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Author Topic: Sphere Saga - A Tale of a Tale  (Read 9617 times)


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Re: Sphere Saga - A Tale of a Tale
« Reply #30 on: 02 April 2014, 11:12:46 »
This story is simply amazing.

Thank you, Hellfire. Glad you're enjoying it.

Since you wanted suggestions. Something about what the Irregulars are contributing would be interesting.

Heh - funny you should mention that. They'll be showing up in a major way soon. Not the next update, but soon.  :)



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Re: Sphere Saga - A Tale of a Tale
« Reply #31 on: 04 April 2014, 11:24:25 »
Just a short update today.

September 07, 3093
Zang shu cheng Report C-3093-NN1022 v3.0.3
Work Under Consideration: Sphere Saga
Nation of Origin: Federated Suns
Classification: Serial of 8 Episodes, 90-minutes each
Subject Matter: The Star League Civil War


Honored Citizen Ma,

Attached is the final report of my section on the Davionist production, Sphere Saga. As required, I will summarise our deliberations and findings here - the details are in the report.

The production company, FallegtVida Entertainment (hereafter FVE) have been unusually cooperative for a Davionist entity, giving my team access to scripts, lists of cast and crew members and limited financial information (including what we believe is a complete list of persons, corporations and institutions with a financial and political interest in the production - see Appendix 7). While some of the backers are dubious, none are on the Proscribed list.

Turning to the persons involved in the production, there are only minor issues. A complete list is to be found in Section 2 of the attached report, but a representative sample follows below.

1. The actor Piotr M. Krikalyov once portrayed the traitor Pavel Ridzik favourably in a Davion propaganda film. As the film was banned from the Confederation, it is assessed that political threat from his appearance in this current production is low.

2. The entertainment financier Carl E. Thackett has made substantial donations to various so-called charitable organisations that provide relief and entertainment to AFFS personnel. As these donations did not result in any material improvements to the state of the AFFS, and as they were similarly not directly aimed at the Confederation, it is assessed that his culpability in Davionist crimes is of the lowest order, and the potential for political embarrassment is likewise low.

3. The producer and head writer Livingston Anderson has been a writer and producer on several serials where agents or forces of the Confederation were explicitly or implicitly the antagonists. It is assessed that his involvement was not more culpable than the established baseline for Davionist works. In addition, none of those serials have ever been passed for viewing in the Confederation. He was known to have lived a life of debauchery during his time as a student in a tertiary institution, but there is nothing of that nature since the early days of his working life. We have the option of demanding that his name be removed from the credits if the Honored Citizen’s judgement requires it.

4. The Director and Executive Producer Camus Ching (see also File FS/SIC-00232-SUB945) is an emigrated Capellan from the Separated Period of the St Ives Commonality. His parents were known to hold Seditionist views, which prompted their exile from the Confederation. It is unknown if they passed them on to their son, who has never made any public political comments. Attempts to ascertain political views through his works have been inconclusive (see his file for more detailed analysis). As he has spent most of his life in the Federated Suns, this can form the basis of any protective measures that the Mask may have to take. His long association with Davionists can be blamed for any seditious fall out from his production. On the balance, it is assessed that the potential political risk from Ching is low.

FVE has also made an unusual offer. They have produced a version of the show specifically for the Confederation. In fact, they have created individual versions of the show for most of the nations in the Inner Sphere and Periphery (The Taurian Concordat, Calderon Protectorate, Clan Occupation Zones, Rasalhague Dominion and Raven Alliance are the only known nations to summarily reject the show). The Confederation version of the show highlights the role of Exalted Barbara Liao as the voice of moderation during the Coup and Civil War. She is presented in a respectful manner.

The presentation of hostile state leaders is mixed. The Davionists are presented in a neutral manner, and the Marik family in a decidedly negative fashion.

The Star League itself is actually presented in a marginally negative light. This is considered to be politically acceptable in view of current aggression and propaganda against the Confederation from the pirate-republic of the sphere. It is assessed that that the plotlines in this production meet Capellan standards.

There are also only minor concerns from the standpoint of public morals and order. It is assessed that these can be dealt with by minor editing.

In conclusion, Honored Citizen Ma, it is the recommendation of my team that the show Sphere Saga be passed for viewing in the Confederation.

Xin Sheng!

Citizen Melody Ingram


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Re: Sphere Saga - A Tale of a Tale
« Reply #32 on: 16 April 2014, 03:16:46 »
Belated I know, but I have to say that I've been loving this fic. It's the sort of thing I really relish; the average, the everyday, the nuts-and-bolts of the universe and the lives of those within it. Not everything has to be about giant stompy robots blowing things up, and this is the sort of stuff that nicely compliments and builds on the universe to show what life is like within it. Its great stuff, and I can't wait for more
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Re: Sphere Saga - A Tale of a Tale
« Reply #33 on: 16 April 2014, 16:22:23 »
Belated I know, but I have to say that I've been loving this fic. It's the sort of thing I really relish; the average, the everyday, the nuts-and-bolts of the universe and the lives of those within it. Not everything has to be about giant stompy robots blowing things up, and this is the sort of stuff that nicely compliments and builds on the universe to show what life is like within it. Its great stuff, and I can't wait for more

Thank you, Deadborder. One of my favourite things about BT is the "completeness" of the BTU. It's actually made the research for writing this easier than I expected. I've had to invent far less than I feared.

I'm slowly putting together the next installment in between work, family and other projects. There's still more to the story.



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Re: Sphere Saga - A Tale of a Tale
« Reply #34 on: 25 April 2014, 11:11:00 »
Sorry - not an update this time, but a request for information, on several lines.

1. Does anyone know the names/classes of the other eight ships involved in the Prinz Eugen mutiny?

2. Who is/are the canon CO/s of Snord's Irregulars in the 3085-3100 timeframe?

3. Are the Battlecorps short stories regarding Andrey Kerensky's time in the Exodus fleet considered canon?

4. There is no question 4.  ;)

5. What is the status of Unity City in the Republic of the Sphere era? Does it even still exist?

Many thanks in advance for any help you can give. Cameos are available if you want them.



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Re: Sphere Saga - A Tale of a Tale
« Reply #35 on: 25 April 2014, 22:51:37 »
1. I think the Prinz Eugen is a Texas Class Battleship. Of the others I think one was called a Potempkin known as the Hermes. (It might be in the writeup for Clan Snow Raven in FM: Warden Clans)

2. Unfortunately, I don't know/remember.

3. Not sure - you might want to refer that one to the "Ask the Writers" section.

5. I think Comstar/WoB had restored the City in the Centuries prior to the Jihad, I'm not sure, what if anything happened to it during the Jihad.

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Re: Sphere Saga - A Tale of a Tale
« Reply #36 on: 25 April 2014, 23:07:35 »
By the mid-Jihad, the CO of Snord's Irregulars was Natasha Snord, Rhonda's adoptive daughter (Rhonda has no biological children that we know of). Given that the Irregulars survived the Jihad, I think it's fair to say that she's still leading them
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Re: Sphere Saga - A Tale of a Tale
« Reply #37 on: 28 April 2014, 11:32:53 »
1. I think the Prinz Eugen is a Texas Class Battleship. Of the others I think one was called a Potempkin known as the Hermes. (It might be in the writeup for Clan Snow Raven in FM: Warden Clans)

2. Unfortunately, I don't know/remember.

3. Not sure - you might want to refer that one to the "Ask the Writers" section.

5. I think Comstar/WoB had restored the City in the Centuries prior to the Jihad, I'm not sure, what if anything happened to it during the Jihad.

Okay, thanks for that Redshirt. Forgot about the Hermes - that will help.



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Re: Sphere Saga - A Tale of a Tale
« Reply #38 on: 28 April 2014, 11:33:36 »
By the mid-Jihad, the CO of Snord's Irregulars was Natasha Snord, Rhonda's adoptive daughter (Rhonda has no biological children that we know of). Given that the Irregulars survived the Jihad, I think it's fair to say that she's still leading them

Yeah, that's the assumption I'm going with too. Thanks Deadborder.



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Re: Sphere Saga - A Tale of a Tale
« Reply #39 on: 09 May 2014, 16:03:22 »
And slowly, slowly, the story continues

January 03, 3094
The Avalon Gazette - Notice of Royal Public Engagements

The Princess Regent & Consort will tour the Ranford Children’s Hospital this morning. Princess Yvonne and Duke Tancred will then attend a luncheon at Ranford City Hall.

His Highness, Prince Harrison Davion & Lady Isabella Hasek have returned from vacation. They will join Princess Yvonne and Duke Tancred at the New Globe Theatre this evening for the charity premiere of the new production Sphere Saga in aid of the Interstellar Red Cross.

January 03, 3094
FNS Live Event - Sphere Saga Charity Premiere Red Carpet Show


FNS’s “Special Event” theme music plays as the show returns from an ad break.

An anchor desk built on an elevated platform overlooking the red carpet, which passes a cordoned-off public and media gallery to the grand entrance of the New Globe Theatre - fully five times larger than its original Terran namesake, and recently renovated and upgraded, post-jihad. The gallery is packed, and minor nobles are already processing up the carpet to take their places in the 3,000 seat holo-theatre within.

Sitting at the desk are OLIVER LaCOMBE, the tall, dark and handsome chief entertainment reporter for Federated News Services, and host for the red carpet show. Flanking him are the middle-aged SUSAN SEELEE, writer for Fashionista e-zine and the considerably more senior MARGOT CARDINAL, Royal Affairs correspondent for FNS.  All are dressed as if expecting to walk the carpet themselves.

A crawl across the bottom of the screen updates periodically with QuiComs from the audience.

Oliver LaCombe: Welcome back to the Red Carpet Show for the Charity premiere of Sphere Saga, the long-awaited maxi-series from Camus Ching. Just a reminder that Sphere Saga’s first two episodes will broadcast, back-to-back Sunday night - so keep watching!

Behind them, the public gallery erupts in cheers and shrieks, while camera flashes go off with increasing frequency.

QuiCom: Too many nobles, not enough stars so far #HeartTonyShand

OL: Looks like we have some more action on the red carpet - let’s go back to Lucille and Andreas.

Cut to:

EXT. RED CARPET - Where the petite Lucille Chandler and the tall Andreas Vlahos, themselves dressed to the nines, thin wand-microphones in their hands, prepped to conduct on-carpet interviews. Both are half-turned away from the camera, occasionally glancing down the length of the carpet to track their next subject, who’s doing the walk-and-wave.

Lucille Chandler: [raising her voice to be heard over the cheering] Thanks, Oliver! Marcus Ettard has just arrived with Tanya Pollux, and you can hear the reaction from the fans! I think Andreas has them now - yes he has. Andreas?

QC: Marielle’s dress was #fashionfail looked like dead avian

NEW ANGLE - On Andreas, who has corralled Marcus Ettard and his latest flame, singer Tanya Pollux. Ettard is dressed far more formally than usual, though with a touch of flair. The typical formal white, high collared shirt and black pants (tight in his case) are covered by a blue knee-length coat with black and gold trim. The black coat cuffs are slightly oversized, and shot through with intricate patterns in gold thread. Ettard has grown out his hair enough to secure in a ponytail, and added a neat goatee to match.

Tanya Pollux, rising star in the pop world, is wearing a strapless, blue, floor length dress that matches the shade of her date’s jacket - and her eyes, incidentally (thanks to contacts). The gold thread accents are more prominent here, and for a reason - beads of soft gold light travel along the threads in seemingly random fashion, making it look like tiny shooting stars are flashing across her dress.

Andreas Vlahos: Hello Marcus! Hello Tanya!

Marcus Etttard: Hi!

Tanya Pollux: Hi!

AV: How does it feel to be here tonight?

ME: This is amazing - just unbelievable!

AV: [pressing a hand to his earpiece] Our fashion commentator wants to know if you were both dressed by Rani Chandrasekar?

ME: Yeah - she did an amazing job didn’t she?

TP: [does a twirl on the carpet] We love you, Rani!

AV: Any truth to the rumours that Maxima del Piero has cast you in her next movie?

ME: If she has, I’m the last to know! But I’d love to work with her!

AV: And are you looking forward to meeting the Princess Regent?

ME: Oh, man - I’m freaking out a bit about that! Hey, I’m just a longboarding beachbum who got real lucky you know? I couldn’t even tell you the name of my local baron, and now I’m gonna come face to face with the ruler of the nation - It’s just wild

QC: Marcus & Tanya in matching outfits #tacky #codependent

AV: Okay - thanks for your time - congratulations again, and enjoy yourselves

ME & TP: Thank you!

AV: [turning back to camera] And that was Marcus Ettard and Tanya Pollux. I believe Lucille has someone else now - Lucille?

NEW ANGLE on Lucille Chandler who has Diana Rossiter. Diana is wearing a stunning figure-hugging floor-length red dress that nicely compliments her mocha-hued skin. Silver frosting-like sequins swirl around her shoulders and waist. Her hair is down, but contained by a matching silver-toned hairnet.

Beside her is her teenaged daughter, almost as tall as her mother, dressed in a white knee-length dress with a bolero jacket and matching heels and purse.

QC: Marcus and Tanya look like a #cutecouple

LC: Thanks Andreas - look who’s here - Diana Rossiter, how are you?

Diana Rossiter: Wonderful, Lucille. This is quite the crowd, isn’t it?

LC: I couldn’t agree more. Tell me, who designed your dress?

DR: This is a PhanRic creation.

LC: Wow! How many dresses did you try on before this one?

DR: I think this was the tenth one - so it didn’t take too long.

QC: #TanyaPollux will be gone tomorrow and #MarcusEttard will have someone else, so all you #MarcEfans can chill

LC: Well, it’s stunning. What did you enjoy most about making Sphere Saga?

DR: Oh, just the chance to work with some wonderful people, in front of and behind the camera.

LC: And how do you feel about being meeting the Princess Regent?

DR: It’s a great honour. I think it’s wonderful that she’s coming out to see our show, and help us raise money for the Interstellar Red Cross.

LC: Well, I hope you have a wonderful evening - thank you for your time, Diana. [turns back to camera] Back to you, Oliver.

CUT TO: Anchor Desk. You can actually see Diana Rossiter moving on down the red carpet in the background, trailed by camera flashes.

OL: Thanks Lucille, and Andreas. So that’s pretty much the whole cast, and now we’re just standing by for the arrival of the Royal Party.

AV: [voiceover] Oliver, if I can just break in here for a second -

NEW ANGLE - split screen - anchor desk on left, Andreas and Lucille on right - they are actually walking off the red carpet.

OL: Yes, go ahead, Andreas.

QC: Got my fashion fix for the month. Roll on the #Rennies LOL

AV: As you can see, we’re being moved into the media area now by the Guardsmen, so the arrival of the Princess Regent and Heir are now imminent.

OL: Thank you, Andreas. [screen returns to anchor desk only]. Susan, before the royals get here, can I quickly ask you what you thought of the fashions on display here this evening?

Susan Seelee: I think we witnessed an interesting trend here tonight, Oliver, a generational change, if you will. There’s a growing number of interstellar designers represented on the red carpet. Now, I’m as much a “FedSuns First” gal as anyone, but it’s wonderful to see the work of these geniuses from outside the realm - Chaim Manuel, Wei Sung, PhanRic, and the others. Wei Sung, in particular, I’ve missed, and I think he was too harshly penalized for something that wasn't even his fault.

OL: You're referring to his designs being a favourite of the former So-called Archon Princess?

SS: Yes. It's unfortunate that he became tarred by association - if I can mix metaphors there -

Margot Cardinal: I think it works, actually.

SS: - when he had no control over his customer base, as it were. So it's nice to see three of his gowns on show, here, two of them being worn by nobles.

OL: Thank you, Susan. Margot, any thoughts on the turnout of nobles for this event?

MG: It’s pretty much the usual flock that shows up whenever the Princess Regent is around. Surprisingly few have come from off-world, but then again it’s too close to New Years - they’re probably staying close to their estates. But it is a measure of how prestigious this event is that virtually every Duke, Duchess, Earl, Marquessa, Baron and Baroness on-planet is here tonight. I believe the Interstellar Red Cross will be very pleased with the turnout.

OL: Yes, the latest figures we have are a total of two and a half million Pounds pledged to the cause, and of course we await the tally from the silent auction - and I’m hearing that the royal motorcade is approaching -

NEW ANGLE: same split screen arrangement as before, the right hand window showing a High-angle shot of four hoverlimos coming down a cleared boulevard, flanked by motorcycles with security cars front and back - the whole procession nearly thirty vehicles in all, including an ambulance, pursuit lights flashing on the security vehicles. This view expands to fill the whole screen. Faint cheering from the crowd can be heard in the background.

OL: [VO, continuing] - and here they come.

NEW ANGLE: Medium-high angle on the start of the red carpet as the second hoverlimo pulls up and settles, its rear door precisely flanked by two privates of the First Royal Davion Infantry Regiment. A corporal of the same regiment opens the limo door smartly as his colleagues throw parade-ground-perfect salutes.

Princess Regent Yvonne Davion climbs out of the limo, clad in a dark cream gown and shrug. A minimalist tiara sits atop her hair, which although still distinctly red, has noticeably lightened in shade over the years. The roar from the crowd goes up a gear as she emerges, and ratchets up again as she throws a wave to the assembled throng.

OL: And there she is, Princess Regent Yvonne Davion.

SS: Her gown is from the studio of her favourite designer, Nicola Suleyman.

MC: And she is wearing the Stuart Tiara, which was created for Paul Davion’s wife, Elise Stuart in 2831 - an interesting choice since she usually wears the Melissa Tiara created for her mother by Amberley & Sons.

OL: Here comes Duke Sandoval.

Coming out next is her consort, Duke Tancred Sandoval. Still a formidable figure despite his 74 years, he has chosen to wear his military uniform befitting his status as the titular commander of the Robinson Rangers. Twenty years older than his wife, he gives almost no sign of the difference in age. If you’re sharp, you may notice that although he carries his cane when walking, in the fashion of nobles of his generation, he immediately leans upon it when stopped.

MC: Ah yes, making quite the statement with the uniform. He rarely wears it outside of military functions anymore, so I wonder if there’s a message here.

SS: It might be about how striking he looks! He’s got the breastplate on and everything. And are those spurs?

MC: Indeed - reminding everyone he’s a MechWarrior. Oh - there they go.

The First Couple of the Federated Suns process arm-in-arm up the centre of the red carpet, between lines of First Royal Davion Infantry Regiment troopers (facing in), alternating with business-suited security agents (facing out).

Meanwhile, the fourth hoverlimo has pulled up to the carpet, and the saluting drill is repeated as Prince Harrison Davion, alights, then turns to offer his arm to Lady Isabella Hasek. Both younger nobles receive their own round of cheers, noticeably higher in pitch. They are popular with the younger generation.

SS: Well - look at that. Prince Harrison is actually in Court Dress!

OL: You have to admit - he doesn’t look very comfortable!

MC: He’s not noted for his love of formality, that’s for sure! Hopefully this is sign of growing maturity - which I might add, seems to have started when he started seeing Lady Isabelle.

Lady Isabelle takes Prince Harrison’s arm as they follow his parents up the carpet. She is dressed in a flowing ice-blue gown cut along classical lines.

OL: Speaking of whom, do you have any information on Lady Isabelle’s dress, Susan?

SS: Yes, Oliver, I do. She’s been dressed by Yasmine Krueger, an up-and-coming designer who’s selling out all over the Capellan March - remember that name, folks. The dress is meant to be a tribute to the styles of the Terran Hegemony during Simon Cameron’s reign.

OL: Thanks Susan - you might just have sent the UniNet into meltdown as fashionistas everywhere start Scrying “Yasmine Krueger”.

At the top of the red carpet, Princess Yvonne and Duke Tancred enter the Globe.

OL: And the royal couple have just entered the theatre. We take you now inside to the Atrium -

CUT TO: INT Globe Atrium - a grand foyer lit by a combination of natural and artificial light. A long line of cast and crew are assembled at one side. The air overhead is filled with a holo-poster for Sphere Saga - overlaid on a cracked Cameron Star are a slowly changing procession of character portraits and images from the series.

OL: (VO, cont’d) - and here we see - my goodness, is that Camus Ching at the front of the line?

AV: (VO) I do believe it is, Oliver! We can see him from the media corral here! He just stepped out from a side door just before the Princess-Regent entered the building!

OL: Well, this is a remarkable day - there was speculation that Ching wouldn’t even show up for this, and here he is...

On screen, Ching steps out of line to approach the royal couple, makes a formal bow, and engages in conversation with Princess Yvonne and Duke Tancred for a minute or so, then leads them to the receiving line, where Deenah Muskovoy is the first in line.

Extract from Reliving it, Almost: Behind the Scenes of Sphere Saga by Livingston Anderson. Pub. Avalon Press, 3105

The night of the Charity Premiere was a bittersweet one for me.

On the professional front, it was a triumph. We raised over five million pounds for the Interstellar Red Cross. The audience cheered, gasped and applauded at all the right places. And since Hassan Fasil, in one of his last public outings,  had the seat next to mine, I had the satisfaction of watching him receive his deserved recognition for the fine work he did to help us flesh out even those characters who would only briefly grace the screen.

On the personal front, the fact that Hassan had the seat next to mine clearly underlined who wasn’t there - Luther. It had all become too much for him in October. I had staggered home at 3AM from yet another marathon editing session to find his things gone, and a long letter on the dining room table. It’s still painful to recall the contents, mostly because they were true.

I wasn’t around anymore. Everything was about Sphere Saga. I talked, ate, slept the show. There had been too many broken commitments, too many weekends at the office. Luther didn’t know the new Livingston. He didn’t like the new Livingston. This new Livingston was completely fulfilled by the new dreamboat in town - Sphere Saga, and Luther was tired of competing against it, and losing.

It was a damning indictment. Anyone who’s involved with a writer of any form has my sincere respect and sympathies. They’re always sharing our attention with some other world or milieu that only exists in our imaginations, listening to people who don’t exist, and always, always insecure because it’s so damned difficult to know if you’ve done good work. I’ve written scripts that I thought were irredeemable rubbish, only to watch actors and directors elevate the material to unexpected heights. I’ve also had scripts that I thought were solid turn to guano on the screen. It’s enough to give you a complex, and our partners have to live with it. Once again, I salute you.

Believe me, I did try to get Luther back. My first attempt was at 3:30AM when I found him at his sister’s place. That conversation (I use the term loosely) did not go well. By year’s end, though, we’d reached an agreement to divorce amicably at the first available opportunity. In fact, I’d received the first draft of the agreement from his attorney just before getting on the ship for New Avalon.

So I was not exactly in the best frame of mind when I boarded. Livy and her husband, Nikolai noticed, and they made sure I did more than just lock myself in my cabin to revise scripts on the trip. They made sure I mingled, got me drunk so I could talk and cry, and made sure I got back to my cabin in one piece. I owe them for that.

As for the Charity Premiere itself - well, what a circus. It actually began almost as soon as we landed on New Year’s Day. Briefings from the studio about press commitments (us writers got off lightly - just one collective panel interview and three solos each. Piotr, Tony, Harrison and Diana did upwards of two hundred interviews between them that day). Fittings for our suits and dresses. Briefings from the Interstellar Red Cross about their work and how we’d be helping them (which led to Harrison’s infamous quip about the Star league Reconstruction Project). Very serious Security Briefing from a Very Serious AFFS Leftenant-Colonel. Unintentionally hilarious protocol briefing from a (also very serious) senior Lady-in-waiting to the Princess Regent. Despite her best efforts, out of the Writers’ High Council, only Cal correctly executed the bow-shake-greet routine correctly on the night, not that it seemed to bother the Princess Regent and the Duke when they got to us in the line.

I know I talked briefly with all the royals on the line, but don’t remember what I said. It’s an intimidating thing to come face-to-face with your sovereign, and I will admit to being amused to see even Camus and Tony stumble a bit as they interacted with the royal party.

By some sort of luck, I was assigned to a box in the Circle from where I only had to turn my head slightly to observe the Royal Box. Now, for all I knew, the Princess Regent’s taste in entertainment might have run to adolescent comedies instead of historical epics, and, yes, in the final analysis, her singular opinion of Saga would not be that important, but it was still gratifying to see that she enjoyed the two episodes screened that night. I noticed her paying particular attention to the scenes where Amaris and Kerensky vie for the ear and heart of Richard Cameron - echoes of her own past perhaps? I can only speculate. Duke Tancred found the battle scenes most convincing. I know because he told Colonel Snord at the reception, and she passed it on to me. Only Prince Harrison seemed distracted during the screening, but I figured that three out of four wasn’t bad, and chose to let the glass be half full.

I’d be lying if I told you how wonderful the post-screening reception and after parties were. My main goal was to get drunk quickly. Most of us were taking the opportunity to blow off steam and celebrate together. Intellectually, we knew we were only a third of the way through - at least four more hard years lay ahead. But what we’d achieved to this point deserved recognition.

Never mind my marriage breakup - every member of the cast and crew had been having an affair with this Siren of a production for at least two years now - most longer. It had had first call on our time, talents and minds. For the first time, we could let those of us who had partners join in, a little. Toasts were made to Camus, to each other, to the show, to partners. Hassan let us use his wheelchair as a drinks trolley to more efficiently reload our alcohol of choice. Deenah and Livy somehow convinced everyone to jump into the hotel pool, fully clothed. Someone took a unique group photo that still has a place of pride in my home.

The next afternoon, when my hangover allowed it, I read the first of the reviews, and my insecurity vanished for the moment.

Roll on Season 2.


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Re: Sphere Saga - A Tale of a Tale
« Reply #40 on: 10 July 2014, 17:47:00 »
Please tell me it not been canceled...

out on the Periphery these things happen and you never hear about it until it is too late
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Re: Sphere Saga - A Tale of a Tale
« Reply #41 on: 15 July 2014, 14:33:08 »
Please tell me it not been canceled...

out on the Periphery these things happen and you never hear about it until it is too late

It's not cancelled, Doc Argen - just sorting out "production issues" (which means I got swamped at work). I have about half the next installment ready to go, but it needs polishing and a natural break point.

Hang in there - Sphere Saga is still alive


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Re: Sphere Saga - A Tale of a Tale
« Reply #42 on: 18 July 2014, 16:18:26 »
The Fan Panel Webcast #412
January 8 3094

FADE IN on INT. of someone’s living room - literally. Four hosts, all in their twenties and thirties sit on a couch and two armchairs around a coffee table. PDAs and sheets of paper jostle for space on the table with a variety of coffee mugs and cans of energy drinks.

Caesar Trujillo: Hey everybody! Welcome to The Fan Panel - where we commentate and debate and dissect the hottest shows filling the airwaves today. It’s pretty obvious what we’re going to be talking about today, so let’s take it away, compadres!

Aisling Windemere: Thanks Caesar. So, Sphere Saga had this massive mountain of expectation to climb - it’s ambitious, it’s Ching’s first work in a decade, it’s in an insane format. How do we think they did?

Eliska Sokolova: I think it pretty much lived up to the hype - it was a bit rough in places, but I think there’s enough there to keep us coming back for more.

Marvin Jung: I have to disagree there - it’s well crafted, but way too melodramatic. And many of the characters border on stereotype - with a couple of exceptions.

CT: I’m kinda in between the two of you -

ES: You usually are!

CT: - in that I thought the show showed glimpses of its potential, but maybe, just maybe, some of the actors weren’t quite up to the demands of their roles.

AW: Can you give us some examples?

CT: Well, Marcus Ettard for one - I mean, he tried, don’t get me wrong, but the script was asking him to basically play the tortured neglected kid who does horrible things because of his crappy upbringing, and he didn’t have the command of his craft to make us sympathise with him.

MJ: I almost felt like cheering when Amaris capped him!

ES: Oh, come on! Richard Cameron was a horrible person. I actually think Ettard did an okay job - yes, I know he’s no Pierre Morin, but he had to play his big scenes opposite Krikalyov and Kuek.

AW: Well, maybe we should go to the first clip and see?


EXT: The Stellar Gardens, Palace of the League, Unity City, late morning. A terraced garden on the grounds of the Palace. Stocked with plants from all over the Terran Hegemony, and cut through with an artificial stream that crosses and re-crosses the pathways in the garden, it is a relaxing refuge that many First Lords have spent time in.

RICHARD CAMERON stands beside a marble bench, looking over a flowerbed bursting with multi-coloured three-petaled blossoms from some planet he’s never visited. In the background stand a pair of SLSSS agents, eyes discretely sweeping the area. One of them turns to see STEFAN AMARIS entering the garden, trailed by another pair of SLSSS agents.

Amaris walks up to Cameron with a smile on his face, pauses three steps from the teenager, and bows.

Stefan Amaris: My Lord Cameron.

Richard Cameron: [Turning to face Amaris] Lord Amaris.

Under this, Amaris’s SLSSS escorts retreat off screen.

SA: Stefan, if you please, Lord Cameron, Stefan.

RC: Alright… Stefan. [Sighs] General Kerensky tells me I must meet with all of you Lords, so I am.

SA: Ah. That is wise of the General.

RC: And why is that?

SA: It is good to know those whom you would rule, Lord Cameron. Did you have a chance to read the book I gave you in the summer?

RC: I did. [Pauses while he considers]. I see what you mean. But if I’m meant to arm myself against the Lords, why would you point that out to me? You’re one yourself.

SA: Lord Cameron - [now it’s his turn to pause] Would you mind if I sit down? I am not so young as you.

RC: [Surprised, but recovers] No, not at all.

SA: [Sits heavily on the ornate bench]. Thank you. Lord Cameron, I will be frank. I am a Lord of a realm, yes. But it is one heavily overpopulated and under-resourced. I do my best, I think, but if any of the so-called Great Houses were to move against me, I would not be able to resist them for long. Only the Star League stays their hands. One day, in the not so distant future, you will be the Star League made manifest. Your intentions will be the League’s intentions. And so, by helping you, I ensure my own survival.

RC: General Kerensky has a different point of view.

SA: Well…

RC: What, Stefan?

SA: Lord Cameron, General Kerensky is a good man. I feel he is doing the best he can for you, according to his best understanding.

RC: [Takes a seat on another bench opposite Amaris] What do you mean?

SA: The General is a military man, and see things through a military lens. And the military is important, yes, but it is only one of the many threads that a ruler has to control. The economy, culture, the moral welfare of the nation - you have specialist advisors  in all these areas, Lord Cameron, and they too see the universe through their own lenses. As the leader, you must see the bigger picture woven from these threads. The big picture that the specialists cannot. [Pause] And act accordingly.

RC: [Quoting from the book, quietly] “That is the Burden and the Right of the King.”

Amaris nods. A beat passes, then another.

RC: Call me Richard, Stefan.

And Amaris smiles his most charming smile.


MJ: Okay - see there, that’s the surprise of these first two episodes - Kuek’s Amaris is an utterly charming bastard, and he’s played Amaris with nuances and subtleties up the ying-yang. There’s some deadly attraction going on there.

CT: And you can see what I mean there with Ettard - he’s overacting the petulant spoiled brat.

ES: Actually, I think it kind of proves my point. Kuek is brilliant here - no sign of Uncle Han whatsoever. If it had been any other actor, we’d be saying that Ettard held his own here.

AW: Okay, to sum up, we think Kuek was brilliant and are split on Ettard.

CT: That’s about right. Shall we move on?

MJ & ES: Sure.

CT: Next up - probably one of the more controversial aspects of this series so far. Richard Cameron’s relationship with his sisters. [Picks up one of the tablets on the table]. The UniNet has gone completely nuts over this.

ES: And they should be - Ching’s pretty much sided with the Cameron Incest Conspiracy nutjobs here.

AW: [Picking up her own tablet] Well, one of the writers, Olivia Tsu, has taken to QuiCom to address those concerns. She writes: “RCameron’s abuse of his sisters was attested to by numerous staffers who worked with his family. He was more complicated than we like to think”.

MJ: Well, whether the Sphere Saga team are right or wrong about this issue, I have to say that watching those scenes was really disturbing -

CT: They didn’t show anything!

MJ: They didn’t have to! The implication was worse, especially with the Ching Angles thrown in. They just suggested and implied with the framing, and left your imagination to fill in the rest. Am I wrong about this?

ES: I think they showed as much as they could, but I think this just proves my point about Ettard. This is the most complex role he’s ever had, and even if he isn’t in the same class as his castmates, one - they have decades of experience on him, and, two - if you’re disturbed by those scenes where they didn’t show anything explicit, it’s because of Ettard’s acting. He was downright scary there, in a good way.

CJ: Okay - any other comments about the acting?

MJ: I have to give some nods to Piotr Krikalyov as Kerensky. I didn’t think anyone would ever top Marius Firmin’s version of the great General, but Piotr is in a class of his own here.

AW: Yeah - he was awesome, but you kind of expect that from a two-time Rennie winner.

ES: Total of six nominations, don’t forget.

CT: I’ll tell you what I liked about him. Kerensky’s being out-manoeuvred politically and personally by Amaris in these first couple of episodes, but he doesn’t come off as a wimp or idiot. And when he recovers from the shock at the end of episode two, it’s not jarring - you just realise that the strengths have been there all along, it’s just that now the game has moved to his playing field, where he can show them. Krikalyov played the balance beautifully - if Sphere Saga was Rennie-eligible, I’d say he’d be a Best Actor lock.

AW: Wow! Alright, on to Caesar’s favourite parts - the battle scenes

[Caesar laughs]

AW: Opinions?

[Now Eliska has a tablet in her hands]

ES: I think the UniNet consensus is that the battles were “intense”.

[Nods all around as the others agree]

AW: Caesar - any favourites?

CT: Well, it’s going to be boring, but the last stand of the Royal Black Watch still does it for me.

MJ: Even after watching it thirty times?

CT: Yep. And because I watched the leaked version thirty times, I know that they used a different cut in the broadcast.

MJ: Really?

CT: Yep. I didn’t have time to to a scene-by-scene compare, but I did notice that they inserted some shots showing where everyone was at different points - I guess to make things clearer. And all of the nine Black Watch MechWarriors got face time in the broadcast version.

ES: Huh. Maybe that’s Camus Ching’s perfectionism at work again.

CT: Could be.

MJ: Well, I’ll tell you what struck me about the battle scenes - they had a feel very similar to Outpost 5 - remember Ching’s Clan war film?

CT: Yep.

MJ: I got the same sense here - you don’t know what’s going on, especially in the takeover scenes. I mean, when the Rimmers burst into General Dechavilier’s house and gun down his wife and kids -

AW: No kidding!

ES: Massively!

CT: Okay - so everyone agrees with me for once!

MJ: And only!

AW: Turning now to another issue - the rumoured lawsuits...


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Re: Sphere Saga - A Tale of a Tale
« Reply #43 on: 06 November 2014, 00:48:36 »
And we're back - despite life getting in the way of writing.

Trailer for Sphere Saga Episode 103: War, But Not As We Know It

OPEN on Sphere Saga Animated Logo

Announcer: (Voice Over throughout) In two weeks, Sphere Saga returns -

CUT TO EXT: Panning shot of Warships of the SLDF Navy recharging at a star’s Zenith point.

General Kerensky: (Voice Over) Mohammed Selim, I give you this one chance - and one chance only to surrender the Rim Worlds Republic to the Star League Defence Force.

CUT TO EXT APOLLO, NIGHT: A Rim Worlds military officer (Phillip Drummond) floors it in his personal car through the streets of the capitol. In the distance is a huge firestorm, punctuated by naval laser bombardment.

Announcer: And the Star League Defence Force takes the fight right into the Usurper’s backyard.

NEW ANGLE: Looking up into the skies as another Naval Laser barrage spears down -

NEW ANGLE: from Drummond’s perspective as the shockwave from the strike thunders toward him - shattering his windscreen and flipping his ground car.

  • A Company of Royal Marauders discarding their aero-shells during a Drop
  • A civilian hovertruck careening wildly toward an SLDF manned checkpoint, the troopers firing at it
  • General Kerensky staring determinedly into space

Announcer: Where things are not as they expect.

  • A SLDF Mechanised Infantry column drives into a city somewhere in the Rim Worlds Republic, surrounded by cheering civilians.
  • An armed mob drags a RWR officer into a public square
  • A young RWR child runs up to a damaged framed portrait of Stefan Amaris lying on the ground and stamps on it as other civilians cheer.

General DeChavilier: (Voice Over) This is war, but not as we know it.

CUT TO: CRANE SHOT pulling back on the smoking ruins of a RWR fort, as SLDF ‘Mechs and troops move in.

General Kerensky: (VO) The Rim Worlds Republic will be the next stepping stone on our way home.

Announcer: Sunday, January 21, here on Sparx!

Extract from Reliving it, Almost: Behind the Scenes of Sphere Saga by Livingston Anderson. Pub. Avalon Press, 3105

Getting kicked upstairs to Executive Producer level made me wish for the good old days. As Head Writer, I was already a Producer, but for convoluted and, frankly, nonsensical, reasons dating back the first explosion of motion entertainment on old Terra, the title “Producer” is one of the most nebulous in the entire Human Sphere.

There are Producers who have a finger in every aspect of their show’s workings. And there are some whose only involvement with the show is picking up a royalty cheque every quarter.

See what I mean?

Thus the proliferation of suffixes to the base title in order to get a sense of what the actual hierarchy is on a show - and to cause you despair just as the end of my meanderings is sight, I should point out that most of these suffixes are similarly meaningless. It’s why I always prefered to be known as the Writer, or Supervising Writer, or Head Writer, as the case may be. At least then you sort of knew what you were getting when you had to interact with me - Buddha help you.

However - “Executive Producer” is a title that’s mostly unsullied by all the other shenanigans attached to the base label. It’s simply where the buck collectively stops. With this yoke on your shoulders, you actually had to make real decisions.

I’d done the job before, on Thin Black Line, Nobody’s the Wiser, Ducal Duties, and Fires of Porto Augusta, but that was small potatoes compared to Sphere Saga, in all it’s galactic glory and myriad of moving parts. But it had to be done. We’d learned that the hard way on Season 1 when we’d had to establish a fifth, then sixth, and eventually seventh Unit to finish shooting on schedule. As I mentioned previously, I became the director for the sixth unit out of necessity, but at least then I could go to Camus for the final decision on anything I ran into.

Now, thanks to the expanding scope of the story and Camus’s little health scare, I was firmly ensconced as his equal at the top of the pyramid. And that meant I had to deal with the Studio, mostly via Horace.

It didn’t take too long for the first groundquake to arrive.

We knew we’d done well with the first season. We’d not just blown off the proverbial roof, we’d sent it into geosynchronous orbit. The ratings were high, the box office take astronomical (and the frivolous lawsuits plenty).

So, at the risk of sounding really cocky, we were expecting the proverbial three-bags-full come nomination season.

The early trend was promising. The minor awards started nominating in October. About the only surprises there were the number of foreign awards we were in competition for. Although the Lyran’s GFTBs were practically a given, the Saga team was pumped when we got nominated in several of the former Free Worlds states and the Combine. We also got nominated for Best Foreign Series in the Rasalhague Dominion, which really made the FVE lawyers sit up and take notice, because we weren’t officially being broadcast in the Clan territories.

Then came the big three nearest and dearest to my heart - the Vox Pops, the Stellars and the Rennies.

I’ve always been surprised that very few people actually know how the nomination and voting process for the FedSuns big three entertainment awards shows actually work, so grab a pew, sit down and listen as Uncle Livingston takes you through it (this is all germane to the story, I promise you - would this face lie to you?)

So, in ascending order of prestige:

The Vox Pops.

The bastard descendent of all those vote-for-your-favourite-celebrity shows going all the way back to old Terra, the Vox Pops was originally created by the Mikkelson entertainment conglomerate back before the Third Succession War, primarily to highlight their stable of exclusive contract stars. It became independent of Mikkelson in the thirties, but still carries the stigma. However, it’s important to the industry because it can serve as a useful raw estimate of popularity, especially for rising stars.

Nominations (and voting)  are open to literally anyone who bothers to use the VoxPopsVote Apps (or mails in the forms in the Outback). Naturally, this skews the results towards the young and beautiful. Despite the efforts of the VoxPops controlling board in recent decades to broaden their base, the average VP voter is still a teenaged female (although, to be fair to them, these days that demographic is a plurality rather than a majority like it was back in ‘94).

As expected, Marcus Ettard and Crystal DelBosco snapped up individual VP nominations as well as one for Best Couple, for their work as Richard and Elise Cameron.

Well and good - that was predictable. What was not predictable, however, was that we would get a VP nomination for best series: as I said before, most VP voters were teenage girls, and a war/historical epic was not really their cup of tea.

So the VoxPops pretty much went as expected.

Now, the Stellars.

Although started by a loose alliance of entertainment writers and reporters shortly before the fall of the first Star League, these days the Stellars are voted on by all types of journalists. You only have to be accredited by one of several bodies recognised by the Stellar’s Controlling Board (technically, I’m eligible to vote because of my brief stint as a Policing Reporter for my local newsheet thirty years ago).

The franchise was expanded because it proved to be surprisingly difficult to get entertainment reporters to reach a majority decision in any of the categories. After the voting tallies for the 2976 to 2991 Stellars were leaked, which showed that some winners only got as little as 32% of the total vote, it was decided that perhaps entertainment reporters were a little too protective of their opinions, and the Stellars were reborn as the journalists’ pick.

The Stellars tend to be a good bellwether for the Rennies, while still retaining enough independence to occasionally disagree in stark fashion. You can still start bar fights in some places by musing aloud over whether the Stellar’s pick for the 3032 Best Pic (Rushes and Shades) was really better than the Rennie’s choice of The Frenetic for the same honour (for the record, I’m with the Stellars on this one - excuse me while I duck).

Again, we expected, and got, a flood of nominations. I was especially pleased to see that Hassan and Olivia were nominated for best script for Road to Exodus. There were only minor surprises again - Simone Lichkin picked up a Best Music Score nomination (her first ever), but Pytor Krikalyov missed out on a Best Actor nomination. Overall, however, we were quite pleased.

Finally, the Rennies.

Because of its status as primus inter pares of all the awards, more people know that the Rennies is run by the Film and Motion Picture Academy of the Federated Suns (FMPAFS), and that this body nominates, and votes on the Rennies.

What’s less clear to most is the membership of the Academy, and the membership of the voters.

Anyone working in the entertainment industry who’s a member of a FMPAFS recognised Guild/Union/Association is automatically an Associate Member of the FMPAFS. In my case, I gained associate membership when I sold my first script (for an overly-cutesy animated children’s show that never made interstellar distribution), and simultaneously became a member of the Federated Suns Writers Guild. There are literally hundreds of thousands of FMPAFS associate members in the Suns.

However, only Full Members of the FMPAFS can vote on the Rennies. This is a much smaller group, which usually numbers in the thousands (in 3104, there were 7,036 full members).

So, how does one become a Full Member of the FMPAFS? Well, it depends on your Guild/Union/Association. In agreement with the FMPAFS Senate, they set criteria for their own membership to qualify. It generally revolves around longevity in the industry. When I was elevated to full membership of the FMPAFS, the criteria used by the FSWG was 10 years in the industry, with (I believe) at least 20 short-format scripts sold, and/or 4 feature scripts sold. Your milage may vary.

And now we rabbit-trail all the way back to the beginning.

In early November, I sat in the Council Chamber with the writers, producers and studio execs attached to Sphere Saga, watching live on holo, at one in the morning (due to the time difference), as the Rennie nominations were announced.

We didn’t pay much attention to the first announcements, which were for categories like Documentary-Short Format and Amatuer Feature.

In fact, I was seated in my usual spot, with my laptop, taking a pass at polishing episode 207, and trying to ignore the crowded room.

Suddenly, someone yelled “What?!” and my peripheral vision picked up people springing out of their chairs. My head snapped up from rewriting Jamie Wolf’s confrontation with Takashi Kurita on Terra.

Someone punched up the volume on the holo. I noticed that the presenters were just finishing announcing the current category. I saw Sphere Saga’s logo displayed in the centre of five panels which showed the nominees in this category.

A Rennie nomination should have been good news, except for the category name that burned above the panels - “Best Editing in a Feature”

The room exploded with noise, and not the good kind. I couldn’t hear anything from the holo, so I yelled, “Hey! Quiet!”

I was only a little surprised when everyone shut up. And we stayed quiet as the announcements continued. Nomination after nomination came in for Sphere Saga - best VFX, best cinematography, best supporting actor, best supporting actress, best director - but all in the Feature, not Series bracket of the Rennies.

What the hell was going on?


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Re: Sphere Saga - A Tale of a Tale
« Reply #44 on: 06 November 2014, 01:05:10 »
And a little bit more

Extract from Case No. 3094-R5D-CC00398991-2V

In the Avalon District Court of Appeal; Sitting as the Federated Suns Commercial Arbitration Court

FallegtVida Entertainment LLC


The Film and Motion Picture Academy of the Federated Suns

From the Earldom of Reelstram Judicial District Court, New Avalon
Case No. 3094-101-JJ34A, Mdme. Justice E. E. Fontana, presiding

Summary of Argument:
1. The Film and Motion Picture Academy of the Federated Suns (FMPAFS) has violated its Articles by nominating individual episodes of the the Work, Sphere Saga in the Feature Bracket of the 3095 Film and Motion Picture Academy of the Federated Suns Awards (alias “The Rennies”)

A. The FMPAFS has routinely accepted, de facto, that Works nominated by other Peak Bodies in the Industry also qualify for the Rennies, in the same bracket.

B. Precedent agrees with the Appellee. Prior Behaviour, as established by Georgiou vs Sanderson (3004-10TA34-6421105, p.453-457)

C. Theatres in the Flitvelt Coalition do not count toward the 100 Theatre/250 Planet rule, as established by Nova Entertainment vs FMPAFS (3058-RE12835-4021, p. 124-129) - the Chaos March Test.

2. The FMPAFS has further violated its charter to recognise outstanding achievement in the Industry:
  • By nominating only specific episodes of the Work, the FMPAFS has violated Article 6 of its charter (Exhibit P-02)
  • By refusing to hear FallegtVida Entertainment’s appeal, the FMPAFS has violated Article 9 of its charter (ibid)

The plaintiff requests that the Court:
  • find the FMPAFS in violation of its Charter
  • Order the FMPAFS to nominate the Work in the Series bracket of the Rennies


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Re: Sphere Saga - A Tale of a Tale
« Reply #45 on: 06 November 2014, 11:03:20 »
Nice to see the story continue! O0
I am one with the Force, and the Force is with me.

This is a Sham! This is a Mockery! This is a... a... TRAVISHAMOCKERY!!!!!!

Wrong. Utterly and completely wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. You're wrong. You couldn't be more wrong. You're the creamy filling of wrongness in the middle of the wrong donut with brightly colored sprinkles of wrongness on top. You're wrong.


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Re: Sphere Saga - A Tale of a Tale
« Reply #46 on: 06 November 2014, 21:24:56 »
It's back!!!!!
 [applause] [applause] [applause] [applause] [applause] [applause]
What a long wait it's been
 :Jumpy: :Jumpy: :Jumpy: :Jumpy: :Jumpy: [rockon] [rockon] [rockon] [rockon] [rockon] [cheers]

"For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast, And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed:And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill, And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!"


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Re: Sphere Saga - A Tale of a Tale
« Reply #47 on: 07 November 2014, 13:26:08 »
Nice to see the story continue! O0

Me too, Redshirt, me too ;)


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Re: Sphere Saga - A Tale of a Tale
« Reply #48 on: 07 November 2014, 13:28:52 »
It's back!!!!!
 [applause] [applause] [applause] [applause] [applause] [applause]
What a long wait it's been
 :Jumpy: :Jumpy: :Jumpy: :Jumpy: :Jumpy: [rockon] [rockon] [rockon] [rockon] [rockon] [cheers]


Thanks Doc - I've built up a few pages worth of story, but it's horribly unorganised - right now it's just little scenes and vignettes. I'm trying to flesh out some of them to be "main" story posts, and keeping some of the vignettes for the tags I try to post at the beginning or end of the main story posts. The problem is figuring out which is which.


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Re: Sphere Saga - A Tale of a Tale
« Reply #49 on: 15 November 2014, 01:51:07 »
For those who've wondered what Snord's Irregulars are doing in this show...

November 16, 3094
Snapshot - FNS

OLIVER LaCOMBE sits at the anchor desk of FNS’s premier entertainment news show as we come back from ad break.

The Sphere Saga and Rennies logos come up on screen behind him as he talks.

Oliver LaCombe: Welcome back to Snapshot.

The latest twist in the saga that is Sphere Saga’s fight against the FMPAFS. Today, Gerard Monvier, chair of the Rennies Committee, announced that not only are they not going to comply with the Sphere Saga production team’s request to be nominated in the Series bracket of the awards, they are also dropping Sphere Saga from the competition altogether!

That’s right - all of the mega-hit’s nominations have been rescinded. Sphere Saga is still nominated in the VoxPops and Stellars, but will now be missing from the premier awards show in the nation.

No one on the Sphere Saga production team could be reached for comment.

Turning now to our celebrity Baby-watch...

Showbiz Magazine UniNet Edition
Vol. 13 Issue 4 April 3094
Not Playing at Being Soldiers - Behind the Scenes of Sphere Saga with Snord’s Irregulars - Part 1
by Terrence Reeverman

[PIC: Night shot of a Union-class DropShip emblazoned with the Clan Wolf logo. In front of the ship on the left are a Lance of battered looking BattleMechs. To the right, a Star of Clan BattleMechs, one each from Clans Ghost Bear, Hell’s Horses, Jade Falcon, Smoke Jaguar and Wolf. Between the two groups, a party of men and women looking up at the camera, some obviously of Clan Elemental or Pilot phenotypes]

“Get this through your tiny stravag brains now, you surats! We are staying here until one of you can win a round, quiaff?”

The bellower is a large, heavily muscled woman with scarred arms. Her eyes bulge from a face contorted with rage. She is wearing a full body harness over combat fatigues and carries a fighting stick in one hand. The harness is supposed to register hits from the stick in an opponent’s hand.

Facing the woman is a ragged half-circle of nineteen men and women, all dressed and equipped similarly, but definitely not exhibiting the same confidence she does. A twentieth recruit lies sprawled at the woman’s feet, harness lights blinking in a steady rhythm.

If there’s a better picture of the stereotypical movie drill instructor, I haven’t seen it. Except that Elice isn’t in a movie - she’s preparing her score of charges to be in one.

Later, after Elice has sufficiently roughed up and handed off her recruits to another instructor, we retire to her spartan quarters to talk. Her oversized chair creaks beneath her as she sits down. My chair, a twin to her own seat, barely notices my presence, and positively swallows my 1.8 metre frame.

Elice, of House Icaza, late of Clan Jade Falcon, and now a member of the famous Snord’s Irregulars offers me a mug of something caffeinated - “I have come to appreciate these ‘mocha lattes’” she explains as she pours herself one.

The former Clanner is part of Camus Ching’s Sphere Saga mega-series, serving as a drill instructor - “Falconer”, in her terminology - to turn a large group of actors, extras and stuntpeople into passable Clan characters for Season 2 of the show (currently sub-titled Death and Rebirth). It’s a massive effort supporting a massive production, as I found out when I arrived that morning.

Getting access to the Sphere Saga production lot isn’t easy, and made harder by Ching’s legendary mania for secrecy. However, after several weeks of negotiations, I was invited to spend three days with the company to see what Snord’s Irregulars are bringing to the production as they prepared to shoot Season 2.

That journey starts at the recently-mothballed Fort Erskine, formerly a base for the Gambier Militia and the AFFS. Sprawling over nearly half of the subcontinent of Kythera, its size, relative isolation and great variety of terrain made it ideal for the production company’s needs.

“Fort Erskine was used for all types of training, from recruit induction to large field exercises,” Colonel Tasha Snord, the Commanding Officer of the famous unit tells me as we drive to her Headquarters. “We simply refurbished what we needed, set up our garrison services, and we were ready to go.”

It’s a bit more complicated than that, of course. Snord’s Irregulars have been working on Sphere Saga for a long time. They were hired by Ching, via FVE, back in 3088, and given a two-fold brief. Firstly, bring their historical research expertise to bear on all military aspects of the production; and secondly, train the on-screen talent to accurately portray the armed forces of almost a dozen different nations and factions, including the SLDF, great house militaries, ComGuards and assorted Periphery realms. It’s a tall order, and as we walk through a massive warehouse converted from a ‘Mech Hangar (one of ten being used by the production), Colonel Snord elaborates on some of the challenges.

[PIC: A costume designer lays an early Clan MechWarrior’s combat suit on a table for inspection.]

“We had to source and verify Manuals and SOPs [Standard Operating Procedures] for all these militaries, some of them extinct, then raise up a Cadre that could train the on-screen talent - most of whom have no prior military experience - to a standard that would pass muster with veterans of said militaries. Then we had to research weapons, uniforms and equipment, find live examples for the production, or failing that, good enough documentation for them to make their own reproductions.” For emphasis, she points to a clothes rack in the corner hung with SLDF infantry uniforms from the first season, then drops a potential spoiler - “They’ll be reused for Season Three”.

One of the other reasons for passing through this warehouse is so that I can be issued with a field uniform of the type used by the Irregulars. For the next three days, I will be entering an immersive environment, and the production team is determined that my working-casual civilian duds will not be a distraction to all and sundry.

It’s not as bad as I feared - in fact, the field uniform fits quite well, and even includes a “Reeverman” name-tape. The many pockets are more than adequate for carrying all my recorders, and I feel like I’m beginning to look like I belong. Just to make sure I’m not mistaken for a real Irregular, though, the uniform is devoid of all emblems, except for white-on-orange tabs on the shoulders that clearly say “PRESS”.

(I might have been imagining things, but I thought Colonel Snord gave me a nod of approval when I emerged from the change room.)

From the warehouse we move into the OC (Operations Centre), where various Irregulars Officers and NCOs are keeping track of their involvement in the production. Colonel Snord hands me off to the Duty Officer, Lieutenant Lucas Garcia, who splits his time between monitoring a massive flatscreen at one end of the OC and fielding enquiries from inside and outside the room. He will also be my guide for the next three days.

[PIC: Lieutenant Garcia at his post]

“It’s actually quite similar to running an extended campaign,” he tells me after finishing a radio call with a Irregulars Task Force commander. Garcia should know - a veteran of the Jihad, he’s seen plenty of action. He directs my attention to the flatscreen and points out the various tasks the Legion is involved with today.

“Task Force Pentagon (a mixed group of ‘Mechs, Armour and Infantry) is on Range C-20 practicing tactics used by some of the forces that opposed the Clans’ reconquest of the Pentagon worlds. Task Force Wolf is doing the same on Range B-10, but for that Clan’s own forces. ASG [Armourer Support Group] is meeting with the Set Designers to show them our Vis-Mod [Visually Modified] ‘Mechs that will be used to represent early Clan designs, and Transport Group is preparing to launch the Lensman (a modified DropShip) in two hours to do camera tests for Zero-G filming on a new set in its cargo hold.”

It’s a lot of activity, and those are just the major events. Garcia tells me that it will quickly get busier once filming starts in earnest. “Last season we sometimes had people and hardware filming on six or seven different sets at once.” When you think about the amount of maintenance and resupply that would have involved, the comparisons to a military campaign become even more apt.

A series of icons near the bottom on the screen catches my eye - “Sibkos”. With a grin, Garcia maximises the window. A spider-web like chart unfurls before my eyes, with labels like “Wolf”, “Jade Falcon”, “Hells Horses” and “Smoke Jaguar”. It’s an overview of one of the more important jobs the Irregulars are doing for the production - turning out believable Clan warriors.

“You want to have a look at Sibko Training?” Garcia asks me.

And that brings me to my interview with Falconer Elice, the former Clan Jade Falcon Elemental. A veteran of Devlin Stone’s Coalition, she initially joined the Republic of the Sphere’s Armed Forces, but curiosity got the better of her, so she mustered out and signed on with Snord’s Irregulars. But aren’t mercenaries considered dishonourable in Clan eyes?

“Most are,” concedes Elice with a frown. “But there are exceptions, and Snord’s Irregulars are one such. There are many former Clansmen in our ranks, which also helps to raise the standards of the unit.” I can’t tell if she is making an attempt at humour, and so move on to her current role.

At this point it’s worth talking a bit about what has gone before.

For the previous season of Sphere Saga, the Irregulars ran two “boot camps” in parallel, one for those actors, extras and stuntpeople portraying members of the SLDF, and another for those playing the opposition forces. In addition, the Irregulars augmented the production’s in-house Historical Research Team to ensure military protocol and procedures were correctly followed during filming. They also supplied all the MechWarriors, tankers, gunners and AeroWarriors, as well as some of the Infantry and Marines for filming.

They’re still doing that for Season 2. In fact, the SLDF bootcamps remained in operation since the early part of the Pentagon Civil War were fought by SLDF-trained soldiers.

However, as Colonel Snord explained to me, Season Two covers far more ground (and time), which greatly increases the complexity of their operation.

“Season one took place over a matter of years. Season two is going to cover a couple of centuries - from the settlement of the Pentagon Worlds to end of the Fourth Succession War. We’ve got to replicate the military forces - such as they were - of the various factions in the Pentagon Worlds, the early Clan forces - which were very different in some ways from the variety we know in the Inner Sphere, and then the later Clan forces, plus the various Great House Militaries.”

To achieve this, the Irregulars have staggered the bootcamps. The first batch of cast members has already been run through a modified version of the SLDF bootcamp. Falconer Elice’s charges are part of the second batch, who will portray Clan warriors during what they referred to as their society’s “Golden Century”. This period included the death of three of the original twenty Clans.

A third batch of bootcamps will be run to produce troops for the Inner Sphere militaries during the Succession Wars era.

Elice offers to let me shadow her for the rest of the day. It’s an eye-opening exercise.

“We cannot match real Sibko training,” she tells me bluntly. “Sibkos must uncover the weak and eliminate them as quickly as possible. I cannot do that here. I am also restricted in the degree of injury I can inflict on the Sibko.”

Even after decades of hearing about the intensity of Clan training from various sources, I have to jump in and ask if it’s actually standard practice for the Clans to brutalise trainees who are no more than children to us Spheroids.

[PIC: Falconer Jonas demonstrates an unarmed combat technique on actor George Zambelas]

Elice’s frown returns, but in a more pronounced fashion. “Neg,” she says emphatically, one massive hand chopping through the air for emphasis. “That would be wasteful and against the whole purpose of training. As a Falconer, I am more skilled, stronger and more experienced than the Fledglings in my Sibko. Deliberately maiming or killing them proves nothing and teaches them nothing. But if a Fledgling is too weak or too slow to meet the standard and is hurt in the process, so be it - far better to discover this in the Sibko than on the field of battle.”

Be that as it may, it’s clear that Clan military training is far more dangerous than anywhere else in the Human Sphere. Despite Elice’s disappointment at not being able to “push” her Fledglings as hard as she herself experienced in her youth, the cadre does a superb job of letting the trainees get a taste of the danger without risking permanent injury.

Besides the unarmed combat training, blank ammunition, down-powered beam weapons and artillery simulators are used in training to give the faux-Clanners a taste of the battlefield. For the previous season, the training escalated to the point where the trainees were made to plan and execute missions, using SLDF doctrine and procedures, against a live enemy played by the Irregulars. This included having actors who were playing MechWarriors riding in the jump seats of ‘Mechs during those missions. Apparently, the word is that several of the actors actually showed some aptitude for ‘Mech-jockeying - including Tony Shand.

We return to the training ground where the Sibko is just finishing a formation run. The next exercise is a test of their unarmed combat training. Sixteen of the sibko are paired off (the remaining four are excused due to minor injuries picked up over the past week - obviously not something that would happen in a real Sibko), and ordered to fight in a “Circle of Equals”. The winner moves on to the next round. The losers are not excused, though - each one will fight other losers until an absolute hierarchy is established - first through sixteenth. The winner will be excused from mundane chores that evening. The 16th place trainee will suffer unpleasant extra duties. It’s clear that in the Clans, only winning counts. Move up or move out.

Elice and her fellow Falconers - Mark and Jonas - are not happy with the results, and tell their charges so in Clan-unique fashion. Falconer Jonas informs me that in two days the Falcon Sibko will begin competing with the other Sibkos in a simulacrum of inter-clan conflict, and they do not intend to lose, especially to the hated Wolves.

Later that evening, after an eye-opening forum that the Instructional Cadre call “Stand Down” (about which, more later), I’m invited to sit in with the entire Cadre at their nightly review.

[PIC: Major (Khan) Salvatore and his Cadre sitting around a conference table]

To my surprise, not all of them are former Clanners. In fact, the Cadre’s Commanding Officer is Major Karl Salvatore - who is very much Inner Sphere born and bred. A 3063 graduate of the former Outreach Mercenary Training College, Salvatore has both fought against and alongside Clansmen. Like many members of the the Irregulars, he has a passion for history, and is clearly enthusiastic about turning out realistic Clan warriors.

For the purposes of the Cadre, he is referred to as “Khan Salvatore” by the trainees. To my surprise, even away from their charges, the instructors still address him as such.

“It is all part of the process,” says Master Sergeant Julius (of House Radick), a former Clan Wolf MechWarrior and now one of the Wolf Sibko’s instructors. “We, and our Pups, live in a Clan society 26 hours a day, every day. This helps them to learn what we teach them. When we are finished with them, when they play their parts, they will be executing on their training rather than acting. That is our goal.” Executing rather than playing is an apt description - all the trainees are referred to only by their character names. Failure to use Clan terms (or misusing them) is a punishable offence.

Back to Khan Salvatore.

“The Clans are an alien society, and we have to deeply immerse the sibkin in order to get them to accept the tenets of that society - in this case; Might Makes Right, Honour Above All, all of that. It’s no different in that respect from any military training in the Inner Sphere. What makes it different is that Clan Warriors believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are the epitome of human evolution - and eugenics. It’s not arrogance, despite the way it tends to be portrayed in most holos. It’s sincere belief. It’s like being a Hall-of-Fame athlete. The really good ones don’t boast openly about how good they are - but they have that presence. We need to get our ersatz-Clanners to that mentality, and that’s where my Cadre is so valuable - all of us have either lived in that society, or have had long exposure to it.”

Besides beating, harassing and training that mentality into their sibkos, the Cadre also uses a forum called “Stand Down”. Every night, after training is concluded for the day, the combined Sibkos gather in one of the base’s briefing amphitheatres (interestingly, not only do the various Sibkos all sit together, they actually leave space between themselves and the other Sibkos). The Cadre, led by Salvatore stand on stage, and take questions from their trainees on any and all aspects of Clan Society.

[PIC: Shot of Stand Down from the back of the amphitheatre, showing the backs of the trainees’ heads, and the Cadre onstage)

It’s a surreal and mind-boggling experience, from my seat in the back row of the room.

“How do the Warriors see the other castes?” asks actor and stuntman Kee Johnson.

Brandon Fletcher, late of Clan Hell’s Horses, steps forward, doffs his distinctive cavalry hat and fields that one.
“It depends,” he begins, and there’s a ripple of laughter through the room. Obviously this is a common answer, and an insight into why they’re putting so much effort into the immersive training. The Clans are not a monolithic bloc.
“Generally, they are beneath your notice. After I shut down my OmniMech and open my cockpit, I remove my neurohelmet and hand it to my left. An AsTech is there to take it from me. I do not know what he looks like. I do not look at him. I do not even know if he is male or female. I simply hand over the neurohelmet and exit the cockpit.”
A rumble goes through the room. Some trainees shake their heads in disbelief. Others nod slowly, thoughtfully, as an insight is revealed.
“Now,” continues Fletcher, “I do not acknowledge him, but I do not abuse him either, quineg? He has his duty, and he does it. I do not interfere with it.”

Elice steps up to add her tuppence. “You have to remember that the Hells Horses are a liberal Clan,” she says, emphasising “liberal” in such a way that it’s impossible to miss the negative connotation. Just when I think I’m about to see one of the Clan’s legendary Trials of Grievance break out on stage, Fletcher laughs off the dig.

Elice continues: “Their warriors will willingly pitch in to do manual labour or technical work if they have to. The Jade Falcons and Smoke Jaguars’ warriors will not. They are warriors first, last and always.”

Stand Down lasts an hour, and it’s a packed hour. The questions range far and wide in scope and topic, and there are no sacred cows.

One former Clanner insists she has never experienced real fear on the battlefield because she knows she will either come out alive and victorious, or dead, with her genes passing on to the next generation - perhaps the closest the Clans come to the religious concept of an afterlife.

Khan Salvatore describes, in surprisingly candid fashion, what it’s like to face Clan Warriors with their superior weapons - “ice-ball of fear in your gut terrifying” is the way he puts it. He quotes from Clan sources about the Pentagon Campaign to give the trainees an idea of what it was like for the original 800 Clan Warriors to finally begin the liberation of the Pentagon Worlds.

All in all, this is one of the most fascinating hours I’ve ever spent.

With Day One over, Lieutenant Garcia magically reappears to guide me to my assigned quarters, appropriately military-austere in nature, but quite adequate. Once he is satisfied that I will be fine for the night, Garcia leaves me some final instructions “Reveille is at 0500, and breakfast will be at 0630 in the mess we passed on the way in.”

I can hardly wait.