Welcome to Realm Explorers!  In this weekly series, we visit a variety of unique worlds created by talented science fiction and fantasy authors.  Enjoy your travels!  And don’t forget to read to the bottom of the post to find out more about each author and see how to purchase the featured book. 
 Author’s name:  Marcha Fox

Title of book and/or series:

The Star Trails Tetralogy is a four-part series comprising “Beyond the Hidden Sky,” “A Dark of Endless Days, and “A Psilent Place Below.”  The 4th and final volume, “Refractions of Frozen Time,” will be out soon but I don’t have an exact release date.  Cyraria, the world I’ll discuss here, is the setting for “A Dark of Endless Days,” “A Psilent Place Below” and “Refractions of Frozen Time.”  

Brief summary of the story:

Close families share everything.  Including consequences.  When one of the HIO’s premier terralogists (planetary engineers) refuses a job offer from a wannabe despot, the chain of suspicious circumstances which quickly follow scatter his family across the galaxy.  Torn apart by space and time, will each survive long enough to be united ever again? 

The series is a family saga that chronicles the Brightstar family’s struggles and challenges combating Cyraria’s harsh climate coupled with hostile political forces.

Brief description of the world or location you created for this story:

Cyraria is a planet in a binary star system which from Earth would appear to be in the zodiacal constellation, Scorpio.  It’s unusual in that it orbits the two stars in a figure-8 pattern known as a lemniscate.  You can find a detailed description of the star system here. (I’ve attached a jpg diagram of the orbit and names of the seasons.)

The planet’s axis of rotation is extremely oblique, further adding to extreme seasons of hot and cold.  It’s a harsh, unforgiving world that is in the early phases of colonization.  You can find a detailed description of the weather and seasons here 

If we were to visit Cyraria as tourists, what would you recommend that we see or do there?

The most interesting features of Cyraria are beneath the ground.  Cryptofluvial aquifers (underground rivers) are the primary source of water with little on the planet’s surface.  These have created a vast network of caverns.  Some have minerals such as cristobalite and devenite which enhance psi phenomena such as telepathy and clairvoyance.  Visitors will be required to sign a waiver releasing local authorizes from liability should they encounter any unfortunate experiences due to these effects.

Due to the extreme climate on the surface during certain seasons, suitable protective clothing is required depending on the locale.  Transportation may also be limited during severe weather.

What dangers should we avoid in Cyraria?

The biggest hazard on Cyraria is the climate and weather. Extreme temperatures which range from 60 degrees below zero to 214 degrees above (Fahrenheit) or worse create strong convection currents which can spawn massive tornados known as pressure vortices or PVs.  When the planet is experiencing Opposition, when its orbit is between the two stars, it also experiences groundquakes due to opposing gravitational forces.

Wildlife is somewhat limited due to the climate but there are some indigenous species which can be dangerous, such as shackle snakes, which have both poisonous and constrictor characteristics; and yragian lizards, which use flatulence as a tactical weapon.  Some plants are hazardous as well, in particular the spickle tree which hurls spikes when disturbed.

Probably the greatest danger on the planet, however, is the Integrator, the evil force which is striving to attain mind control techniques which will allow it to take over the planet.

Is there a distinct or unusual type of food or meal that we might be served in Cyraria?

During space travel and when a planet is either between harvests or unable to attain self-sufficient status, the primary form of nourishment is genour, which is the colloquial term for generic nourishment.  They are similar to a dry, bland-tasting energy bar.  

However, Cyraria does have some edible plants such as the bowlbush, which has a root similar to a sweet potato, and small shrimp-like animals which live in sulfuric pools similar to those found in places such as Yellowstone National Park. These can be prepared into a variety of tasty dishes.

What types of weaponry or fighting styles are common in Cyraria?

Laser weapons, or lasomags, which combine lasers with magnetic resonance, are the primary weapon.  However, the Integrator’s goal of attaining mind control and harnessing negative psi energy will also eventually become a weapon as well.

What types of vehicles, animals, technology, etc. are used to travel in or to Cyraria?

This is an advanced, spacefaring society that includes a variety of starcruisers and other vehicles capable of spaceflight.  One type known as vekes (shortened term for vacuum certified vehicle) provide planetary transportation but can also make relatively short trips into space, such as to Cyraria’s single moon, Nifeir.  Vehicles simply referred to as ‘cruisers would be similar to Earth’s automobiles but fly, like Luke Skywalker’s landspeeder or the converted Delorean in the “Back to the Future” movie series.  

What types of plants, animals, or sentient races might we encounter in Cyraria that we don’t see on Earth?

The primary indigenous race is known as the bnolar.  These are large, gentle and peaceful creatures with six arms, two sturdy legs, hooded, orb-like eyes, and multiple skin layers which reflect the harsh light from the two suns.  They live underground in the network of caverns and have strong psychic abilities.  

There are numerous nonindigenous alien races present as well, including Arcturians, which are mansized ant people; Erebusites are well-muscled humanoids whose most distinguishing feature is a single eye with multiple lids like venetian blinds which protect their eyes from harsh sunlight; jendaks, which often serve in menial positions, are violet in color with a short, stocky build, whip-like tail and long pointed ears.

Cyraria has flora, fauna and also species in the flauna category which includes plants with varying levels of mobility/or and intelligence. In fact, one of the characters in these stories is a Flora Peda Telepathis, i.e. a telepathic walking plant named Thyron who speaks in rhymed couplets, but he is not native to this world.  In fact, he’s quite unhappy there since he obtains his energy through photosynthesis like most plants, which is needless to say severely limited in the caverns.

What role, if any, does magic or the supernatural play in the lives of people in Cyraria?  If there is magic, please give some examples of what it involves or how it’s used

The primary paranormal influences are related to the caverns, particularly the cristobalite and devenite which magnify and transmit psi phenomena such as telepathy.  Cristobalite in particular promotes the concept “thoughts become things,” taking a person’s thoughts and converting them to reality, which can also be used for teleportation.  Devenite operates more on the emotional level and can transcend time and space to bring a person to a place of emotional security.  

Is there any advanced or unusual technology in Cyraria?  If you haven’t described it already, please give some examples.

The technological basis is similar to what Earth can expect in about a decade.  The development of technology using cristobalite and devenite is a primary focus of “Refractions of Frozen Time.”  There is also a device referred to as a c-com (abbreviation for cerebral companion) which has psi connection abilities, somewhat like an iPhone on steroids.

Tell us about any sports, games, or activities that are available for entertainment in Cyraria.

On most of Cyraria they’re lucky to stay alive, much less play any sports or games.  Within the domed Cira City they have a coliseum where various competitions are held including canus (dog) races.  

During space travel there are a few holographic projection/virtual reality games such as tysa, which involves the matching and building of complex structures from a variety of geometric shapes and anoia, a sport which combines elements of soccer and baseball.

Are the days of the week and months of the year the same in Cyraria as on Earth? What holidays or special events are celebrated regularly there?

When I was first writing this series I tried to develop a unique timekeeping system which was metric but felt it was too cumbersome and distracting so ultimate reverted back to seconds, minutes and hours even though these are based on Earth’s conditions.  During space travel when there is no means for tracking time such as the rise and set of the sun, each unit is called a chron and is 26 hours long.  This also the standard length of a day for scheduling purposes since the seasons on Cyraria are such that they can have hundreds of “days” of nothing but light or darkness, depending on their position on the planet and its orbital location with respect to the two stars, Zeta and Zinni.

Is there a particular religion practiced in Cyraria?  Please describe what it involves.

Some of the characters are members of a sect known as the Ledorian Order which originated on Laren Brightstar’s naterra, or birth planet, of Esheron.  Ledorians are charged to oppose the Integrator and represent the highest of moral and ethical standards.  They have some priestly abilities with regard to healing.  Readers can visit Ledorian headquarters on Esheron in “Refractions of Frozen Time.”

What is the political or government structure in Cyraria?  Who is in charge there at the moment, and what kind of leader is he/she?

The planet is divided up into 6 territories which are further broken into 24 regions.  Each region has its own government with the territory providing various services and infrastructure such as law enforcement and various other services.  You can find out more about the political structure here.

The Brightstars live in Epsilon Region in Sigma Territory.  The Regional Governor, or RG, Augustus Troy, is the saga’s antagonist.  He’s a power hungry despot who wants Laren to work for him so he can help develop his Region through planetary engineering.  Troy has darker ambitions as well including technological developments for which he would also use his expertise.  Since Laren, as a member of the Ledorian Order, will not compromise his standards and accept Troy’s offer, he becomes the target of considerable harassment to the point of being thrown in prison as a political prisoner and various other difficulties.  

The Territorial General, or TG is Rohtik Spoigan, who came to power through a conspiracy that eliminated the former TG via assassination.  He’s Troy’s superior and the two men have very different temperaments.  Troy favors eliminating opposition permanently while Spoigan prefers to govern and control the people to his advantage.  The one thing both men agree upon, however, is Integration which is a dictatorial ideology.  Spoigan needs two thirds of the regions to accept Integration which would place all of Sigma Territory under that form of government.  Similarly, if two thirds of the territories worldwide accept Integration then the entire planet falls under that rule.

Newly formed planets in the galaxy must abide initially with the standards and structure defined by the Hostii Intergalactic Organization (HIO) which is why they are divided into territories and regions.  These are democratic in that the people determine the form of government they want.  On Cyraria there is a mix of those that favor Integration, those that openly oppose it and are members of the Cyrarian Liberation Quango known as the CLQ or Clique, and those who remain neutral.  Both sides focus on converting the neutrals, trying to attain the two thirds majority required.

As in any situation where power is available for the taking there are ruthless individuals who will stop at nothing up to and including assassination to move their agendas forward.  Thus, Cyraria is deeply steeped in all sorts of intrigue.

Are there any other unique cultural practices that we should be aware of if we visit Cyraria?

None that would be a problem to a visitor.  The primary cultural practices of note are those of the Ledorians.

Has anything in your actual life inspired the locations, cultures, etc. in your book?

If anyone has ever traveled in the American Southwest they will recognize many parts of Cyraria, from the sand-blown arches to the network of caverns.

What, if any, “hot-button” or controversial topics do you touch on in your book?

The primary “hot-button” would probably be the concept of civil disobedience.  At what point do you rebel and openly oppose dictatorial forces which are threatening your personal freedom?  There could be what would be recognized as a subtle “prepper” flavor to these stories as the Brightstars attempt to survive on this overtly hostile world.

Author autobiography:

My love for science fiction began as a child growing up in Peekskill, New York.  I loved all the science fiction classics such as those written by H. G. Wells and Jules Verne.  For as long as I can remember I wanted to be a writer but I’m the kind of person who wants to do things right.  I believe in doing a lot of research but to write science fiction I wanted a strong foundation in science.  Thus, I went back to college in my 30s to obtain a bachelor’s of science degree in physics.  After that I spent over 20 years working at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. 

Entirely antithetical to being a former rocket scientist, I’m also a professional astrologer.  I’m also fascinated by paranormal phenomena which are actually quite compatible with physics, considering the strange possibilities inherent to quantum theory and various others.  I find it rather contradictory that science’s official stand on astrology is that it is no more than myth and superstition when their theories related to multi-verses and numerous unseen dimensions are no weirder than this ancient art and science which has been around for thousands of years and works incredibly well.  The first astronomers such as Kepler and Galileo were actually astrologers who were simply trying to figure out how the solar systems operates so that they’d have more accurate data for their astrological pursuits.  On my list of future projects is a book that addresses science, astrology and religion.  And yes, I believe in UFOs.

I am currently retired and living in the Texas Hill Country.

Where, and in what formats, can we purchase your books?

The Star Trails Tetralogy is available in print and ebook (Kindle and Nook) formats.

If you’d like to take a peek inside the books in print so far, I have Book Bubbles for each of them which include sample chapters and author commentary.

Video Trailer Links

Refractions of Frozen Time Video http://youtu.be/SRY0P4-ZBYw

Where can readers connect with you online? 

Star Trails Homepage: http://startrailssaga.com/
I hope you all enjoyed the trip to Cyraria.  Questions about the world or the book?  Ask them in the comments and the author will get back to you!  

Click here to read other posts in the Realm Explorers series.

Please join us again next Monday for a trip to the Noorhitam Empire in Realm Explorers Part XXXVI!
-Annie Douglass Lima