Children of the Old Stars is the sequel to The Pirates of Sufiro. In The Pirates of Sufiro a mysterious and powerful alien called the Cluster began destroying space vessels for no apparent reason. In Children of the Old Stars, Captain John Mark Ellis embarks on a quest to determine just what the Cluster is. The woman on the cover is Ellis’s mother Suki Firebrandt Ellis, who plays an integral part in the quest.
As Children of the Old Stars opens, Captain John Mark Ellis and the crew of the destroyer Firebrandt attempt to rescue a civilian ship threatened by the Cluster. They fail and Ellis has to make the choice of taking a demotion or leaving the fleet. He decides that he can continue his quest better if he leaves the fleet. He joins a warrior/philosopher from the planet Rd’dyggia and a human who is convinced that the Cluster is God incarnate on the quest.
I grew up watching Star Trek and loved the exploits of Captain Kirk and the Starship Enterprise. As a teen, I discovered that Gene Roddenberry was influenced by the Horatio Hornblower novels of C.S. Forester. Around the same time, I also encountered the John Grimes novels of A. Bertram Chandler. Unlike Captain Kirk, who was always a staunch defender of the Federation, Grimes’s career made a detour when he resigned from the service. I loved the idea of a captain who wasn’t perfect, who might have a tarnished record, or might leave his position because of a principle. That’s where John Mark Ellis came from.
When I wrote the novel, the working title was Children of Chaos. It was an allusion to the Titans of Greek Mythology who sprang from chaos. Once the book was finished, though, I discovered I wasn’t the first person to have conceived that title. The final title is a more literal description of the alien machine called the Cluster.
To step back a little bit, astronomers divide stars into two “generations.” Newer stars like the sun are called Population I stars. Old stars like you might find in Globular Clusters or the hearts of galaxies are called Population II stars. The alien known as the Cluster is a product of those old stars. I’ll leave the details for people to discover, if they choose to read the novel!
One other piece of astronomy trivia from this novel, Ellis’s encounter with the Cluster at the beginning of the novel happens around a binary star called 1E1919+0427. It turns out that I’m one of the people who discovered that star is an eclipsing binary. I published the results in The Astronomical Journal in 1997.
Finally, I’ll note that one of the most frustrating novels I’ve ever read is From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne. The reason it’s frustrating is that he ends the novel on a cliffhanger. I did the same thing with Children of the Old Stars. If I had it to do all over again, I would have wrapped things up more neatly. But part of the issue is that I felt I needed a whole new book to deal with the issues that were raised when Ellis discovered the truth of the Cluster. That’s where the final novel of the Old Star/New Earth trilogy, Heirs of the New Earth comes in.
The Pirates of Sufiro is free to download in both Nook and Kindle formats:
Children of the Old Stars is available as follows: