Allen Stroud is a British author and a university lecturer who specializes in science-fiction and fantasy world building and teaches creative writing to his students. He may be previously known to the readers from his Wisimir novel series, but to Elite fans he is certainly best known for his enthusiasm for the game professed by shows like Lave Radio and the fact that he takes part in the official world-building of the Elite Universe behind the scenes. Undoubtedly a busy man, we were still able to ensnare him and make him respond to some questions that both gamers and readers might find interesting about his upcoming novel: Elite: Lave Revolution.
First, a question that we ask from all of the authors: Which Elite game was your favourite and which ship(s) featured in the original games would you love to fly again in Elite: Dangerous?
I played Frontier and Frontier First Encounters a little bit, but blue space put me off, so Elite was my game. It’ll be my first ‘outing’ in an Asp Explorer! Will be nice to switch out of the Cobra, although I’m looking forward to the first few trips in that too.
What do you consider to be the most exciting part of Elite: Dangerous based on what you’ve seen so far?
The willingness to listen to fans ideas and get them on board through the process. In some senses I’ve personally been a bit spoiled as I’ve had quite a lot of input. That said, I make my suggestions and they decide to use them or not.
Allen, you recently finished the first draft of your story. Could you tell us a bit of how you feel about it now?
It’s a bit rough, but it hangs together. I was quite surprised how well in the initial skim back. I’m currently going through and documenting all the different characters, locations, tech, etc...
What kinds of problems did you encounter during the writing process that you did not foresee?
Well I wanted to let the events play out and document them. There are a few scenes where I would wonder, “How can we get you people from A to B?” but then I’d walk away for an hour or two and come back with an idea.
Unlike most of the other authors, you have been privy to the secrets of the world-building of the Elite universe. You’ve obviously written and seen content that will be changed and developed before it will eventually be officially approved. Has this been a boon or a hindrance to your work of writing a tie-in novel?
A bit of both really. Having written a few of the guides I had a jumping point, but then they’d get revised and I’d have to change things a bit. I think actually the specific examples of particular things I worked out in the guides gave me some help with cultural references (“Do a Jameson” would be one of those). Also, the historical style of some of the collated documents clued me into writing things like that in the book. There are a collection of articles written in different styles that try to capture the historical perspective of the events described.
What’s different about writing a novel based on a game compared to your previous books?
Genre convention switching for one. This is an unashamed Science Fiction adventure as opposed to Fantasy. You have to be a bit more precise with Science Fiction, particularly in a world where you’re working to approval by someone else.
I’ve been writing towards publication almost constantly now since 2010 and I’ve definitely improved my work by doing so. My other novels had a particular framework attached to them, allowing me to write within myself. Prior to that I’d written what many new writers try to do – their best ideas packed into one introspective literary opus, which has never seen the light of day.
I decided that I would do better getting something ‘out there’, so went back and put together a collection of short stories – A Bag of Bedtime Tales. Then, The Wisimir books let me relax and tell a good story.
Elite: Lave Revolution takes the best of extremes. It is a different book and I didn’t approach it like anything else I’ve written. I was also very conscious of Elite: Dangerous’ starting point. I wanted to tell a story that filled a gap between the new game and the last game (Frontier: First Encounters). I was also very conscious that this could be a once in a lifetime opportunity, so the book has to make the most of it. When I played Elite and launched from Lave Station, I wondered what was happening on the planet below. I’m hoping people who read the book will travel to Lave and have a better idea from the story I’ve written.
Frontier is planning to include aspects of the fiction into the game. Do you have many ideas of what details of your novel you might want to see in the game? Are you willing to reveal some of them at this point?
Yes I know precisely what I would like to be seen in game! As an example, there’s some locations used in the book which have been drawn out of conversations with Frontier Developments and the excellent Dave Hughes. There’s loads of other things I’d love to make it. I’ve written a few specifically which I think will be too tempting to resist. But some will, some won’t, I’m content with that. As a child playing Elite, I searched for Generation Ships and Space Dredgers for days on end with no success, but I never gave up thinking they could be out there. I’d like to recreate that feeling of wonder and speculation.
What are the next steps in your writing process until the book is delivered onto the readers’ hands?
I have a thorough edit to do. Then, my partner gets a read, then I do another edit and then it goes to the publisher – Fantastic Books, for their editor to go through. I would guess there will be corrections after that and we keep it going back and forth.
Thank you, Allen Stroud, for sharing your experiences with us! Readers interested in learning more should head over to his website.