Friday, January 20, 2012

The Story Behind Sullivan's War

UPDATE: Sullivan's War: Book II is now available!

On January 20, I released Sullivan's War: Book I - All Good Men Serve the Devil. I would therefore like to take this opportunity to give you the story behind the development of this series.

It all began with a single scene, all dialogue, between one Sergeant Leonard Riley and Colonel Geary. It wasn't really meant to be a story at all but rather a vignette. It was, I suppose, nothing more than a writing exercise. But at some point, around two years ago, I went back to that vignette, which I had entitled Sergeant Riley's Account, and added narrative to the dialogue. Now it was a character study. But there was still a story there that needed telling. What happens to Riley after his debriefing with Geary? What is the outcome of this lie that he's being asked to tell?

By the time it was finished, Segeant Riley's Account was a novelette and came in at around 10,000 words. It was the longest complete story that I had ever written. I felt pretty good about it and planned to submit it to some of the science fiction magazines. But then I went to see a movie. That movie was called Avatar. Alien planet? Check. Technologically primitive yet intelligent species? Check. Soldier who defies command to try and protect that species? Check.

I was upset. No, I was angry. I knew that I couldn’t submit this story for publication on the heels of the massive success of that movie. Never mind that the story and theme are completely different, but the idea, I felt, would be seen as too similar. Anyone who read it would think, I know where he got that. It would be rejected on the basis of that alone.

So it sat. It underwent revision. It sat some more. I wrote several other short stories that made the rounds of the scifi mags. But my work, for whatever reason, did not attract the attention of publishers. Was I simply a lousy writer? Was it just a result of circumstance? I wasn't sure. But I had received very encouraging responses from some editors so I decided that my work at least deserved a chance to be seen by the public. I decided to try my hand at self-publishing.

By this time, summer of 2011, I'd had a novel I’d been working on for a couple of years called Chrysopteron. I was--and still am--in love with that project and am intentionally taking my time with it. But I went back to Sergeant Riley’s Account and had another look. This Edaline rebellion still captured my interest. Maybe, for the first major work I would publish, I could write about that. I decided to publish a few short stories first so I could understand the process and those stories, one collection called Inner Lives and a stand-alone short called Sleep, were well-received and have earned all 4- and 5-star reviews. I decided that this self-publishing business was something that I'd like to have a serious go at.

By this time I had written several stories (most of them as of yet unpublished) that took place in a universe I called the Myriad Spheres Universe, hence the name of this blog. These stories take place about 500 years in the future and humanity has discovered hyperspace travel. Hyperspace, however, is not instantaneous. It can take anywhere from three weeks to over five months to travel from one planet to another. A governing body, called the Stellar Assembly, rules over many of these planets.

One of these Myriad Spheres stories was about a high-profile politician who is murdered on Earth. Somehow, that tied in to this idea of Edaline trying to get into the Stellar Assembly. Then I wrote about a bounty hunter after a wanted criminal. Was he the same man who had murdered the assemblyman? (Note: the bounty hunter story line will be introduced in Sullivan's War: Book II)

All these different stories began to weave themselves together and I began to see the tale they were all leading me to. I would not write a story about the Edaline rebellion, or even the events that take place around the time of the rebellion. The novel (now trilogy) would be set about 12 years after the rebellion and would be the story of a man from Edaline who is trying to prevent the planet from entering the Stellar Assembly and, further, wants to begin a new rebellion against that planet’s oppressive government.

I wrote an outline and looked at Sergeant Riley’s Account again. Could I incorporate this story into it, to somehow give my protagonist, now named Rick Sullivan, further motivation? No. Sergeant Riley’s… was too fully formed; it had its own story to tell and was too long to be an in-book prologue. But with this wonderful ebook platform there was no reason it could not be released on its own and still serve as a prologue.

Sergeant Riley's Account does not directly impact the Sullivan’s War trilogy but it will, I think, enrich a reader’s understanding of the universe in which Sullivan’s War takes place. The short story Sleep also takes place in this Myriad Spheres universe. I hope it is a world that readers find engaging, as I have a few other stories planned that also take place within it.

So, Sullivan's War will be my first major undertaking as a writer. I hope you all decide to follow along with Frank Allen and Rick Sullivan on this journey they have begun in All Good Men Serve the Devil.

Please click the following links for more information:

Sullivan's War: Book I - All Good Men Serve the Devil
Sullivan's War: Book II - A City without Walls
Sullivan's War: Prologue - Sergeant Riley's Account
Sleep - A scifi/psychological horror short story that takes place in the Myriad Spheres Universe
Inner Lives: Three Short Stories - Three tales of literary speculative fiction

No comments:

Post a Comment