Question #1: What (or possibly who, if any) inspired the character of Ben Benjamin in your Psi-Tech Universe?
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.
Question # 3: In this series, humankind has developed the skill to use “folds” to travel through space over great distances. When you created these “folds” for the storyline, was there any science or other science fiction that inspired them?
Space is big, so you have to find a way of allowing your characters to navigate vast distances in a timeframe that befits a human story. If I stuck to what we know now I’d need to take time dilation into consideration for even relatively short distances. For longer distances, I’d need generation ships to cover the vast interstellar distances that the story spans, and then I’d have a very different story. Without FTL drives I needed wormholes or some way to fold space, so I devised jump gates. They were no more than a story-convenience to start with – a variation on a theme used by many SF writers of novels and movies, from Star Trek and Farscape to Dune. Then I figured out a way to make the jump gate system flawed, and that flaw integral to the plot.
The Psi-Tech trilogy is set five hundred years in the future. Megacorporations more powerful than any individual planetary government are racing each other to grab colony resources. The jump gates are their short-cut, but they use platinum as a catalyst in the gate impeller and with each jump, a small but significant amount of platinum is lost in foldspace. So platinum has become the most valuable commodity in the known universe and the megacorps are always on the quest for more and more platinum. Platinum isn’t uncommon, of course, but to put availability into context, all the platinum refined on earth to date would not fill an Olympic swimming pool to more than the depth of about a foot. If the megacorporations wish to maintain their colony networks they’re going to need a lot more platinum.
That’s one complication, but there’s another. Something that exists in the void between those jump gates has made itself known, and that has sent everything in a different direction. Instead of one problem, my protagonists now have two, but they can’t tackle one until the other is resolved.
Question #4: Nimbus closes out the Psi-Tech Series. What, if anything, from this book, is proving to be a lasting inspiration for you as an author?
The Psi-Tech Trilogy will always have a place in my heart because EMPIRE OF DUST was (if not the first book I wrote) my first published book, and the sequence, with the addition of CROSSWAYS and NIMBUS is my first complete trilogy. Authors work in isolation. We don’t get instant feedback during the writing process, so finishing a novel – especially one that’s 171,000 words long is a triumph. Selling that novel is validation – and then writing two more of the same length is another milestone. Completing the Psi-Tech trilogy has proved I can do it.
Question # 5: And finally, what’s next for you after this?
WINTERWOOD and SILVERWOLF. The third book, ROWANKIND, is due in late 2018. It’s 1800. Mad King George is on the British throne. The Industrial Revolution is in full swing. Bonaparte is hammering at the door. And the Mysterium is executing unlicensed witches. Ross (Rossalinde) Tremayne is a cross-dressing captain of a fierce little privateer ship, and an unlicensed witch. She’s comfortable companying with her crew of barely reformed pirates and the jealous ghost of her dead husband. But things change when she pays a deathbed visit to her estranged mother and acquires a magical winterwood box, a task she doesn’t want, and a half-brother she didn’t know she had. She has to learn how to open the magical box in order to right a wrong perpetrated by an ancestor 200 years earlier. The first book sees her meet Corwen (something her late husband’s ghost is certainly not happy about) and complete the task. In SILVERWOLF Ross and Corwen have to cope with the aftermath of their own success, and this time we meet Corwen’s complicated family and see how the events in the first book are rippling outward to affect the whole country. I’m currently writing ROWANKIND, the third book in the trilogy, pulling together loose ends from the first two books and heading towards a satisfying conclusion.
After that, it’s a standalone novel called THE AMBER CROWN, which is set in Livonia, an analogue of the Baltic States around 1650. I’ve messed about with both history and geography, though not enough to make it unrecognisable, I hope. It’s a political fantasy with magic and it’s written from the viewpoint of three main characters: Valdas, the disgraced bodyguard who failed to protect his king from assassination; Lind, the assassin, good at his job, but pretty messed up in every other way; and Mirza, the witch of a band of Atsingani travellers.
© 2017, Jacey Bedford. All rights reserved.