Han shot first!

Apr 13, 2013

Shoot first, or forever hold your piece.

This week I’ve not been doing as much writing as normal, so today’s update is a shorter one. Easter holidays, family, accompanying jobs around the house and various other things have necessarily taken priority over the writing. On the good side though, I’ve managed to do some work on Elite:Reclamation and I’m pleased to report that I’m at 24,273 words, against a target of 24,000. I should be back to normal next week.

I’ve also introduced the third major character, pretty much the villain of the piece. I’ve written a scene with a fairly graphic piece of violence, which is new territory for me. I hope I’ve done it justice.

This raises an interesting point which was debated on the forums and also on Lave Radio; at what level should these stories (and the game itself) be pitched?

The point’s been made, a number of times, that the Elite audience is pretty mature (in age at least!). Most folks are likely to be in their 30s and 40s. With this in mind, the tone of the books arguably should aim at this market segment, favouring books with a measure of strong language, violence and sex as ‘allowed’ for the plot, even if they’re not used as part of the story.

Others have sounded a warning note advising that the game needs to bring in fresh blood and that younger players have to be considered too.  A ‘rating’ for Elite:Dangerous has yet to be defined, but it would seem unlikely for the game to be much more than a ‘12’ on the PEGI scale, perhaps a 15. Should the stories likewise ‘tone back’ to accommodate this?

Then there is the context. My story, for instance, is set out on the Frontier, where things are, let’s be honest, a bit brutal. Frontier justice is harsh and quickly dispensed. In many places the law is decided by who wins the argument, or who has the biggest gun. Out here, folks are not likely to be characters out of Pride and Prejudice. If someone breaks your arm or sticks a knife in you during a fight, blood, guts and swearing is the result.

The Elite universe is not clean and sanitised like Star Trek, where humanity has bettered itself before heading out to the stars, typically taking the moral higher ground in most of its adventures. If anything it’s more anarchic than Star Wars, potentially more complex and nuanced than that of Firefly.

For realisms sake, lengthy bar-room brawls are out. You win or you lose quickly in a fight, with one side or other incurring some unpleasant injuries. You don’t dance around trading punches and rolling around until your shirt rips. You use whatever is to hand to immobilise your opponent as fast as possible. Firefights are equally quick. People who know how to use guns don’t generally miss all that often. Ammunition is limited. There won’t be blazing exchanges of bullets with unfeasibly large magazines.

Dan Dowd? Dead.

I’d expect the baser tendencies of humanity to play out in these places too. Folks will lie, cheat and steal. Men and women will use whatever assets they have to get ahead, with all that entails. Shoot first and ask questions later isn’t just a cliché, it’s a survival tactic.

My inclination is to be true to the context I’m writing in. This is the frontier; it will get a bit messy. I’m not a fan of gratuitous sex, violence or profanity in books or films, but there will be some because of the nature of where I’m writing. Realism trumps the other considerations. My challenge is to make sure it’s appropriate to the story and not over or under cooked.

In my previous Oolite stories, the characters have already encountered some of these situations already. Rebecca was tortured in Incursio, Jim shot in Mutabilis. There was an allusion to a sex scene, though it wasn’t described. I promised from the outset that Elite:Reclamation would have a darker tone than the Oolite saga. There has certainly been a measure of violence thus far. I expect this story to rate at least a ‘15’ and possibly and ‘18’ – not that books get rated!

So – over to you. What are your thoughts on this issue? Are you looking for a squeaky clean space adventure in the manner of Star Trek or a gritty violence fest like Alien? Should I aim at a demographic, or just write the ******* story?

See you next week.

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