It’s Friday and once more I’m bringing you a guest author…Yes, you’re right. We met through Twitter and he kindly agreed to be a guest on my blog. He later explained that he was working on quite a “different” kind of project, from the point of view of writing and wondered if it would be OK to bring that to my blog. I found it fascinating…If you read on Michael explains everything and you’ll realise he’s a really lucky man, because not only does he work in something he loves, with people who have been his idols for year, but also he’s now managed to combined his two loves, computer games and writing in one project. And he also talks to us about his two books and they sound really intriguing. Go on, you know you want to read more….Here is: Michael Brookes. And I know he’s about to publish another novel, so keep your eyes open!
Writing in somebody else’s universe
I’m lucky enough that my job involves one my great passions – computer games. In my spare time I indulge in my other great joy – writing. Recently I became doubly fortunate when those two pursuits crossed over.
The story started 25 years ago, David Braben and Ian Bell wrote a game called Elite. In the game you take the role of the pilot of a Cobra Mark III, a spaceship capable of combat and trading. You had eight galaxies in which to trade, fight and explore. Battling against pirates and even the law if you so wished.
Elite wasn’t the first computer game I’d played. While they were still relatively new in the mid-eighties, they had been around since the late seventies. But Elite did bring something new. And it was this difference that made me realise, even at that young age, the potential of what computer games could be.
What was that difference?
Put simply the difference was freedom. Elite brought an open world to computers that I hadn’t experienced before. Another key difference was how you played. There were no levels to complete, no strict ordering of quests to follow. You played it your way in a vast universe of stars, planets and space stations. All run on a computer that is out powered by the cheapest mobile phone these days.
So I got into computer games and then into computers. As well as a hobby they became my career. Not games back then, that occurred more recently when ten years ago I accepted a job at Frontier, run by David Braben. I guess not many people are lucky enough to say that they work for the person whose work inspired them along their path.
What has all this to do with writing?
Two months ago Frontier announced that we would be developing a new version of Elite (two sequels had already been developed in the mid-nineties). Normally with large games a developer works with a publisher to fund and release a game. We chose a different route. We elected to crowd fund the game through a site called Kickstarter.
The original game came with a novella called ‘The Dark Wheel’ that helped set the scene and even provide some hints for new players. I was asked if I would like to write the official sequel to that book. It took me two seconds to say yes!
However there was more to come. Kickstarter projects are funded by people making pledges and receiving rewards. Over the years Elite has proved a popular setting for fiction, so we offered a limited number of slots to authors wanting to write their own stories in the Elite universe. This proved very popular and we have twelve projects signed up, three of them from a well established publishing house – Gollanz. As well as variety of authors, we also have many different approaches from traditional novels, to a game book and an anthology of short stories.
As part of this process I will be working with these authors to make sure that their books fit into the universe created by the game.
And this is where the challenge begins.
Research is a significant part of my writing process. When I have an idea there are usually rough edges or grey areas that need to be worked. Often this requires research. Now with my own creations this isn’t too challenging, mainly because it’s my world. I can change things as I see fit.
In somebody else’s world, in this case Elite, I don’t have that luxury. I have to fit within the world that has been created and I have to provide consistency. And that is what I’m working on (with the valued help of both other staff and volunteers from the Elite community), I am creating the fiction guide for the whole universe that myself and the other authors will follow in their works.
It’s a tough challenge, but one I’m enjoying. We’ll be releasing our books at around the same time as the game launches in March 2014. You can find out more by visiting the Kickstarter page:
I currently have two books available:
The Cult of Me
For too long he dwelt apart, watched those who passed him by.With his unique abilities he entered their minds and inflicted terrible suffering upon them. They didn’t even know who he was. The game has lasted for years, but now the game has become stale. On an impulse he decides to make a final and very public last stand. After surrendering himself to the police he enacts his plan to seize the prison for his final bloody act.
There he discovers that he’s not as unique as he once thought.
An Odd Quartet
A quartet of dark short stories (10,000 words) to thrill and chill.
The Yellow Lady
Grave robbing is a dirty business, in more ways than one. When he disturbs the grave from a childhood scary story he discovers it’s not always treasure to be found.
This Empty Place
At the heat death of the universe, Death contemplates his existence.
Terrorists seize an average suburban house. A Special Forces hostage rescue team is sent in and encounter more than they were trained for.
The Reluctant Demon
A young demon prepares to take his possession exam.
Thank you Michael for being my guest and thank you all for reading. And next week, more!
- Elite: Dangerous Secures Kickstarter Funding (news.sky.com)
- ‘Elite: Dangerous’ Sets the Record for Highest Kickstarter Goal to Be Successfully Funded (forbes.com)
- Credits, Cobras and Crowd-Funding: David Braben tells us about Elite: Dangerous (incgamers.com)
- One giant leap for science fiction: how Gollancz got digital (guardian.co.uk)