of them. At least, five that Rene was aware of.
He had spotted the three following him when he took the escalator to the bottom floor of the mall. He had originally planned to take the tube train to Cherry Hills, but instead he turned into the access tunnel that led up to the street, trying to shake them off. Judging by the two who were now cutting him off just ahead, that had been a bad idea. The tunnel they were in was sufficiently removed from the cheap glitz of the mall to be only dimly lit, and the only other person here was a woman pushing a shopping cart, purposefully hurrying away from the developing confrontation.
A quick look around showed Rene there weren’t any convenient emergency doors he could slip through, either. He was in trouble.
At least, they didn’t seem to be professional mercenaries, just some gangers, though they moved with too much purpose to be out simply to mug him. And no ganger deserving of their colours would mug a scruffy street rat like him, anyway. To them, he had to look like he didn’t have anything worth the trouble, as much a carefully crafted facade as laziness – he liked his comfortable rags a lot, thank you very much. So what did these particular thugs want from him?
And more importantly, how to get rid of them?
He was well aware that he didn’t stand a chance against them in a fight. Combat skills were at the bottom of the list of things he was interested in. Also, the mall was too cheap to have any sort of camera surveillance. It didn’t even have security guards though Rene doubted any would have come running if they had existed. He wasn’t a valued customer, and as long as the gangers didn’t make too much of a mess, no one would care.
The best course of action seemed to be to play the helpless victim and let them rough him up a little. It wasn’t like they would manage to inflict any lasting damage, anyway.
He had come to that conclusion when one of the thugs, whom Rene mentally labelled their ‘leader’, shoved him against the wall.
Rene turned to face them, clutching the stack of folders he was carrying to his chest protectively, trying to present a credible picture of being scared. The other thugs had formed a semicircle around him and their boss. Judging by the nasty grins of his ambushers, it wasn’t very hard to fool them.
“Gimme that,” the leader snarled and grabbed the folders.
They held the weekly update on the topside situation in this sector of Floor. Nothing too important, and certainly not irreplaceable. Rene had picked them up a few minutes ago at the office of the info broker the Circle of Thales was currently employing. He congratulated himself on not yet having picked up the datacrystal with the off-planet reports from the Beetle Shack under Cherry Hills. He had planned to do that on the way back down before having a lunch of lava beetle while he was there.
He let go of the folders with a strangled whine and cowered.
“Hank’s Beehive is off-limits,” the leader sneered, “didn’t you get the memo? He is about to shut down.”
So that was what this was all about. The info broker Rene had just visited had been in a turf war with another info broker two malls down the street for a while, but apparently, things were heating up. Not something he cared to get involved in even though Hank was a decent guy. Well, make that a decent guy for Floor.
“Can’t have that idiot handing out charity, can we? Not the Floorian thing to do, eh?” The leader clearly wasn’t expecting an answer as he rammed his fist into Rene’s stomach.
The punch drove the air out of his lungs and hurt like a bitch. Or rather, it hurt for the few seconds it took his body to repair the damage. Rene crumpled to the ground in a heap. If he looked sufficiently hurt, they would hopefully leave him alone quickly. And not search him. If they tried to take his phone, he would have to do something, though he admittedly had no idea what.
“You understand me, little shit? You stay away from now on!”
“Hey! Stop that!”
A voice ringing out loud and clear in the narrow tunnel rudely interrupted the leader’s little speech.
Rene glanced up through his long hair hanging in his face and did a double-take. The tunnel leading back towards the mall was almost filled out by a tall figure in heavy, plate armour, wielding both a broadsword and a fucking tower shield so large he could completely hide behind it. The symbol on his surcoat and shield was unmistakable – Temple Belligra, the Fist of the Church. It was about the last faction Rene wanted to have get involved in this minor scuffle.
Priests were infamous for poking their noses where they didn’t belong. Luckily, they were rare on Floor. Yes, they had a few Verata, but they mostly remained inside their Fort Phosphoros Monastery. The occasional Jansahar only paid attention to the local flock who worshipped at the small shrines they kept all over the planet. Both groups were easy enough to evade for someone who didn’t need supernaturally talented people scanning them and finding out they were an unregistered psion.
But seriously, a Belligra? There were no faithful in need of protection here on Floor, mostly because there were no faithful here. Floor prided itself with being the most secular planet of the empire, and it was a reputation hard-won.
But apparently, this particular Belligra was set on rescuing him.
We are Beryll and Osiris Brackhaus, a couple currently living our happily ever after in the very heart of Germany, under the stern but loving surveillance of our cat.
Both of us are voracious but picky readers, we love telling stories and drinking tea, good food and the occasional violent movie. Together, we write novels of adventure and romance, hoping to share a little of our happiness with our readers.
An artist by heart, Beryll was writing stories even before she knew what letters were. As easily inspired as she is frustrated, her own work is never good enough (in her eyes). A perfectionist in the best and worst sense of the word at the same time and the driving creative force of our duo.
An entertainer and craftsman in his approach to writing, Osiris is the down-to-earth, practical part of our duo. Broadly interested in almost every subject and skill, with a sunny mood and caring personality, he strives to bring the human nature into focus of each of his stories.
Author Website: http://www.brackhaus.com/
Author Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/people/Osiris-Brackhaus/100011014541510
Author Twitter: https://twitter.com/brackhaus
Author Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/brackhaus/
Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6427435.Osiris_Brackhaus
Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Osiris-Brackhaus/e/B00IVTRO2E
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Stuart Conover is a father, husband, published author, blogger, geek, entrepreneur, horror fanatic, and runs a few websites including Horror Tree!