Umbra’s inception began about 26 years ago, when I began writing a story to go along with the plot if the then-popular computer game, Wasteland. I’d had an elaborate backstory for my characters, much more than you got when booting up one of the old floppy discs. (Remember those flat black things where you had to punch little rectangles out of the side to be able to write on them?) Virtually none of that story survived to this point, but that decades-plus of evolution wouldn’t have been possible without that seed planted so long ago. I find it rather fitting that I’ve finally brought the story to full fruition when the sequel to my all-time childhood favorite game is arriving (about time!!!). I’ve taken the basic ideas through several years of NaNoWriMo, a couple of bad relationships, plenty of geographical changes, job changes, but one thing remains the same – the heart of the post-nuclear wasteland story, and how people would operate in such a world. What would be different? What would remain the same?
For the purists out there, I’ll break it down and address you by categories.
Science Fiction: While science elements and principles do exist within the boundaries of my story, I don’t consider this a pure science fiction novel. I will note however, that something I use in the story is not so far off as we may think. Remember when automatically opening doors only existed on the set of a Star Trek?
Forensics: For those who might address the rather sloppy methods of investigation, I will point out two things. 1) Consider I’ve done everything deliberately, knowing how investigations on crime scenes are handled. (I’ve got a minor degree in criminalistics, and yes, I got high grades in all of the classes.) Because 2) this is in the post-apoc world and they don ‘t have access to simple things like cameras that we take for granted and there’s really no proper investigative arm of the Circuit to help. A litmus test of a science fiction/fantasy novel is “can the elements of this work me moved to an opposite/modern story and leave the story relatively intact?” If the answer is yes, than it’s not a true science fiction or fantasy story. I hold the same for the post-Apocs. If I put this in a contemporary world will I have to change the story? Nope. The people running around doing what they do wouldn’t get away with any of it. I made my world mine.
Linguists: This one bothers me too, believe it or not, but I didn’t see any way around it which I could accomplish and still convey an entertaining story. I’m speaking of course of the way that language changes over time, and although my novel doesn’t specify the time of the Visitation, a considerable length is inferred. Several decades can alter a language somewhat incomprehensible. Russell Hoban in his novel Riddley Walker did a masterful job of creating a new language that was still easily understood, as did Anthony Burgess in A Clockwork Orange. I possess nowhere near the skills they employed in their tales. And, let’s face it: I had time enough to create a Tolkienesque language in its entirety in those years since imagining such a world, but chose to forego it. But I did not. Why? In order to preserve the ability for the reader to follow along and solve the mystery alongside my detective, and to more simply understand that despite decades and/or centuries, people’s motives really haven’t changed.
Firearms enthusiasts: I’m one if these too, and any mistakes I made were mine. I’m in the process of having the work reviewed for factual errors regarding weapons platforms, but I’m holding myself ultimately responsible.
Overall, I’d rather be entertaining my reader instead of spending so much time researching every little detail that I never get it published. I try not to stretch the suspension of disbelief too far but please remember that it’s there.
I’m sure I could address many more factions but I’ll let the readers who choose to do so argue about the story elements on their various forums after they’ve read the book.
Here’s to hoping you enjoy the story anyway!