Category Archives: The Dragons of Sheol
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I had written previously about the essential difference between Fantasy and Science Fiction [Link]. An illustration of this is provided in how I deal with dragons in THE DRAGONS OF SHEOL when compared with other occurrences in literature, for example in Tolkien’s The Hobbit.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I do not regard Tolkien’s silence on the question of “How can a large animal fly?” or “How can a dragon breathe fire without burning itself up?” as a defect. Not at all. Indeed, I regard The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy among my favorite books of all time and would not like to change a thing.
I merely wish to point out the difference in approach that the two genres take when designing the fabric of the story. As a genre, Science Fiction, often takes great pains to think about the physical laws involved, while for Fantasy these considerations are usually set aside.
So What’s the Problem?
Many years ago, I listened to a captivating lecture by Professor Octave Levenspiel. His lecture has been published . He applied many engineering principles to animals reconstructed from the fossil record and argued that these animals existed and were able to function because the atmospheric pressure was 3-5 Bar (a little more than 3-5 atmospheres).
Of relevance to The Dragons of Sheol was the data captured in his Figure 7:
The above figure is a log-log plot of mass (kg) against cruising speed (m/s). Since the lift (force holding the flyer up) is proportional to the square of the velocity and the first power of the wing area, one quickly runs into a limitation for birds. At our air pressure one of the highest wing loading (force/unit wing area) occurs for Canada geese. Indeed birds reconstructed from fossils (quetzalcoatlus and pteranodon) were much larger and were well above the one-atmosphere line.
However lift is also proportional to air density. According to Professor Levenspiel, very large flying creatures, that is muscle-powered flyers weighing more than 14.5 kg, could only have flown if the atmospheric pressure was 3-5 atmospheres. Even in fiction, if I want to have dragons flying, I have to imagine a setting that is plausible. In my thinking this led to the continent of Abaddon.
Abaddon Below Sea Level
The sketch below shows the altitude of Abaddon on a much-contracted horizontal scale. The Abaddon Plain is about ten kilometers below sea level while Sheol is about sixteen kilometers below sea level. For comparison, Mount Everest is 8848 meters above sea level. If sliced from the summit all the way to sea level, it would still be lower than the rim wall around the Abaddon Plain. Still, since Abaddon is a continent-sized plain, the ten kilometer rim wall on the scale of thousands of kilometers of plain, make the rim wall quickly disappear over the horizon.
Rough calculations on the pressure (assuming temperature is approximately the same as at sea level) would make the pressure approximately three atmospheres and six atmospheres respectively for the plain versus Sheol. Given the higher air density, much larger animals could fly at these pressures using muscle-powered locomotion, but it brought up the interesting idea: if the larger dragons grew so large they could only fly in the lower reaches of Sheol, then only the smaller ones could reach the higher terraces.
The Terraces on the Edge of Sheol
So how does one drop from the Abaddon Plain to Sheol? One huge drop? A steep slope? How about steps? Using steps has some interesting possibilities as shown in the figure below.
Depending on the geometry, line-of-sight would block vision of all but the immediate terrace below the escarpment edge. This fact, coupled with the danger of dragons rising from the depths would make the terraces an ideal place to hide. This plays a significant role in the story.
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Here is the proposed cover for the Dragons of Sheol, my fourth book overall and the third in The Halcyon Cycle. I would appreciate your feedback on the design.
The book should be available in May.
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If you’d like to read the first chapter, use this link.
I once asked a friend of mine who reads a great deal of Science Fiction and Fantasy what he saw as the essential difference between the two genres. He thought for a moment and said that Science Fiction “could happen” while Fantasy “could not.”
I think I know what he meant. In Science Fiction, the writer is cognizant of the physical laws operative within the story. If an SF writer were to describe space travel, Newton’s Laws of motion and gravity would be obeyed. Even here one enters a grey area: some writers would insist on using the speed of light as a fixed limitation while others would imagine a way around it.
In my high school years, I grew up on this genre and my love of science, in large measure, grew out of that reading. Several friends had urged me to read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but I resisted for a long time. When I did read it, it was as if a new world had opened up for me. It recaptured for me what I had experienced as a child on first reading The Chronicles of Narnia. There was a sense of nobility, beauty, and “rightness” about those imagined worlds that I had missed in my Science Fiction reading, which instead, seemed sterile in comparison.
The longer I thought about it, it came to me that I was encountering an unspoken presupposition that was embedded in most SF literature, that of a materialistic universe where all that mattered was atoms and molecules; chemistry and physics. In addition, I found that the more modern SF also grew more cynical, growing increasingly hostile to the very things that I loved in Fantasy. As a consequence, I read very few modern SF stories (although I do try them once in a while) and spend much more time reading Fantasy.
So how has this impacted my writing? I think, in The Halcyon Cycle, I write Science Fiction that reads like Fantasy. I spend a good deal of time thinking about the physics and chemistry behind my imagined world (I think some of my readers would argue too much, in fact), but I also have many of the elements of a Fantasy story (swords, nobility, right and wrong which transcends worlds and physical laws for example).
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Posted in C. S. Lewis, Christian Worldview, Fantasy, J. R. R. Tolkien, Materialism, Peter Kazmaier, Science, Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction, The Battle for Halcyon, The Dragons of Sheol, The Halcyon Cycle, The Halcyon Dislocation, Writing
THE DRAGONS OF SHEOL
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Here is the first chapter of my upcoming book, The Dragons of Sheol. I like books that begin quickly, with a good deal of action right away. I hope you enjoy it.
Chapter 1 Dirty Tricks
Copyright © 2019 by Peter Kazmaier
Dave glowered at the diminutive figure darting and swaying before him like a jack-in-the-box. Wiping the sweat from his swollen left eye, Dave mumbled to himself, “Come here Brandor, you half pint. All I need is one touch with my quarterstaff and you’re finished.” Not for the first time in this match, Dave wished he had picked a lighter weapon. Maybe then he could land a blow.
His fellow students at Gur Academy stood in a circle around the two combatants, cheering them on.
“Come on Rokodor,” called one using Dave’s Gurundarian name, “All you have to do is fall on the little squirt to win.”
“Brandor, stop with the bouncing around. You make my eyes tired,” chimed in another.
Dave fixed his eyes on Brandor’s, whose slender form was seventy pounds lighter than Dave’s solid, well-muscled body. He could smell Brandor’s self-confidence. Then he saw his opponent turn and smile at one of the young women watching them. Dave seized on the moment and rushed in, raising the end of his staff for a quick blow.
Brandor evaded the swing easily, crouched and swung a low, sweeping blow at Dave. Dave felt a sharp crack on the side of his leg. It sent him sprawling to the ground, gasping in pain. He moved to get onto his feet.
“Stop!” came the order from the Academy commandant. Brandor was poised to drive his quarterstaff into Dave’s head, as Dave crouched, vulnerable, on the ground. Dave dug his fingers into the sand of the practice ground. He could smell Brandor’s indecision. He could sense his hatred.
“You’re lucky, skork. You don’t belong here with us. Go back to your own kind,” said Brandor through gritted teeth. Sullenly, he pulled his weapon back from the killing blow, then stood at attention, facing the commandant.
Skork was the pejorative used to describe all bent and broken peoples from the zombie-like Apemen, to the Halfmen, and even to Dave’s own people who were inferior to the Ancients in longevity, speed, and several other attributes.
Brandor was a young nephew of Arachodor, a member of the ruling Council of Thirteen. Arachodor had objected strenuously to Dave’s acceptance into Gurundarian society, after Sirona the healer had called him back from death. In saving him using a healing plant tuned only to Ancients, Sirona had changed Dave’s body from that of a Lesser Man (what Ancients called ordinary people from earth) to that of an Ancient.
I wonder if Brandor would have killed me if the commandant hadn’t stopped the match? No one’s been killed during Academy combat training in more than a hundred years, Dave thought.
He stood up gingerly and limped toward the circle of onlookers. The Academy stood high on the western slopes of the Barrier Mountains and he could see the vast expanse of Lake Tolbar shimmering in the distance. His wife, Arlana, came toward him. Clutching his right arm to support him, she walked with him away from the crowd.
Dave was glad she didn’t talk about the fight. She had neither his strength nor toughness, but she was as fast as thought. She had deftly handled Brandor in a sparring match the previous week. She still had a bruise where Brandor had flailed out and “accidently” hit her when she had started to walk away after their match. Dave had planned to teach Brandor a lesson today—and hadn’t been able to touch him. The humiliation was almost unbearable.
“Well, husband,” said Arlana, “are you ready for our expedition test the day after tomorrow?”
“I think I’m ready, Princess. Any idea where we’re going?”
“I hear we’re heading to the eastern slopes of the Barrier Mountains to replant the guardian trees that were burned by the Halfmen.”
“Sounds easy enough,” said Dave.
“Things are never easy when we’re close to the Skull Mountains,” said Arlana.
“I wish we could get some leave and head home,” said Dave.
“You’re thinking what I’m thinking—how are Al, Pam and Little Thomas?”
“I am. Since we’ve been at the Academy, we haven’t been able to visit our ‘mailbox’ to see if they’ve sent us a message from home. They’re probably wondering why we haven’t answered.”
“Shhhh, Dave. Keep your voice down,” whispered Arlana.
Dave glanced over his shoulder, relieved that there was no one in sight.
“Anyway,” continued Arlana, still whispering, “Since Al and Pam know we’re away at the Academy, I don’t think they’ll be too worried about our lack of communication.”
When they finally reached their quarters, Dave went out back to wash in the creek-fed shower. When he returned, he saw Arlana and Ferris, her cousin, in serious conversation. They looked up as he limped in.
“What’s going on?” asked Dave. “You look like there’s been a death in the family.”
“We have trouble, Dave,” said Ferris. “Your old enemy, Arachodor, used his influence with some of the teachers. He’s made the motion that you shouldn’t be allowed to join the cadets on their expedition. They claim your lack of competence makes the trip too dangerous for you.”
“Arachodor’s concern for my welfare is—well—touching. Can they really do that?”
“They can, and they are trying to do exactly that. I’m about to head over there now, to intercede on your behalf. You deserve to take this first test. Arlana and I have been training since we were very young. You may not have had all the instruction we’ve had, but you’ve seen more real combat than half the Rangers in our force. That should count for something. Perhaps they’ll listen to a seasoned Ranger who knows you.”
Dave sat down and poured himself a cup of siph. “What I don’t get is why Arachodor’s argument for my exclusion is even being considered. After all, we’re only going camping alone on the other side of the Barrier Mountains; there will be seasoned Rangers and Guardians on patrol—so where’s the danger?”
“Husband, as I said before, anytime we are on the other side of the Barrier Mountains we are in the wild and there is danger. The guardian trees have been destroyed in large measure, so there is no protection from that quarter.”
“But I thought,” interrupted Dave, “that the Bent Ones had all fled to Abaddon, and the Halfmen would be cowering in the Skull Mountains, nursing their wounds.”
“We have no proof,” said Ferris, “that the Bent One controlling the Halfmen has left. He may have left. He may still be there. Or maybe a black swamp oak has been established in the Skull Mountains, so that he can travel back and forth to Abaddon. We just don’t know, and so we assume the worst. That is why we train so long before venturing beyond the Barrier Mountains. From the cadet leader’s point of view, you have had much less training than the other recruits.”
After Ferris left, Arlana looked at Dave as if she were deciding whether to tell him something.
“What is it, Arlana?”
“What Ferris said, about us learning to fight from our earliest years is true, you know.”
“Are you telling me you know why I’m losing to a pipsqueak like Brandor? I know I’m losing because I’m just too slow.”
“You’re not too slow. You’re actually much faster now than you were before you became one of us. You’re losing because he knows exactly what you’re going to do a fraction of a second before you do it. Let me show you.”
She picked up her light quarterstaff and took up a defensive position with her left foot forward. Look at the muscles in my arm and my calf; do you see how they’re tensed? It means I’m getting ready to evade.” She shifted slightly. “Now I’m ready to launch an attack. Do you see the difference?”
“So that’s why you beat the little twerp. He was so busy watching your beautiful muscles flexing and unflexing that he completely forgot to defend himself.”
Arlana jabbed Dave in the shoulder with her quarterstaff. “Kree ah na koo! Stop joking. This is serious. In two days you could be out on the mountain slope without me to take care of you. How would it look if you got yourself killed? All the women would wonder if you went out looking for death to get away from me. Think of what that would do to my reputation.” They both burst out laughing.
She knows how to handle me. She’s not just good to me—she’s good for me, Dave thought.
“One more thing, husband. You probably don’t yet realize how much more acute your sense of smell is now that you’re an Ancient. By paying attention to your nose, you can tell a lot about your opponent. Is he fearful? Is he confident? Is his anger growing? All these emotions will tell you what he will do next.”
They sparred for a couple of hours with only the occasional breather. Dave began to see what Arlana meant and started to anticipate her moves. Then Arlana showed him how to disguise his next move by deliberately attacking from a disguised defensive posture.
The door opened and Ferris entered again. He was scowling.
Dave’s spirits flagged. “I take it they won’t let me go.”
“Actually,” said Ferris, “they were surprisingly easy to convince. Your father-in-law, Kelldor, and your adopted father Celyddon, had anticipated this last-minute difficulty and were both there to speak on your behalf. The board of the school logged Arachodor’s protests, and then capitulated, agreeing to let you go.”
“So why the long face?” asked Arlana.
“It was too easy,” said Ferris. “I think all of us have been duped. They’re digging a pit for you through the test, and they wanted to register their disapproval in advance. If you have an ‘accident,’ they’ll shake their heads and say, ‘We did all we could to avert this tragedy.’ Be on your guard and watch your back.”
It was getting late and Ferris left. Dave and Arlana began to organize their equipment for the trip. Dave tried on his living cloak, hung a small satchel containing a light gourd around his neck and strapped on his long belt knife, which he had named Skene Dhu. Dave had found his knife, along with his sword, Gram, in a blade tree near the Ancient fortress of Kellburg.
Dave realized he needed a tie to fasten his sleeping blanket to his pack. He had some stout leather, which he had taken from the hide of a Rokash. He took out Skene Dhu and examined the blade lovingly. It had a lustrous blue sheen unlike any other metal blade. The bioengineered alloy of molybdenum-tungsten steel, protein spacer, and diamond fiber, cut through thick Rokash leather as if it were the thinnest of papers.
He put the knife back in the metal-lined sheath and walked over to Arlana.
“Princess, I want you to take this.” He held out Skene Dhu.
“Dave, I couldn’t. The blade tree knife came to you. I have a good knife …”
“Arlana, please take it. I need to keep you safe. If you don’t have this knife, I’ll worry.”
She peered into his eyes, as if wanting to wrest his thoughts from him. Suddenly she relaxed, raised herself on her toes, and kissed him lightly on the cheek.
“We’ll trade knives. Viper will look after you.” She handed him her knife and scabbard and then they both turned to organize their packing.
“No, no ye fool,” Grimbor, the Blade Meister growled as he jabbed Dave in the lower chest. “Rokodor, ye canna shift from an evade form directly to a cut or thrust form. Yer feet are not set. It makes ye too slow. How many times do I have to tell ye that ye must use a transition form first?”
Dave was exhausted. Grimbor had summoned him, to offer some extra help on using his sword after yesterday’s fiasco with his quarterstaff. Now after three hours, Dave was laboring and Grimbor didn’t even seem to be tired.
Dave began to circle once more. Grimbor was shaped like a fire hydrant, with no waist. He was much shorter than Dave, but his shoulders were just as broad. Yet he was fast as well as strong. With his eyes fixed on Dave’s, Grimbor’s feet and sword moved in perfect coordination, with a grace and fluidity Dave wished he could match.
After another flurry of exchanges during which Dave was barely able to evade and block the lightning attacks, Grimbor sighed and said, “Enough fer today.” Sitting down, he gestured to a space on the bench beside him and offered Dave a drink of water.
Dave took a long pull from the water skin and handed it back to Grimbor.
“I know I’m bein’ hard on ye lad, but I’m tryin’ to get ye ready for the test tomorrow.”
“Even if I see a Halfman tomorrow, I don’t think he will press me nearly as hard as you do, Blade Meister.”
Grimbor’s eyes became hard. “It’s not Halfmen I be thinkin’ of. Fer a youngin, ye have many enemies, and to my way of thinkin’, Halfmen are not the most dangerous of ‘em. Watch yer back and practice yer forms every night when it’s safe to do so. Hmm.” Grimbor lapsed into thought.
After a while he spoke again. “Rokodor, ye be fast, and ye have good instincts,” he said. “But ye spend too much time thinkin’ what to do next, and when ye be thinkin’ ye not be watchin’ the enemy. I be wantin’ ye to use only one form in each of the five categories. Practice those until ye can change from one form to the other without thinkin’. When you have those perfect we be addin’ some more.”
With that, Grimbor
rose and clapped Dave on the back. “One more thing, Rokodor, find a safe
campsite. The safest be a campsite yer enemies canna find. The second safest be
one where ye hear ‘em coming. Be smart! Be safe! Come back to me alive.”
 An expression in the Ancient Tongue meaning “May the Creator help me!”
If you would like to see what else I have written, including earlier books in The Halcyon Cycle … http://bit.ly/2qzzi4P-Author
Not a Typical Christmas Scene
Kathy and I normally send out a MailChimp newsletter wishing our friends “Merry Christmas” and providing some of the highlights of our year. Unfortunately my newsletter did not display well in Google Chrome and so I thought, rather than annoy you with content that displayed poorly, we would present on the PeterKazmaier.com website and send a shorter newsletter with a link to the detailed the content.
This rainbow, captured at our cottage, reminded us of the hope we celebrate at Christmas as we remember Christ’s coming. As Christ-followers, this is a special time of reminder for Kathy and me.
We want to wish everyone the very best Christmas and a wonderful time with family and friends. Hope you have time to drop us a note to tell us how you are doing.
Here is some of our news from 2018 …
Kayaking Off Maurelle Island
This summer Kathy and I had an absolutely delightful time kayaking with family off Maurelle Island. It was our first tidewater kayaking experience and the large tides around Maurelle made this a learning experience. We had great fun, our guides at Go with the Flo were excellent, the scenery was spectacular. All in all, we experienced an adventure we will long remember. If you want to see more follow this link.
Peter’s Writing Milestones
I was able to complete the manuscript of my third SciFi-Fantasy novel entitled The Dragons of Sheol in October. Once it is professionally edited, it should be out approximately mid-2019. The map shown below is a depiction of the continent where most of the action takes place. Special thanks to Phil Kazmaier for using his Photoshop prowess for putting this map together.
My Friend Jim Roe Just Published His First Two Books
I had the privilege of attending my friend Jim Roe’s book launch this December. I had to get my autographed copies and look forward to reading them as soon as I finish the books already i reading. Jim, wishing you every success.
Below is the notice of the book launch and the covers of the two novels. I can’t find them yet on Amazon but they should be there soon.
Peter has already begun his next book, with the working title: Coventry 2091. This will be a break from the Halcyon Cycle series and will have many elements of a more conventional Science Fiction.
The third book in The Halcyon Cycle begins with the kidnapping of Albert Gleeson’s pregnant wife and adopted son. Mistrusted by the police, he follows them through a portal to a continent called Abaddon that is ten kilometers below sea level. This land is filled with strange and terrifying creatures.
In the center of this continent is a vast chasm, named Sheol, that drops in steps to an infernal sea fully sixteen kilometers below sea level. The high air pressure at sixteen kilometers below sea level supports dragons who are able to fly despite their size.
Gleeson’s nemesis, Bigelow, in his insatiable quest for power and dominion, has become a monster with an army at his disposal. The searchers become the hunted as Bigelow drives Gleeson and his friends into the depths of Sheol.
If you liked The Halcyon Dislocation, I hope you’ll give The Dragons of Sheol a try. This book has taken me three years to complete. After seven drafts, it’s ready for my editor. I am looking forward to publishing this in 2019. I am always delighted to hear from my readers.