Erebus, my new sci-fi novel, went on release today so I thought I’d provide you with some background about the book’s themes, story & genesis.
Give me the story pitch?
The back cover synopsis gives you the flavor:
Deep-space explorer Linien Primae and the crew of the Spirit of Eden finally reach the habitable planet EREBUS. The planet’s volatile weather system and low-quality vegetation have the crew wondering whether landing had been such a good idea. A wave of terraformers had already arrived 120 years previously but they fail to welcome the newcomers.
But worse than that… they are being watched.
By conscription or by choice, the crew is marooned without hope of salvation.
In one word, what is the book’s theme?
Okay… How about in 3 words?
Fraternity, or Death.
Hmm. How about a teasing soundbite?
Well I like the one I put on the book’s front cover:
Blinded by reaching journey’s end.
Marooned without hope.
Seduced by fraternity.
Destroyed by Erebus.
Where does ‘Fraternity, or Death’ come into this picture?
Fraternity, or Death forms the external journey that the book deals with as characters come to terms with being marooned on EREBUS. Meaning, the things people do for brotherhood when push comes to shove.
As such, these are adult themes, dealt with in a sensitive way. The book may not be suitable for young children in the same way that, say, reading Stephen King’s The Shining would be too grown up for them.
Is there an internal journey too?
Yes. All good stories should have one, or several, inner emotional journeys. I go for several.
In EREBUS, I paired up specific characters to provide emotional ‘inner’ journeys with polar opposite goals. The two principal inner journeys are testing out fidelity & perseverance. But there are other sub-themes too (see the next Q on references).
However, just because I put multiple layers into the story, I made sure it doesn’t make the story overly complex. Folks can still enjoy it on face value as a dramatic sci-fi adventure.
The adventurous of you can dig beneath the surface and you’ll find EREBUS is an allegorical journey of fraternity, fidelity, and struggle under the harshest of circumstances – a life marooned – whether in society, work, politics, religion, philosophy, relationships, etc.
What are the book’s references? E.G. Where does the name EREBUS come from?
It’s from Greek mythology. EREBUS was a place in the underworld the dead had to pass, between Earth and Hades (Hell). My story chose the name specifically because of this meaning. This becomes clear as Linien & Co’s journey unfolds.
There are many, many references in the book. Taken from my personal life & research I did for the two books relating to:
- Exploration: The Franklin explorations of the Northwest passage
- Politics: Étienne Cabet’s Icarian movement & settlements in the U.S. Also the concept of Fraternity, or Death is taken from the national motto for France as it was during the French revolution (Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, ou la Mort). Terra Swarm was primarily about Liberty, and the next book deals with Equality
- Sociological & Philisophical: Isaiah Berlin’s Positive and Negative Liberty (the key theme in Terra Swarm)
- Punk Culture: Obscure punk/pop song ‘Outdoor Miner’ by Wire provided a huge inspiration around concepts for imagery and characters… it’s a song I’ve waxed lyrical about before)
And there are others, but that should be half the fun of finding them.
Do I need to read the previous book ‘Terra Swarm’ first?
No. EREBUS is a standalone story.
Many characters from Terra Swarm do make an appearance and their journeys unfold along with Linien Primaes own story – my main character. Reading the first book gives you additional background flavor.
Was it fun creating a new world/planet?
Loved it. Heartily recommend everybody should create a fictitious world off of this planet.
My reason for choosing to write sci-fi novels was that it’s possible to paint pictures of new environments, allowing me & the reader to reset our perceptions about a place and not color them with our preconceived thoughts.
For example, Terra Swarm was originally planned to be set directly after World War II, but I switched it to far into the future so that modern readers thoughts of the war, and its people & places, didn’t affect the story telling.
So, in writing EREBUS, I mapped out as much of the new physical landscape as possible first. The following is included in the print edition (click it to see a larger version).
Any overlap with polar exploration is completely intentional on my part.
Anything memorable about the writing process?
The stand out moment was reaching the central axis point in the story. As soon as I got to that exact moment in the writing I suffered a slipped disk & trapped nerve in my lower spine. This stopped me from writing for two weeks, which thankfully gave me more time to consider the third act.
To mark the axis point, I added a single page with the phrase ‘Death, or Fraternity’ to show how the story’s emphasis had switched (along with my own health 😉 ).
Is there more to follow?
Yes. Some of the characters will be back. The next installment is called Soundings and it ties up a number of loose strings. As mentioned above, its main theme will be equality.
Long term, I have 3 further stories in the series planned, but I will probably write something different before starting into these. Maybe even write a general fiction, non-sci-fi book.