About two years ago, I released ‘Spitfire Station: Triple-Cross’, a book that was intended to launch an Alamo spin-off series, featuring Logan Winter, Kristen Harper and others. My plan had been to continue this as a line of its own, but it just didn’t end up happening. The first book was straightforward enough to write, but I struggled with the next two, and eventually they ended up being written as Alamo novels, the characters I liked being absorbed back into the general storyline. (Ghost Ship and a very early version of Aces High, if you are interested.)
In retrospect, there were two problems. I’m happy with the book itself, I’ll say, I wouldn’t have released it if I wasn’t, but the feel was too similar to Alamo, whilst being rather more constrained. Tying the crew to a fixed base meant that stories had to come to them, and the contrast with Alamo stories - where the ship can always go to the adventure, rather than the other way around - gave me serious problems. It was an experiment, and one that resulted in a book I was happy with, so it wasn’t really a failure, and it did add a few characters I was able to get use out of again in later Alamo novels, though I think long-term Harper has been the only survivor.
The other mistake I made was to tie it in so closely to what was happening with Alamo. This was - and there are spoilers here - intended to be a way in which I could show events back home in the Triplanetary Confederation, while Alamo was off on its travels across the Cabal. What it meant in real terms was that any books I wrote tangled themselves up in events back at Spitfire Station, and that plotting was a lot more difficult than it otherwise needed to be - which tended to discourage me from writing more books to make use of that setting, as well as making it a little more daunting for new readers.
Since then, the galaxy has expanded considerably. When I wrote Spitfire Station, the potential enemies were the Republic and the United Nations, with the Cabal an unknown power. Now the Cabal, the Not-Men, and
are out there waiting, and relations with the Republic are improving, recent events notwithstanding. Even so, there’s a lot of empty space still out there, and a lot of unknown systems and worlds to explore. Which means that, at least in my mind, there is room to do a completely independent set of stories set in another part of the universe.
There’s no real secret that I’ve spent most of this year trying to conjure up a second series of novels to run alongside Alamo. Trying and failing, in a variety of different genres, and I had just about resolved to give epic fantasy a try - I’ve got a plot lined up for that, at least, though I had strong reservations about it. Logically, science-fiction ought to have been my first goal, and I did play around with a lot of concepts. I think I’d ruled out a spinoff in my head, and the problem I was running into was that the setting was too similar to Alamo, and that it felt like I would be tripping over myself.
That...has changed. I won’t be doing the epic fantasy. Not for a while, anyway. Still pondering doing some historical tales, but that’s a story for a different time. You see, for the first time...well...ever, I have actually managed to come up with a spin-off that I actually want to do, one that is an independent story in the Triplanetary Universe, using new characters, with a different focus. To put it in brief, if Alamo is my answer to Star Trek, this is my answer to Firefly, though naturally, it is nowhere near as simple as that. Provisionally, I’m calling it ‘Forbidden Stars’, though that is just a working title that will change before release. This will focus on the crew of a civilian starship, doing some good old fashioned Trade Pioneering. (Shades of van Rijn, here, but that’s definitely a good thing in my mind.)
I’m not going to go into many details here, largely because everything is still firming up in my head, but I will say that I’m 99% of the way towards giving this a green light, and that I’m making some preparations to help with it. Primarily, that means finally putting down an Alamo Bible, and I spent yesterday undertaking a Strategic Defence Review of the Triplanetary Fleet, working out procurement for the next ten years. (Something on this will likely appear as an extra in Malware Blues, but the short version is a significant expansion of Fleet Logistics - Transports, Tankers, Tenders, to deal with the increasing length of supply lines to Fleet facilities. Everyone always forgets the Fleet Train…)
I’ve switched from a two-month rotation for Alamo releases to an eight-week - fifty-six days, and if I stick to that schedule, it means the next book will be out around January 4th, with the one after that out on February 29th...and the first of this new series out on March 28th. I’ll be doing my usual ‘New Year’s Day’ post, and by then I’ll know for certain what I’m doing, but it looks like you’re going to be getting more SF Adventure out of me than I was expecting in 2016...and I can’t wait to get started. I begin work on Malware Blues by the end of the week, and hopefully this time I won’t have to write it twice...