The Big Idea: Michael J. Martinez

Ever crash a ship into a planet? No? Well, then, Michael J. Martinez has one up on you with The Daedalus Incident. But to hear him tell about it in this Big Idea, that’s not even the coolest thing in the book. Think about that for a minute, why don’t you.


So…I’m crashing an 18th century frigate into 22nd century Mars. While that is certainly a rather large and important-ish idea in my debut novel, The Daedalus Incident, it’s actually not the Big Idea.

The Daedalus Incident is, in part, a historical fantasy in which the Age of Sail plays out amongst the planets of the solar system instead of the seas of Earth. And that was a great deal of fun to write, let me tell you. It’s got that big, noisy, whiz-bang vibe you get from swashbuckling, adventurous space opera. There’s lizard-people on Venus. Mysterious aliens on the rings of Saturn. Alchemy. Benjamin Franklin. Someone described it as Master and Commander meets Spelljammer. (I rather liked that one.)

And there’s a creaky, hardscrabble mining colony on Mars in the year 2132 that, I suppose, addresses the other half of my fan-brain. It’s a hard SF setting, with corporate mining operations, astronauts in dead-end jobs, laser drills, earthquakes, quantum physics and shuttle crashes. It’s the Future, right down to the holographic televisions and tofu-based diet. That was fun, too.

As you may suspect, the two settings come crashing together. Mad alchemists and nefarious evil are involved. There’s adventure and excitement and all the things Yoda says Jedi aren’t supposed to crave, but do anyway. Yes, even more fun.

But what’s it all about? Where’s this crazy yarn go?

I’ve often pointed to two different groups of influences on my writing. The first is the Napoleonic era naval literature of C.S. Forester and Patrick O’Brian. Aside from the obvious influence, these two writers are, in some ways, cousins of SF/F writers, because they write about men haring off on missions of war and discovery into a great, big, scary unknown. The other group includes classic science fiction writers like Arthur C. Clarke, whose work often involves those same themes: coming face to face with the unknown and, in some cases, unknowable.

The common thread I discovered in the process of writing my own book was that these influences have, at their heart, ordinary people. There aren’t any Chosen Ones, or children of gods, or genetically engineered supermen. Nobody gets a dragon egg or a sacred gemstone or a magic sword. (Well, OK, there’s an alchemically treated sword in my book. Totally different though. It wasn’t stuck in a stone.)

The works that truly influenced me are about ordinary people facing the finality of death and the enormity of the unknown, and they do it out of duty, or love, or knowledge. Simple motivations, perhaps, but they spawn innovation, brilliance and courage. I think that’s why I liked them, because it made the characters incredibly identifiable to me.

That’s what I found in The Daedalus Incident as I wrote and revised it: the notion of ordinary people facing incredibly strange, dangerous and terrifying things because it was the right thing to do. It actually wasn’t an intentional theme at first – sometimes, I’m told, writing happens like that – but when I found that Big Idea in there, I definitely nurtured it as best I could.

I still liked crashing the frigate into Mars, of course. I mean, who wouldn’t?


The Daedalus Incident: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s site. Follow him on Twitter.

21 Comments on “The Big Idea: Michael J. Martinez”

  1. Frigates in Spaaace!

    That’s what originally sold me on this book, and STILL sells me on this book. When a podcast amusingly thought about putting a SF space opera RPG into Elizabethan times, I immediately recalled this book as proof of concept (sort of)

  2. “Odd things crash into Mars” is always a good time. It’s what made Kim Stanley Robinson’s books so good, as well as Dan Simmon’s “Illum/Olympos” set.

  3. Looking forward to starting this one. oh look at that, it’s lunch time. What to do?

  4. Totally looking into this one.
    “The Age of Sail plays out amongst the planets of the solar system instead of the seas of Earth.”

  5. Sailing in space. Dammit, I read a book in,oh, the late 70’s/early 80’s that had interplanetary travel in sailing ships. That’s all I remember about it, so it must not have reached my not too high standards (at the time) for even one reread.

  6. This sounds like an awesome idea. Hard SF literally meets space fantasy. That goes on the list of books to get right away!

  7. Space: 1889, Larklight, and the idea of merging that with hard SF sold me on this. Then I read the excerpt and bought the ebook immediately. Awesome!

  8. Damn it. I have to read it. I’m a huge fan of Sharpe and Hornblower, and while I’m only a lukewarm fan of Honor Harrington and the His Majesty’s Dragon books (two series frequently, FREQUENTLY recommended to me), your book certainly sounds like I have to give it a shot.

  9. Ever crash a ship into a planet?

    I’m a gremlin on the wing of your ship, crashing you into a planet.

    So, get Allstate. It’ll protect you from Mayhem.

    like me.

  10. Every time I skim by the picture of the cover, a part of my brain would flicker with recognition. But I couldn’t figure out what I was seeing. It was drving me crazy. So a bit of googling finally tracked it down.

    That ship is a gorram supersized F-86 Sabre, right down to the machine guns in the nose.

  11. Just finished. Very well done! As nice as the science and world building goes, it’s the characters that carry. Weatherby, you fool!

  12. Read this over the weekend, and after the first two chapters, found myself thinking “No way can he make this work, make it plausible, keep it exciting.” I was so wrong, and delightedly so. An intelligent, intriguing, challenging, and above all, fun read.

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