Basically a hippopotamus, the description in the source material said. Cool beans. I could wrap my imagination around that, a hippo-like species with extra eyes and overlong arms, intense, jovial, curious, adventurous, bent on exploration. Yeah, that was my species.

I’d been invited to Voices of Varuna, the new Renegade Legion anthology, by awesome editor Ben H. Rome (who has an equally-awesome tale in Turning the Tied anthology, here’s the link ).

I skimmed the source material, and my mind wouldn’t go past the Atina, the hippo-creatures. I needed to write about them. I sent them in answer to a distress signal. Distress Signal is the name of my short story in the anthology … I’m sort of a simple soul, eh?

I made the planet a place I’d like to visit if I was a hippo-species. Actually, I like the tropics and the heat, so I tailored the planet to my liking, put them down on it, and rolled out the story.

I used to run a Star Wars role-playing campaign (for a LOT of years), the West End Games version with all the lovely 6-sided dice. I could see my players in place of the Atina crew venturing through the green on this marvelous and dangerous planet. I’ve played the old version of Renegade Legion, too. I have the box with my gaming treasures downstairs. Were things not still so iffy with Covid and such, I might go delving to pull it up and run Distress Signal for the crew.

What a great opportunity to write this story and dance with science fiction. I primarily write mysteries now, but I love the chance to go back to my roots. I became enamored with science fiction when I was in my single-digit years, coming away with stacks of books from the library. Blish, Sturgeon, Heinlein, and more. There were aliens in the mix … though I don’t recall anything like the Atina.

I love my exploring hippos. Sturdy souls. I felt bad for the pickle I stick them in.

I asked Ben Rome this morning what his favorite species from Renegade Legion was. I thought he’d say the Atina, too. He had a different favorite:

My favorite species is actually the invisible bad, the ones known as the “Suppressors.” They’re a huge enigma in the setting. It’s their ancient technology that opened up the FTL travel and communications capabilities, but what happened to them is a big mystery. I love this species because I’m a huge fan of weaving secrets and myths into mysteries that subtly link everything together. One of my biggest joys is revealing a major plot point or universe-turning event, and letting the reader discover that we’ve left hints and signs of the coming twist scattered throughout. Because we’re really forming RL from the start, we jumped into this idea early and have a very clear direction on where we want to see things a few years out (provided the game is a success and becomes a property with longevity). So we’ve been sketching out the Suppressors, their role within the setting, and how to dribble out that information. Within VARUNA, there are three stories with “Suppressor seeds” that will bear fruition and expansion later.

Outside of this mysterious civilization, I do find the Nevegal fascinating for the interesting quandary they represent – a species fully subjugated by the TOG to the point that they’re only known as the “Nevegal” outside of TOG domain. The civilization is one of the few 7 Gen species that is fully assimilated, and even they wholly consider themselves Human, and are offended when a non-TOG species refers to them by their ‘dead name.’. I hope to play more with that mental and moral dilemma in a future tale, because there’s a lot to unpack and explore.

Okay … the Suppressors, I get it. I could’ve enjoyed writing about them, too.

… ah, I had to take on the Atina, though. And honestly, while I was plotting the story, an old Christmas tune popped into my head: “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.” Yeah, only a hippopotamus, eh, Atina would do.

I’ve had the pleasure of reading the stories in the anthology, all of them awesome. If you’re a Renegade Legion fan, you’ll really enjoy the collection. If you’ve never heard of Renegade Legion, you’ll really enjoy the collection.

It’s just good science fiction.

Good writing.

Good company with Ben Rome, Carrie Harris, Wunji Lau, Will McDermott, John Peel, Marsheila Rockwell, K.T. Seto, Sarah Stegall, Ben Vincent, and me.

Happy to be a part of this. Thanks, Ben Rome for the invite.


And this link is to an awesome book trailer.

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