We’ve been sitting on this one for a while now, but it’s time to announce it to the world: My next project from Tor is called The Human Division. It takes place in the “Old Man’s War” universe, after the events of The Last Colony and Zoe’s Tale. It is not, strictly speaking, a novel.
Here’s the official announcement at Tor.com. And now, my take:
What does “not strictly a novel” mean here? Well, The Human Division is probably best described as an “episodic narrative” — it’s a collection of individual episodes that each tell a complete story, arranged chronologically, so that if you read them all in sequence you get a larger narrative arc. The closest analogy would be a season of a television show, and indeed The Human Division is arranged into thirteen “episodes,” including a double-length “pilot episode,” entitled “The ‘B’ Team.”
How are we going to manage this? Basically we’ll be putting out each episode of The Human Division in eBook format, complete with its own artwork by the fantastic John Harris. The episodes will come out weekly, probably starting in December and running through February. We’ll also be collecting the entire run into a hardcover book, which will be available probably in May.
(To answer some immediate and obvious questions preliminarily and provisionally: Yes, as far as I know the episodes will be released DRM free; yes, they should be available in your favorite eBook store; and, as Tor has retained worldwide English distribution rights, yes, they should be available in English everywhere in the world at the same time. All other publishing-related questions you might have at the moment, my answer is “I don’t know.”)
So that’s what we’re doing. As for the why…
As will surprise almost none of you, I get a lot of questions about when I would return to the “Old Man’s War” universe. My answer was always the same: I’d return to it when I had something new to say in it. I don’t see any point in going into the OMW universe just to grind out novel after novel; I like the universe too much to make it into a soulless ATM of a franchise. So I went away from it, wrote other things that I enjoyed and I think the rest of you had fun with, and let the repercussions of how I ended the OMW series of novels sink into my head and arrange themselves. And finally, after about four years (i.e., in 2011), I knew what I wanted to do next in the universe.
The only problem is, the story I wanted to tell wouldn’t exactly work in straight-ahead novel format. Or more accurately, it could work as a novel, but it would better as episodes. While I was thinking this, the folks at Tor happened also to be thinking of trying new ways to work with storytelling, to take better advantage of the potential of the electronic medium. So in one of those nice coincidences that’s really probably not a coincidence at all, I wanted to do something different at the same time Tor wanted to see if doing something different would work. It’s nice when that happens.
So what we have here is a bit of an experiment. It’s not a serialized novel, as each episode will stand on its own, story-wise. It’s not a typical short story collection, because each of the episodes features the same characters and builds an overall narrative arc. It’s not a “fix-up” novel, because each story is purpose-built for The Human Divison. It’s not the first time episodic story telling has been done online (see the estimable Shadow Unit for another example), but it may be the first time it’s being done by a major publishing house. Essentially, we get to see how this works, and whether it can work, on a large scale.
I’m excited because it means I get to tell a new story in the OMW universe, the way I think it should be told. I’m still writing it; I’m having a hell of a lot of fun writing it. I think you’re all going to have a hell of a lot of fun reading it.
Yes, yes, you say, but what is it about? Well, I’m not going to go into a whole lot of detail about that right now, because I want you folks to enjoy exploring the new adventures in the OMW universe without me spoiling too much for you. That said, I will be talking about it more elsewhere as we go along. I will say that this story might be useful as a backgrounder. I will also say that if you’re coming to ComicCon, you should stop by the Tor booth. You’ll find cool stuff there.
So now you know!
Update: The Mad Hatter has some info as well.
Update 2: For those of you who saw me on the tour, yes, the bit I read you came from “The ‘B’ Team.” You can tell your friends about it now.