Forbidden Planet Blog

A short blog post written for the Forbidden Planet blog all of 14 years ago.

The Voyage of the Sable Keech and Polity Agent are respectively my sixth and seventh books for Macmillan. When asked what inspired me to write them I have to regretfully inform those with stars in their eyes that inspiration is what part-time writers can afford to wait for, I’ve got a job to do. When I first approached Macmillan I had Gridlinked and The Skinner written (though at about half their present length), the former concerned the travails of agent Cormac and latter, set some 600 years later, was a mad romp set on a world crammed with lethal fauna. Rather liking agent Cormac I expanded and continued his story in the next book, The Line of Polity, then followed that with the time-travel novel, Cowl, and thus set the way I produce my books: Cormac novel, something else, Cormac novel, something else and so on. This was accidental to begin with then reinforced later so I’m not tied down to, and only known for, the one series. This can be limiting for a writer. It has been evident that writers of many other such serialized stories get penalized by their fans when attempting to write anything else.

Still following this course I then wrote the next Cormac book: Brass Man. This sparked from numerous comments from readers about their love of a character in Gridlinked called Mr Crane – an eight foot tall brass Golem with a penchant for ripping off people’s heads when not adding to the collection of little toys in his pocket. Voyage, which follows The Skinner, came next. I wanted to return to the world of Spatterjay not because I intended to explore this or examine that, but because it’s fun, I liked the ecology there, enjoyed the characters I’d created, and could see the perfect place to start with the character Vrell, a huge crablike alien who submerged in Spatterjay’s seas at the end of The Skinner. In this book I incorporated some elements from my others like the the hooders from The Line of Polity and used the authorial technique of letting rip and enjoying myself, then gradually trying to get things under control by tying off and interlinking the numerous plot threads.

Polity Agent, which comes next in the Cormac sequence (September 6th this year) has been a part-culmination of some sort of process going on in my back brain. Throughout the previous books I introduced various plot elements and threads that have remained unresolved: is Horace Blegg really an immortal superhuman who survived Hiroshima; what happened to the ‘Maker’ alien that was returned to its home civilization at the end of Gridlinked; where did the lethal organic ‘Jain’ technology come from and what is Dragon, the huge alien biomechanism sent to the Polity by the Makers, really up to? Some of those questions will be resolved, some will have to wait for Line War (next Cormac book), though there will of course be another book inbetween called Hilldiggers.

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