Friday, 1 January 2016

A new year, a new novel...

As a writer about to start a new novel, I have to ask myself why the world needs yet another book. When I wrote the Eden Paradox series, I wanted to create an alien landscape – a chessboard if you like – where humanity was a pawn rather than a king, and where aliens were truly alien. I also wanted to tackle the question of whether we would try to evolve in an accelerated way if the opportunity arose, and the social impact of such a decision if fast-track evolution was chosen. I also wanted to put humanity on trial, and imagine how alien races might judge us, whether we would be seen as a useful contribution to a larger alien community, or be seen as a pariah, or even as weeds.

The Eden Paradox started out as a short story (Trouble in Eden), one that was never published but instead grew into a novel, which had some success and so evolved into an epic journey, a trilogy in four parts…

So, it’s with some trepidation that I find myself starting on a new novel – When the children come – one that began as an idea three years ago for a short story, and then as maybe a novella, and now a novel, and potentially a series. So I must ask myself that important question, why does the world need yet another book?

It’s complicated. Maybe in five years’ time I’ll be able to say it more succinctly, but here goes for now.

It starts with the character, Nathan. He hates kids. My sister read the opening pages and laughed, and said it was me (my daughter hasn’t seen it yet). Actually Nathan is angry with how the world idolizes children, and maybe angry at his own upbringing (not me). He finally meets a like-minded woman, (Lara) just as kids start disappearing, and he realises he is the only one who can save them.

Okay, but that’s plot, that’s not what the book is about.
Nathan is an ex-soldier. He completed two tours in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, five years ago. He has war in his head. His new-found girlfriend, Lara, is a pacifist. He wants to fight his way out of a bad situation. Lara doesn’t, although she doesn’t have an alternative solution, and the unseen enemy definitely wants to kill them. But Nathan will end up with a choice, about exactly how far to go in order to survive – whether to escape, defeat the enemy, or annihilate the enemy completely, at great cost.

So in a larger sense, the theme is about having war in our heads, and what that means for our long-term future. Lara is partly based on a real person, who says that men wage war, and that if more women were in power, there would be less wars. Maybe true.

Okay, the world may need one more book, but does it need an entire series?

What happens in the first book is effectively an alien-induced holocaust. In the subsequent books (if I get that far), I want to explore the trans-generational trauma effects. This is where the current novel-in-progress meets up with a couple of short stories I’ve written (Executive Decision and The Sylvian Gambit), set in a future several centuries from now where humanity has secured its place in the galaxy, but not by being the nice guy. This is not Star Trek, it is Sphericon, an aggressive military-industrial culture that ‘colonises’ other alien races. This ‘right to might’ of humanity links back to what happens in book 1.

Like any scifi writer, I write something because I think it could happen – which doesn’t mean I want it to. One of the points of scifi – aside from entertainment – is to paint possible futures, so we can see which way to go, and which paths not to take, and reflect on how who we are today will define who we will be tomorrow. Also, any writer is a product of their time, and is also – whether they acknowledge it or not – writing about the present. But that’s for the reader to decipher from reading the novel.

I hope to have When the children come out later this year, then I’ll start on the next one. I intend it as a trilogy, with each book stand-alone and separated in time with new characters, but we’ll see if it ends up a tetralogy like Eden Paradox.

In the meantime I’m looking for an agent/publisher for my (non-SF) thriller with a scuba diving element, Sixty-Six Metres, so I’ll blog on that front as things happen (or don’t, lol).

And if you haven’t read the Eden books, well, what are you waiting for?

Happy New Year, whatever you're reading :-)

The Eden Paradox – a murder, a secret society, a conspiracy, and the third attempt by a small team of astronauts to reach a new planet, Eden. But what awaits them there? And just how long has the secret society been plotting Earth's downfall?
Eden’s Trial – Humanity ventures out into space, running from its nemesis the Q'Roth, and is put on trial for its right to exist. The sentence imposed will affect all new human children...
Eden’s Revenge – After eighteen years of quarantine, humanity, including its new 'genned' children, can venture out again. But an enemy armada is waiting just outside the shield...
Eden’s Endgame – in the midst of a galactic war between two advanced super-beings, humanity is the wild card in the deck. But one woman wants to tear down the galaxy, and only one man can stop her, and he will have to risk everything...


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