Russian Espionage Agencies Have Terribly Boring Names

With The Faith Machine and the ESPionage property I draw a lot from the weird history of Cold War parapsychology. US agencies like Stargate Project, MKUltra, and the First Earth Battalion are the backbone of the setting and inspired my own creations; Project Dead Blind, MKIntra, and Task Force 21.
And then there’s Russia; the land of literal and uninspired nomenclature. According to Parapsychology in the USSR, released by the CIA in 2000, there was The Russian Society for Experimental Psychology in 1870, the Institute for Brain Research in 1921, and the Special Laboratory for Parapsychology founded under the Soviets in 1961. Yawn.
There’s an unposted appendix of 27 other Soviet institutes conducting paranormal research. I filed a Freedom of Information Act request for this list, but I don’t have high hopes that there’s any flair on that list. The only cool espionage name the Soviets ever came up with was SMERCH which stands for ‘Death to Spies.’

ESPionage – The Faith Machine Role-Playing Game

ESPionage – The Faith Machine Role-Playing Game

I’ve been busy working on a world book for the Fate Core role-playing game system. It’s turned into an interesting exercise in world-building. In the process, I accidentally created a series bible.

ESPionage is based on The Faith Machine, my psychic espionage thriller. This body of work consists of a novel, two novel outlines, half a dozen short stories in various stages of completion, and a comic book pitch, not to mention a notebook full of incomplete ideas. I had a lot to draw on. Spilling it out on the page was easy. Organizing and filling that information’s given me a new perspective in the material.

For example; early on I based the spy lingo for psychic phenomena on poker and card expressions. But I hadn’t got further than ‘Card’ means psychic. The glossary of a game book can’t stop at one word. That’s not even a sidebar. So then…a team of Cards, that’s a Hand, clearly. And an agency that operates multiple teams, that’s a Table. Many nations will have more than one Table, like a casino or House. Then the entire psychic espionage community at large, that’s the Strip.

Organization’s the bomb, yo.

And not just details. This goes for themes too. I received a piece of advice at the Writers’ Coffeehouse; At the beginning of a novel make a list of six things the story is, and six things it’s not. This isn’t for the audience. It’s for the author. But it made a good introduction for the game book:

  • ESPionage is stale beer with martini moments, more Jason Borne than James Bond. It takes its queues from John le Carré with an occasional nod to Ian Flemming. A secret world that’s less about good guys verses bad, and more about getting the job done whatever the cost.
  • ESPionage Cards are the most powerful individuals who ever lived, but still have to watch their backs. A bullet to the skull doesn’t care how powerful the brain inside was.
  • ESPionage is about characters with mental disorders living their lives and doing their jobs, without being defined by their conditions.
  • ESPionage is about characters getting their hands dirty in the field. It’s not about rooms full of servers crunching data.
  • ESPionage is about teamwork. A small group of talented agents who depend on each other to accomplish the mission and look out for each other. It’s not about calling Homeland Security for help with a threat. Sometimes, Homeland Security is the threat.
  • ESPionage is about a secret war with many sides. Nations, terrorists, gods, and ghosts pushing forward with their agendas at the cost of anyone who gets in their way. It’s not about safety or working toward retirement. Once you’ve played on the Strip you’re in the game for good.

I’m closing in on a first draft. If everything goes right, I’ll run it online and make a YouTube channel out of it.

Running Wild Anthology of Stories Vol. 2 Podcast

My Picking Up the Ghost follow up story, The Ginger Jar is in the Running Wild Anthology of Stories, Volume 2. (Woo hoo! Validation!) I threw in with the promotional efforts and recorded and mastered a podcast of interviews with other authors from the collection:

For the best sound quality, each episode was recorded three ways: Once in Skype, and on each local machine using Audacity. I’d bring the three tracks together, using the Skype recording to sync the other two, then I’d throw it out. Skype compresses its calls and they sometimes cut out. The local recordings are pure and good, like little cherubs. A few editing passes to cut redundant dialog, “Um”s, “Uh”s, “You Knows”, and other stall words, and the time I accidentally asked the same question twice in a row.

This also served as a test run or the techniques and technology for my own podcast; a writers role-playing thing, maybe actors and game designers too. I’ll pick a genre, assemble three creators involved with that genre, and run a short, 3 hour game after brain storming the setting, plot and characters. I can see this steaming on Twitch, the video uploaded to YouTube, and the audio stripped and saved on a podcasting service, supported by Patreon. How’s that for multiple streams of income?

I’d be using the Fate Accelerated system because it’s very rules light and flexible enough to feel like writing a first draft. I’ve never played Fate, a problem but I plan to remedy this weekend at Kingdom Con.

Running Wild Anthology of Stories Vol. 2

The Ginger Jar, my follow up story to Picking Up the Ghost is included in this collection:

On March 15, Running Wild Press will release the Running Wild Anthology of Stories, Volume 2.
This collection is one of our most eclectic, exciting and engaging. It’ll make your imagination soar.”
— Lisa Diane Kastner, Executive Editor, Running Wild Press
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, USA, March 12, 2018 /EINPresswire.com/ — On March 15, Running Wild Press will release the Running Wild ANTHOLOGY OF STORIES Volume 2, which includes over twenty stories that will make your heart race, make you joyful, fearful, thrilled, inspired, and horrified.

These are stories that will last with you. They span oceans, starscapes, lifetimes, and generations.

The team even threw in a fun-loving Pirate tale that ends in the fashion of Shakespeare’s time. Each one will make your imagination run wild

Featuring authors include: Gemma L. Brook, Lorna Walsh, Jasmine Wade, Laura Nelson Selinsky, Carol Dowd-Forte, Tone Milazzo, Julie Doherty, Tori Eldridge, Ken MacGregor, Nick Mazzuca, Andrew Adams, Susan Helene Gottfried, Amelia Kibbie, Lexis Parker, Rebecca House, Elan Barnehama, Gary Zenker, Suzanne Grieco Mattaboni, Joe Nasta, Cindy Cavett.

Authors from across the United States and Canada are featured in this eclectic collection.

ANTHOLOGY OF STORIES | Running Wild Press | Ingram Book Distributor | Fiction/Fantasy/General/Mystery
| $17.99 US | 168 pages | Paperback 5.5 x 8.5 | ISBN: 978-1-947041-05-9

Elephanthead and Mouse – outline

Mouse is a young lady from Boundary, a section of the land called the Park. It borders the Jungle on one side and Newer Orleans on the other. While Earth hangs in the sky up above. Keeping their community running takes long days of work. It’s not enough, not enough food, not enough goods. Mouse asks, “Why is everyone working so hard? There’s got to be a better way.” But innovation is against the laws of the Castle the capital of the Park.

So Mouse works on her technology projects in secret. Like figuring out how the robotic Elephanthead that hangs over the town’s bar works. It’s been there as long as anyone can remember, singing songs and reciting poetry at random. Alone one night, Mouse cracks a code in Elephantheads’ ramblings. It tells here where she can find the Park’s most contraband items, books. There’s a room full of them in the Cursed Manor.

She returns from that haunted place with an armload of precious books. Unfortunately, a representative from the Castle arrives in Boundary. It’s the Duck, as unreasonable as he is unintelligible. He knows someone from Boundary has stolen from the Cursed Manor. He’s here to findthe transgressor. While the Duck tears up Boundary searching, Mouse finds a slot in the back of Elephanthead. It’s big enough for a damaged copy of Don Quixote. When she slides it into the slot, Elephanthead becomes fully functional. Or at least as much as head can be, a head who’s a bit insane.

Mouse covers for the awakened Elephanthead. But all Hell breaks loose when the Duck discovers what she’s done, pirates from another community raid Boundary, and a giant headless robot body with four arms stumbles into town. Mouse dodges pirates and the Duck. Elephanthead’s body pulls his head from the wall of the bar and places it on his shoulders. For the first time, Elephanthead is complete.

Whole, Elephanthead makes short work of the raiding pirates while the Duck escapes. It seems that Duck arranged the pirate raid, but why? Elephanthead declares Duck a villain and sets off on a quest to bring him to justice. Mouse sees an opportunity to find out why the Park is the way it is. With Elephanthead she’ll be safe anywhere.

The Duck fled across the desert and Elephanthead and Mouse followed. Over Lighting Mountain. Through the aging city of Newer Orleans, rotting and decadent. Across the river, its single island home to an orphan boy of terrible disposition. Down Main Street, pristine and empty, at least by humans. And into the high tech Land of Tomorrow, with rockets built that have never launched.

That’s where Mouse meets a real engineer. Someone who maintains the robots of the Park. Robots like the Duck. For centuries, these robots have maintained the status quo at all costs. Mouse finally has the answers to her question, “Why is everyone working so hard when there’s a better way?” The robots have been keeping people too busy to improve their lives or change anything in any way.

Outraged, Mouse vows to bring the whole system down. So people can control of their own destinies. With loyal and strong Elephanthead by her side, she follows the Duck’s trail into the Land of the Fantastic. A journey to the Castle itself, to take down whoever sits on the throne. Instead of a who, they find a what. The personality of the Park’s inventor, projected as a hologram. It explains that the Park is a space station that used to be an amusement park. When the Earth’s environment collapsed, people fled to the Park for safety. To keep them safe is to keep them from leaving, which means keeping them too busy surviving to do anything else.

Mouse isn’t having it. With the knowledge she’s learned in the Land of Tomorrow, she wipes the computer version of the Park’s founder. The orbital amusement park’s systems begin to fail. Leaving people in chaos, but free. And Mouse heads back to the Land of Tomorrow to get those rockets working.