Events dear boy, events

Mar 22, 2013

Harold MacMillan (UK Prime Minister – 1957-1963)

Good progress! I’m closing out this week with 17,490 words against a target of 12,000. This is good, but I can’t afford to complacent. There are family holidays in the plan, which will drop me back again, so getting ahead now is a useful piece of contingency.

I also owe you a (slightly boring) finance update at some point. Paypal pledges have been coming in since the Kickstarter closed, so I’ll share the current financial position; I’d like to keep that all transparent.

I’m sure most of you recognised today’s quote. It was Harold MacMillan’s response when asked, as a politician, what he feared the most.That’s a good theme this week as I’ve completed the first ‘Act’ of my story and it’s all concerned with the politicial machinations which drive the entire rest of the plot. The main event which kicks off the story is written – now the remainder of the story can unfold.

This has been a *lot* of fun to write and is in my comfort zone as a writer. Lots of characters being deliberately obtuse and a bunch of intrigue and mis-information. There is a significant amount of dialogue. My writing style tends to be primarily dialogue driven, so I spend a lot of time ensuring that you, as a reader, are effectively eaves-dropping on ‘secret’ conversations. You don’t see the plot as I’ve written it; you have to put the pieces together yourself and see if you can figure out what’s happening. All the clues are there, but you’re going to have to pay attention.

The end result of this is that I want you to feel part of what’s happening. The characters in the story aren’t omnipotent, they’re making decisions based on what they currently know and what they think is mostly like to happen next. Some have particular agendas in mind. As a reader, you’ll be in a position to follow their thought processes and try to determine what will happen next. Some stuff you’ll figure out, some will take you by surprise. Crucially I aim for you to feel like you’re there, in that room when the… (and cut!) 😉

I don’t major on description. You’re going to have to engage your imagination to a high degree. I’ll paint you an outline, a black and white sketch if you like, you’re going to have to colour it all in. I spend my time on the characterisation and speech – always asking “Does this sound realistic?” “Would this person really say that?” “I’m I conveying precisely how this characters feels at this moment?”

Imagination can make a man of you – apparently.

That’s not to say I haven’t described things. You’ve already seen the setting, but there’s a bunch more detail you won’t have seen. A good example is some of the buildings involved. I don’t want to provide a video of these, partly because I don’t have the ability to do so, but mostly because that’s your job as a reader to visualise these things. I’ll give you the clues, but you’ll imagine it in a way that works for you.

One things that’s been really exciting this week is seeing the emerging designs for the Imperial starships from Frontier. I’m already painting the Empire as a very ostentatious bunch, and these ships designs fit into my world very well indeed.

My favourite ever sci-fi spaceship was the, unfortunately short-lived, elegant ‘Naboo Royal Cruiser’ from Star Wars: Episode II. They’d given it a daft (in sci-fi terms) but rather impressive sound effect too, a sort of deep throbbing mechanical vibration that implied as sense of majesty.

The Naboo Imperial Cruiser from “Star Wars Episode II :Attack of the Clones”

The Frontier designs have something of this elegance and style about them. Whereas the Federation designs are functional and utilitarian, the Imperial ships are as much artworks as they are practical ships. Four of the Imperial fighters have already made an appearance in the story and, in my mind’s eye, the current ship is what I’ve been using. I know this isn’t finalised, but it’s a great place to start. (I’m not sure about the ‘bicycle’ driving position though, looks like a recipe for serious back-ache to me!).

The initial Frontier designs for the small Imperial Fighter.

Interesting to see they’re considering the retractable nacelles for the engines, rather like the Imperial Courier (my favourite ship from FE2/FFE).

The Imperial Courier – The Empire’s finest vessel?

Anyway, on to this week’s pledger interview. Matthew was the second in line and a fellow Arthur C. Clarke fan (good man!). A large number of you seem to be fans of “Science-Faction” – which suits me well. Matthew gives us his thoughts on Elite : Reclamation…

Q. Tell us your name and a little about yourself, what you do, where you come from and so on.

Matthew Benson – I work on M&A transactions, based in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, but I grew up and went to university in the UK. I’m married, with three children (nearly 7, 5, 3) – the kids are too young to know Elite, or really any such computer games, but my son (5) has enjoyed watching the dev diaries with me (he especially likes ‘Scavenger hunt’).

On the KS comments thread my avatar became “Chonty” for a while, as part of a little joke that I was having with Jonty M. Campbell, and it’s sort of stuck – I’ve now registered ‘Commander Chonty’ in the E:D web app.

Q. What sort of sci-fi are you into? What’s your favourite book/film/show?

I’m very definitely part of the Arthur C. Clarke fan base. I loved 2001-ASO (if I had to pick one, this would be my all time favorite), Rendezvous with Rama, A Fall of Moondust, etc. – basically, I’m more into what I consider “Science-faction” (so also other classic writers, such as Isaac Asimov, Kim Stanley Robinson, Frank Herbert, etc.). I’m also a big fan of Sci-fi films such as 2001-ASO, Terminator, Blade Runner, Moon, Total Recall, …

While I claim not to be a Trekkie, I have a soft spot for NextGen episodes involving the Borg (I like the thinking behind the Borg as a concept, and what that might mean for where humanity is heading – I’m already mentally preparing a blog post on this topic …).

Q. How did you come across Elite:Reclamation? Was it from the main E:D kickstarter, my previous books, or somewhere else?

The E:D KS comments thread – I was on there from day 2, after seeing Rory Cellan-Jones’ article on the BBC website. It was through the comments thread that I first heard about your Oolite saga books, which I’ve started to read (and enjoy!).

Q. What did you think of the whole ‘Kickstarter funding a Kickstarter’ thing? Did it bother you at all?

Not at all! I thought it was great. Indeed, I actually thought I could take credit for suggesting it on the KS comments thread, but wasn’t aware that similar discussions were happening on the Oolite threads (as I since heard on your Laveradio interview).

Q. What was it that persuaded you to pledge for Elite:Reclamation? What did you think of my kickstarter approach?

Don’t take this as any mitigation of my desire to read your book, but I actually pledged for all of the books (it almost became a concern as more and more books kept on appearing with pledge requests!). So, what was it that made me pledge for the books? Plain and simple: The Dark Wheel. For me that was part of what made Elite ‘Elite’.

Regarding your KS approach – I was very impressed, especially with the videos. I actually don’t recall whether I pledged for your book, or Commander Boz’s book first, but yours was one of the first two I pledged to, and given your writing-history (Oolite saga) I’m very much keen to see your book.

Q. How important do you feel fiction is to a computer game?

In many, perhaps most cases, not very important at all, but then Elite is no normal computer game. You can see from my blog post (written during the KS project) what sort of impact Elite (original, for BBC ‘B’) and ‘The Dark Wheel’ together had on me:

Q. What are you looking forward to most about Elite:Reclamation?

A good story, that keeps the reader engaged until the end, and plays to the fans love of Elite. Is that what you are planning to write? Otherwise I’d like my pledge money back please! 😉

Q. Finally what feedback would you like to give me as I embark on the writing?

Be yourself. There will be several books, and other forms of written material (gamebooks, RPGs, etc.) coming out, and I’d like them not all to be ‘identical’ (of course, I’m aware of Frontier Development’s efforts to achieve consistency and factual accuracy, but the author’s own styles should clearly shine through).

Thanks for that Matthew. Quite a few more of these in the works, but if you want your chance there are plenty more weeks of blog updates available.

And yes, I’ve got another video for you, here’s a tour of the Prism system itself as created in ‘SpaceEngine’. (This video was put together a few weeks ago, so apologies for the ‘I’m about to start writing’ bit at the end!)

See you next week.

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