Ulla Susimetsä is a Finnish author who has previously published an award-winning short story in a Finnish sci-fi and fantasy magazine. For the past couple of years, she’s been busy turning that short story into a full-fledged novel, but took a break from it to write a story for the Tales from the Frontier Elite anthology, called Blood is Thicker. She was kind enough to answer some of our questions.
A question we have asked all of the authors involved with the past Elite games. Do you have a favourite and is there a ship in the originals that you especially liked and would love to see in Elite: Dangerous?
I must admit that I'm not much of a gamer and was introduced to Elite and the rest of the series by my husband, Marko. I'm not partial to any particular ship, I'm afraid, and in general am more interested in the accompanying fiction. For instance, I was thrilled to learn that one of the short stories in the anthology Further Stories Of Life On The Frontier was written by my favourite author, the amazing Manda Scott. I just had to read the story right away! Seeing the world through these stories made me curious about it, and it has been a great experience to explore it further through a story of my own.
How about the upcoming Elite: Dangerous? What do you consider to be the most exciting part of it, based on what you’ve seen so far?
The game-related fiction, of course! It will be interesting to see what kind of stories emerge – it is fascinating that so many writers and aspiring writers and people who just enjoy writing find the game and its world inspiring and are enthusiastically engaged in the process of writing fiction for it.
Ulla, you have written your short story for the Tales from the Frontier anthology and there’s only a little work remaining until it is ready for publication. How you feel about it now?
Relieved, I suppose. During the writing process, my feelings swung from excitement and elation to doubt and despair – as they always do when I write. Since this is my first foray into sci-fi, I was more insecure than usual and wondered whether I might be able to pull it off. But once I got to know my characters and understood the tensions and conflicts between them, they took action... and I enjoyed writing as much as I ever have.
What kinds of problems did you encounter during the writing process that you did not foresee?
I don't think there were many unforeseen problems, really. Most of the problems were already familiar to me from previous writing projects, such as sometimes not knowing how to get from plot point A to plot point B, where should this scene go and where to put that one... but eventually such problems were solved, and the pieces all fell into place. I did encounter some problems pertaining to the world and the setting, but fortunately, advice was available on the writers' forum or from the Frontier, and of course my DH is my guru in such matters.
The game is not out yet, so we must ask you if you have had much (or enough) information about the game universe. Are there many open questions still remaining?
On one hand, the information has been sufficient. On the other, I haven't been able to use much of the existing information. This is because, from the point of view of the game, my story takes place in what could be called ancient history. Therefore, I've had to carefully consider all of the available information: is this valid for my story? Can I still use this? What might this have been like in the time I'm writing about? One of the questions still remaining open is the names of the various settings and possibly their descriptions. This information should be available when Frontier Developments finalise their galaxy map and release the details to us writers.
What’s different about writing a short story based on a game compared to your previous work?
My previous stories are either historical fiction or set in a fictional world. Compared with the latter, writing a short story based on a game was vastly different – I couldn't make up the rules myself, I couldn't just use my imagination and come up with settings and details and whatever was needed. On the other hand, it wasn't that different from writing historical fiction – the worlds are, of course, thousands of years apart, but for both genres you just have to do your research. In addition, while, say, characters from the prehistoric Finland and the futuristic Elite universe definitely see the world in very different ways and have different beliefs, they are still basically much the same, driven by similar motivations and emotions; love, fear, loyalty, greed, desire for vengeance or freedom...
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?
Honestly, I haven't got a clue. I would naturally be honoured if any detail from my story made it into the game, but I don't think it's likely, considering that my story is set so far in the past.
What are the next steps in your writing process until your story is delivered onto the readers’ hands?
Editing rounds. I will tweak the story on the basis of the feedback from the other writers of the anthology, and will go through it myself a couple of times.
Thank you, Ulla, for agreeing to participate in this interview series! Now, what do you fancy for dinner?
In the meanwhile, if the readers out there want to know more about Ulla Susimetsä's story, check out the official Tales from the Frontier website.