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Literature / Voidskipper

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That's a pretty big spaceship
Voidskipper is the name for both a hard Science Fiction series, and the Faster Than Light starships found therein. The setting is heavily transhumanist and immense in scale, with everything within 7,000 light years of sol being heavily settled and no aliens to be found.

The Voidskipper books are published using a somewhat atypical methodology, with free editions being released in installments on both Royal Road and Scribblehub. The full edition can be purchased at any time from either Amazon or Smashwords, which also buys access to some premium-exclusive bonus content.

As for the content of the books themselves, they're somewhat more action oriented than a lot of hard sci-fi. The science is definitely there and plays a major impact on the plots of the book, but at least most of the time this doesn't result in a long and tedious string of exposition.

At present, there are two released Voidskipper novels:

In Pursuit of Bark's Finest is a story following Madeline Zargosty of the Red Star Union's military intelligence service as she hunts down some space pirates. You can find the free edition here on Royal Road, or here on Scribblehub. The free edition has links to the stores for the premium edition at the bottom of each chapter.

The Blackwood Tourney follows a young bio-engineer named Yures as they compete in a bio-engineering competition, having plenty of interesting encounters along the way. You can find the free edition here on Royal Road, here on Scribblehub, or here on Sufficiently Munchkinned. The free edition has links to buy the premium edition at the bottom of every chapter.

    Tropes found in Voidskipper as a setting 
  • Absent Aliens: There doesn't seem to be any sign of life that didn't ultimately originate from Earth, but the sheer level of transhumanism at play more than makes up for that.
  • Alcubierre Drive: The standard method of Faster-Than-Light Travel at play in the setting, though with a few different versions in use and a couple difficulties not always portrayed.
    • Skimmers are warp-capable, but cannot exceed the speed of light. They are commonly used for in-system travel.
    • Voidskippers require a truly immense amount of power to achieve superluminal speeds, which they can only do briefly. In addition, reckless use can easily cause the drive to behave like a Time Machine... thus stranding the would-be time traveler in an Alternate Timeline.
  • Artificial Intelligence: So utterly ubiquitous as to be a supermajority of the population, with most people not seeing the point of even classifying intelligences as artificial or natural.
  • Antimatter: Exhibits the exact properties physics predicts antimatter to have, and is commonly used in Voidskipper power plants. That said, they don't fly around with massive tanks of antimatter, instead having a Non-Orientable Wormhole aboard to convert regular matter into antimatter at an extremely low energy cost.
  • Beam Spam: Mandatory in space combat; when all the ships involved are dodging around at the speed of light your only real way to guarantee hits is area saturation, which needs a lot of firepower.
  • Bio-Augmentation: So common that anyone who isn't this, a Cyborg, or a MechanicalLifeform is thought of as being distinctly odd.
  • Body Backup Drive: Completely and utterly ubiquitous, to the degree that those who aren't backed up are a statistically insignificant minority. Custom bodies can be printed on demand in most locations, meaning that this is also a common means of travel.
  • Brain Uploading: An extremely common procedure, responsible for much of the ubiquity of both artificial intelligence and backups in the setting.
  • Cyborg: The inevitable result of someone wanting a morph with both organic and mechanical components.
  • Death Is Cheap: Zig-zagged. While backups and replacement bodies make returning from the dead fairly easy, they have their limits. For one thing you don't remember anything after you made the backup when you get restored, and it's always possible for someone to go to the absurd lengths to get rid of all your backups and have you Killed Off for Real.
  • Death World: Blackwood is very thoroughly an example. The entire planet has been used as a playground by irresponsible bio-engineers for centuries, and as a result it's covered in all sorts of horrific organisms.
  • Dyson Sphere: These are a common construction project for inhabited star systems, albeit in the originally intended "huge cloud of space habitats and power satellites" sense. When fully completed they can easily accommodate a population in the quintillions.
  • Energy Weapons: Portrayed in the realistic sense of lasers and highly relativistic particle beams. The shots travel at or very near lightspeed, they're effectively invisible until they hit, and the weapons have smart targeting systems that mean they almost never miss when used against terrestrial targets.
  • Hyperspace Is a Scary Place: There's not much chance of being eaten by extradimensional horrors, but reckless warp drive use could easily lead to your ship being slagged by energy backwash or lost to your home timeline due to unintentional time travel.
  • Hyperspace Lanes: While a Voidskipper can - strictly speaking - bash its way through to wherever it wants to go through sheer brute force, they can go vastly faster if they don't have to worry about running into stuff in the way. To facilitate this, chains of laser armed space stations have been built in interstellar space to clear specified travel corridors of errant dust and gas. The net effect of this is to create an artificial network of lanes.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Far less improbable when everyone's guns have advanced smart targeting features allowing them to hit exactly what the users want them to.
  • In the Future, We Still Have Roombas: People make use of a wide variety of simple non-intelligent robots to perform menial labor and industrial tasks that people find stressful, repetitive and boring. These robots are often called "drones".
  • Magnetic Weapons: Popular for surface combat, making use of guided exploding armor-piercing ammunition as their standard projectiles. Not so popular for space combat on account of the ships being outright faster than the bullets.
  • Mile-Long Ship: A Justified Trope; achieving safe Faster-Than-Light Travel requires a very large and expensive power plant and a very sturdily-built ship, meaning that for operating a Voidskipper to be economical it needs to be huge.
  • Nanomachines: Nanotechnology in Voidskipper is a well-developed field of science that has almost totally fused with biotechnology. This has resulted in amazing medical wonders, easy availability of materials manufactured with atomic-level precision, and impossibly deadly custom-made mind-controlling pathogens commonly called nanoweapons. That said, the possibility of a grey goo apocalypse is prevented by thermodynamics; simply put there's no good way for a machine that small to get the energy needed to convert an entire planet into more of itself.
  • Our Wormholes Are Different: Wormholes in Voidskipper are expensive and heavy but very important. They are made from artificial black holes that have been subjected to quantum entanglement and then inflated to produce a traversable path. They come in two common varieties, both spherical.
    • Communications wormholes are microscopic and (relatively) cheap, and are used to transmit vast amounts of data between their ends.
    • Non-Orientable Wormholes tend to be made with diameters of up to a meter, and have the notable property of turning any matter that goes through them into Antimatter. They are primarily used as the cores of extremely energetic power plants, such as what a Voidskipper needs to achieve Faster-Than-Light Travel.
  • Ring World Planet: Most people live in these, albeit usually the planet-sized kind rather than the solar system sized variety. They get around the lack of materials stronger than carbon nanotubes by having the rotating part supported by a static shell, connected by a magnetic bearing.
  • Space Age Stasis: Spacefaring civilization has long since mastered every single aspect of science. There ISN'T any new tech left to invent.
  • Speed Blitz: Voidskipper space combat is this, with ships actively using their warp drive in combat to dodge and maneuver at the speed of light, causing light lag to massively obscure their current positions and mandating utterly immense measures to try and score hits.
  • Time Machine: Strictly speaking every single Voidskipper is a limited TARDIS-type example, due to the nature of general relativity. However, going to a position in time and space from which you could violate causality will simply result in the timeline branching and the time traveler being unable to return to their home timeline, unless they thought to bring along one end of a wormhole connecting back to it. Even then you can't alter your own past.
  • Transhumans in Space: Taken to the logical conclusion; everyone is wearing super-durable bodies entirely composed of Nanomachines if they aren't using a fully robotic option, people can be copied, edited, downloaded, and uploaded with ease, and there isn't a meaningful difference between an Artificial Intelligence and a regular person.
  • Ungovernable Galaxy: Even with less than a tenth of the galaxy actually settled, people's tendency to politic keeps them from unifying on any scale larger than a few star systems. Even an actual hive mind has a major problem with schisming.
  • Unobtanium: There are a few varieties of this available in Voidskipper, none of which violate physics as currently understood. Carbon nanotubes have their extreme levels of tensile strength as expected, meanwhile room temperature superconductors make moving around vast amounts of energy feasible.
  • Unrealistic Black Hole: Averted. All black holes portrayed in Voidskipper behave exactly as physics predicts them to... though that's honestly quite terrifying in its own right.

    Tropes found in In Pursuit of Bark's Finest 
  • Action Girl: Madeline Zargosty is fully capable of holding her own in a firefight, making use of lasers, coilguns, and explosives with great effectiveness. She's also highly maneuverable and resourceful, allowing her to mostly keep on top of situations. She does admittedly get taken out of the fight a few times, but usually only after completing the mission objective or racking up a serious body count.
  • Agents Dating: Madeline and Grom both work for the Bureau of Starforce Intelligence, and find themselves attracted to each other during the course of the book. By the end they're officially an item, with the blessings of their superiors.
  • Cat Girl: Madeline invoked this trope by favoring a morph with several distinctly feline traits such as ears, a tail, and the ability to purr.
  • Cool Starship: Several cool starships appear during the course of the plot. Which is to be expected, considering that Madeline isn't officially crew on any ship but still spends a fair amount of time doing interstellar travel.
    • The eponymous Bark's Finest is a spacefaring pirate ship, modified to conceal a truly frightening amount of weaponry and auxiliary craft from curious authorities. Towards the end of the book, she gets modified with a set of antimatter-driven gamma ray lasers that can outshine small stars in terms of total power output.
    • Thunder of Sagittarius is one of many cruisers serving with the Red Star Union's Starforce. She's equipped with a truly staggering amount of weapons, armor thicker than most skyscrapers are tall, three redundant warp drives, and very rapid turning capabilities for a ship twenty five kilometers in length.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Most characters in the book adopt this attitude for serious fights, but the Red Star Union's navy provides a stunning collective example. The instant they work out where Bark's Finest has gone, they drop a fleet outnumbering it ten thousand to one on its location via Hyperspeed Ambush.
  • Deus Est Machina: Scensia is a rather nuanced example, being an artificial gestalt mind deliberately created to be the central godess of a religion. She's very capable of tracking down and collating truly vast amounts of data, but she's also prone to schisms, bandwidth limitations, and emotional manipulation that make it clear she's nowhere near as divine as she'd like to appear.
  • Fetch Quest: Madeline Zargosty is sent on one to retrieve Captain Fuller's fortune telling equation. She ultimately locates an archived copy of it on the utterly horrific Death World known as Blackwood. It's eventually retrieved, but the process of doing so isn't at all pleasant.
  • Future Me Scares Me: Downplayed; at one point an archived backup of Captain Fuller from fifty years ago is activated and interrogated. He's somewhat confused and concerned about his future self becoming a space pirate, but all in all doesn't seem too broken up about it.
  • The Handler: Shen is this for Madeline and Grom; he's their direct superior, the one sending them out on assignments, and the one who takes them off duty if he determines that they're no longer in condition to serve. He's also a cybernetic spider who's had himself duplicated thousands of times to keep up with an insane workload.
  • Heroic Willpower: Averted, but explicitly referenced. When being electrocuted by a bio-engineered dragon, willpower means absolutely nothing in the face of the limitations imposed by physics.
  • Hive Mind: All worshippers of Scensia are artificially linked together into a gestalt consciousness that also forms the apparently divine entity at the center of their worship. Still, they maintain a high degree of individuality and their connection is subject to things like signal strength and light lag.
  • Hyperspeed Ambush: This happens twice. First at the start of the book when Captain Fuller surprises a defenseless freighter. Then later when a fleet is dropped on his location that massively outnumbers and outguns him.
  • Hyperspeed Escape: This is attempted by the space pirates during the final confrontation, hiding in a coronal mass ejection to conceal their escape vector. It only partially works, since it trashes their ship and the heroes are able to catch up without too much additional trouble.
  • Losing Your Head: At one point Madeline gets her head blown off in a firefight. Courtesy of several backup brains and other redundancies this proves to be only a minor inconvenience, allowing her to keep fighting effectively for an extended period afterwards. Later on she gets her morph updated to have a detachable head as a normal feature instead of an emergency backup.
  • MacGuffin: The book contains two completely unrelated examples. One is stolen by the space pirates at the start of the story which is the whole reason it happens in the first place, and there's another that the heroes want so they can figure out where the pirates went.
    • The first MacGuffin is a shipment of Non-Orientable Wormholes stolen by the pirates aboard Bark's Finest. Their absence is what motivates the Bureau of Starforce Intelligence to chase after the pirates in the first place.
    • Later on it comes to light that Captain Fuller has been using a deterministic fortune telling equation to decide where to hide, raising the possibility of using it to work out where he's gone. Madeline is immediately tasked with tracking down a copy.
  • Me's a Crowd: Towards the middle of the book, Madeline prints off six more of herself to have some extra backup. In addition, an eighth Madeline is printed off by her handler Shen, after the first seven land themselves in psychological observation due to their experiences on Blackwood.
  • Phony Psychic: Captain Fuller of the space pirates is this, though it's a bit played with in that he honestly thinks he's actually a Seer. this proves to be his Fatal Flaw, as once the heroes get ahold of his fortune telling equation they can use it to work out where he's hiding.
  • Robosexual: Madeline pairs up with Grom, a robotic squid who's apparently quite skilled at using his tentacles in intimate contexts. They're still together at the end of the book.
  • Space Pirates: The crew of the eponymous Bark's Finest are a bunch of Type 1 space pirates. There won't be much plank-walking from them, but they're more than willing to threaten defensive freighters into handing over their cargo. That said they have some nuance in how they operate, as they conduct espionage and even have political parties aboard their ship.
  • Split-Personality Team: Madeline Zargosty is partnered with Maximus Hadrian (often simply called Max), a cyberwarfare expert who's been downloaded into the same morph as her. While they briefly separate for various purposes, they generally stay together. Notably, Max is recognized as an agent in his own right by the Bureau of Starforce Intelligence.
  • Spy Fiction: When the main characters work for an intelligence agency, some degree of this sneaking in is unavoidable. In this particular story events conspire to ensure that it's mostly Martini flavored, but it's made clear that Madeline and co's jobs involve doing some downright underhanded things at times.
  • Starfish Robots: Grom is a friendly example, having been uploaded into a robotic cephalopod. He's equipped with several tentacles as expected, along with a set of tentacle-mounted lasers and several other useful gadgets.