James S.A. Corey is the pen name of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, creators of the science fiction series "The Expanse." The second book in the epic space opera "Caliban's War" was recently released, following last year's Hugo-nomiated "Leviathan's Wake."
"Caliban's War" is about:
We are not alone.
On Ganymede, breadbasket of the outer planets, a Martian marine watches as her platoon is slaughtered by a monstrous supersoldier. On Earth, a high-level politician struggles to prevent interplanetary war from reigniting. And on Venus, an alien protomolecule has overrun the planet, wreaking massive, mysterious changes and threatening to spread out into the solar system.
In the vast wilderness of space, James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante have been keeping the peace for the Outer Planets Alliance. When they agree to help a scientist search war-torn Ganymede for a missing child, the future of humanity rests on whether a single ship can prevent an alien invasion that may have already begun . . .
I was able to chat with Abraham and Franck about "The Expanse," balancing multiple genres, being nomiated for a Hugo award and where the series might be headed next. One note: even though Abraham and Franck are two people, I'm sticking with the pen name for this interview, so all responses are from James S.A. Corey...cuz it's fun.
MTV Geek: For those who may be new the series, can you give us an overview of "The Expanse"?
James S.A. Corey: The Expanse is space opera series that draws from what it was like read folks like Alfred Bester and Larry Niven and Arthur Clarke back in the 1970s. It's classic science fiction, only with a a contemporary worldview. It's set in the period when humanity's moving out into the solar system -- Mars, the asteroid belt, the Jovian moons -- and starts looking at what's beyond that.
Geek: How have the characters who made it from "Leviathan Wakes" to "Caliban's War" grown or changed?
Corey: Holden is less certain. When we met him in Leviathan, he was very sure about how things worked, and now he's reacting to what happened before. Some of what happened in "Leviathan" was kind of traumatizing, and it's taking him a while to figure out how that's changed him.
Geek: Since "Caliban's War" is the second book in the series, can you talk about keeping the story exciting and fresh, and avoiding the cursed sophomore slump?
Corey: The trick to avoiding the sophomore slump is telling a new story. We've got three new major characters. We've got a different plot and a different structure. "Caliban's War" builds on "Leviathan." There's no question that they're part of the same larger story. But "Caliban" is a political thriller where "Leviathan" was space opera noir.
Geek: Tell us about balancing the various types of storytelling here; we've got space opera, thriller, political intrigue, monsters, how do you keep it all straight?
Corey: It's not that hard, really. A lot of the tools you'd use telling a space opera story are the same ones you'd use doing any other kind of story. We care about the people, and what they're suffering through. We're scared by the things that scare them. The moments of triumph and despair and danger come out of the things that came before. Really, we just have to look at how the story was set up, and all that just follows.
Geek: Something about your writing that strikes me is the way it moves. This is an epic story, but it reads like a thriller, is that intentional?
Corey: Yes. Yes, it is.
Our measure of success is whether we can keep people awake long enough that they miss work.
Geek: What kind of plotting goes into the series? So far each book sets up the next, how far ahead are you looking?
Corey: All of this is aiming toward a particular ending. We know the last line of the last book. How many adventures and characters and stories are between here and there is something that the market is going to decide. It's a big enough universe that we can keep telling good stories there for a while. But every story is also a step toward that last sentence.
Geek: What's your working relationship like, how does the team function? I know this was explained in a video on your site, but has the process changed at all? Has it evolved along with the series?
Corey: It did start to evolve into shapes that were less effective. We're actually being pretty intentional about going back to the format we started with, not so much because of the story but as a time management tool.
Geek: How many books will we see in the "The Expanse"?
Corey: All of them. And some novellas and short stories too.
Right now, we're contracted for six books, five novellas, and a short story. We've also done an Expanse-related story for an anthology. Our hope is that the books will all carry enough of a complete story that
Geek: Do you have any plans to er...expand "The Expanse" into other media? Comics, games, etc?
Corey: We've had some discussions about games and comic books. Nothing's come of it yet, but it's a broad enough enough world to support a lot of different kinds of stories.
Geek: "Leviathan Wakes" was nominated for a Hugo this year (congrats by the way!) How's it feel? Does it add any pressure to writing future books in "The Expanse"? Also, what's it like to be up against your pal George R.R. Martin?
Corey: We'd already written two books when the nomination was announced, and we'd finished the third one before the awards ceremony, so it didn't have much effect on those. And by the time we finish the draft of the fourth book, the experience will be pretty far behind us.
As far as being nominated with George, we're delighted to be able to sit next him and applaud while China [Miéville] accepts the best novel award.
"Caliban's War" is available now from Orbit Books.
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