When you study history, one thing you quickly realize is that there are as many stories about our past as there were people. Granted, most of us get the same highlights from our textbooks (if we read them), and from popular culture (if we care), but the reality is that history includes just about everything we can imagine, and some things we can’t. For years I’ve said that sci-fi writers need to spend more time looking to the past for inspiration –– for different sorts of stories to tell, about different people –– and I’ve obviously taken my own advice.
But beyond the specifics of any period, or any concepts that have played out repeatedly over time, history teaches its students one very important thing: perspective. No matter what you might happen to be interested in, you quickly discover that there are a billion other stories connected to it. I was often looking for the military history story –– how people came together under impossible circumstances and tried their best, whatever the eventual outcome –– but across the aisle from me might be someone exploring the way music altered Canadian culture in the 1900s, or the evolution of social programs after the Second World War.
My interest probably wouldn’t be maintained over the long term with some of those subjects, just as those enthused by them might tire of my endless examination of humanity in conflict. But there’s nothing wrong with that; on the contrary, it’s the whole point. The complete history of our species will never be written –– there are too many of us, and too many different ways to view what we’ve done. So anyone engaged by stories of the past is almost certain to find new and different experiences wherever they turn.
The trick, if you happen to be a student of history, is keeping yourself focused.
I wouldn’t say that I’m easily distracted, but over six years and two degrees, I got to study quite a variety of human experience –– from North America to Asia to Africa to the Middle East. Oddly enough, I mostly bailed on Europe, and unfortunately, much wasn’t on offer for South America… but I tried to divide my time evenly between the continents that had borne many of my ancestors. In the process of hopping around I had to learn that, when delivering my own papers, focus was key. As much as I wanted to write volumes about China’s entire experience with colonialism, I had to boil it down to 2,000 words. Same with Africa; I couldn’t recount the story of the whole continent struggling with white arrivals, so I had to home in on the Boer Wars.
It was a necessary skill to develop… and one that has endlessly impacted my writing. Because if the real history of our world is big, the potential histories of the Equations, Defense Command, and new world universes verge on infinite. Going out into them and choosing stories is a matter of deciding what you want to write, and leaving the rest untouched. When you do this in the study of history, you can usually be certain some other academic will come along and cover what you missed (maybe call you a fool for missing it). In fiction, we don’t usually have that luxury…
But sometimes we do.
If you’ve been keeping track in these past few months, you might have guessed that one of the (many) reasons our author notes have slowed down is because we’ve been lending a hand to our dear friend –– and first award-winning author –– John Fioravanti, as he launches Fiora Books. His shop –– freestanding, not an imprint of Iceberg but instead our ally –– will be home to his excellent A Personal Journey To The Heart of Teaching… and to something that Equations readers will take great interest in: The Genesis Saga.
Perhaps it’s ironic that the high school teacher who taught me how to do history –– made sure I was more than ready by the time I turned up at a university known for excellence in military history –– is the one who is taking on the role of sci-fi historian in the Equations universe. Readers familiar with the series will know that between The Earther Equation and The Genesis Equation, forty years have passed –– a period I’ve likened to the time between 1919 and 1939. The world before and after is quite different, but being the military historian, I leapt across the gap to get from the end of the Krogg War to the coup on Genesis. In between, so much happened… but those weren’t stories I thought I’d be any good at telling.
They were –– are –– exactly the sorts of stories John loves best. Indeed, he’s spent the past eight years working on filling that gap, and now that Fiora Books is coming online, the Saga is gearing up for release next fall.
I can’t wait. John’s instincts and style are different from mine –– we’re similar storytellers, but focused on different parts of the story… just like different historians might be. All the most important fundamentals of the Equations universe (in other words, the Earthers) are sacrosanct, but John’s life experience helps him see the human dimension of the story differently than I did at the time. In Saga, he’ll use his own style, sensibilities and characters to bring the human plight of Genesis to life.
The history of the Equations universe is in good hands, and while John’s focus is on humanity, expect a few Earthers to pop up along the way. Indeed, I almost envy him that –– one day I’ll join the Earthers in action again, but for now I’m in the (admittedly excellent) company of Alex, Stephanie and Strong… and he gets to pal around with Andra Ursla, Fox Magnus and Setter Caine, in their prime. It’ll be good to see the gang on pages once again –– this time, in supporting roles.