Working on a BattleTech Novel Concept

Fidelis = Smoke Jaguars.  It really is that simple
Fidelis = Smoke Jaguars. It really is that simple

There is a lot I wish I could tell you fans about, but I am bound by legal agreement to not discuss the details.  Suffice it to say that I have wanted to write BattleTech novels for a long time but there have been some legal issues that had to get resolved.

To be clear, my problem was NOT with Catalyst Game Labs.  In fact I consider Randal and Loren to be friends and colleagues.  The issues related to me writing new books were beyond them.  They were complicated problems and required a lot of finesse to eventually resolve.

These long-standing issues made Gen Con visits in the past awkward.  I wanted to be a big BattleTech supporter, but these “issues” were dampening my ability to enjoy the universe I had a minor role in creating.  I am simply glad I got to play a role in fixing those issues.

What matters now is the road is paved for new novels and I got to pitch not one, but three at Gen Con.

Back in the 1990’s, I used to go to Gen Con to pitch novel ideas in a session I used to call, “Grovel for a Novel.”  I would come to Sam Lewis with ideas, he would shoot them down.  One year (1994 or ’95) I came with three ideas.  One I really wanted to do, and two more that were little more than a few sentences of a fragment of an idea.  The goal was to guide him to the long, well-thought out idea by having two crappy ones.

Sam chose one of the little throwaway ideas – and that became my first novel, Highlander Gambit.

So much for my masterful manipulation skills.  Still, I was a winner because I got to write a novel for my beloved BattleTech.  Not only that – I got to write about the Northwind Highlanders.

When the Dark Ages novels started, I called WizKids and spoke with the editor at the time.  “Look, we don’t want to tap the legacy authors.  We’re going to bring in “professionals” – big names in sci fi and take this in a new direction.”  Ouch.  I watched from the outside as the novels seemed to fizzle, one after another.  With some changes at WizKids I finally got tapped for three novels in the Dark Ages, but by that time the fan base was already giving the Dark Ages a sinister glare every time it was mentioned.  Like ComStar, there was a schism between the click-tech and the old school Classic BattleTech, with the WizKids team taking on the role of The Word of Blake – always one of the favorite fan factions.  Heavy sarcasm here…

The novels evaporated.  Most never even made it to digital form.  Some new books came out, well written and received…but most of the mainstay authors were sidelined with the problems I mentioned previously.  For a long time, the fate of fiction, which always drove the BattleTech universe, was in a bizarre limbo.

Fast forward to the weeks prior to Gen Con.  I immersed myself in some source material for the first time in years.  The joke was a lot like that scene with the Avengers when Maria Hill asked, “When did you become an expert on thermonuclear astrophysics?” and Stark replied, “last night.”  Replace “thermonuclear astrophysics” with “the last eight years of BattleTech products,” and you get the idea.

I corresponded with the editor and came up with a really cool angle/perspective.  What I liked about it is that it had historical precedent.  Since I write bestselling military history books, it played to a sweet spot for me as a writer.  Still, I hadn’t pitched an idea in a long time.  I wanted to tackle one of the most complex and difficult characters in the universe.  For all I knew, this could explode in my face.  I had two more ideas tucked away too, just in case.  Just like old times…

It went well.  No, it went better than well.  It was four-quarts of awesome sauce!  It was like the old days.  We bounced around some ideas to add to this, refine the concept, and they hit the mark.  There were some moments when we blew each other’s minds with some things to incorporate into the proposal.  In those minutes there, I was back at home, back to BattleTech again.  And I was going to get a shot or two at giving the fans something that, well, they needed and wanted.

Another thrill for me is that the 65,000 word limit per novel is gone.  You have no idea how restrictive that was for us as authors.  We talked about doing a book twice that large.  Whew! It is nice to have some elbow-room.  I think the readers/fans suffered under the old word limit.  God knows I pushed past that line several times.

I know that you are wondering what the subject is.  Is he going to do another Northwind Highlanders book?  Is it Archer Christifori?  What period is he going to write about?  What I can tell you is it is something new and different, and awesome in scope (assuming of course I can get it approved).  We haven’t inked a contract yet.  We’re still in that fun phase of bouncing ideas around.  This was part of the fun I just plain missed, the chances to shape and reshape the universe.

I provided the editor with the intro to the first chapter which set the tone for my idea.  Now I have to go off and write an outline for the project.  I’m currently in the middle of finishing a book in a new sci-fi military trilogy that was really a blast to work on – and I have a true crime book due in February.  So for a while, silence on this matter while I think, ponder, make notes etc.

That’s all for now…    Oh, and Peace of Blake be With You…(grin).

9 thoughts on “Working on a BattleTech Novel Concept

  1. Wow, I couldn’t be more thrilled that my favorite BT author is getting the chance to write at least another BT novel, and one without that pesky word count that made many of the books feel rushed. Although I;d love to read more about other adventures Chrstifori had to survive long enough to get his final payoff (from the first Battlecorps anthology. I loved that he slapped those cuffs on Katherine hard enough for her to be unable to make him not notice, and I would have dearly loved had she chosen “choice B” on how she’d prefer to eave the palace because a screaming, vindictive and humiliated Katherine tossed over Archer;s shoulder would have been a treat for not just the readers but the Avengers themselves, but to me the civil war is ancient history and most of the players are known.

    What I’m hoping beyond hope is that your decision to write a post about a new BT novel just so happens to include a pic of the cover of what I thought was the best BT novel ever written, in any age, and wouldn’t it be a “subtle” hint that what your next work will cover even more of what happened when the Knights and Ghost Knights were left on their own to complete their missions knowing they were outside the impenetrable “wall” sealing in Prefecture 10 and not knowing with any certainty that even if they completed their missions perfectly and managed to not die in the process they still might never see the day the wall came down and the Republic rose like a Phoenix from the ashes of hundreds of worlds in flames, caught up in conflicts of long standing grievances between soldiers and statesmen who became former citizens of the Republic as quicjly as it took them to activate the fusion generators of the ‘Mechs they’d been secretly holding on to for “emergencies of a defensive nature” that apparently included planet wide raids to reclaim old territories from enemies from long ago they’d never truly considered citizens of the same new government.

    Your simple statement that “Fidelis = Smoke Jaguars. It really is that simple” is simple in the way that the cover of the ancient book depicting a pouncing black jaguar sealed the question of the true identity and the original point of origin of the Fidelis, but what’s not simple is how they survived when it was given that the Smoke Jaguars were first severely bloodied by the Com Guards on Tukayyid before facing near complete annihilation by by SLDF forces during operation bulldog, and the few known to still be left alive supposedly all met their end during the Trial of Refusal on Huntress. So a simple statement becomes one overflowing with difficult answers to known facts. We know the Fidellis were skilled beyond even the best special forces the Republic could muster, they had access to extremely effective and personalized weapons not seen by even the Clans after so many years had passed, and they had access to a fully functioning warship they gladly allowed the republic to make use of, and this was during a time where industrial mechs were being hastily converted into poorly armed and armored fighting mechs all while an unknown force numbering near 150-200 troops which they considered being at full strength. How sis Stine or some of his allies convince the defeated members of a proud clan to go into hiding under a new identity and maintain an operational warship without anyone the wiser or even knowing that the Fidellis existed at all, much less that they chose to destroy their DNA if death in battle was imminent so the remaining clans could never discover their true identity and why after being humiliated by inner that these survivors had chosen a path that was an anathema to any and all clans, dedicating themselves to the defense of the Republic at all costs, the Republic the majority of trueborn clansmen still saw as nothing more than dogs of the Inner Sphere who had humiliated them time and time again and no one born of the clans no matter how close they came to no longer existing.. And the larger questions still remain. How did Stone find them and strike the deal they could keep their secret existence in exchange for defending the Republic whenever he might call upon them? The first mention of Stone concerns his escape from a reeducation camp during the jihad which occurred a very long time after the word of the Jaguars demise became common knowledge. All except to Stone, apparently.

    I really hope this is the novel you’ve chosen to write, and though it would take a 5 novel Fidelis set to answer all the really hard questions your statement that it”s a simple look at the facts oresnted in “Surrender Your Dreams” that there should been no arguments after it was published that the Fidelis were simply the survivors of the Smoke Jaguars as all the evidence was clearly there with no other answers even a possibility (although I recall what seemed like hundreds of arguments raging alol across the message boards at at the time. I’m almost surprised you didn’t wade in at the time and settle the matter once and for all because you wrote it and you would know better than someone who’d skipped 50 pages to get to the end and had a very different conclusion..

    Again, I’m hoping beyond hope that your choice of novel to represent BT fiction is a not so subtle hint that while you might be legally bound to not reveal the subject of your just agreed upon return to BT fiction you’re happy to throw your fans a bone that the legal department can’t prove you’ve revealed the main subjects at the core of your next foray into BT. But I’ll be damn pleased just having you back writing BT fiction again because you’re truly one of the very best there is writing in this massive universe. The sale date can’t come soon enough for me.

  2. Rob C.

    It’s is beyond words, I’m so happy you’ve be able tell us tales of the Battletech universe that will truly put the thrill and fun reading these books again. Thank you for coming back after so long.

  3. As a fan of Btech since ~1988, I look forward with immense excitement to getting Blaine back into the writers seat for this universe. The 65K words would have been a real pain in the backside for the authors, as a “wannabe author myself”, as stories take on a life of their own; the original word length guide needs to be flexible to let the events unfold in a natural flow.
    This is the best news in Btech, along with the kickstart program for a turn based Btech PC game by the original FASA team, that I have heard from this universe in 15 years!

  4. Lamont Cranton

    Unfortunately they’re sticking with the dark age, connecting classics finale to its start and progressing its story. Has a rpg or wargame ever just retconned out of existence a big chunk of stuff a bad development team created?

  5. Chad

    I can’t be any more excited by this announcement, that I am just now seeing for the first time mind you. I grew up on BT novels, they help shape who I was believe it or not. This strong sense of honor, strength and self sacrifice that the primary the Heros of this universe displayed led to me wanting to join the Military. I am now a Warrant Office in the US Army Signal Corps, and BT played a huge part in that! Thank you Mr. Pardoe for coming back after all these years and having a passion for a Universe that has brought joy and entertainment to so many!

  6. zorak24

    Hello there.
    I found this post after searching “who do i contact to write a battletech novel.”
    Your story of how you came to be here is an amazing and inspiring one.

    I have 2 questions for you.
    First what advice would you give authors early in their career trying to get some stories published?
    And secondly if, like you, I greatly desired to one day write a battletech novel, who should i contact and how?

    As a fan of battletech , even the dark age stories, this is definitely on my bucketlist. And hearing your story here has really inspired me that it could happen one day.

    1. First and foremost – write. Contact magazines where you want to be published, get their writer’s guidelines, send articles in. Weather the rejections. Read what they say, sometimes they have clues for improving.
      As to your second point, I would reach out to BattleCorp and write for them. Some of the authors have started there and have “gone pro.”

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