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'Netwalkers a.k.a. The Groundties Series

A bit about the books
Current availability
Harmonies of the 'Net

Excerpts from
And for those into ancient history:
 The strange publishing history
A Question of Covers


Current availability of the Groundties Series

Good News!!!! is now listing several used copies of all the books at reasonable prices!!!!



of the 'Net


About the books

Groundties was not only my first book, it was the first real "from scratch" fiction I ever wrote. That it happened at all was directly due to C. J. Cherryh. (See: Write Box: In the Beginning.)

The series is hard SF, with a strong psychological component. Our young hero---
(Gawrsh...I'm not that young.-->TW)
(Hush. You're also not the hero.)
(Not!?!  But--->TW)
(I said, hush.)

Our young hero, Stephen Ridenour...
(Oh...him.--->TW) a bit of a computer whiz just out of the Academy who is put on the trail of certain questionable entries appearing mysteriously on the future equivalent of the internet. In the process of doing his job, he finds himself embroiled in and frequently at the center of more political power games than he ever new existed.
(That's putting it mildly.--->TW)
(Wait for me in the Westibule, will you?)
(Pizza? I'm outta here.--->TW)

Anyway, I wanted to write a nice simple first contact, boy meets girl, bigot loses bigotry, ship blows up kind of story, a modest goal that was proceeding nicely until CJ Cherryh asked The Deadly Question. Then life for young Mr Ridenour got seriously complicated.

The basic elements:

  1. A star-spanning Alliance of humans politically and economically severed from Earth.
  2. A computer network whose NSpace-dwelling database spans the universe, making instant communication (theoretically) possible. But there are ... problems with that highly desirable application.
  3. The requisite bigotry that is the unfortunate fallout of an inherently insecure and competitive species. In this case, the spacers are on the high end of the influencial scale, the Ethnic Reconstructionists on the low.
  4. The Ethnic Reconstructionists, who are sort of like all the current Historical Recreation Societies gone extremist and given planets to play with.
  5. A young graduate who just happens to be the first Recon to ever attend, let alone graduate from, a spacer academy.
  6. A brilliant but disaffected programmer who just happens to be the great-grandson of the woman who is the only surviving member of the team who developed the NSpaceComNet.
  7. A starship admiral with an agenda.
  8. A ruthless politician with an alternative agenda.
  9. A Native American Ethnic Recon group with still another agenda.
  10. A non-human species with yet another agenda.

Throw them all together, shake well, and you get ... problems. Lots of problems.

One of the curious sidenotes to the development of this story, while I was writing it and in fact for a couple of years after it came out, I had no knowledge of the internet. I'd never had a modem, never done email, certainly never surfed the web. I wanted a future universe fundamentally different from C.J. Cherryh's Union/Alliance, and chose instant communication as both the core of that difference and the problem which ignites the books' story. I never imagined as I wrote that story that I would find myself, a few years later, lamenting the lack of a cute little 'NetTech over in the corner searching out useful and reliable information on the internet (not to mention updating my webpage) so that I could spend my time writing. <VBG>

But the ComNet and its problems provide the techy core of the plot, not its true substance. For that, you have to go to the characters.

In the most general sense, the books are about the use and abuse of power on both a macro and micro scale. It examines these issues at the human level of those individuals affected by the power games. While there's a fair amount of action and intrigue, in the end, this is the story of one young man's journey to hell and back as his past and future collide with cataclysmic force.

These are unabashedly intense books---all three take place in about two weeks during which the universe changes forever and uniquely for each person involved. Due in part to the word count restrictions, there's rarely a moment for the characters to sit down and smell the flowers, which forces the reader always to be on his/her toes. They're not easy reads, not "feel good" in the sense that there are no easy resolutions to the very real psychological, philosophical and interpersonal questions raised, but for readers into intense and different, they seem to have filled an empty spot on several personal library shelves.


On to the books!



September, 1991
ISBN: 0-446-36148-8
Cover Art by Barclay Shaw 1991 

In the interest of time (of which I'm rapidly running out) I'm just going to copy the back cover copy as it was written. You can take this to be as indicative of the contents of the books as such copy ever is. I think it is safe to wager that if, in the coming months, you come back to visit, at the very least, an expanded picture of the books will begin to emerge.

Admiral Loren Cantrell is already caught on a power-play tightrope between bigoted Spacers and stubborn planetary Reconstructionists. Now a new crisis arises: something is threatening the Communications Network that links the star colonies. It is a mystery Cantrell must solve.

Her only clue leads to HuteNamid, a Recon world of hostile Native Americans. Here a conspiracy is run by Cantrell's ex-lover, a man believed dead; a new science has been invented by a disgraced practical joker---

(Disgraced!?! I walked out on those idiots. I---\--->TW)
(Hush, Wesley. As I was typing...)

... who once crashed a galactic database---

(Not! I knew exactly what I was doing.--->TW)
...and a psychotic rebel warrior has found the way to touch a god.

(Now that's the biggest load of whooie. Poor old Nayati's a piker when it comes to crazy. We got professional crazies here!--->TW)
(Sigh... )

Sorry, folks. As I was saying...

The one person who can help Cantrell is STEPHEN RIDENOUR
(Now art thou happy, Smith?)
a neurotic boy
(Neurotic, yes, but he's no kid!--->TW)
(That's debatable. ---TW)
who risks
( he there?...)
death and madness
(I wonder where he's hiding?)
for the key to saving the 'Net
(I'm getting suspicious...)

(Whew! Made it!)



Excerpts from Groundties:

Meet the Spacer Cast
Meet the Recons
Making an Entrance: Part 1: Stephen
Making an Entrance: Part 2: The Wesser

Some scenes of interest:
The first scene:
his is truly the first scene I wrote in the book...practically the first scene of original fiction I ever wrote. It appeared in print virtually unchanged from that first day's writing. What's interesting to me is how much subtext there was in it. Once Stephen changed from being a standard Spacer Bigot to a Recon-in-hiding, the reasons for his actions became massively more convolute.
A Character Moment:
This little scene nearly got the axe in the name of the Great God: Length. I fought for it in the name of the Greater God: Show-don't-tell. A) It's a unique revelation of several of Stephen's rather ... unusual ... personality traits, helping prepare the reader for future reactions. B). It's  the only time we see him in his (physical) element, setting up his ability to pull off some of the stunts he pulls later in the series. C) It establishes the relationship between Lexi and Stephen.
One thing I learned writing this series: it always helps to know why you wrote a scene.



April 1992
ISBN: 0-446-36255-7

Cover Art by Barclay Shaw(c) 1992 

(We'll try again...)

A secret binds the colonists of HuteNamid, a secret for which they will risk everything---even genocide. Admiral Loren Cantrell, insystem to investigate disruptions in the vital interstellar data 'Net, has only one clue: the code phrase Dena Cocheta. And only one source of information: Stephen Ridenour.

The answers Cantrell seeks lie buried in Stephen's own past. Is there a link between the madness that destroyed his homeworld and the growing insanity that grips HuteNamid? Probing Stephen's mind could destroy him and the colonists---perhaps all humankind. But one young man's life and the existence of one colony weigh very little against a threat to the 'Net itself --- and the powers that command Cantrell.

(I think we should consider ourselves lucky that he restrained himself so well.)


Harmonies of the 'Net

November 1992
ISBN: 0-446-36243-3

Cover Art by Barclay Shaw(c) 1992Before you wonder: I'm right, the flat's wrong. The title is, indeed, HARMONIES OF THE 'NET. And it did, barely, get changed in time. Suffice to say, I got enough cover horror stories on my first three books to fill a career.

DISASTER IN THE 'NET: The star-spanning 'Net is crashing --- collapsing under its own unwieldy weight...

(I warned them!---TW)

...its vital database...

(Joe Dweeblethorpe's grocery lists--->TW)

...losing bits and connections at an alarming rate. The politicians and technocrats that depend on it are desperate.

Desperate enough to come looking for the boy they dispatched on a mission larger than they knew, and for the prankster whose exploits are notorious among programmers on the 'Net. Stephen Ridenour has found a refuge from the civilization whose bigotry almost destroyed him. Wesley Smith---genius, seducer, joker, and certifiable loose cannon---

(That about covers it.--->TW)

---has captured the ultimate prey and isn't about to set it loose. And no one realizes what can be done is already a dead issue ...

(Now if that were true, there'd be no story, now would there? Sheesh.--->TW)

Much as one hates to encourage him, he has a point. One wonders, sometimes, why it seems to take the imminent demise of life as we know it to sell books. I'd be curious about others' thoughts on back-cover copy and what makes you pick up a book or put it down. If you have a moment, drop me a line.