So there we were, huddled in a hotel room during Gen Con 2017, a group of BattleTech authors and developers, plotting out the next big thing for BattleTech. A long year ago, or so it feels like. Looking back, we should have had liquor. The big topics – fiction driving the universe and “the next big thing.”
It used to be that way. Old school really. The novels were where big events unfolded, and the sourcebooks and scenario packs followed to give the game details. We did that up through the Dark Ages. Then fiction almost evaporated, with the exception of BattleCorps. The Jihad, a terminally long period of product, was just that – product. Sourcebook after sourcebook.
Don’t get me wrong, I like sourcebooks – but it’s hard to identify with characters from them. It was difficult for me to get jazzed about the Jihad because we lost so many great characters and didn’t fill their shoes with equally cool characters. Many were killed rather unceremoniously, off camera, a wandering sentence in a sourcebook. It hurt to watch as one of the old-school writers. Personally, I think that the lack of fiction is one of the things that fans missed out of the Jihad…that and the knowledge of what would follow, the Republic of the Sphere.
Brent Evans wanted to get back to our roots. Fiction in the driver’s seat, so to speak. Frankly, I was pumped at the idea. There are some other reasons. I played a somewhat critical role in getting fiction for BattleTech relaunched. While I can’t go into details, let’s just say, I had a role in us getting the BattleTech Legends line back in epub format and available. While it may sound like I’m bragging, I am (wink). That story will have to wait.
I have long maintained that characters drive the BattleTech stories and the universe – not dossiers buried in some game product. People want to read stories about characters doing some damned heroic stuff, facing incredible odds, etc. The ‘Mechs, well, they are characters too. They have personalities, quirks, and their own appearances. People want stories, like we did back in the day. The imagery of BattleTech is in the fiction and artwork. It is what draws people into the game, or at least, it used.
What followed from last year’s Gen Con was the equivalent of fiction being a sports car attempting to merge onto a freeway of sourcebook products (semi’s) that were in draft already. Many other meetings followed. John Helfers and Brent wanted more emphasis on novellas, short novels, to fill out the line. Personally, I like that approach. It means a lot more fiction sooner. Full-blown novels are not just thrown together, they take a lot of time.
In that word-storm of chaos, The Anvil was born.
Taken from three paragraphs of the upcoming sourcebook, Shattered Fortress, it was a story about characters – characters that we were building to fill greater roles, some years from now. I was asked to tackle this one, almost a pilot test of the novella stuff. I knew one thing, it would never fit in a single novella format – around 20k words. To tell it right, it needed to be bigger – and it clocked in at over double that when completed. This comes in at well over 40k words. For those of you who wonder, the old word limit back in the ROC days of novels was around 65k words, something I proudly and often violated.
I have only touched on the Jade Falcons once before, in Operation Audacity. This would be my first real exploration of that Clan. That meant reading all of the Dark Ages novels dealing with the Falcons all over again. There was a wealth of material to tap with that content. In one weekend I read four novels, just to get in the Jade Falcon mindset.
The story came from the sourcebook material (in draft at the time). BattleTech books are less about the plot, and more about the characters. For this one I got to tap a character I had created, Roderick Steiner, from Fire at Will. Roderick was cool. For years he hid his identity as grandson of Adam “Information is Ammunition” Steiner. When he accepted his birthright, he rocked it out. Yes, I pay homage to Adam and the TV cartoon series in the novella, just once, and its snarky. Roderick is neat. Roderick has grown since Fire at Will though, he has not had a lot of choice. On top of all of that, how often do you see the General of the Armies wading into battle personally? Not since the days of Nondi Steiner I’d venture to guess, if not earlier.
Another key character in this novella’s saga was Stephanie Chistu of Clan Jade Falcon. I really wanted her to pop. Last autumn I took a blacksmithing class and wanted to tie that into her character. She is a different kind of Jade Falcon warrior, a counter to Malvina Hazen and her Mongol Doctrine. I wanted to show that not all Falcons were blindly following Mad-Malvina. Her style of combat and even speech is different. She has a hint of Aiden Pryde in her personality, but Stephanie is quite different. She is unique. She is the true Jade Falcon – at least in her mind and my own.
I have a proclivity for very strong female characters, and this book is no exception. Chistu is not just tough, she’s a thinker. Genetically bred for war, that doesn’t mean she’s a mindless automaton. She creates her own honor which is kind of cool. In a universe of dominating characters with massive Stalker-sized egos, she is a breath of fresh air. I get to introduce another strong female too, so I’m kind of enjoying that as well.
The setting for the novella was ground that had been tread on before, extensively – so there were more books to consume before I could write it. Let’s just say it is familiar ground.
I wrote the novella in three weeks, in the evenings and on weekends. I immersed myself in it. I will say I am a bit rusty on writing BattleTech, and the editors were pretty patient with me.
The units in this book:
- Delta and Gamma Galaxies – Clan Jade Falcon
- Seventeenth Arcturan Guards
- Fifteenth Arcturan Guards
- Second Royal Guard
I tried to provide some paint schemes for these, for the fans out there that paint an entire unit. I know how the fan-boys are.
Yes, there is truth in the fact that I included fans names in the book. Some will be delighted, others dismayed. Don’t email and ask me, I react poorly to such requests.
I hope the BattleTech fans like it, especially the Lyran and Jade Falcon fans.
Here’s the formal release: Announcement
Oh, as a teaser – here’s the original back cover text I had proposed…
The Ghosts of Coventry…
Jade Falcon Khan Malvina Hazen wants bloody revenge for the Falcon’s defeat on Coventry nearly a century earlier. She sends one of her best leaders, Galaxy Commander Stephanie Chistu to be her executioner. Hazen wants to corrupt her to her brutal Mongol Doctrine or have fail utterly and fall from grace. Coventry hangs in the balance and either way, Hazen wins.
But Chistu has plans of her own. Facing off against the best Generals of the Lyran Commonwealth, she has to find a path of honor while her enemies and her own Khan attempt to kill her. All of them have underestimated Stephanie Chistu and it will cost one of them their life. She proves herself to be the anvil in the forging of the Jade Falcon’s true path to honor.
So what is next for me?
The next project to be published will be Forever Faithful, which editor John Helfers leaked, deals with the Smoke Jaguars. That book has been done for a year, but we are positioning it for a special release-ish.
I just finished a Wolf’s Dragoon’s novella a few weeks ago. I have a title for it, but I’m not putting it out there yet because in many respects, it tells you a LOT about the novella. It came in at 31k words. It should be coming out next year, I hope around Gen Con.
I am working on a huge novel, one that is pivotal for the universe. It’s a big deal. I had to draw up a twelve page document just to create the foundation to document the novel itself. This is for next year and the book will be a thick one – that much I can assure you. It will change everything. This one is uber-secret.
Well, that’s it for a while. Prepping for Gen Con and Master’s and Minions.