ATSWOG: The Exterran Stretch

The Exterran Stretch

All the Stars Within Our Grasp is, at once, an ambitious work and a limited one.

The ambitious aspect of the work is tied up in its setting - the Exterran Stretch, the collection of post-Earth human colonized worlds and the other local planets inhabited by intelligent life. Setting is critical in science fiction, but more so if you want the universe to exist beyond the confines of a single work. ATSWOG was meant to be a multi-volume story (the final version would have been four novels), but I had plans beyond that. It was to be a living setting that would keep growing and spawning new stories long after the leads finished their journeys.

I stumbled into a common universe with my first few novels. There were, in total, five complete novels and two or three incomplete ones which all featured overlapping characters, places and history. But while this was an accident that stemmed from the manner in which I wrote those stories, with ATSWOG it was planned out.

Phase 1 would have been short stories. I've already featured several that reference the Taiyang Empire, the Han Dynasty-inspired monocultural body featured in Chapter 2. Eventually, this would have included ever-longer works - novellas, maybe even side novels - focusing on the Taiyang and other empires, the Agolgan colonies, Epocha (which we'll be seeing) and other planets and species. I even had some fantasy - a long=shot dream that I dared not ponder too deeply - that my little universe might draw enough attention that others could expand upon my original works, adding layers of depth and turning it into a truly living universe.

Overambitious? Oh, yes. I'm not convinced that the Exterran Stretch is sufficiently distinct for this...although I'd ask that you wait to pass judgment until later, when you meet our villains. The non-humans are variations on themes and perhaps the monocultural empires aren't as colorful as I think they are, but this is a universe shaped by some true fiends, and they had the gifts to bend the Stretch in a million ways until we found one that really worked.

That was the hope, that I'd start with something fairly basic but then, through the novels, short stories and whatever else I dreamed up, turn it into something unique and epic. Perhaps that'll still happen. After all, ATSWOG is...

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