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The Big Idea: Dave Creek

Today’s Big Idea is Super-Sized, because author Dave Creek has not just one, but two, new books out in the world, released simultaneously. How did this happen and how do his books — Watcher of the Skies and Chanda’s Homecoming — relate to each other? Dave is here to give you all the details about his literary fraternal twins.

DAVE CREEK:

Sometimes a Big Idea is too expansive to be contained in one book!

I have two novels coming out on the same day — Watcher of the Skies, featuring my series character Mike Christopher, a galactic explorer, and Chandas Homecoming, the latest adventure of another series character, “frontier ambassador” Chanda Kasmira.  I’m published by a small press, Hydra Publications, and we depend a lot upon in-person events to sell books.  The pandemic halted that for a couple of years, which means these two books have been put on hold — until now!

The Big Idea is this — what is home?  Is it the place you feel the most comfortable, or the place that most molded you into the person you are, for better or worse?  What if those are different physical locations, or different groups of people you think of as family, whether biological or “found?” 

Both novels take place in the same future history, and they look at the aftermath of a failed alien invasion of the Earth.  In Watcher, Mike Christopher, a crewmember of the starship Asaph Hall, played a big part in repelling that invasion, and it was the first time in a quarter century that he’d returned to his homeworld. 

Now he’s dealing with the aftermath of that invasion — one he helped defend the planet against, and he’s facing a tough decision.  Even as the Earth is recovering from this massive conflict, Mike has the opportunity to re-connect with friends and loved ones from his childhood and young adulthood, and to create a new romantic connection.  Should he remain on Earth or return to space, with its continuing promise of adventure and a deeper closeness to his “found family” aboard his starship?

As for Chanda Kasmira, her relationship with the Earth as she grew up was complicated.  Her parents were explorers, and habitually kept her in stasis while they were away, for months and years at a time, so they wouldn’t miss a moment of her childhood.  She resented them for doing that, since upon awakening she would find herself years younger than friends who were suddenly years older than she was.  Not many fifteen-year-olds want to hang out with someone they once knew who is, physically and subjectively, still nine years old.

Then her parents died in an accident during one of their exploratory missions.  Chanda’s grandparents on her mother’s side raised her, on an orbital habitat that eschewed advanced technology, and had a strict, moralistic society.  Social, and especially sexual or romantic relationships were quite constrained, and she was frustrated by the lack of a scientific education.  She left the habitat in her late teens to embrace the spacing life, and hadn’t considered returning for years, until the alien invasion.  As Chandas Homecoming opens, Chanda knows she’ll have an emotional, perhaps even harrowing trip back to Earth, where she could learn of the death of loved ones.

The challenge here was not to repeat myself in the two books.  Ultimately that required a focus on character, which is my preference in storytelling anyway.  Mike’s emotional journey forces him to decide whether to remain home or return to the shipboard life he’s lived for the past 25 years.  Chanda knows she’ll travel to a new embassy post, but must still cope with the regrets that decision entails.

Many of the events of Watcher of the Skies and Chandas Homecoming take place simultaneously, and in fact they share a scene in each book.  Mike and Chanda have met before and each takes the measure of the other during their brief reunion (each of them thinking the other looks the worse for wear given recent events).  That overlap isn’t complete, though, and I had the fun (?) of keeping track of their individual timelines as I wrote Chandas Homecoming (which was the second one written).

Most of my stories take place out in space or on other planets, so another challenge was to depict a post-invasion Earth where much of the planet was devastated, yet other parts survived untouched.  Communications, transportation, and other amenities went on as usual in some areas, but were drastically curtailed or non-existent in others.  Death and famine ravaged some places, while others opened back up to tourism.

In some ways, Mike and Chanda now find the Earth to be an alien world to them.  Those wildly divergent settings reflected the similarly divergent emotions their experiences evoked within each of my lead characters.

I write a lot of series stories.  The goal I set for myself is not just to recycle characters and themes, but to examine them in new ways.  I believe I achieved that in Watcher of the Skies and Chanda’s Homecoming.


Watcher of the Skies: Amazon|Barnes & Noble Chanda’s Homecoming: Amazon|Barnes & Noble

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

By John Scalzi

I enjoy pie.

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