Since In a Suspect Universe is about to be released (August 15), I want to address here why I wrote this novel.
When working on The Man Who Loved Alien Landscapes (publ. 2014), I naturally thought of more books dealing with its protagonist, Mykol Ranglen.
The story of the first novel is science fiction that takes place about 130 years in the future, and it concerns the finding of “Clips,” small storage-units of information hidden by an ancient galactic race that is now extinct. Everyone seeks the Clips, because the new technological information brings great wealth to the finders. Ranglen, an adventurer/writer/poet, who’s quite a loner, discovered the third Clip, which gave him many advantages and many problems (see the novel for details). The book told the story of how he got involved with the dangerous pursuit of the fifth Clip.
After finishing that book, I knew I had an eventual sequel to the first story, and possibly more after that. But I wanted to do something else than just tell the consequences of finding the fifth Clip, or just retell the original story but in a different way, which many sequels often do.
And I felt that, in the first book, not enough was given about the background of my main character, who of course is the man Who Loved Alien Landscapes. I purposely wanted him to be mysterious, reserved, romantic (some reviewers compared him to a classic noir detective), so I made him private, solitary, and a bit of an enigma to the other people in the book. And to the reader.
Though all this was intentional, I now wanted to say more about him in a second novel without compromising the mystery of who he was. I had a story idea from long ago (I won’t share details because it would reveal an important plot element), and I thought I could use it for an event in Ranglen’s past, deeply hidden and almost forgotten, that yet had a major influence on his later personality. It would explain his actions in the first novel, why he was so private, why a loner, why he wants to “get away” and lose himself in alien worlds, why he’s paranoid—and why he has so much trouble with romantic relationships.
It thus would be a prequel, taking place before the events of the first novel, but told almost as a sequel, as a further exploration of the protagonist in the first book.
This was getting interesting. I could reveal secrets yet maintain them, show someone’s past but explain his future, tell of events no one knew about but create the beginnings for stories still to come—revelations behind reticence, why we are the way we are, digging into dirt, cuddling up to the reader and whispering, “Let me tell you a secret.”
Definitely interesting! What gets writers excited.
And this one big “story of Ranglen” would be privileged information for just the reader. Ranglen would have only a dim recollection of the whole event (for reasons to be explained in the novel), and yet the reader would get all the details, the real low-down. And thus the reader could form a special bond with the protagonist, feel a sense of “I wish I could tell you what I know, but maybe it’s right you don’t know”—a private sympathy, a silent compassion.
I loved this!
And on top of that, I could tell more about events from that first book that were unrelated to Ranglen—the deep past of the galaxy, the one-time war between ancient races, the legacy of the Clips and the mysteries behind them. And I could raise questions too, build on the secrets, hint that more was going on than what anyone knew about, even the ancient races themselves. I wanted to suggest that the underlying story of all the intended Ranglen books was complex, tricky, enigmatic—more a “Deep Story.” Though I could provide many answers in this second book for standing questions, I also could introduce issues that would not be touched again until later in the series.
Yeah, I was hooked. The story was getting bigger and better.
So come along with me and let me tell it to you. J