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Cover Reveal: Zero World by Jason M. Hough

Over the weekend, Jason M. Hough treated his newsletter subscribers to the reveal of the cover for his next novel, Zero World. This is the first novel in Jason's Conduit series and will be published by Del Rey on September 15th in North America. Jason is the author of the fabulous Dire Earth Cycle novels (3 novels and 1 short). So without further ado, Zero World:



Zero World
Conduit 1
Del Rey, September 15, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 464 pages
Jacket design: David G. Stevenson
Jacket photograph: © Gene Mollica

Cover Reveal: Zero World by Jason M. Hough
Published in rapid succession, Jason M. Hough’s first three novels, The Darwin Elevator, The Exodus Towers, and The Plague Forge, earned mountains of praise and comparisons to such authors as James S. A. Corey and John Scalzi. Now Hough returns with a riveting near-future spy thriller that combines the adrenaline of a high-octane James Bond adventure with mind-blowing sci-fi speculations worthy of Christopher Nolan’s Inception.

Technologically enhanced superspy Peter Caswell has been dispatched on a top-secret assignment unlike anything he’s ever faced. A spaceship that vanished years ago has been found, along with the bodies of its murdered crew—save one. Peter’s mission is to find the missing crew member, who fled through what appears to be a tear in the very fabric of space. Beyond this mysterious doorway lies an even more confounding reality: a world that appears to be Earth’s twin.

Peter quickly discovers that this mirrored world is indeed very different from his home, and far more dangerous. Cut off from all support, and with only days to complete his operation, Peter must track his quarry alone on an alien world. But nothing can prepare him for what awaits on the planet’s surface, where his skills will be put to the ultimate test—and everything he knows about the universe will be challenged in ways he never could have imagined.





Cover Reveal: Zero World by Jason M. Hough
Photo by Nathan Hough
Jason M. Hough (pronounced 'Huff') is the bestselling author of THE DARWIN ELEVATOR, THE EXODUS TOWERS, and THE PLAGUE FORGE. In a former life he was a 3D artist, animator, and game designer (Metal FatigueAliens vs. Predator: Extinction, and many others). He has also worked in the fields of high-performance cluster computing and machine learning.

THE DARWIN ELEVATOR began in 2008 as a Nanowrimo project.  The book released on July 30th 2013 in the US and reached the New York Times Bestseller list the following week. DARWIN is Jason’s first published fiction.

The trilogy, collectively called THE DIRE EARTH CYCLE, was released in the summer of 2013. Jason's next book, ZERO WORLD, is due out in September 2015.

He lives near Seattle, Washington with his wife, two young sons, and a dog named Missbuster.

Website  ~  Twitter @JasonMHough  ~  Facebook  ~  Google+  ~  Blog  ~  Newsletter

Cross-interview: Dystopias and Hope for the Future with Karina Sumner-Smith and Jason M. Hough - December 18, 2014


Cross-interview: Dystopias and Hope for the Future with Karina Sumner-Smith and Jason M. Hough - December 18, 2014


Cross-interview: Dystopias and Hope for the Future
Karina Sumner-Smith and Jason M. Hough

(I recently pulled fellow author Karina Sumner-Smith into a chat about dystopias, and whether or not we should be writing more hopeful futures. Transcript follows…- Jason)

Jason Hough: I guess we should begin at the beginning. How do you define a Dystopia? The dictionary says "the opposite of a Utopia" and I feel like that's a matter of perspective, from the characters POV’s.

Karina Sumner-Smith: Dystopias are, I think, very much about character perspective. A dystopia is an undesirable society or community, but “undesirable” means different things to different people – just as your vision of utopia could be very different from mine.

But given the popularity of dystopian YA fiction in recent years, I think that the word “dystopia” makes readers think of certain things. Totalitarian governments. Rebellion against the system. A rigid system that controls personal choice. I’d say these things are a reflection of our times – a sign of what our society thinks of as frightening. Probably, in no small part because those are things that we can see or imagine happening in our own lives. They’re the patterns of society taken to extremes.

Jason Hough: Maybe it's, at least in many cases, simply the antagonist's utopia. Or at least, on that trajectory.

Karina Sumner-Smith: That's a good point, the antagonist's utopia creating the main character's dystopia. Do you think that a dystopia needs to be paired with a utopian society to be successful? I note that we've both done something similar in our works.

Jason Hough: I'm not sure it needs to be, though it seems realistic that there's at least someone living the good life when everyone else is suffering. Otherwise it probably becomes a post-apocalyptic tale. You can see this with North Korea, where most everyone lives in terrible conditions, except those in power - they probably think it's a pretty good setup.

I've seen a lot of chatter lately that SF/F and YA are too focused on Dystopias, that it's depressing, that we have some kind of duty to write about happy futures. What's your reaction to that?

Karina Sumner-Smith: On a base level, I don't think writers have a duty to write about *anything*. There are no mandatory subjects! Of course, we are influenced by the dictates of the market – or, more importantly, what audiences are interested in reading.

But this idea that people are required to have happy stories to feel positive about the future is, frankly, frustrating. Not because I'm against positive or hopeful tales – anything but! – but because it implies something about the nature of story, and what those stories are supposed to do. Stories are to entertain. Stories need to connect with an audience, and to do that, we often reflect things that are concerning to us as authors and as citizens. Literature is a reflection of our times, focused through each author's unique lens.

Jason Hough: I agree. And I think if it's a trend recently it's for a complex set of reasons. Some highly successful books made it a market the publishers want to tap into, for starters. Real-world events, and not just Snowden's revelations about surveillance, pile in there, too. It makes sense to me that our fiction would reflect such things. The "hopeful" SF mostly came out of the space-race era, when everyone thought we'd be all over the solar system by now. Besides, these things are cyclical.

Karina Sumner-Smith: Personally, I find that darker stories create great opportunity for contrast. Characters finding hope and light in the most challenging situations is, for me, more rewarding.

Jason Hough: Yes, yes! That's very important. Drama is conflict, and a setting that starts out at rock bottom is definitely cued up for a lot of that.

Karina Sumner-Smith: Is that what drew you towards writing post-apocalyptic/dystopian stories, the potential for conflict?

Jason Hough: Exactly that. I had been thinking about a space elevator, and how, unlike launching rockets which can happen from just about anywhere, the elevator has a very specific geographic location. A spot that would be controlled, managed, and fought over. I loved the idea of having an apocalyptic event on the ground, leaving things wretched below and still very utopian up above, but everyone still reliant on one another. The funny thing is I never really saw it as dystopian until after it came out and people started saying it. My goal was to have characters act like complex human beings, instead of all banding together. Even in a desperate situation, there are still people who are power hungry, greedy, and petty.

Karina Sumner-Smith: I know that one of the things I love in such stories is seeing what's left behind – infrastructure, environment, and people. An apocalyptic or other drastic scenario is an interesting way to pry into both human nature and the workings of our society. Who are we when everything else has fallen into ruin?

Jason Hough: Yeah, it definitely strips us down to our core. I love apocalypse stories for that reason to. "All the power goes out" type settings are always fascinating, especially because they make us examine our own situation. As an aside, I think it’s funny that people do thought-experiments about how to deal with the apocalypse, but not a dystopia. I guess it's easier to wrap our minds around a single, horrible event rather than a slow crawl into some oppressive governance situation?

Karina Sumner-Smith: Easier, for sure. One is a sudden wrenching change from "normal", while the other lets normal life continue, with little incremental changes. Societal change towards a dystopia would, I think, be very much like the frog in boiling water.

I have to laugh because the book beside me is a non-fiction title, THE DISASTER DIARIES: ONE MAN'S QUEST TO LEARN EVERYTHING NECESSARY TO SURVIVE THE APOCALYPSE.

Jason Hough: That sounds interesting. Useful for research! I keep the SAS SURVIVAL GUIDE on the shelf near my desk for the same reason.

Karina Sumner-Smith: What about other works in the genre? If you say "dystopian," people think of HUNGER GAMES or DIVERGENT, but post-apocalyptic and dystopian literature have been part of SFF for years. Do you have any favorites on your shelf?

Jason Hough: 1984 is the classic, to me. What are your favorites?

Karina Sumner-Smith: I have piles. I’ve definitely drawn inspiration from one of my favorite authors, Sean Stewart, in that. He has a few novels about what happens after a magical apocalypse, GALVESTON and THE NIGHT WATCH being my favorites. There's also some excellent short fiction – Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” is a quintessential utopian/dystopian tale for me. For anthologies, Datlow/Windling’s AFTER and John Joseph Adams' WASTELANDS are two great ones that come to mind.

Jason Hough: Nice! In the apocalypse realm I'd have to go with Robert R. McCammon's SWAN SONG, and for post-apoc I really love Stephen King's DARK TOWER series.

Karina Sumner-Smith: Where do you think the dividing line is between those two sub-genres, dystopian and post-apocalyptic? Or is there one? Does any apocalypse story, with enough time/distance, necessarily become a dystopia?

Jason Hough: I'm not sure they're mutually exclusive. Post-apocalypse is about survival after an apocalyptic event. Dystopia, to me, really just describes a current state of living for the protagonist(s) as being a very undesirable situation – from the reader's perspective, not necessarily the character. The frog in boiling water analogy you mentioned is great, because in a post-apocalyptic story set well after whatever calamity brought us to that point, the people living in that time might not see it as necessarily terrible. It's what they're used to.

Karina Sumner-Smith: I think there's also something to be said about the scope of the story. One woman living out in the edge of nowhere, twenty years after the end of the world, would likely still have a post-apocalyptic style and tone, whereas a story about a community or attempts to rebuild 6 months after a disaster would likely trend towards dystopian.

Jason Hough: Definitely.

Karina Sumner-Smith: But lots of folks in a dystopian society also see their situation as normal. That sense of hopelessness or inevitability often weighs down many, whereas the main character might see things a little differently.

Jason Hough: What about hopeful SF? Any favorites? I'm kind of chuckling here because most of the ones I can think of are all about settling other worlds, which is sort of a cop-out in the hope department, really. Yeah, it's hopeful, but only because we left all of Earth's crap behind and are starting over!

Karina Sumner-Smith: I think that some of the most hopeful SF stories are, to me, not about the process of settling new worlds or making new discoveries, but those in which humanity is already spread across the stars and keeps expanding. I love a good space adventure, like Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan novels. I've also been eying James A. Corey's LEVIATHAN WAKES, which is sitting near the top of my to-read pile. I've heard great things ... though I can't say how hopeful it is.

Jason Hough: Ah, well Corey's is quite epic and has lots of different settings and situations. I'm on the second book of a planned nine, so I haven't reached the part yet where there's much hope.

Karina Sumner-Smith: I think that the challenge in writing really interesting hopeful fiction, is finding a conflict that feels true and real on a wide scale within that sort of society. Of course, SF doesn't always have to have such a huge scope – there are lots of smaller, interesting character stories that could be set against that background.

Jason Hough: Absolutely agree. Look at Andy Weir's THE MARTIAN. One guy on Mars, struggling to survive. It's both hopeful and intensely small in scope.

Karina Sumner-Smith: I want to read that one! So, Jason, what’s next for you? Are you staying in the realm of post-apocalyptic and dystopian SF?

Jason Hough: My next book has more of a Cold War vibe. So I suppose it's neither, but on the cusp of becoming one or both. How about you?

Karina Sumner-Smith: After finishing the Towers Trilogy, I'm hoping to write a very different kind of fantasy disaster novel, something quieter and more personal (though, of course, I love big explosions). SFF is so broad, there are lots of ideas and stories I'd like to explore – but I think there's something compelling in dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction that will keep me coming back for more, even if it's just a short story or two.

Jason Hough: It is compelling. I'm not tired of it at all, despite the supposed saturation in the genre lately.

Karina Sumner-Smith: Like you said, everything is cyclical.

Jason Hough: Maybe the really scary future is when the Universe stops being so.





The Authors

Cross-interview: Dystopias and Hope for the Future with Karina Sumner-Smith and Jason M. Hough - December 18, 2014
Photo by Lindy Sumner-Smith
Karina Sumner-Smith is a fantasy author and freelance writer. Her debut novel, Radiant, was published by Talos/Skyhorse in September 2014, with the second and third books in the trilogy to follow in 2015. Prior to focusing on novel-length work, Karina published a range of fantasy, science fiction and horror short stories, including Nebula Award nominated story “An End to All Things,” and ultra-short story “When the Zombies Win,” which appeared in two Best of the Year anthologies. Visit her at karinasumnersmith.com.


Website  ~  Twitter @ksumnersmith  ~  Goodreads  ~  Pinterest



Cross-interview: Dystopias and Hope for the Future with Karina Sumner-Smith and Jason M. Hough - December 18, 2014
Photo by Nathan Hough
Jason M. Hough is the New York Times bestselling author of The Darwin Elevator (Del Rey, 2013), and two more books in the Dire Earth Cycle. Before becoming a full-time writer he designed video games, did 3D modeling and animation, and worked on machine learning software that optimizes battery life for mobile phones. His latest release is The Dire Earth, a novella prequel to The Darwin Elevator. Visit him at jasonhough.com


Website  ~  Twitter @JasonMHough  ~  Facebook  ~  G+  ~  Blog






The Books

Radiant
Towers Trilogy 1
Talos, September 30, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

Cross-interview: Dystopias and Hope for the Future with Karina Sumner-Smith and Jason M. Hough - December 18, 2014
Xhea has no magic. Born without the power that everyone else takes for granted, Xhea is an outcast—no way to earn a living, buy food, or change the life that fate has dealt her. Yet she has a unique talent: the ability to see ghosts and the tethers that bind them to the living world, which she uses to scratch out a bare existence in the ruins beneath the City’s floating Towers.

When a rich City man comes to her with a young woman’s ghost tethered to his chest, Xhea has no idea that this ghost will change everything. The ghost, Shai, is a Radiant, a rare person who generates so much power that the Towers use it to fuel their magic, heedless of the pain such use causes. Shai’s home Tower is desperate to get the ghost back and force her into a body—any body—so that it can regain its position, while the Tower’s rivals seek the ghost to use her magic for their own ends. Caught between a multitude of enemies and desperate to save Shai, Xhea thinks herself powerless—until a strange magic wakes within her. Magic dark and slow, like rising smoke, like seeping oil. A magic whose very touch brings death.

With two extremely strong female protagonists, Radiant is a story of fighting for what you believe in and finding strength that you never thought you had.




The Dire Earth Cycle

The Darwin Elevator
The Dire Earth Cycle 1
Del Rey, July 30, 2013
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 496 pages

Cross-interview: Dystopias and Hope for the Future with Karina Sumner-Smith and Jason M. Hough - December 18, 2014
Jason M. Hough’s pulse-pounding debut combines the drama, swagger, and vivid characters of Joss Whedon’s Firefly with the talent of sci-fi author John Scalzi.

In the mid-23rd century, Darwin, Australia, stands as the last human city on Earth. The world has succumbed to an alien plague, with most of the population transformed into mindless, savage creatures. The planet’s refugees flock to Darwin, where a space elevator—created by the architects of this apocalypse, the Builders—emits a plague-suppressing aura.

Skyler Luiken has a rare immunity to the plague. Backed by an international crew of fellow “immunes,” he leads missions into the dangerous wasteland beyond the aura’s edge to find the resources Darwin needs to stave off collapse. But when the Elevator starts to malfunction, Skyler is tapped—along with the brilliant scientist, Dr. Tania Sharma—to solve the mystery of the failing alien technology and save the ragged remnants of humanity.


The Exodus Towers
The Dire Earth Cycle 2
Del Rey, August 27, 2013
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 544 pages

Cross-interview: Dystopias and Hope for the Future with Karina Sumner-Smith and Jason M. Hough - December 18, 2014
The Exodus Towers features all the high-octane action and richly imagined characters of The Darwin Elevator—only the stakes have never been higher.

The sudden appearance of a second space elevator in Brazil only deepens the mystery about the aliens who provided it: the Builders. Scavenger crew captain Skyler Luiken and brilliant scientist Dr. Tania Sharma have formed a colony around the new Elevator’s base, utilizing mobile towers to protect humans from the Builders’ plague. But they are soon under attack from a roving band of plague-immune soldiers. Cut off from the colony, Skyler must wage a one-man war against the new threat as well as murderous subhumans and thugs from Darwin—all while trying to solve the puzzle of the Builders’ master plan . . . before it’s too late for the last vestiges of humanity.


The Plague Forge
The Dire Earth Cycle 3
Del Rey, September 24, 2013
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 448 pages

Cross-interview: Dystopias and Hope for the Future with Karina Sumner-Smith and Jason M. Hough - December 18, 2014
The Plague Forge delivers an unbeatable combination of knockout action and kick-ass characters as the secrets to the ultimate alien mystery from The Darwin Elevator and The Exodus Towers are about to be unraveled.

The hunt is on for the mysterious keys left by the alien Builders. While Skyler’s team of immune scavengers scatters around the disease-ravaged globe in search of the artifacts, Skyler himself finds much more than he expected in the African desert, where he stumbles upon surprising Builder relics—and thousands of bloodthirsty subhumans. From the slums and fortresses of Darwin to the jungles of Brazil and beyond, Skyler and company are in for a wild ride, jam-packed with daunting challenges, run-and-gun adventure, and unexpected betrayals—all in a race against time to finally answer the great questions that have plagued humanity for decades: Who are the Builders, and what do they want with Earth?


The Dire Earth
The Dire Earth Novella
Del Rey, November 18, 2014
eNovella, 124 pages

Cross-interview: Dystopias and Hope for the Future with Karina Sumner-Smith and Jason M. Hough - December 18, 2014
Jason M. Hough goes back to the beginning with this eBook exclusive novella, the prequel to the New York Times bestseller The Darwin Elevator. An indispensable introduction to a trilogy wrought with action, imagination, and mystery, The Dire Earth is sure to thrill new readers and diehard fans alike.

In the middle of the twenty-third century, an inexplicable disease engulfs the globe, leaving a trail of madness and savagery in its wake. Dutch air force pilot Skyler Luiken discovers he is immune to the disease when he returns from a mission to find the world in chaos, but he soon realizes that he’s not the only one to have endured the apocalypse. Elsewhere, the roguish Skadz, the cunning Nigel, and the tough-as-nails Samantha each make their way toward the last remaining bastion of sanity: Darwin, Australia, home to a mysterious alien artifact that may hold the key to the survival of the human race.

The View From Monday - August 26, 2013


Happy Monday!  Summer is over for us as the kids go back to school on Tuesday. This makes me unhappy. I really like having them here. It's not that I won't see them both after school, but life will be much more hectic for everyone. On the other hand I should get a lot more reading and writing done. My reading has been very light since the end of January for RL reasons. Hopefully I will begin to catch up on everything soon.



The View From Monday - August 26, 2013



August is ending with 5 debuts!

Twilight Hunter (The Execution Underground 1) by Kait Ballenger;

Saxon's Bane by Geoffrey Gudgion (I highly recommended you read this.);

Children of Fire (The Chaos Born 1) by Drew Karpyshyn;

Billy Moon by Douglas Lain; and

The Returned by Jason Mott.


And from formerly featured Debut Author Challenge Authors:

The Exodus Towers (The Dire Earth Cycle 2) by Jason M. Hough.  The first novel in The Dire Earth Cycle, The Darwin Elevator, came out last month. It's an excellent read and a very, very self-assured debut so pick that up along with The Exodus Towers. The third novel in the series, The Plague Forge, will be out on September 24, 2013 so you won't have too long to wait because you will want the next book right away.

Chosen (Alex Verus 4) by Benedict Jacka. This is a terrific UF series featuring Alex Verus, a mage who can see possible futures. Alex is fantastic and the books are great fun and very well written.



August 26, 2013
TITLEAUTHORSERIES
The Demon's Desire (e) Kendra Leigh Castle PNR - Hearts of the Fallen 2
The Awakening: Liam (e) Abby Niles PNR - The Awakening 2



August 27, 2013
TITLEAUTHORSERIES
Perdition Ann Aguirre SF - Dred Chronicles 1
Hearts in Darkness (ri) Keri Arthur UF - Nikki and Michael 2
Twilight Hunter (D) Kait Ballenger PNR - Execution Underground 1
Only Superhuman (h2mm) Christopher L. Bennett SF
Deception Cove Jayne Castle PNR - Rainshadow 2
For the Love of Magic Janet Chapman PNR - Spellbound Falls 5
Heaven and Hellsbane Paige Cuccaro PNR - Hellsbane 3
Heavy Metal Natalie J. Damschroder PNR - Goddesses Rising 2
Heart of Venom Jennifer Estep UF - Elemental Assassin 9
Shadows of the New Sun: Stories in Honor of Gene Wolfe Bill Fawcett (ed) Anthology
Dark Storm (h2tp) Christine Feehan PNR - Dark 23
1635: Papal Stakes (ri) (h2mm) Eric Flint
Charles E. Gannon
AH - Ring of Fire 15
Immortally Ever After Angie Fox PNR - Monster M*A*S*H 3
Spirits From Beyond Simon R. Green UF - Ghostfinders 4
Saxon's Bane (D) Geoffrey Gudgion UF/H
Transcendental James Gunn SF
The Exodus Towers Jason M. Hough SF - The Dire Earth Cycle 2
Star Trek: The Fall: Revelation and Dust David R. George III SF - Star Trek
Chosen Benedict Jacka UF - Alex Verus 4
Children of Fire (D) Drew Karpyshyn F - The Chaos Born 1
A Thousand Perfect Things Kay Kenyon AH
Crown of Vengeance (h2mm) Mercedes Lackey
James Mallory
F - Dragon Prophecy 1
Billy Moon (D) Douglas Lain F/AH
Dragon Ship (h2mm) Sharon Lee
Steve Miller
SF - New Liaden Universe 5
Age of Godpunk: Collecting Age of Anansi, Age of Satan and Age of Gaia James Lovegrove F - Collection
The Gemini Virus (h2mm) Wil Mara S/Th
Songs of the Dying Earth (tp2mm) George R.R. Martin (ed)
Gardner Dozois (ed)
SF - Anthology
Too Many Curses (tp2mm) A. Lee Martinez F
Kenobi John Jackson Miller SF - Star Wars
They Also Serve (e) (ri) Mike Moscoe SF - Jump Universe 3
The Returned (D) Jason Mott F
Crux Ramez Naam SF - Nexus 2
The Five Deaths of Roxanne Love Erin Quinn PNR
Cast in Sorrow Michelle Sagara PNR - Chronicles of Elantra 9
The Time of Contempt Andrzej Sapkowski F - Saga of Wiedzminie 4
Must Love Fangs Jessica Sims PNR - Midnight Liaisons 3
The Vampire With the Dragon Tattoo Kerrelyn Sparks PNR - Love at Stake 14
Blood Bond Jeanne C. Stein UF - Anna Strong 9
Red Rain (h2mm) R.L. Stine H
SideQuest Adventures Mark Teppo
Angus Trim
Michael Tinker Pearce
Linda Pearce
AH/F - Foreworld Saga
The Sorority Tamara Thorne H
The Thursday War (tp2mm) Karen Traviss SF - HALO
Kiss of Night (tp2mm) Debbie Viguie PNR - Kiss 1
The Blinding Knife (h2tp) Brent Weeks F - Lightbringer 2



August 31, 2013
TITLEAUTHORSERIES
The Minority Report (Deluxe) Philip K. Dick SF
Hot Times in Magma City (Deluxe) Robert Silverberg SF



e - eBook
D - Debut
h2tp - Hardcover to Trade Paperback
h2mm - Hardcover to Mass Market Paperback
ri - reissue or reprint
tp2mm - Trade to Mass Market Paperback


AH - Alternate History
F - Fantasy
H - Horror
PNR - Paranormal Romance
SF - Science Fiction
Th - Thriller
UF - Urban Fantasy

Guest Blog by Jason M. Hough, author of The Darwin Elevator (The Dire Earth Cycle 1) - July 23, 2013


Please welcome Jason M. Hough to The Qwillery as part of the 2013 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. The Darwin Elevator (The Dire Earth Cycle 1) will be published on July 30, 2013 by Del Rey.  The second and third novels in The Dire Earth Cycle, The Exodus Towers and The Plague Forge, will follow in August and September. You may read an interview with Jason here.



Guest Blog by Jason M. Hough, author of  The Darwin Elevator (The Dire Earth Cycle 1)  - July 23, 2013




Place as Character


There was only one requirement when choosing where to set my novel: somewhere near the equator. At the heart of the story is a space elevator, which is really just a long (long!) cord that stretches from Earth up into space. Such a device only works near the equator, where the spin of the planet constantly tries to throw the counterweight at the far end out into space, thus keeping the cable nice and taut.

I didn’t really know what I was looking for in a location, other than I wanted it to have character. What that means, exactly, is somewhat indefinable, and differs for everyone. Ask ten writers to pick an equatorial location to set this novel and you’d probably get ten different answers, all with perfectly valid reasons.

Spinning around the globe at a friend’s house one night, I decided to first see if anything just jumped out at me right away. Someplace that might have intersti—

Darwin.

And that’s how easy it was. Didn’t even need to spin the globe around one entire revolution. Darwin, Australia, if for no other reason than the shallowest one: I liked the name. The title, THE DARWIN ELEVATOR, came to mind instantly. It sounded like the type of thing someone might pick up off a shelf, intrigued. The extra connotation the name brings just felt perfect. So… Darwin! Done deal. Easy, right?

As it turns out, Darwin is a piss-poor location for a space elevator. It’s close enough to the equator to technically work (as I later learned), but barely so. Definitely too far away to ever be a consideration in any real-world plans for such a device. The weather sucks, though that’s something of a theme when it comes to the equator. Even the simple fact that it’s on land makes it less than ideal. If we were to build an actual space elevator, we’d put it on a floating platform well out to sea. Something we can move to avoid storms. Somewhere that radar could pick up evildoers well before they ever got close enough to do any damage.

So Darwin was a terrible choice. And thus perfect. Because in this story we didn’t build the elevator. An automated extraterrestrial ship did, for reasons unexplained. Reasons I won’t explain here because spoilers are worse than broccoli. Suffice to say they either had bad aim or, perhaps, they didn’t want things to be easy for us. One thing’s for sure, on the day this post goes live I’ll pick a random person from whoever posts the word vestibule to my facebook page for a free signed book. But beyond all this elevator-related reasoning for choosing Darwin, the city had plenty to offer.

In the world of the novel, what today is a sleepy beach town becomes the scientific epicenter of the world almost overnight thanks to the Elevator’s sudden arrival. Governments and private organizations alike flock to the wondrous alien device in a way that no human-built monument ever accomplished. Then comes the plague, and when people start to realize the space elevator is somehow protecting Darwin from the disease, a second flood of newcomers arrive: refugees from all around. Darwin is in an interesting place in the world, geographically and culturally. An English-speaking nation tucked just below Southeast Asia. As melting pots go, it works very well.

So began the worldbuilding. That’s a topic for another day. The point of all this is how place can worm its way into a story the same way characters do. A quirk of behavior or an ironic name might be the spark that leads you down the road to a memorable persona, and as a writer you just go with it and see where it leads. Place is no different.

A novel’s setting can take on just as much personality as any character, and even serve as a driver for the story. Some of my favorite examples:

TIGANA by Guy Gavriel Kay, perhaps my favorite book, features a story driven by the fact that the entire concept of a place, the nation of Tigana, has been wiped from the memory of anyone who did not come from there. Those who did still remember the place fondly, and it is through their memory and shared grief for the virtual loss of their homeland we get to know the place of Tigana as intimately as any character in that magnificent work.

In 11/22/63 Stephen King takes us back in time to locations both real and imagined. King’s fictional and terrifying Maine town of Derry is as strong and well-defined as any character in that excellent novel. The place absolutely oozes with creepy personality, with each resident manifesting themselves like personality quirks. And Derry, like some of King’s characters, is a recurring presence in his books.

Midworld… Hogwarts… Arrakis… I could go on, but I’d love to hear what examples you readers have in mind. What places in literature have captured your attention as much or more than characters that populated them?






The Dire Earth Cycle

The Darwin Elevator
The Dire Earth Cycle 1
Del Rey, July 30, 2013
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 496 pages

Guest Blog by Jason M. Hough, author of  The Darwin Elevator (The Dire Earth Cycle 1)  - July 23, 2013
Jason M. Hough’s pulse-pounding debut combines the drama, swagger, and vivid characters of Joss Whedon’s Firefly with the talent of sci-fi author John Scalzi.

In the mid-23rd century, Darwin, Australia, stands as the last human city on Earth. The world has succumbed to an alien plague, with most of the population transformed into mindless, savage creatures. The planet’s refugees flock to Darwin, where a space elevator—created by the architects of this apocalypse, the Builders—emits a plague-suppressing aura.

Skyler Luiken has a rare immunity to the plague. Backed by an international crew of fellow “immunes,” he leads missions into the dangerous wasteland beyond the aura’s edge to find the resources Darwin needs to stave off collapse. But when the Elevator starts to malfunction, Skyler is tapped—along with the brilliant scientist, Dr. Tania Sharma—to solve the mystery of the failing alien technology and save the ragged remnants of humanity.



The Exodus Towers
The Dire Earth Cycle 2
Del Rey, August 27, 2013
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 544 pages

Guest Blog by Jason M. Hough, author of  The Darwin Elevator (The Dire Earth Cycle 1)  - July 23, 2013
The Exodus Towers features all the high-octane action and richly imagined characters of The Darwin Elevator—only the stakes have never been higher.



The Plague Forge
The Dire Earth Cycle 3
Del Rey, September 24, 2013
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 448 pages

Guest Blog by Jason M. Hough, author of  The Darwin Elevator (The Dire Earth Cycle 1)  - July 23, 2013
The Plague Forge delivers an unbeatable combination of knockout action and kick-ass characters as the secrets to the ultimate alien mystery from The Darwin Elevator and The Exodus Towers are about to be unraveled.



Check out the 'Books' section of Jason's website to see the UK Covers.





About Jason
(from the author's website)

Guest Blog by Jason M. Hough, author of  The Darwin Elevator (The Dire Earth Cycle 1)  - July 23, 2013
Photo by Nathan
Jason M. Hough (pronounced 'Huff') is a former 3D Artist and Game Designer (Metal FatigueAliens vs. Predator: Extinction, and many others).  Writing fiction became a hobby for him in 2007 and quickly turned into an obsession.  He started writing THE DARWIN ELEVATOR in 2008 as a Nanowrimo project, and kept refining the manuscript until 2011 when it sold to Del Rey along with a contract for two sequels.  The trilogy, collectively called THE DIRE EARTH CYCLE, will be released in the summer of 2013.

He lives in San Diego, California with his wife and two young sons. Currently he works at Qualcomm,Inc. designing software that uses machine learning to make smartphones more efficient and user-friendly.




Website  ~  Twitter @JasonMHough  ~  Facebook  ~  G+  ~  Blog


Interview with Jason M. Hough, author of The Dire Earth Cycle - June 24, 2013


Please welcome Jason M. Hough to The Qwillery as part of the 2013 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Darwin Elevator (The Dire Earth Cycle 1) will be published on July 30, 2013 by Del Rey.  The second and third novels in The Dire Earth Cycle, The Exodus Towers and The Plague Forge, will follow in August and September.



Interview with Jason M. Hough, author of The Dire Earth Cycle - June 24, 2013




TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Jason:  After I left the game industry I'd been looking for a creative outlet, and writing felt like a good choice because success or failure would be almost entirely up to me. That was around 2004, but after only producing eight pages in the next four years, I knew I needed get my rear in gear or just stop pretending. So I tried Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) in 2007, and finally realized the benefits of turning off all editorial instinct and simply writing. I participated again in 2008, and that was where The Darwin Elevator was born. I've written almost every day since.



TQ:  What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

Jason:  To proofread I take a 50 page chunk with me in the car, park at the beach, and read aloud while listening to the waves.



TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Jason:  A plotter! I tried the pantser lifestyle with my 2007 Nanowrimo effort, and it all fell apart around the halfway mark. In 2008 with The Darwin Elevator I spent the month leading up to November coming up with a solid outline. It really works well for me. I keep my outlines simple now, just three to five words per chapter, so that there's plenty of room for creativity during the writing stage. I think the process really helped me once I was under contract with Del Rey, because there was simply no room in the schedule to ditch a half-done manuscript and start over.



TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Jason:  I'd say my instincts are still a little off when it comes to providing the right amount of emotional response to big events. A lot of the notes my editors gave me went something like, "this is a HUGE moment and he barely flinches. C'mon, more MORE!"



TQ:  Describe The Darwin Elevator (The Dire Earth Cycle 1) in 140 characters or less. 

Jason:  A ragtag group must unravel the mystery of failing alien space elevator that is the only thing keeping the remnants of the human race alive.



TQ:  What inspired you to write The Darwin Elevator?

Jason:  Partly my own desire to see more stuff like "Firefly" in the SF world, and also more accessible novels like the works of John Scalzi. Other authors had certainly gone through that door before John, but for me he's the one who kicked in the door and shouted "LET'S ROCK!" while firing twin machine guns from the hip.



TQ:  What sort of research did you do for The Darwin Elevator?

Jason:  Lots of research on Darwin, Australia where most of the book is set. It's a place I've never been, and even though the novels are set well into the future, I still felt it important to have a reasonable grasp of the location. I studied space elevators plenty, too, but not enough to where I'd be tempted to bog the book down in the real science of such a thing. The device in the book came from mysterious origins, so I felt it was important that the characters were just as amazed and puzzled by it as readers would be.



TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Jason:  Samantha was the easiest because she's based on a friend of mine (hi Sam!). Blackfield was the hardest because he's such an ass, and also very random -- he lives by the mantra "vary the pattern." He's basically a guy who does the opposite of me in any situation. He was also the most fun to write.



TQ:  Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in The Darwin Elevator?

Jason:  Hard to do this without spoilers! There's a scene where Neil Platz has to, well, let's say delete something important. It's a chapter I added late in the third draft, and I love how it flows and the extra dimension it adds to the whole story.

There's another scene where Skyler and Sam are sharing stories about a fallen friend. It's short and not really germane to the story, but I've always been proud of it.



TQ:  What's next?

Jason:  As of now I've finished all three books in the trilogy, so I'm working on some short stories that will be used to promote the books and flesh out the backstory a bit. Once those are done I'm planning to dive into a fantasy I've been wanting to write for a while, until I know if the publisher wants more Dire Earth books.



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Jason:  My pleasure!






The Dire Earth Cycle

The Darwin Elevator
The Dire Earth Cycle 1
Del Rey, July 30, 2013
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 496 pages

Interview with Jason M. Hough, author of The Dire Earth Cycle - June 24, 2013
Jason M. Hough’s pulse-pounding debut combines the drama, swagger, and vivid characters of Joss Whedon’s Firefly with the talent of sci-fi author John Scalzi.

In the mid-23rd century, Darwin, Australia, stands as the last human city on Earth. The world has succumbed to an alien plague, with most of the population transformed into mindless, savage creatures. The planet’s refugees flock to Darwin, where a space elevator—created by the architects of this apocalypse, the Builders—emits a plague-suppressing aura.

Skyler Luiken has a rare immunity to the plague. Backed by an international crew of fellow “immunes,” he leads missions into the dangerous wasteland beyond the aura’s edge to find the resources Darwin needs to stave off collapse. But when the Elevator starts to malfunction, Skyler is tapped—along with the brilliant scientist, Dr. Tania Sharma—to solve the mystery of the failing alien technology and save the ragged remnants of humanity.




The Exodus Towers
The Dire Earth Cycle 2
Del Rey, August 27, 2013
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 544 pages

Interview with Jason M. Hough, author of The Dire Earth Cycle - June 24, 2013
The Exodus Towers features all the high-octane action and richly imagined characters of The Darwin Elevator—only the stakes have never been higher.




The Plague Forge
The Dire Earth Cycle 3
Del Rey, September 24, 2013
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 448 pages

Interview with Jason M. Hough, author of The Dire Earth Cycle - June 24, 2013
The Plague Forge delivers an unbeatable combination of knockout action and kick-ass characters as the secrets to the ultimate alien mystery from The Darwin Elevator and The Exodus Towers are about to be unraveled.



Check out the 'Books' section of Jason's website to see the UK Covers.





About Jason
(from the author's website)

Interview with Jason M. Hough, author of The Dire Earth Cycle - June 24, 2013
Photo by Nathan
Jason M. Hough (pronounced 'Huff') is a former 3D Artist and Game Designer (Metal FatigueAliens vs. Predator: Extinction, and many others).  Writing fiction became a hobby for him in 2007 and quickly turned into an obsession.  He started writing THE DARWIN ELEVATOR in 2008 as a Nanowrimo project, and kept refining the manuscript until 2011 when it sold to Del Rey along with a contract for two sequels.  The trilogy, collectively called THE DIRE EARTH CYCLE, will be released in the summer of 2013.

He lives in San Diego, California with his wife and two young sons. Currently he works at Qualcomm, Inc. designing software that uses machine learning to make smartphones more efficient and user-friendly.




Website  ~  Twitter @JasonMHough  ~  Facebook  ~  G+  ~  Blog



Cover Reveal: Zero World by Jason M. HoughCross-interview: Dystopias and Hope for the Future with Karina Sumner-Smith and Jason M. Hough - December 18, 2014The View From Monday - August 26, 2013Guest Blog by Jason M. Hough, author of  The Darwin Elevator (The Dire Earth Cycle 1)  - July 23, 2013Interview with Jason M. Hough, author of The Dire Earth Cycle - June 24, 2013

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