Question #1: What (or possibly who, if any) inspired the character of Ben Benjamin in your Psi-Tech Universe?
Psi-Tech trilogy: EMPIRE OF DUST / CROSSWAYS / NIMBUS
There are three books in the Psi-Tech trilogy: EMPIRE OF DUST / CROSSWAYS / NIMBUS. With the release of NIMBUS on 3rd October 2017, the trilogy is complete.
Reska (Ben) Benjamin is one of two main characters. He’s a psi-tech – implanted with telepath technology – and he specialises in navigating foldspace. Where the character came from is a complicated question. I don’t think he’s derived from any one person or source. He evolved over the course of writing the first book (a process that took many years and went through many revisions before getting to the publication stage). He’s been a cop – a space cop – which means he’s tough. Tough but fair; strong but kind. He’ll never let his team down or leave anyone behind. He’ll defend his ‘tribe’ to the end. But just because he’ll be charming to your granny doesn’t mean he’s weak.
It’s difficult to write a nice/noble/good character unless you give him some flaws, however, so Ben has flaws a-plenty, though depending on your perspective some of his flaws are actually strengths. He won’t start a fight, but he’s single-minded when it comes to finishing one – perhaps too single-minded, too stubborn, too dogged on occasions. He believes in justice even if achieving it means breaking the law. He has White Knight syndrome. He’ll be the first to try to help someone in trouble which means that he takes on too much, and trusts too easily. He’s not completely naive, but he does tend to believe the best of people. Of course, this sometimes brings out the best in them, too, Jake Lowenbrun for instance, who turns out to be one of the good guys partly because Ben believes he can be. On the other hand, there’s Kitty…
An incident that happens in CROSSWAYS leaves Ben with a form of PTSD, which carries through to the new novel, NIMBUS. Sometimes when you look into foldspace, foldspace looks back, and there are things there that don’t exist…except when they do. It leads to a love-hate relationship with flying the Folds. It’s his passion, but he’s afraid of it. He’s seen things in foldspace that have broken weaker men, but he’s survived, and through sheer determination, he’s still flying.
So where did he come from? He’s Han Solo on the day he decides to be Luke’s wingman against the Death Star. He’s Picard when he faces the Borg again after he’s been Locutus. He’s the Ninth Doctor when he sees the Dalek imprisoned in the basement. He’s the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dam. He’s Kyle Carpenter on the day he threw himself onto a grenade to save his friend. He’s Yuri Gagarin, on that first space flight. He’s Toussaint Louverture trying to keep his people free.
Question #2: The Psi-tech world is pretty involved and detailed in this series. Why did you want to create such an in-depth universe?
If you’re writing a short story you can get away without too much world-building, but once you head into novel territory, especially a novel that’s 171,000 words long your characters need a well-defined world/universe to play in. Every story has to have its own internal logic. Whatever you create at the beginning has to be sustainable not only for the first book but for the second and third, too. The internal logic has to support over half a million words. You have to think about not only technology but also about geology and economics. You need to build a history that forms a sensible backstory. Though it’s barely mentioned in the novels, I created a whole history of the five hundred years between now and when EMPIRE OF DUST starts. It includes the invention and development of the jump gate system and the subsequent growth of the megacorporations. After mankind established colonies the earth was devastated by an inbound meteor on a collision course. Though the meteor was broken up in space, three chunks of meteorite hit, causing sea levels to rise, and a ‘nuclear’ winter. It knocked the USA and China off the superpower map completely and enabled Africa and Europe to rise during the rebuilding phase. The future is not the expected American or Chinese one.
Out in the depths of space, there are jump gate hubs, owned by the megacorps. Crossways was one such until it fought for its independence a century ago and is now a refuge for career criminals, eccentrics and the flotsam and jetsam of the space-lanes. It becomes home to Ben Benjamin, Cara Carlinni, and the Free Company in the second novel, CROSSWAYS.