In a blog post after I'd released Scouring Juventas, I mentioned my intention to publish a short story collection called Substrate Constraints, formally unifying all my novels into an extended universe – which had been in my plans for a while. While waiting for feedback on the current draft of The Muffler's Misery, I've started working on this in earnest.
I'd already written a couple of new stories while preparing to write The Muffler's Misery, and I've now written another – A Substrate Reunion – which manages to wrap things up as a combined sequel to several novels. I will make this latter one available in my free collection, Mutterings of Consequence, too, although all those I'm about to write will be part of Substrate Constraints alone.
I intend to complete this collection before starting work on my next novel, Foundations of Dichotomy, which isn't part of this universe. However, The Muffler's Misery will be my top priority after receiving feedback.
I thought I'd share the first draft of the introduction to the collection below. It repeats much of what I said in the last blog post but adds more detail to the mix.
Welcome to my collection of short stories set around the following novels, in order of internal chronology:
In Memory of Chris Parsons
The Tamboli Sequence (A Vision of Unity, A Division of Order, A Revision of Reality)
The Mufflers (The Muffler's Ministry, The Muffler's Mission, The Muffler's Misery)
Disclaimer: unless you've read at least one, preferably most of these novels, then these short stories won't make any sense. You can safely read the first one, but that's about it.
Still here? Wondering what this motley collection of novels, spanning family SF drama, overtly political SF tales, and light fantasy, have in common?
The answer is the substrate, but that probably leaves you with even more questions. The concept has had different names in different contexts. For example, in The Tamboli Sequence, it is called the bulk, as it emerged from an explanation based on the (real) theories of Brane Cosmology.
I took extreme liberties with the concepts of Brane Cosmology, first setting out its rules in The Revision of Reality, although it had already had an unexplained impact in A Vision of Unity. These rules – AKA the Substrate Constraints – can very loosely be described as follows:
Our universe is one of many in higher-dimensional space called the substrate (or the bulk)
The complexity of the substrate is the basis of all consciousness
For its complexity to increase, it must enter a dimensionally restricted, life-bearing universe – like ours
Once a kernel of complexity is within a universe, the consciousness it creates is indivisible
The first intelligence to evolve was within the substrate
The sole overriding purpose of this species is to protect the substrate's complexity
Yes, I took not only extreme liberties, but metaphysical ones.
Now, in many of the novels, you may not notice most of this. For example, In Memory of Chris Parsons is only impacted by the indivisibility of consciousness. There's only the briefest hint in The Mufflers, yet I always knew it was part of the same world. It's about time that I fully justified that all these novels are set in the same extended universe.
The earliest of these short stories were written for my collection Mutterings of Consequence, available free to subscribers of my irregular newsletter through my website markwhitebooks.com. I've tried to write at least one short story sequel to every novel.
I also created several between writing the novels in The Mufflers trilogy. These specifically explored the ramifications of the previous books, often from the point of view of supporting characters. The intent was to help me better understand these characters and flesh out what had to happen next. This proves especially beneficial for The Muffler's Misery. These tales are available for the first time in this collection.
Finally, some have been written exclusively for this volume. I'd always wondered what was in Raj Tamboli's mind at the time of the Flood. How did Brenda get her role in the Muffler's Ministry? What was the story of Ashley Carter's parents? What happened to the colony of Juventas in the following years? Did the Parsons family members live happily ever after?
I've grouped these short stories into five sections: Chris Parsons, The Tamboli Sequence, Juventas, The Mufflers, and The Substrate. The latter contains only a single short story but wraps things up nicely, acting as a sequel to A Revision of Reality, Scouring Juventas and The Muffler's Misery in one fell swoop.
Each section has an introduction to explain where the short stories sit within the chronology, and every tale gets a brief intro too. You've not heard the last from me yet.
Parting note: editions of my first four novels were initially published under different titles written by Mark White rather than Mark W White. A Vision of Unity, A Division of Order, A Revision of Reality, and In Memory of Chris Parsons were previously available as Integration, Long Division, Transformation, and My Family and Other Ghosts, respectively. I'll leave it as an exercise to the reader to convert the names into old money if that's how you first encountered them.