I want to expand a bit on my twitter thread from today (the one about my books, not one about whatever else I talked about).
When I wrote The Foundation of Drak-Anor, I had a story to tell. A story about misfits and “monsters” finding acceptance in a world that just wanted them to die. They themselves “knew” they were monsters and acted accordingly; they thought nothing of lashing out and attacking dwarves for their supplies. It’s not like anyone was going to trade with them anyway, right?
Of course, being constantly under siege by people who scream how you’re evil and unholy and must be cleansed tends to affect one negatively. With patience, understanding, and a willingness to talk, one can move past that and find common ground.
In Scars of the Sundering, they’ve found acceptance (if not tolerance), and now have to learn to live with the responsibility that comes with being part of a civilized society. They also learn that they can affect the world in ways they once thought impossible to them. Plus, they learn that there are always people who wish they’d just go away and will try to erase their history and legacy.
These are themes that developed organically. Although, I did try to show that no matter how different someone may appear to be from another, we all are more alike than different. We all want to live and love, eat, drink and enjoy time with friends. Ultimately, I just wanted to tell a fun story with interesting characters.
Hopefully, I did that.
I approached the Zack Jackson series differently. From the beginning, I knew I wanted a sci-fi version of Harry Potter (though without a Dark Lord, Prophecy, Faux-Latin Magic, and Kitchen-Sink Fantasy). I wanted to tell a story about a kid, going away to school where there’s all these weird and wonderful things and constantly getting over his head, saved only by his association with his friends.
Plus, I wanted to showcase real science where I could. I made a few concessions to fun, took a few liberties with physics so I could have faster-than-light (FTL) travel, and aliens that weren’t so alien we couldn’t relate to them. I wanted to give loving homages to the sci-fi I loved, like Star Trek, Mass Effect, and Star Frontiers, and sci-fact like NASA’s space exploration program and the work of astronomers the world over, as well as introduce subjects like transhumanism. I also wanted to showcase diversity in all of its forms, which I actually had to dial back in the third book after someone observed that I was trying a bit too hard.
Zack Jackson needed to be set far enough in the future that we could realistically have answers to certain questions because space is huge. More huge than pop culture sci-fi usually shows. As Douglas Adams wrote in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, “Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts to space.”
Now that I near the completion of the fourth book in the series (and anticipating writing at least 2-3 more), I’m beginning to see parallels in the series to current events and issues. These are things I didn’t consciously put into the book, but they must’ve been on my mind at the time. The kids grow a little older in each book, a little more experienced and (hopefully) wise, so the challenges they face are more difficult and more mature in their nature. Like the Harry Potter series, I wanted the characters to grow with the readers.
Again, ultimately, I wanted to tell a fun story with the Zack Jackson series. I’m really excited to release book 4, Zack Jackson & The Secret of Venus, in just a few months. I’m equally excited to show you where the story goes from there.