It's been a while, I know. Apart from a recent post on someone else's series, the last time I posted about anything I've been working on was July. It's November now. So I'm sorry about that – it's been a testing few months. However, I have not been idle. I've been working on a great deal. Firstly, I have been going over the final edits on a Beyond the Wall novella, Atonement, which is currently with David Gatewood for editing. It will have its first outing in Crime and Punishment, an anthology I am editing and curating with Alex Roddie, due to be released at the end of November. It will be released as a standalone shortly afterwards.
Additionally, of course, I am working on the fourth and final book in the Beyond the Wall series, Into A Silent Darkness. Release date to be determined, but I would think early next year. There are a couple of other projects too, but I won't talk about them here. I'll scribble another post for you soon about those.
A Maquisard's Song
The main reason I'm posting is to keep you updated on A Maquisard's Song, the new series I am working on at the moment. This is by far my most ambitious series to date. The opening book will be called In the Eyes of the Dead and, unlike The Heretic, will be a full-length, epic novel to open an epic series. At the moment, the first draft manuscript is 56,000 words (with a likely final word count of around 135,000).
If you thought the Beyond the Wall setting was detailed, the landscape for Maquisard is lavish, even sumptuous, by comparison. The dramatis personae are among the most exciting, compelling, and surprising I have ever created and I am really enjoying working with them. So much work has gone into this series over the last six months, picking apart every detail of the worlds I am creating – socio-economic structures and race, religious and spiritual issues, ecology, technology at various stages of a civilisation's advancement; as well as the themes to be explored: occupation and annexation of other species, collaboration in a time of war, genocide, the role of artificial and super intelligence, as well as genetic and nano-modification in our society and others. Dozens of documents, post-it notes, folders tabbed and highlighted, to draw together a setting that will do justice to the story I am creating. The way in which Empires are born, rule, then fall, and the effect on individuals within those vast, sprawling nightmares. The worst of what people will do to each other when faced with a threat to their existence – the meaning of loyalty and honour in an interstellar setting.
There are questions I want to ask (not all of them here, but this gives you an idea):
When does fighting for freedom become terrorism? Is it the cause that drives it, or the manner of the conduct of a guerrilla war? Does it matter who you are fighting for?
Who becomes a freedom fighter? What damage does it cause to the psyche of those who engage in it? Does the freedom fighter fall in love with the lifestyle – become addicted to the power, control and violence? Can they extract themselves into a normal life again?
What rights to soldiers have in war? The tragedy of their use as pawns in a much larger game. This is especially true of what are essentially slaves – those created for that single purpose, but who are still sapient with beliefs and a destiny. The choices they are forced to make, who to fight for, loyalty vs morality. Loyalty is tested when a civilisation descends into civil war. The functional belief of some in the Empire and what it stands for, as well as the inviolate nature of the chain of command.
How should we treat collaborators? When does the military justification for killing a collaborator weaken so it becomes murder? Is murder ever justified? Do we need to understand the collaborator’s position – one of fear, acquiescence and cowardice? Are they ever really combatants and, if so, don’t they deserve the type of protections afforded by the Geneva Conventions? What justice do they deserve – some form of due process? Does war change the concept of justice?
The whole of that first book is outlined and the next book has its own structure in place too. The overarching story is complete and now I am writing the whole thing as fast as I can. In the Eyes of the Dead is proving to be the most complex, emotive, and dramatic work I have ever done. Kameron Hurley said of The Mirror Empire, "Just because you think up a dark kernel of a swell idea doesn’t mean you have the technical skill to pull it off, and this book required a very long apprenticeship and a great deal of editing and feedback from a variety of folks to make it work." The writing and storytelling to be found within In the Eyes of the Dead really demonstrates how far I have come since I published The Heretic in June 2014.
What's also special about this one is that I intend to write two, separate and standalone series in the same setting. They will cross-over in places, but neither will require the other to exist. In the Eyes of the Dead will be the first book in what I will call an epic, darker space opera drawing in espionage thriller elements as well as classic, epic science fiction. That series will be at least three books.
The Dark Descent
The second series in the same setting, working title The Dark Descent, will be a first person, present tense military science fiction story with an emphasis on fast-paced and thrilling drama. Of course, the same thematic undertones will be present, as with all my fiction, but this will be action-packed, heat-pumping and powerful. My short from No Way Home, entitled To Sing of Chaos and Eternal Night will form the basis of the first novel in that series. That's the style I'll be writing in – far more immediate and personal.
So there you have it, what I've been doing and what is to come. I hope you're as excited as I am. 2016 promises to be my best year by far.