Political Intrigue and Dusk by J.S. Wayne
There is an old, old truism that one should never discuss politics or religion with strangers. This rule has a sound basis, because people tend to be passionately, even irrationally devoted to their own points of view and to challenge those points requires both delicacy on the speaker’s part and a willingness on the listener’s part to consider an alternative perspective. As rare as these qualities seem to be in the human animal, it is no surprise that more bar fights and wars have begun over both than over possibly any other excuse in the human lexicon. It’s a sound rule, generally speaking.
But we all know I’m not very good at following rules by now, don’t we?
In the real world, I find politics boring at best and sleazy at worst. I watch the machinations of political powers and players with a kind of grim fascination, wondering what the crabs beneath the one at the top of the bucket will do to advance their own agendas at the other’s expense. Whenever I hear a politician speaking, especially from a place that seems sincerely altruistic, I read between the lines, because I’m cynical enough to assume that somehow, some way, a lot of someones somewhere are about to get bent over and shafted without the benefit of lube, a courtesy reach-around or even a farewell kiss.
Then again, there’s the world of fantasy. In this complex of fantastical and imaginative worlds, politics always seems to play a crucial role one way or the other. You can see it in Star Wars, Star Trek, The Lord of the Rings, The Sword of Truth, Harry Potter, The Dresden Files and Game of Thrones, to name just a few. Those with less political power are necessarily at odds with and the mercy of those with more power, influence, and of course liquid wealth, no matter what you call it. As much as most people despise politics and politicians in general, it seems we cannot ever escape the reality that political power shapes and moves these worlds, for better or worse.
With Dusk, it would have been easy for me to make the titular world a political Titan, a force against which even the Interstellar Confederacy which Terra heads would be forced to employ a very delicate and cautious hand. However, I saw a great deal of value in doing it the other way. My reason for this is simple: It is hard to root for an overwhelmingly powerful force, while humans always seem to appreciate the underdog, the little guy who just wants to be left alone and go about his own business. Keep the nobles and the ruling class off the peasants’ backs and they’ll get along just fine, to paraphrase Parke Godwin in Firelord.
We have all seen the story where a young, idealistic person rises to an unthinkably high level of power without any training through a series of accidents, coincidences and machinations. With Dusk, I chose not to do this either. In theory, every member of the Dusk Diplomatic Corps is perfectly capable of seizing the reins of political power if necessary. In actuality, power is often granted based on one’s magickal talents or for the most human reason of all: because the person selected to lead is considered to be malleable enough to suit the ends of those who prefer to remain powers behind the throne. In Olivia, I found both: a young but well-trained woman who has a high degree of magickal talent and an innate ability at the games of politicking and diplomacy, but who is not considered a threat by those beneath her in the DDC hierarchy. She is also intelligent enough to recognize when things don’t quite add up, and ruthless enough to want to seek out the truth in what she sees, no matter where it leads.
As Dusk is a small, out-of-the-way world so far out on the Galactic Rim that it just barely qualifies as a part of our galaxy at all, the DDC perforce had to be a major force in daily life on Dusk as a protective measure against those who would seek to plunder the planet for their own gain to the detriment of those who had chosen to live there. However, Olivia needed a mate, someone who could understand the toll that such power and its responsibilities would take upon her. She also needed a bodyguard, because while Dusk is nominally a very peaceful planet, murder and political assassination are far from unknown. Enter Merrick Grissom, handsome and devil-may-care to balance Olivia’s beauty and innate seriousness. Merrick’s devotion to his duty is eclipsed only by his devotion to Olivia, which makes him willing to go along with just about anything Olivia desires.
While politics are not at the heart of Dusk, they do inform the characters’ actions and reactions to a great degree. Their enemies are not at all reluctant to use influence or violence to achieve their ends, which places Olivia and Merrick in a great deal of danger. This is why I found “Quick” Silva such a perfect foil for Merrick’s boyishness and Olivia’s daring. As a combat veteran of far too many dustups on far too many worlds, he has developed a sense for danger that is almost magickal in its own right. As the characters get to know each other through shared danger, mistrust, mixed signals and miscommunications Quick finds himself more devoted to Olivia and Merrick than he ever thought possible. This devotion, in turn, grants him the strength to do the right thing, even though his actions will inevitably brand him a traitor and turncoat.
Dusk is not a political intrigue story at its heart, even though politics play such a huge role in the lives of its players. Instead, I have tried very hard to create a fully-realized world where real people, just like those you see in any town anywhere, live, love, struggle and fight against one another and outside forces that care nothing about them or their safety, security and happiness. Ultimately, Dusk is about love, about new beginnings in a place so alien it may never properly become a “home,” and about how just a handful of good people with good and honorable intentions may change the seemingly inexorable destiny of an entire world. There is darkness and evil on Dusk, to be sure. There is also light, love and hope.
Sometimes to truly consider the human character and condition, we must first remove humans from our own world, dump them off somewhere or somewhen in circumstances that would strain the modern human’s sanity almost beyond endurance and see what happens. This is what I tried to do with the Dusk trilogy. Whether I succeeded or not, gentle reader, I leave it to you to decide.
Before I leave, enjoy this excerpt from Dusk: Tides of Astaroth, available now at Changeling Press!
To his surprise, Merrick realized nothing hurt. He should, he knew. After the
beating he’d given and taken at Kozlowski’s hands, he should hurt like seven different
shades of hell. Instead, he felt pleasant warmth, calm…
And his cock was painfully erect.
The soft darkness around him faded into a cool teal glow, allowing him to pick
out shapes but not make sense of the details. Off to his left, cloth rustled. He turned his
head, realizing as he did that his back pressed against a surprisingly soft and
comfortable surface. The supple resistance molded itself to his back, and he sank into it
a little more deeply as he peered at the source of the sound.
Olivia’s naked foot poked through a nearly invisible curtain, its presence
betrayed only by the sequins worked into its surface. She moved slowly, as if in the
opening steps of a dance she had not yet become proficient in, raising one shapely foot
before lowering it so she balanced daintily on the ball. Then an alabaster expanse of
smooth, sleekly muscled leg followed. Merrick gulped, sweat beading on his brow as
his groin bristled at the unexpected thrill. She knew how to seduce a man more than
adequately, but he had never seen her like this before.
With a tiny shock of realization, he noticed his ass was cradled by the same
material that cupped his back… and he was as naked as Olivia’s leg. It made no sense,
but he elected not to argue, sinking into the unknown material and enjoying the show.
And a show it was. Olivia inched into view with a feline grace that reminded
him of a Terran kitten he’d once watched playfully stalking one of his classmates’ pet
hruczek. With each new vista of flesh she revealed, his pulse throbbed a little harder
until it thundered in his ears and his cock jerked with every heartbeat.
Finally she stood perfectly divided by the sparkling curtain, one side still hidden
behind the fabric and the other revealed to him. She lifted one hand and lowered it to
her mound, slipping her fingers into her seam and gliding them down her clit to find
her opening. A low gasp pushed her lips into a pout as she massaged her pussy, letting
her fingers roam over her flesh. Even from here he could detect the tangy scent of her
His mouth watered for her. He wanted to taste her, to lick and suck at her sex
until she baptized his face with her sweet nectar and then take her deep and hard until
she screamed out her release and clamped down on his cock to spur on his own crisis.
Though his mouth was moist with hunger for her, his throat was dry as the powdery
sand to the northeast of the city, leaving him unable to give his desire voice. He could
only watch, paralyzed and shaking with need, as she continued forward with tiny,
mincing steps, rubbing herself into a crescendo of whimpers the whole while.
“She’s beautiful, isn’t she?” said a familiar male voice from across the room.
Merrick jumped and flicked his eyes off to the right, toward the voice. Quick sat
there, naked as Merrick and just as hard. Oh, great. Isn’t there anywhere we can go to be
“When did you get here?” he croaked, forgetting the dryness of his throat.
Quick shrugged. “Search me.” Then he looked down at his bare body and back
up again. “On the other hand, it’s not like I have many places to hide things right now.”
The unexpected flash of humor coaxed a huff of laughter from Merrick. “What
do you want?”
Quick’s face flickered through a series of uncomfortable emotions too fast for
Merrick to pin any of them down. “Relax. I’m not here to steal your thunder. You
haven’t had much time with Olivia lately, and I just want to watch.”
Merrick raised his eyebrows. “You’re into afternoon theater, then?”
“Never really thought about it before,” Quick retorted. “Way I figure it, I owe
you some time with her. All I want is to watch how you two make love. I might even
pick up some pointers on what she likes.”
Merrick inclined his chin. “What about what she wants? Maybe she doesn’t want
you to watch right now.”
Quick scoffed. “Riiiight,” he said, drawing the word out into a dimension of
sarcasm Merrick vaguely remembered visiting with some regularity as an adolescent.
“That’s why her eyes are riveted on you right now. She doesn’t even know I’m here,
Merrick. You’re the only thing she sees, the only man she wants.”
Quick was unusually articulate, Merrick noted, but that didn’t mean he was
wrong. He shrugged.
“You wanna see what Olivia likes? I’ll show you.” He turned just in time for
Olivia to press her lips against his. He met her eagerly, opening to her and inviting her
to open to him in turn. She did so, the soft velvet of her tongue meeting his with a
pleasant shock of renewed desire. He forgot all about Quick, about pain, about anything
except the exquisite feel of his lover so close and yet so far way.
She finally pulled away. Merrick fought down a groan of protest as she moved
back, just beyond his arm’s reach.
“What do you want?” she asked, her voice oddly modulated in the stillness.
“You,” he murmured. “I want to taste you… “
She smiled. “Then you will have it.”
She turned, showing him a lush expanse of narrow back, flared hips, and firm,
high-set buttocks. He started to murmur in appreciation…
Dusk: Tides of Astraroth