My first love in science fiction, both reading it and writing it, is space opera, or as Brian Aldiss termed it, wide-screen baroque. I’m not sure I’ve done anything very wide-screen, but I’ve written my fair share of space opera, starting with Engineman back in 1992. That was followed in 1999 by Penumbra. There was another longish wait until 2007 when Helix came out, and proved to be my bestselling title ever (with almost fifty thousand copies sold to date). After that I did the Bengal Station trilogy which, though set mainly on Earth, did in each book visit the stars. These novels were followed by The Devil’s Nebula, Helix Wars, and Satan’s Reach. Salvage, published last year, is a space opera fix-up of linked short stories.
I like writing about starships, aliens, and exotic planetary locations. I like writing fast-paced adventures using all three. Recently, however, I’ve been writing a couple of crime novels and the first and second volumes of the steampunk Multiplicity series, starring Jani, a plucky Anglo-Indian woman and her adventures in a very different 1925.
I’d like to get back to writing space opera, however, and for the past year, on and off, I’ve been daydreaming about just such a project. It will be called The Engines of Eternity trilogy, and each book will be longer than any I’ve done before, around 150,000 words. The trilogy will feature a human expansion, a host of alien races, vast alien artefacts from millions of years in the past, a war or two, colonies under threat, telepathy, sentient starships… and, above all, characters the reader will come to care about and root for.
So, I hear you say, what’s new?
A good question.
And the answer is, I don’t know. My counter question would be: what does it matter?
What does matter is that the story is gripping, the characters real and moreover believable and sympathetic, the action fast, the settings exotic…
That will do for me, and, I hope, for prospective readers.
Of course, The Engines of Eternity project might never come off; might remain as a daydream bubbling away in my back brain.
Only time will tell.