About the Golden Age

The Golden Age of the Solar Clipper grew from my long time fascination with space opera. From Lois McMaster Bujold to Iain Banks, from David Weber’s Honor-verse, to Piers Anthony’s “Bio of a Space Tyrant” series to Heinlein and Bradbury, and all the rest. I (mis)spent much of my youth lost in the galaxies both far, far away and closer to home.

One of the things that always bugged me about these stories was the larger-than-life hero. Every stinking one of them is some rich, powerful, or otherwise advantaged individual and, almost inevitably, it’s their money, position, or power that either saves them, or dooms them to follow whatever path the story takes. That’s all well and good. The powerful hero — even the “lost prince” Luke Skywalker type — is an enduring archetype. It’s great escapist fun to put yourself into the shoes of the great and powerful, but I’ve always wanted a hero that was more like me. Kinda slow, self-doubting, and, above all, fallible in ways that are closer to “toilet paper stuck to my shoe” than “unable to coordinate galactic take-overs with star-crossed romance.”

So, for once, the hero isn’t the Captain of the ship. He’s not even an officer. He’s a broke, uneducated, orphan from a backwater planet at the edge of no-where. He’s not a “hidden prince” and he wasn’t adopted. He’s just an average Joe trying to make it in the universe when his mother is killed in a mindless accident and he’s suddenly left to his own devices.

Please don’t get too hung up on the physics. I know there’s a lot of “then magic happens” in terms of the Solar Clipper’s technology. Humor me. The story isn’t about the string theory behind the gravity keel or the precise application of blue-green algae in the air scrubbers. It’s about the people who spend months at a time sailing between the stars, not on a warship doing heroic battle with enemies foreign and fearsome, but on a freighter just trying to make a living.

So, think of this as a kind of Billy Budd meets the Vorkosigans and gets a job on one of their ships. I hope you’ll find it an interesting voyage.

The Author as a Young DogNathan Lowell
February, 2007

200 Responses to About the Golden Age

  1. Nate says:

    Thanks, Kris.

    Yes. He *will* have a happy ending. Eventually.

    Maybe book 12 or 18 …

  2. Brian B. says:

    Fantastic series. I prefer to read rather than listen, so I’m stuck after Full Share — but I know the rest of the series is coming. Can’t wait!

    As so many have said or implied above: it feels like I know the characters, both on the page and in real life.

  3. william says:

    Great introduction. Not usually my genre but you hooked me on the premise.

  4. Nate says:

    Thanks, William.

    Some people don’t like that my plots are small and subtle … “nothing ever happens” … “boring” … but many more have enjoyed the slow ride and learning about life in the 24th century.

  5. Newburydave says:

    I like it. My Dad was in the Merchant Marine in WWII and collected a number of books from that era about the exploits of the merchant sailors. This strikes me as in that tradition but set in “interstellar” waters.

    You’ve done for that all but forgotten genre what Dave Webber did for Horatio Hornblower and Jack Albury.

    I can’t wait for the next installments.

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  7. Loren says:

    Nate,

    I am waiting for double share to come out in print, and while I wait I wanted to mention the way you have crafted your story has resulted in much more of an immersion for me than other styles. I thoroughly enjoyed the first three books, but feel compelled to point out your hero has managed to stray from your stated premise: his consistent ability to understand situations and acquire knowledge (not to mention test well) is probably the greatest “advantage” for which anyone could hope. This advantage has resulted in a close to vertical upward trajectory, which I am presuming continues in the next three books (based solely on their names).

    I feel the more crucial aspect of the style you used may not be the humble origins and lack of “advantage,” rather it is your willingness to mirror the wide array and constant diet of less-than-universe-threatening challenges. I am guessing this strikes a chord, reinforces the willing suspension-of-disbelief, helps immersion, and generally makes your stories a better read for readers who aren’t looking for soul-crushing cosmic-scale drama so much as just a really good story with three dimensional characters.

    Very Respectfully,

    Loren

  8. The Captain says:

    Thanks, Loren, The trajectory is less vertical than the titles might suggest, but yes, he does move up. It’s not quite so meteoric as the progression might suggest and several people are rather disappointed that there are, in fact, gaps in the story line in order to facilitate those changes.

    I did stray by having him become an officer and move up the chain of command. That seemed logical to me at the time. I might go back and find another likely candidate who doesn’t follow that same path and see where that takes me.

  9. Good Day Nathan,

    Chief Mate of the Scripps Intuition of Oceanography ship R/V Melville here –
    On a voyage across the South Atlantic and eagerly awaiting my ship to arrive in port at Port Elizabeth, South Africa, where I hope to find an internet connection to download the final book Owner’s Share (ship internet is too slow). I have really enjoyed your books (both in e-book and audio podcast format), and though never a huge fan of sci fiction, these books have certainly resonated with this sailor.

    Bravo Zula

  10. The Captain says:

    This is VERY cool.

    Thanks for sharing your photo link!

  11. Jeff Shepard says:

    I am not one for sitting or lieing about for long periods of time, but I have not moved(much) in the last few days. I started out looking for a book on my iPad, you know, a series one of however many to get you hooked type of book. I came across the written version of Quarter Share. I was about half way through and thought….”this isn’t very exciting”. When I finished Full Share I blinked and said….”Why am I still reading this some what boring series of books”. For some reason I downloaded the pod casts and knowing that I hate “listening” to books, knew I wouldn’t be able to listen for very long. When I finished listening to Owners Share, I looked around and realized that I haven’t done a darn thing in three days. This has been the most exciting “boring” book I’ve ever read and listened to. Thank you.

    Jeff Shepard

  12. The Captain says:

    Thanks, Jeff.

    Glad you enjoyed them!

  13. Michael says:

    Mr Lowell, as someone about to retire from the US Navy I find your books to capture the good parts about being at sea as well as being great to read/listen to.

    Thanks

    Michael

  14. Roger C says:

    Have you ever considered having a graphic artist illustrate your characters? Enjoyed ‘Quarter Share’ and am finishing ‘Half Share’. Looking forward to ‘Full Share’.

  15. The Captain says:

    Many people have suggested it, Roger.

    So far nobody’s done anything about it.

    I like that they’re up to the reader’s imagination. I have a fan in SecondLife who makes avatars based on some of my female characters. It’s interesting to see what she comes up with.

  16. Adam says:

    Hey, Nathan:

    Be sure to check out the StarShipSofa podcast on Feb. 22 – Tony’s running a new segment from me called “The Cheapskate Review” in which I review free eBooks and audiobooks.

    Golden Age of the Solar Clipper series is third on my docket, after “Selections from The Improbable Sherlock Holmes” (to fit with his Holmes kick) and “A Princess of Mars” (because the “John Carter” movie is coming out).

    I’ll have good things to say. Hope you like it.

  17. The Captain says:

    Excellent! Thanks!

  18. Adam says:

    You’re very welcome.

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  20. Sandy says:

    Stumbled on the books & absolutely LOVED them! They especially kept my mind out in the universe & off my misery while in bed with the flu. I was deeply disappointed to hear that Owners Share ended the series. It’s one of those stories where you have to know what happens next. What about Ish’s relationship with his father? What’s he going to do now that he’s sold Iris? Will he find love again? Will he find a good tailor?

    Please, sir, may I have some more?

  21. Ciaran says:

    Dude…..What can I say???
    I listened to the first few books and was hooked with them.I thought that was it,I was delighted to discover recently that there were 2 more audiobooks for me to enjoy(captains and owners share). i can’t put my ipod down , listening constantly.
    Well done,great job

    Regards

    Morgy

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  23. Adam Pracht says:

    Just wanted to give everyone a heads up that Nathan’s Golden Age of the Solar Clipper series was the subject of my review series, Cheapskates, over at StarShipSofa this week, along with the first 10 minutes of Quarter Share.

  24. The Captain says:

    Thanks, Adam.

    This is a great series of articles you’re doing.

  25. Adam Pracht says:

    Thanks, Nathan!

    I’m starting to think I should start up a blog site in conjunction with this so that people at least have somewhere to link to…

  26. Charles says:

    As a former submariner, I have found myself facinated by the Solar Clipper series. It brings back both fond, and some not-so-fond, memories of life aboard a ship with little to no contact with the outside world. Mr. Lowell does a fantastic job of capturing this environment and some of the problems for people that live this kind of life!
    Thanks for the great work and I look forward to finishing the series.

  27. The Captain says:

    Thanks, Charles. :)

  28. Tom says:

    Hi Nathan,

    Heard about you on StarshipSofa podcast. I’ve burned through the podcasts of your books and am now rounding out Owners Share (should be done this week.) Tremendous work – not usually my style but I love this series. As great as Ishmael is, I actually really enjoy the supporting characters (especially Pip from the first two books.) Any chance you’ll be revisiting more in this universe?

  29. The Captain says:

    Tom, I’m planning on some Ishmael/Pip stories and seriously considering some early Pip backstory work to explore his origin.

    There’s also a trilogy for Ishmael planned to take him beyond Owner’s Share.

  30. DeadCell says:

    That is great to hear! I’m almost done with Owner’s Share, and thought it was the end of the series.

  31. Peter Davies says:

    I really like these books. It’s a pleasure to read a sci-fi story that isn’t about the military and where (having just read double share) the solution to a problem has not once been the application of controlled violence.

    I would quibble with the larger than life bit though. Ishmael is good at everything, phenomenally charismatic, dedicated, charming and beloved of everyone that is not a villain. Coming from humble origins doesn’t change any of that, he’s as perfect as Honor Harrington. It doesn’t matter though because the series is just so amazing – I haven’t read a Bildungsroman that I liked in years. Going to listen to the podcasts now since I can’t wait for the next two books to be released :)

  32. The Captain says:

    A lot of people see Ishmael that way.

    In *my* mind he’s nothing like that even tho he thinks of himself that way. I didn’t do a good enough job making it clear that he’s completely off the wall for most of the story. What he thinks is almost always invariably wrong, but he never realizes it. What he does is often misguided, but he doesn’t think so. What he sees is accurate, but what he thinks about it, how he responds to it, and how he reacts in many situations is silly, stupid, or fool hardy. Sometimes all three.

    That *I* can see all this clearly in the books but so many people do not makes me think that I’ve not done as good a job as I might in putting the story on the page.

    I’m glad you’re enjoying the books in spite of that shortcoming. :)

  33. Keith says:

    Just finished the Solar Clipper series. Need more Ishmael. The way it ended in Owner’s share was too depressing to leave the story there. I am glad to here there is a Ishmael trilogy in the plans.

  34. Isobel Harding says:

    Can my hubby and I give you a huge thumbs up for the most riveting series I have read in 30 years. Your insight into people and their interplay combined with subtle humour any cracking visioning makes for stunning listening. Any chance we can have a film series?

    Power to your elbow Mr Lowell and a big thank the outcome from my side over here. We will be contributing.

  35. Isobel Harding says:

    And if I could handle predictive text that might have made sense!!

    Thanks anyway!

  36. The Captain says:

    Is possible, Isobel :)

  37. William Hidden says:

    Dear Captain,

    I hate you,
    I love you,
    Thank you!

  38. The Captain says:

    You’re very welcome. :)

  39. Tom says:

    Very good books nathan I just finished the “shares* good job

  40. Rune says:

    Thanks.
    I don’t know if you’re going to read this, but I felt that I had to express my gratitude towards you somehow.
    I’ve been going through a hard time the last few months, and Trader Tales had been a great help throughout that. I’m not sure how to convey my feelings properly. I just, a mere minute ago, finished listening to the last chapter, and I’ll gladly admit that I haven’t cried so much in a while. I don’t know why I did, but it felt right.
    Again thank you so much, and I look forwards to listen to more tales about Ishmael, and about Tanyth.
    Rune.

  41. The Captain says:

    Thanks, Rune. I’m glad you found solace and pleasure in the journey.

  42. Steve Simpkin says:

    I just finished listening to the entire Trader Tales series – twice – and I am speechless on how much I enjoyed it. Prior to “discovering” Quarter Share (thanks to my extremely intelligent and lovely wife!), I had been continuously chain-reading SciFi novels for the past 1-1/2 years. I had read (or listened to) Burroughs (82 novels), SM Sterling, Heinlein, Lovecraft, Doyle, Wells, Verne, King along with many other authors and have enjoyed them all, but the Trader Tales are beyond special. I know this reaction is not that unusual given many of the eloquent comments others have written but it is unexpected for me. And your ability to narrate the series as an audio book brings a depth and life to the characters that I can’t believe. I am not sure how I am going to go back to read anything else now…
    Ishmael, his story and the entire Solar Clipper universe now has a special place in my heart that I didn’t know existed. Thank you for helping me find it, Skipper.

  43. colin morrell says:

    As an ex R.N. sailor of many years I found this book fascinating. The attention to traditional detail and the knowledge of sailing lore transferred to the space age was absolutely right. The characters were well thought out and the authers knowledge of ‘Leadership’, again based on sound traditional naval mores was a delight. I need to download for free, but most of the ‘Free’ download sites are encumbered with the need to download a ‘Manager, or commercial add-on. I will however continue to seek out the remaining books in this series. ‘Bravo Zulu’

  44. Karen Phelps says:

    Bravo! I just finished the audios through Double Share. Can’t wait to start the next one tomorrow. Thank you for keeping me in the drivers seat for many chapters after I arrive at my destination in order to find a good place to stop for the moment (there isn’t one). I am not as knowledgeable about the genre as others that have commented, but I can only say “I sure like these books!” I tell everyone what I am listening to as they seem to think I am entranced by music instead of the spoken word which is music to my ears to. Well anyway – thank you so much for many enjoyable hours and I look forward to many more

    Karen

  45. Dennis Key says:

    I love ALL of your stories! I am a 72 year-old retired RN who became an instant sci fi addict when I read Robert Heinlein’s Rocketship Gailleo when I was 12. My love for fantasy came later and you have helped feed that love of reading wth all your books. Having found my Wiccan path over 25 years ago, I very much appreciate the accuracy of your Tanyth Fairport series regarding Pagan spirituality. I look forward to reading your coming works!

  46. I’m coming to the party late, I fear. I think I heard about these ages ago from J.c. Hutchins, and just now (yeah, I’m slow) zipped through Quarter and Half and starting on Full. Just can’t put ‘em down! Like others, I think, yeah, I like Ishmael, but I just love the supporting cast and character interactions. Good job!

  47. Alan Silverman says:

    You are one of my favorite authors. I tripped over quarter share some number of years ago and hungrily devoured the first 3 as Ebooks and the final 3 as podcasts. I just purchased the final 3 as ebooks and re-read the entire series. Ishmael and his friends and adventures are so likable and good. I rank your stories with the honorverse, stories of WEB Griffin and the Enderverse. I would love to see some stories following Ishmael from another point of view like maybe someone from the crew of the Lois?
    I eagerly await the books you have planned for 2014/2015.

  48. Laurie says:

    I enjoyed the first books in the series and am currently listening to “Captain’s Share”. However, after reading some of the reviews on Amazon, I will not be reading “Owner’s Share”. It sounds like perhaps you grew tired of the character and set him up for an unsuitable end. Many of the reviewers are certain you just hate your fans.

    It’s too bad, because I enjoyed the minutiae of the rest of the series, even though many details felt off. (For example, coffee mugs in space? How can they afford to lift them off planet? Clay doesn’t grow in space. And the crew leaves them all over the ship? Pretty sure every piece of inertia would be tied down in a space ship, even with artificial gravity.) Any so many plot devices were left hanging – remember the mushroom idea in the first books? What happened to Pip and Cookie?

    Finally, I must really find you at fault for not exploring how spacers feel about starting families, reproduction and ticking eggs, the effects of radiation on reproduction … in a fleet with 50% woman captains, this is a topic you should cover. Also, the sexual harassment in “Double Share” was just wrong, wrong, wrong. There would have been a horrified reaction from the whole crew, not just a few scared women.

    I know you aren’t Cherryh. Only one is. It’s unfair, perhaps, to hold you to her standard of really thinking about what life in space would be like. I mean seriously, with the repercussions of the economy of space and the physics of maneuvering with light speed delays in sensing the system, etc. But I think you can do better. Much of your handling of Ishmael is sensitive and careful. You can write a great female character – but maybe talk to some women in their late 30′s about their career vs. family options and concerns.

    Maybe it’s too late for these comments.

    Best wishes.

    PS: I encourage future readers to opt for the podcasts, instead. This whole series is much better and satisfying in the spoken word.

  49. Marshall says:

    At first I started listening to quarter share thinking it was the one and only book of the series, I had never heard of it and was just getting something to listen to while I waited for my other podcasts to get some more episodes uploaded. Instead I found one of my favorite podcasts, and my complete favorite single narrated podcast.
    I was devistated after quarter share ended since I thought I would need to wait a year until the next book would be finished, but I then saw there were five more and finished them all within a month. Now I am hoping there will be something more, the end is not completely concluded but it made points to address some closing elements.
    What can be done to progress the plot is unclear now, but I would still honestly like to keep staying up until four in the morning listening to one person narrating about small talk retaining to preparing a soup. That is a small portion of the overall text but I would honestly enjoy that over waiting.

  50. The Captain says:

    There’s more coming.

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