Champion Of Mars: author Guy Haley interview
SFX: It sounds a long way from the Earthbound detective tale of Reality 36 and Omega Point (from Angry Robot). Was that intentional? Where do they overlap?
Haley: Champion Of Mars is actually set in the same universe as the Richards and Klein books. It takes place a few years after the Five Crisis, and about ten years or so before Reality 36. Keen-eyed readers will spot references to Reality 36 in Champion, but the links are minimal. Champion Of Mars is a standalone story. The Richards and Klein universe is a big one (at least, in my head), there’s plenty of room in there for all kinds of stories. The benefit to me as a writer is that I didn’t have to create an entirely fresh 22nd century; the benefit to the reader is that sense of continuity and some little Easter eggs regarding the Five Crisis and some of the characters from Reality 36 and Omega Point. I will say no more!
SFX: Omega Point is out too – how does it follow the cliffhanger of Reality 36?
Haley: Well, the first one was a sort of murder mystery, but as in all good noir-ish circumstances, the investigation and solution of one crime uncovered a far greater one. It’s that greater case that is resolved here. One of the other Class Five AIs is trying to fix humanity’s destiny; for our own good, of course. It’s down to Richards and Otto to stop him robbing mankind of free will, even though the alternative is quite probably worse. But there’s something else odd going on, and Richards finds himself trapped in a very peculiar online construct, while Otto battles across Siberia in the Real against his erstwhile colleague Kaplinski.
SFX: What does the future hold for Richards and Klein? Do you have more cases lined up for them?
Haley: I have six ideas in total for Richards and Klein novels, and several for short stories. Don’t expect loads of “online” stuff now, I’ve done that. In fact, the next one would be a hunt for a serial killer that takes place almost entirely in the real – with no cliffhanger! On saying that, Richards and Klein one and two have to sell sufficiently well for my publisher to pick up more of them, so there fate will be up in the air for quite some time. But, even if Angry Robot don’t want to publish more (and I hope they will), I’ll definitely write more short stories about them. There are two on my blog right now, as it happens: Ghost and The Nemesis Worm (which you can also get from Amazon as an ebook).
SFX: You’re also working on some Black Library titles set in the Warhammer universes. Can you let us know a little about those projects too? What’s the next one?
Haley: I currently have three titles with the Black Library, none of which will be out until next year. I can say no more about them. When they’re due out, I most certainly will.
SFX: Was it difficult, after Richards and Klein, to write shared universe fiction?
Haley: It’s a lot harder to write shared universe fiction than your own material. For a start, there’s so much already established – and this will hold as true for Star Wars or Star Trek as it does for Warhammer – that you actually have to do a fair bit of research before you start writing; even if you’re steeped in the lore of the games like I am.
Secondly, you’re dealing with archetypes. Now, that’s not to say that you can’t play with those archetypes, or even subvert them to a certain extent, but there’s a lot less leeway in terms of moral shading when you’re writing about say, a goblin or a dwarf than there is when you’re writing about a human being. Human beings are very varied. Take goblins – they are wicked, cruel, mischievous, cunning, craven, and, surprisingly, somewhat sentimental. Goblins vary only in as much as some are cleverer than others, say, or the ones that buck the stereotype are brave. But you’ll never have a kind goblin, or a goblin that renounces violence. I’m simplifying, and there is an amount of difference between individuals, but they are much more narrowly defined.
Thirdly, if you get into a bind in your own work, you can write your way out of it. You can’t do that so easily in shared universe fiction. I can make Richards know something – perhaps he met someone years ago, and that gives him the information he needs to escape a predicament now. If I need to do that, I can retroactively fix the story so that whatever needed to have happened, happened. But if the Space Marine captain you’re writing about was in x place at x time according to the timeline of Warhammer 40,000, then that’s where he was. You can’t change it. And if there’s something that perhaps doesn’t make sense to you, or feels a little contradictory, you have to deal with that too. Obviously, within a series you create yourself you eventually have to deal with these things, but there are so many more restrictions with shared fiction. It’s like a game of narrative Kerplunk!
But this actually makes writing tie-in fiction intellectually rewarding, it becomes a puzzle that has to be solved. Being in a boxed universe makes you more creative. I liken it quite often to creating a magazine. The best thing about it is the collaborative aspect. I really enjoy bouncing ideas back and forth, and you get that a great deal with tie-in stuff in a way that doesn’t happen so much with original fiction.
SFX: Thanks Guy!
Champion Of Mars is out from Solaris Books on 24 April (US) and 10 May (UK). Reality 36 and Omega Point, from Angry Robot Books, are available now in bookshops. Kindle editions are also available: Reality 36 (UK or US) and Omega Point (UK or US). Read Guy Haley’s blog here.