A little while ago I asked my fans whether they would be interested in a prequel to the Shadeward Saga detailing what happened prior to the colonisation of Esurio and the exodus from Earth, or a ‘Side-quel’ set in the same era as the Shadeward Saga exploring what was going on in the rest of the Shadeward universe.
Both have appeal to me, and both will be completed eventually, it was more feedback on the order of creation I was interested in. A put up a poll on twitter and facebook; both came up with different answers! I’ve decided to go for a side-quel for various reasons.
Firstly, it gives me a chance to write my own Space Opera.
The existing Shadeward books are planet bound (with occasional flying machines) but are essentially not a Space Opera in the classic sense. My Elite Dangerous books were, very much, a Space Opera, though obviously constrained by being set in the Elite universe and having to adhere to its lore. However, what I enjoyed most about writing in the Elite universe was the political scenarios, the variations on location afforded by multiple planets and systems, and the space travel components.
Secondly, I can also, dare I say it, do a better job of the lore, background, consistency and integrity of the stories if I do it myself.
Writing in the Elite Dangerous universe was fun, a huge privilege and very much a ‘bucket list’ item for me. However it was also a compromise of creativity, having to incorporate some of the ‘oddities’ of the Elite Dangerous game and the constant ‘retcons’ of the lore in question. My two Elite books had to be written effectively as stand alone novels as there was no guarantee I could hook them up because Frontier would not take a long view of ongoing narrative, something they now appear to have given up on entirely. As a result my Elite books are simply not as good as they could have been, and pale alongside the quality I achieved with the Shadeward Saga.
Those of you who have read Shadeward throughout know the level of detail I have gone into in order to make those stories work. I take the lore of my worlds extremely seriously because I fundamentally believe it makes the stories better. Clearly you still have to be a good writer, but a solid foundation you can rely on is crucial.
Thirdly, there seems to be no opportunity to write another Elite Dangerous novel.
I have great affection for the Elite franchise, huge respect for many of the people who work at Frontier and vast debt to the loyal fans who put me in a position to write those two books. I will continue streaming about Elite, going to conventions and meeting the fans. I’d have been very happy to write another novel to mark the beginning of the ‘New Era’. It could have been ready alongside whatever this new version of the game is. Frontier didn’t ask though, so I’ve moved on with my plans.
Its time for me to create my own space adventures, unfettered and unconstrained. Frankly, I can do a better job without Elite Dangerous than with it. I have a purpose built universe. The Shadeward universe is internally consistent, with detailed lore, background, technology, timeline and characters. This won’t be retconned, ignored, changed or tweaked for ‘reasons’.
The name refers to the journey undertaken by Muhammed from Mecca to Medina in 622AD. It also has more general interpretation meaning Exodus or Migration.
It will be a series of 4 books like Shadeward, set in the same time period, but covering the structure of the universe in and around Sol as alluded to in Shadeward. As we know, we abandoned the Earth and set out into space, attempting to colonise other worlds in order to survive. Esurio was one colony that did manage to survive. The question is, what happened to the others and what are they doing now?
Hegira will answer this.
What can I tell you at this stage? There will be spacecraft and spacestations, there will be interstellar travel. There will be adherance to the laws of physics, though with a nod to potential future technologies we don’t currently have, some of which are required to make stories work. The action will all take place with twenty lightyears of Earth, as that is as far as we’ve managed to reach at this point in the Shadeward lore.
There will be interstellar politics, there will be various planetary locales of different types, adventure, set pieces, grand escapes and crises to deal with. Naturally, as you’d expect from me, there will be a cast of memorable characters you’ll love, hate… or both.
In terms of production I will be finishing Doomdark’s Revenge first before embarking on any writing, so expect that to be out during the summer this year. In the interim I’ll be working on the world-building essential to make this work.
If you enjoyed my Elite Dangerous stories you will love these too, they’ll share some similarities, but you’ll have a deeper and more contiguous set of adventures awaiting you. If you enjoyed Shadeward the same blend of mystery, adventure and characterisation will be present again. Who knows, perhaps we’ll see Esurio from another perspective too.
I’ve also grown as a writer in the intervening years. As in anything you do, the more you do it, the better you get. Hegira will be more epic, more expansive and engaging than my Elite books, and will flesh out the universe you’ve already seen glimpses of in Shadeward.
It’s time for me to write on … and I will!