Front Cover of LoE Book 9 (artwork by Carol Phillips)

Front Cover of LoE Book 9 (artwork by Carol Phillips)

It doesn’t happen too often, especially in my case, but on select occasions your own characters can jump up off the page and surprise the heck out of you.

Such was the case with Stenibelle, a character I dreamed up on a lark.

OUT FROM THE DARKNESS:

I was working on The Shadow tech Goddess, a tale dealing with alternate universes and Extra-Planar Entities. Our hero, Paymaster Stenstrom, Lord of Belmont-South Tyrol, had been informed that there are many Wvulgroms. alternate versions of himself running around, all somewhat similar to himself but undeniably different–such is the basis of the entire Shadow tech Goddess storyline. It’s not an unfamiliar concept, we’ve seen it before in various media: fiction, TV, comics, films (the Star Trek episode “Mirror, Mirror” immediately comes to mind). In many cases, these “alternate entities” are a study in opposites: good vs evil, chaste vs immoral, that sort of thing. In my case I wanted these Wvulgroms (qv=alternate entities) to be merely a product of their circumstance. They can be very different from the character we’ve come to know, or, they might be very similar, it all depends.

Back cover on LoE Book 9, featuring the irascible Hannah-Ben Shurlamp, EVoR (Painting by Carol Phillips)

Back cover of LoE Book 9, featuring the irascible Hannah-Ben Shurlamp, EVoR (Painting by Carol Phillips)

In the case of the Shadow tech Goddess saga, eight different versions of Paymaster Stenstrom are involved. They all have similar experiences: they all served as paymaster aboard the Fleet ship Seeker for Captain Davage, and they all bought the captain’s chair of the Seeker later on. They all had various levels of failure/success in the Seeker Affair, as it was known. Some had no trouble at all securing the Seeker’s chair, some had a bit of rough sledding, others failed spectacularly. One was imprisoned, one was enslaved in a sex pit, and one was killed.

At the end of Book 8, all of these various alternate versions are brought together in the smothering darkness of the Shrine of Boraster on the Planet Eng and sorted out, each sent on their merry way.

As I wrote the final scene, each Wvulgrom was brought forth and presented to the central version of Paymaster Stenstrom–all of them tall and handsome.

And then the 3rd version was presented. As I wrote, my fingers worked the keys all by themselves. The third version presented was a small, comely woman. I had established earlier in the story that the Wvulgroms of Paymaster Stenstrom didn’t all have to be as is, they could be of differing race, of differing species, and, of differing gender. Such was the case here–the 3rd version was a woman named Stenibelle.

Lord A-Ram told him: “In another universe, you are a woman, and you would be most proud of her.”

So, that’s all I had, just an odd revelation that he, somewhere out in the universes, was a she.

STENIBELLE:

Stenibelle accosted by hookers on Hoffman Plate. (painting by Fantasio)

Stenibelle accosted by hookers on Hoffman Plate. (painting by Fantasio)

Shortly after I finished the first draft of the Shadow tech Goddess, I developed the idea of writing a series of smaller, shorter books detailing the activities of the alternate Stenstroms’ as pertaining to the main story. I started writing them all at once, but the one that stood out most in my head was Stenibelle, the female. I began writing a quaint story dealing with Stenibelle’s quest to discover the way to long lost Cammara, an abandoned home-world of the League lost for over 200,000 years. At first, Stenibelle had all of the “It Man” abilities the male versions of Paymaster Stenstrom have: super strength, invulnerability, flight via mind power, and so on. The only thing she couldn’t so was fire the NTH pistols, which require a male-hand to shoot. I wrote her as a demure, considerate woman doing her best for her House under bizarre circumstances.

I quickly got bored with her. Where was the growth? Where was the potential?  I really didn’t see it. I put her down for a long time and moved onto other stories. I considered deleting her altogether.

Stenibelle, Lady of Belmont-South Tyrol (painting by Eve Ventrue)

Stenibelle, Lady of Belmont-South Tyrol (painting by Eve Ventrue)

Then, it occurred to me that I’d been doing Stenibelle a great disservice. There was no depth to her, no agency, no room for personal growth. I’d been treating her with kid gloves, and she, though she had a great deal of power, was essentially helpless, like a princess in a tower.

Time for the gloves to come off. Time for Stenibelle to face the world. I was going to lay her bare and watch her grow into something new–not a perfect person, mind you, not invincible, not a cold, gritty tent-pole character, but a human one, full of successes and failures, remorse and joy, frailty and determination, and the capacity to better herself and her House.

First, I removed all of Stenstrom’s It Man powers. She still possessed all of her skills in Tyrol Sorcery, the vanishing, the lock picking, all of that, but no more super strength, no more flying and  TK’ing. I took away all of the vast sums of money Stenstrom has available to him and made her a pauper.  I also stuck her in prison. I made her angry and unsure of herself. I put her under the sway of powerful people and I addicted her to personality-altering Bolabungs.

Through all of that, Stenibelle had to make do, had to overcome poverty and addiction, had to learn to stand up for herself in the face of powerful people, had to learn to trust and seek help when it was needed, and to come to terms with her own heart. The character that grew before me was quite a welcome surprise, becoming more whole and complete than I has first thought possible.

I put her through a lot, and the person she became is something anybody can relate to and cheer for.

That’s what I was hoping for all along.

League of Elder Book 9: Stenibelle will be available summer 2015 from Loconeal Publishing.

copyright 2015: Ren Garcia, Carol Phillips, Fantasio, and Eve Ventrue

 

 

 

 

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The Gender Reversal in Fandom

September 29, 2014

I’m not quite certain when it came into my head.

Stenibelle, by Eve Ventrue

Stenibelle, by Eve Ventrue

I think it was about four years ago. I had been thinking about ways to spice up my character Paymaster Stenstrom, the Lord of Belmont. Oh, I liked him well-enough, I was simply looking for ways alter the mood, to change him up a little and create some cool stories. I hit upon the idea of alternate realities and creating differing versions of him inhabiting differing realities. I allowed my thoughts to percolate, I imagined him as a rogue, a robot, a spirit creature of sort some, as an animal, and … as a woman.

A female Paymaster Stenstrom??

Eventually, I jettisoned most of the alternate ideas, focusing mostly on Paymaster Stenstrom with differing female companions, however, the thought of him as a woman stayed with me and I commissioned Eve Ventrue to paint a portrait of her. The portrait was amazing, and with that, I began writing. Three years and a pot-full of re-imaging later, I’m done and Book 9 of the League of Elder series, Stenibelle, is finished and under post-production.

A female Green Hornet and Kato at the Nashville Comic Con

A female Green Hornet and Kato at the Nashville Comic Con

I’d thought that changing the gender of my already established character was a pretty original thought, however, I might be mistaken. Going to all the Cons that I do across the Mid-West (GenCon, various Comic Cons) I see people Cosplaying characters of another gender all the time. The trend seems to have picked up steam in the last few years.

Mostly, you see ladies wearing “female-lized” versions of male costumes. You see lots of ladies dressed up like Captain America, Iron Man, Spiderman, Superman and a host of others, all customized to be tastefully feminine. Some of the female-lized costumes rolling around the cons are quite striking. Occasionally, but not as often, you see men wearing female costumes, the big difference being the men do not usually attempt to “Masculine” the female costume much.

I take this trend to be an embodiment of a new boldness and freedom that I see all over, that these characters (mine included) are for everyone with the drive and inclination to embrace. Did I come up with the idea of a female Stenstrom all on my own, or I did see something at a Con or on the streets and unconsciously build upon it into a realized work??

Book 9 Cover Concept (Carol Phillips)

Book 9 Cover Concept (Carol Phillips)

Who knows. Doesn’t make a difference. I just think it’s really cool.

Bowl naked

RG

LoE Book 9 “Stenibelle” will be available in mid-2015 from Loconeal Publishing.

copyright 2014, Ren Garcia, Eve Ventrue and Carol Phillips

She was a woman whose face he could not describe, whose voice he would not recognize, yet, she haunted Paymaster Stenstrom’s thoughts.

There was one thing and one thing only that he knew for certain–he had failed her.

The Woman with the Gun (Carol Phillips)

The Woman with the Gun (Carol Phillips)

The mysterious Woman with the Gun appears at various spots in LoE Book VIII: The Shadow tech Goddess. She is a shadowy character whose identity and motives are unknown. Paymaster Stenstrom, the hero of the tale, believes he encountered her in the forbidden Ruins of Clovis, though his memory of his time in the Ruins is suspect at best. Searching his thoughts, he remembers encountering a woman in the dark under Clovis. He remembers her saying something, though most of what she said is lost to him. The only thing he could remember is that she claimed to be his wife, and that she had depended on him doing something, and that he had failed. Though he can’t recall what she looked like or even the sound of her voice, her memory nevertheless haunts him.

Later, Lord A-Ram and his fiancé, Lady Alesta of Dare, encounter her, and it’s through their account that a description of her appearance is made. Lord A-Ram had trouble sleeping one evening. As he lay there in the dark of his quarters aboard the Seeker, he became aware that someone was in the room with him. It was, according to A-Ram and Alesta, a tall woman with fair hair wearing some sort of flight suit complete with a life support harness and dangling air hoses. She wore thick treaded boots and carried a gun in a shoulder holster. That’s what A-Ram remembered most about her, her gun. Alesta recalled her hair was set and styled up, as if for an evening out despite her utilitarian garb.

The Woman with the Gun apologizes for disturbing their sleep. She tells A-Ram and Alesta that she is Paymaster Stenstrom’s wife and that she had travelled a long way to speak to them. She tells A-Ram and Alesta how much she admires them and how she longs for a day when she may invite them to her home and entertain them as cherished guests. Then, this proud woman towering over them both begs them to help her. She says without them all will be lost and her service to the gods will never end. With tears in her eyes, she awaits their answer.

stgcover-frontThe Woman with the Gun appears in LoE Book VIII: The Shadow tech Goddess, due out soon from Loconeal Publishing.

copyright 2014, Ren Garcia and Carol Phillips.