Conversations With Droids

Conversations with droids cover

Here’s the blurb…

Explore the futuristic universe of The Kassini Division with this collection of 12 short stories from Esa Ortega.

You’ll encounter dogs with pupgrades, bughunts with a difference, brutal game therapies, mysterious quantum birdlife, Earth’s longest-surviving brand, planets infested with mysterious petals… and much more. 

Join a cast of human, alien and AI characters desperately finding ways to survive and thrive in the hostile, spectacular world of 2889 – as a disintegrating truce between three rival galactic empires plays out, twists and turns are the only constant. 

Conversations With Droids is the perfect way to immerse yourself in the universe of The Kassini Division, a fast-paced futuristic thriller for fans of Battlestar Galactica, Old Man’s War, The Expanse, Firefly and all manner of classic sci-fi.

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Here’s a selection of reviews…

“I thoroughly enjoyed Mak 14 and Krieger’s ‘origin’ stories. The universe is fascinating, and the stories are well-written” – Goodreads reviewer

“Esa Ortega is certainly a bright star in the sci-fi firmament. Great stories, no dross” – Amazon reviewer

“A mix of intriguing ideas… love how it can jump from intergalactic battles between empires one minute and fun ideas about futuristic everyday life the next” – Goodreads reviewer

Back in the day, sci-fi short stories were just basically a much bigger deal. Authors would make their name selling them to those earnest retro science-fiction magazines – Gernsback’s Amazing Stories in 1926, followed by Galaxy, Orbit, Nebula, etc when the format enjoyed its boom period in the post-war era. Short fiction provided an ideal way to explore and keep pace with the rapid technological changes that were spreading through society and once the atomic age was underway, sci-fi writers were suddenly taken much more seriously. The sci-fi story promptly expanded out of its science-first formula into all kinds of spectacularly imaginative areas.

And yet, nowadays, sci-fi short story collections don’t seem anywhere near as prevalent as full-length novels, or series of novels. Ironic, given that our attention spans are supposedly shrinking… or perhaps I just don’t know where to look or listen.

If they are a vanishing breed, then it’s a shame. When I was exploring sci-fi for the first time, short stories offered an easy way in. And some of the classics I stumbled across stayed with me longer than full-length novels: Heinlein’s And He Built A Crooked House, John W. Campbell’s Who Goes There? and Philip K Dick’s Second Variety are just three that lodged in my mind.

Conversations With Droids is a series of short stories presented with the loose aim of introducing readers to the Kassini universe… but it was really written as a chance to have some fun exploring the possibilities of the short-form genre.

Here are five inspirations behind the book…

The Ascent Of Wonder: The Evolution Of Hard SF

This mammoth 900-page compendium of short stories published back in 1994 introduced me to the limitless imaginative possibilities hidden within often mundane scientific concepts. It also helped me understand where subgenres such as cyberpunk fitted into the grand lineage of sci-fi through the ages… second-hand copies are still available for around a tenner.

Philip K Dick

Philip K Dick wrote 44 novels and 121 short stories, and in the latter, he often took the time to pause and clock the details of small-town urban America as well as exploring his other more imaginative realities. His short fiction was extremely varied, too, with plenty of playful stuff among the paranoia and even though TV series Electric Dreams has begun the mining process, its well of ideas will no doubt be returned to for years to come. His short stories were really the Black Mirror of their time.

JG Ballard

There are as many JG Ballard short-story collections as there are novels but for me, 1988’s Memories Of The Space Age has been the one I’ve returned to most often. Resonant, vivid and somehow out-of-time as only a Ballardian creation can truly be, its stories, all set in Cape Canaveral, are like an unsettling lucid dream filled with half-remembered visions, malfunctioning clocks and dead astronauts.

Trope inversion

Short stories in the SF realm can also be an opportunity to have a bit of fun and upend certain stereotypical tropes or well-trodden sci-fi conventions. Conversations With Droids attempts to do this with marines on a bughunt, robot pets, artefacts from ancient civilisations, derelict spacecraft and the prison drama, amongst other things.

The insanity of Max Headroom

There’s always room for a reminder of how out-there 80s sci-fi could get, even in the relative mainstream. There’s an Easter Egg somewhere in Conversations With Droids from a character who bears some kind of passing resemblance to everyone’s favourite experimental AI presenter.

Get your free eBook copy of Conversations With Droids, a book of 12 sci-fi short stories.