The Enigman Universe

The Enigman Cave

Let’s Go to the Enigman Universe

Understanding any piece means getting into its guts and exploring some of what didn’t end up on the page. The stuff on the cutting room floor, if you will. Here, it’s all about the Enigman Universe. Why isn’t it the Enigma Universe? Because there was already a book called The Enigma Cave. So, I had to improvise. And I’m kinda glad I did.

How Does the Enigman Universe Tick?

I started writing The Enigman Cave back in November of 2015. It was a NaNoWriMo project.

Because I like to outline my projects, particularly for NaNo, I was already thinking about it before I started officially writing.

At times, inspiration comes from a person. Or it may come from a point I want to make. Another source of inspiration is characters.

Here, it is partly the characters which helped to set everything off. But another piece is the opening line. I cannot recall how I came up with it. But it is one of my favorite opening lines of all time.

Life is common.

Short, sweet, and to the point. And it is the utter antithesis of what we think of when we look at the stars these days.


Perhaps the first piece was the main character. I decided I wanted a character who would be a “woman of a certain age”. And she would be someone who others underestimate. Enter Marnie.

Marnie Chase Shapiro

When I first thought of this character, she was Marnie Chase. But then I had a flash of inspiration. I decided, here’s a long-term space mission. And what could be worse than getting a divorce in the middle of it?

Since the name Shapiro also figures in a lot of my work, I settled on it for her maiden name. And then the next idea was to make it even worse. The divorce would be for cause, for cheating by her ex. And Marnie would have to work with the woman who cuckolded her.

Yes, I know cuckold technically just refers to men. But can you think of a better term?

Marnie would need people to talk to. And she would need to have a purpose beyond her failed marriage. Hello, Jazzie and Trixie.

Jazminder Parikh, MD and First Officer Trixie LaRue

As a Star Trek fan, I was probably unconsciously channeling TOS when Jazminder Parikh, MD and Trixie LaRue first appeared. But it would make sense for any spaceship on a long mission to have a doctor. And, of course, there would be a first officer.

To really ice it, the first time the reader sees either of these characters is when they go to Marnie’s quarters. And then the three of them proceed to get drunk.

The Bridge Crew

Of course I didn’t want it to turn into a carbon copy of Trek. Still, some roles were an absolute necessity. These included communications, piloting, engineering, and defense. There would be science, too, and, of course goatherds.


Did I mention that in the Enigman universe, there are no real replicators? They do have three D printing, just like we do. But that is about it.

Instead, food comes from crops that biologists like Ben Chase grow. And it also comes from goats, chickens, and fish aboard. With dogs helping to keep the goats and chickens out of mischief, it’s a spaceship with an agricultural bent. Which gives it a small connection to the Obolonk Universe and even (a little) to the universe of The Real Hub of the Universe. But that’s an exploration for another day.

The Human Crew

It was great fun to give a lot of the crew the names of people I went to high school with (with their permission, of course!). Eileen Bragin is the Chief Engineer, Tom Ciorciari is the Head Veterinarian, Wendy Grifka is a Wedge Defender (military detachment on board), and Nancy Muldoon is a pilot.

Also most of the JAG Corps on board is named after people I podcasted with: Mike Medeiros, Nick Minecci, Steve Roberts, and Terry Shull. But their boss, Hunter Garcia, is utterly made of whole cloth.

More crew characters with utterly made-up names include Lex Feldman, Ray Traber, Myles Duffy, Charlie Hill, Neil Jovan, Natalya Ivankov, Billy Nash, Tony Materelli, Gwen Zoltan, and Jordo (Jordan) Uzair.

Communications has Astrid Henningsen and Ginny Carey.

Doctors Brian Driscoll and Simon Mendoza work under Jazzie. Plus there’s Nurse Kristen Watson.

Wedge defenders include Angela Richman, Micky Kelly, and Travers Kesey. Scientific includes Delia Comstock Yarrow and Art Yarrow.

Food Service has Peggy Morrissey and Sharon Townshend.

Also, the crew has a chaplain, an imam named Spencer Johnson.

The Time Frame

The story begins on May 31, 2517. Its last date is August 4, 2518. This puts it a little before the entire time frame for the Time Addicts trilogy within the Obolonk Universe. It also puts it a few centuries after the end of the initial Obolonk trilogy.

Where Does it all Take Place?

The Enigman Cave takes place either on the USS Valentina Tereshkova, or on the surface of the planet they name Enigma. Enigma is based on a very real place, a planet circling Kepler 438. But in the real world, it’s Kepler 438-b which is semi-Earthlike. Enigma is Kepler 438-d, which doesn’t exist. However, given that the Kepler 438 system has b, it may very well have a couple of other planets.

Given that hopes for an Earth II are already dashed, it may be best for me to find another candidate world. But this one is useful, and it’s in the relatively nearby Lyra System.

I also think the Lyra System would be a good place to look for multicellular life, once the details of FTL transportation are figured out. It’s not too far away. And, it has a variety of stars and planets we already know about. Plus, there’s all sorts of nebulae and whatnot. It’s the sort of ephemera which could be hiding anything, including a good Earth II candidate.

What’s in the Enigman Universe?

Of course there are more characters, and I have or will have biographies of at least some them up. But there are also aliens.

The Enigmans

A few things came together for creating the Enigman race. I wanted a matriarchal society. And I also wanted a race that was dying out.

A lot of what I write comes from thought experiments. Here, one of the thought experiments was: imagine a world where gold is as plentiful as iron is here. And where gold takes the place of iron in physiology. Furthermore, the idea of gold was to push hard on an instinct that still exists a few centuries in the future. That is, gold would set off the same mechanisms of greed and selfishness that it does today.

Names for Enigmans

Since the characters (and I!) didn’t want to just call the Enigman subjects by number, they had to have names. As a result, their names are all from various religions (including Catholic saints) or myths. This was a bit tricky as the vast majority of the Enigmans who were first observed were female. Since it’s just one cave, most of the Enigmans are blood relations to each other.

Therefore, as the leader of her people, the top Enigman (originally “Long Vines”) gets the religiously loaded name, Eve. And yes, eventually, they find Adam. Their children are Seth and Maryam. Rebecca (the oldest Enigman) is Eve’s mother. Rachel is Eve’s sister. Rachel’s children are Parvati and Sarah.

Adam’s brother is Thomas; their father is Methuselah. Methuselah’s lover is Leah, mother of Deborah, who in turn is the mother of Sarai.

More Twisting Family Trees

A second family tree starts with Miriam. She is the mother of Catherine, Teresa, and Mary. Catherine’s daughters are Anne and Athena. Mary’s daughter is Elizabeth. Keep in mind that they don’t live very long—so matriarch Miriam is about 39 years old. Eve, in contrast, is around 25. Maryam (Eve’s daughter) is about 14.

A third matriarch is Lakshmi. Her daughters are Tamar, Hagar, and Dinah.

Sophia is relatively unrelated although she does have a young son, Matthew. Another more distantly related woman is Astarte, who is the mother of Ruth.

Faith, Hope, and Charity are three sisters. Isis is the mother of Hera and Persephone. Persephone’s lover is Hades. Naomi’s daughter is Orpah. And Fatima is the mother of Layla.

The Muse Sisters

Nine women were fairly closely related, so they were named for the muses and collectively called the Muse Sisters.

Calliope’s son is Mercury. Her lover is Thomas, who is presumed to be Mercury’s father. Clio, Erato, and Euterpe do not yet have children. Neither do Melpomene, Polyhymnia, Terpsichore, Thalia, and Urania.

Later, the crew determines the muses are related differently. Calliope, Thalia, and Terpsichore are full sisters. Urania and Melpomene are sisters. Clio and Polyhymnia are sisters.

More Enigmans

Additional Enigmans include twins Castor and Pollux. There is a second set of twins, Esau and Jacob. There is some evidence that Esau is somehow related to Catherine.


I admit I used the same form of faster than light transportation for both this universe and the Obolonk universe. In both cases, FTL transportation is a feature of the physical characteristics of space. There is no real drive, although in the Enigman universe, there is the Dawn Drive. The Dawn Drive makes everything go faster. But the underpinnings of it come from how the space between solar systems works.

Well, kinda, sorta.

For both universes, a ship (or, in theory, an individual not associated with any actual vessel) can go faster than the speed of light due to a property of the weak attractive force. A ship, etc. can’t help but to go fast between systems, although the brakes come on once a vessel is under the influence of a star’s gravity. Here in the Solar System, we call it the heliopause.

Sounds almost plausible, yes? Welll, except for one thing.

While the weak attractive force is 100% real, this is not what it is.

Rather (and it’s normally called a London Dispersion Force), the weak attractive force is on a far smaller scale. As in, molecular.

In a nutshell, the London forces are responsible for how and why certain materials can condense to liquids and freeze into solids.

Hardly the stuff of transportation, eh?

What Differentiates the Enigman Universe from Other Books and Series I’ve Written?

One of the biggest differences is the political climate at home. While Marnie and her crew are busy trying to find extraterrestrial life, things don’t go so well for the Earth. In contrast to the Obolonk Universe, where people live in semi-harmony, this would be a bloody revolution. I put together everything from the Iranian Revolution to the French.

And then the new leader (Supreme Superintendent of the Solar System) would be a tyrant. The name Monroe Carter of course comes from two US presidents. I wasn’t particularly thinking of either of them as tyrants. But the name stuck. Carter would have an ego the size of Jupiter. And he would evolve into a latter-day Cortez.

Even more disturbing, Carter seizes power from his predecessor, Harrison N’Beki. The transfer of power is bloody.

Another difference is the question of Enigman intelligence. Like in The Real Hub of the Universe, there is a legal bent to the story. Because how best to prove (or disprove) the existence of alien intellect?

In court.

Crossing Over—How Does the Enigman Universe Relate to My Other Universes?

Because Marnie is a Shapiro, that directly relates her to Eleanor Shapiro Braverman of Mettle, Greg Shapiro of the initial Obolonk trilogy, Dov Shapiro of the Time Addicts trilogy, and even Blima Shapiro Taub of The Real Hub of the Universe.

Since Untrustworthy has no human characters, there can’t be this sort of connection.

The FTL form of transportation of course relates the Enigman Universe directly to the Obolonk universe. And some of the less formal court and police behaviors link it to The Real Hub of the Universe.

Is There Room for Sequels?

Unlike some of the other books I’ve written (I’m looking at you, Mettle), there is some room for sequels. The short story Surprises is a bit of a sequel. But I feel there is room for even more.

Plus, I will be writing a prequel, probably as a part of 2023 NaNoWriMo.

The Enigman Universe — Takeaways

I love this universe and its collection of characters and situations for lots of reasons. In particular, the women are all very strong. And as a writer, I really love that the way Marnie talks to the Enigmans isn’t in terms of trade or even coming in peace.

Rather, she tells them a story.

Do you want to learn about more universes? Then head on over to the Universal Explorations page where you can get the other universes.

The Enigman Universe—an Exploration Click To Tweet

Want More of the Enigman Universe?

If the Enigman Universe resonates with you, then check out my other articles about Marnie and her crew and their version of First Contact:

Character Reviews:

Self-Review: the Enigman Cave

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