If you're new to the story, it's a science-fiction/romance story involving the human-like, all-female Gilkesh race. Their homeworld, Shakti, is now ruled jointly by the two queens Kathris and Amira, who were formerly rivals and are now married to each other. But both the marriage and the political climate are unstable, and one of the queens (Amira) is having an affair with a young alien-affairs specialist named Joli. Joli has just confided her secret to her best friend, the astrophysicist Dess, and she knows that she's going to have to break off the affair.
Meanwhile, the Gilkesh homeworld faces danger from a space warp (yeah, I know, unscientific ... but *I'm* not an astrophysicist) and from a shadowy, nihilistic cult called Singularity. Eventually we'll learn how these two threats are connected. Also, we'll learn some things about Dess's friend and mentor Atubis (if you've been reading closely, you may have already guessed her secret).
At present, I'm not going too deep into technical details such as units of time measurement and so on. I do want to keep track of the *sequence* of events, which is important. The current series of chapters from 31 through 40 is told in "flashback" time and recounts things that happened prior to the main narrative of the story: the strategic rivalry between the Amirite and Kathrite domains - which extends to a "space race" - prior to the marriage and unification of the two realms; the genesis of the Singularity cult (in pre-space-age Shakti) with the mad priestess Q'ormis; and the loss of Joli's birth-mother early in Joli's childhood, following her involvement with, and estrangement from, Singularity. (I think this traumatic event might have left Joli subconsciously looking for a "mother figure" which would have led to her highly unwise choice of a romantic partner in Queen Amira.)
On colony worlds, especially remote places like Planet 138 where there's minimal stellar radiation, most energy is provided by nuclear fusion reactors. These might run on Helium-3 extracted from the planetary crust. (Perhaps Joli's late birthmother was involved in this kind of work.) The same principle is employed by the Humans, the Fao, and other intelligent races. Zero-point field (or vacuum energy) technology is avialiable but in its infancy during the timeframe of TQC.
Hyperspace travel (without which the kind of space exploration depicted would be impossible, except for the long-lived Fao) is closely linked to zero-point technology and is also in its early stages. For the purposes of this story, I'm assuming the existence of a quasi-infinite number of parallel universes, so that by traveling to a designated point in a parallel universe one can circumvent the relativistic restrictions on spacetime travel. Also for the purposes of this story, I'm positing the existence of some kind of spacetime anomaly in the local region - closely linked to the "space warp" I mentioned earlier - which also prevents space travelers from traveling beyond a certain "distance" in space and time; Dess and Joli discuss the idea in the chapter "Time Bubbles" (http://asher813.typepad.com/fiction/2006/12/time_bubbles.html).
The story itself, though, is mainly character-driven. I like writing women characters because it's easier for me to write characters who are at home in the world of emotions. That's not to say that men aren't sensitive, but I think if I wrote my Gilkesh characters as men they might come out effeminate sounding. So the story is set up the way it is, partly just because I enjoy writing women characters.
Thematically, I like to think the story is about growth. In a way, I see the space travel element as emblematic of the journey away from the "mother planet" and into the larger universe. I think this is one of the biggest challenges of the mother/daughter dynamic (it certainly was in my family of origin) - and the Gilkesh, who have only mothers, understand this. This is why their culture is structured to emphasize the importance of individuation, and why Singularity, with its seductive message of "returning to the source", is in a sense the antithesis of normal Gilkesh values.
Of course on some level we *do* have to make peace with our origins and "return to the source". This is why both Lilith and Eve are important in Gilkesh mythology. In this context, Lilith represents the outward force and the will to live, while Eve represents the ultimate return to the metaphysical "womb". In the Gilkesh tradition, Lilith guards the gates of the underworld, while Eve is the Angel of Death. (Remember, in our Bible, Eve was the bringer of death *before* she was the bringer of life.) You could say that they represent Jupiter and Saturn, respectively, astrologically speaking; or in Jungian terms, Eros and Thanatos.
In the chapter on Lilith (http://asher813.typepad.com/fiction/2006/12/lilith.html), I have several of the characters giving their interpretations of the symbolism of Lilith in their culture. Notice that Sestris - who is a Singularity adherent - has a very different interpretation from the others. I used the device of the characters addressing the reader in an "aside" (you could picture, as in a movie, the characters speaking directly into the camera) as a way to present the information directly rather than trying to figure out how to work it into the story - especially with Sestris, who is "undercover" and would not normally talk about her beliefs openly with the other characters.
So, that's the update. I'm going to shoot for two more chapters by the end of the week.