Questions about Elite: Reclamation from readers

Posted by on Jul 18, 2014 in Progress Report

Questions? Yes, quite a few!

There have been a few questions about Elite: Reclamation coming in by email and some of them, in particular, are quite interesting to answer. With permission from their authors, I’ve answered them below so everyone else can see the answers. I hope you find them interesting too.

There is a lot of politics in Elite: Reclamation and it’s convincingly written, which begs the question – is it based on something real?

Short answer? No, it’s not based on something real. No characters in this book… etc 😉 However, in my career and private life I have (and continue) to observe and take part in office politics at a reasonably high level. There are occasionally some rather eyebrow raising moments as people manoeuvre and cajole their various ’empires’. It’s not difficult to learn some lessons and use circumstances for ‘research’. All of us play games, and bringing that to the story allowed me to make (I hope) the characters in the story that much more realistic.

Surprised there’s no romance in the story unlike ‘Torn’? Expected Hassan and Salomé would ‘you know’ but they didn’t – which is cool – but sort of unexpected in a Space Opera. Why was that?

Deliberate character choice. To be frank, Salomé is not interested and given the actions of the men in the story, who can blame her! She is driven by her own agenda during Elite: Reclamation. She is grateful for the response she gets during the story and shows it, but that doesn’t extend to any romantic feelings. I was keen that Salomé wasn’t defined by having a ‘man’ either sort out her problems for her, or be the mechanism by which she resolves some of her own character flaws. Salomé self-realises her issues and makes her own choices, confounding or confusing the men about her, not taking a cue from them. That was important. Hassan does carry something of a torch for Salomé, but that’s more in growing admiration for her strength of character and fortitude – though he doesn’t articulate it that way. If a sequel occurs I’ll delve into that a bit more, but don’t expect Salomé to go all gooey-eyed over some action hero space cadet. Also, the plot didn’t require it. Hopefully there was enough going on, adding more emotional interplay would just have slowed it all down.

Don’t take this as a criticism because it’s not, but your writing style feels quite old fashioned compared to the other Elite books. Elite: Reclamation feels more like a classic adventure rather a modern story. Is that deliberate?

Nicely put! 🙂 I guess I am rather old-fashioned to be honest. In terms of SF inspiration I draw from Arthur C. Clarke, Anne McCaffrey, Asimov etc. In terms of character stories, I know and love Dickens, Brontë, Shakespeare, Austin, Hugo and so on. I didn’t deliberately make Elite: Reclamation ‘old fashioned’ but wrote the story I wanted to write. Perhaps my inspiration shaped and moulded the book into that form. I made a conscious decision not to be ‘clever’ with the structure or the approach, and to write something that I hope would be easy to read. I also wanted a complex story, with significant character development and specifically not an ‘action hero adventure’. Hopefully Elite: Reclamation comes across as ‘not pretentious’ in that regard.

You’ve given the factions in the game, particularly the Imperials, quite a particular flavour. Is that going to be carried into the game?

I guess that’s up to Frontier to be honest. My ‘Imperials’ were very much shaped by the work that David Braben, Michael Brookes, TJames, Dave Hughes and Andrew Gillet initially did by coming up with an ‘Empire Guidebook’. Elite: Reclamation is built on top of that, so the flamboyance, pride, arrogance and design flair that marks out the Imperials should very much be in the game. I think we’re already seeing that with the Imperial ship designs. Given that initial canvas, I tried to imagine what the society would be like and Elite:Reclamation gives you an interpretation of how Imperial characters and levels of society interact with each other. I find them far more fascinating than the Federation and the Alliance, which look rather dull and clichéd organisations to me – hence I was keen to write about them.  It will be interesting to see how interactions with Imperial staff (docking and security forces being the primary way gamers will interact with the Empire) is implemented in Elite: Dangerous in the near future.

Swords in the future, really? Great scenes, but doesn’t seem likely to me.

A deliberate stylistic choice, one of my characters actually scoffs at it during the story. It was added to give the Imperials a certain flavour, whereby ancient customs are preserved because they have some intrinsic value beyond the immediate. Clearly a sword is useless in practical terms against any kind of modern or futuristic weapon, but the visceral close quarters honour of a duel between combatants allows for differences to be settled without escalating into a major conflict with lots of collateral damage. I saw the Imperials as respecting and expecting those at a high station in society to have gone through the rigours and discipline of training to become proficient in some form of martial art. Most would never use it of course, particularly in the core worlds. Out on the Frontier, it actually becomes rather more useful…

Love how your characters feel ‘real’. Luko is my favourite. How do you do that?

A lot of planning basically. Each character has a backstory, a physical profile, likes, dislikes, mannerisms, significant events that have shaped them and so on. I do all this prior to starting to write story, so they’re quite well developed already. They get tweaked throughout, but they have to be distinct. I don’t start out with protagonists and antagonists (goodies and baddies) – the reader gets to judge where the character is on that scale. Dalk is fighting for freedom… or is he? Salomé is trying to re-establish Imperialism and doesn’t care who gets hurt in the process… or is she? Hassan’s just in it for the money… or is he? And so on and so on. The trick, I think, is to make each character try to achieve something which makes sense from that character’s perspective. Whether that is good or bad depends on the readers outlook. I try to make no judgement in the story itself. As for Luko, there’s a lot more to him than meets the eye… perhaps we’ll get a chance to find out – which leads me to the next question…

Will there be a sequel? Please please please!

All I can tell you is here. Next!

What was the thing that you were most worried about when writing <Elite: Reclamation> ?

Other than finishing on time? 🙂 I think I was most bothered about the FE2 and FFE Fans. I hadn’t played those games at the time and had to try and ‘get into them’ from a much later perspective. That was quite difficult. I was trying to figure out what people had taken away from those games as the ‘definitive’ experience. I took the sense of scale, the exploration and the planetary landings as the key part. Salomé’s musing as she watches Hassan’s ship descend towards Ferenchia through the clouds and the idea of deep space exploration as explained by Luko were the specific places where I was trying to say to FE2/FFE fans – “here’s your bit”. 🙂 Likewise Luko’s quip that his Cobra has been broken for twenty years and “hasn’t flown in all that time” was a nod to the original fans saying “We’re back! And it’s about bloody time too!”

Anyway – enough for now. If you’ve got some questions you’d like me to answer – please send them to enquiries at drewwagar dot com or in comments below and I’ll answer in a future blog.

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  1. “the work that David Braben and Michael Brookes initially did”

    Hmph. What about TJ, me and Andrew Gillet? We were there too!! 😉

    Great blog though, Drew – very informative and a great peek into the creative mind that brought us Reclamation, Torn and the Oolite Saga. The “office politics” concept is a good one to highlight, since even the everyday, humdrum life of an office worker can contribute to a plot in some way.

    • Sorry Dave! My version of the Empire Doc doesn’t credit everyone else. I’ll make amends! 🙂

  2. Excellent blog Drew and an interesting insight into how your process works.

    As a publisher I see a few drafts, a synopsis and chat to you about the future of the work, I rarely get to see inside the process that formed the original proposal so a lot of the above is new to me. Thanks for being so frank about your methods. As an inspiration, I’m sure it will help a lot of burgeoning writers out there.

    Right on!

    Dan 🙂

  3. Comment on the penultimate paragraph of your blog entry above:

    Are you aware that Cobras are in FE2 and FFE?

    • Yes, I had a complete list of ships available in FE2 and FFE. Luko’s quip is about his own ship, which is an ‘Elite Vintage’ version of the Cobra Mk3, rather than the later ones seen in FE2/FFE and ED.

  4. Hi Drew,

    Is that ‘Empire: Guidebook’ available anywhere to read or was it only given to the authors of official fiction to help them shape their books?

    • It is only available to the writers at present. Frontier have made no comment as to whether any of that information will be made generally available I’m afraid.

      • Such a shame, I know there are people who would like to write stories in Elite universe, even if they would have to remain unofficial but having something such as this would help them greatly. This gives me an idea…
        Thank you Drew, your book is great.

  5. It’s not just writers that are interested in that guidebook. I really hope a sanitised version of the guide becomes available in the future; one without spoilers, or at least spoilers tucked in at the back.

    Of course the title of such a guide should pay homage to one of Britain’s greatest science fiction writers.

  6. I know you’ve said you’ve based some of the character interactions on watching office politics play out, but how much of yourself have you put into the characters? And, which bits of you are where? 😉

    • I haven’t consciously put anything of myself into the characters as far as I’m aware, though I have borrowed from my experiences of martial arts (I study Aikido, which contains sword practice) to inform Dalk and Kahina’s duel.

      Having said that, Hassan definitely has some of the traits I remember in my younger days, and I’ve definitely used some of my own mannerisms in Gerrun and Cuthrick, though magnified enormously – hopefully I’m not that pompous!

  7. I’d just like to chime in to say that I also found Luko the most interesting character. In all that time, both as a pilot and then shipwrecked for 20 years, he has not lost his sense of wonder. He also seems to have found a sweet spot between idealism and pragmatism in the past. I would love to see more of him in the future. 🙂

    • Luko has a complex backstory which is worked out. To whet your appetite, he does have some significant tragedy in the past. If we get a chance for a sequel some of that may come back to haunt him…

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