Hello, this is Jean Marie Ward for BuzzyMag.com. With me today is New York Times best-selling author, Jack Campbell, who is also John G. Henry. Welcome John.
Jack Campbell: Glad to be here.
JMW: Glad to have you. You’re probably best known for the “Lost Fleet” series featuring Admiral Black Jack Geary. I read that it was inspired by Xenophon’s “Anabasis,” ancient Greek history and military science fiction seem polar opposites. What inspired you to combine the two?
Jack Campbell: The initial inspiration came quite a few years ago when another officer asked me about Star Trek. Whether it was possible to do a long retreat scenario in Star Trek, in space, and the answer was no. The technology didn’t work in the Star Trek universe where you can do that. But it got me thinking about could you do that. And the “Anabasis” is the classic on retreat scenarios, so, could I make a situation that fit that. And then I combined that with another thing that I want to write about for some time which was a legend which exist in many cultures of a sleeping hero who will someday return when needed.
Jack Campbell: King Arthur is a big example in Western civilization, and I thought these heroes of myth were real people once. What would happen if one of them actually did wake up and discovered that everybody expected them to save the day. That concept meshed perfectly with the long retreat scenario, and putting those two together is what brought out the “Lost Fleet.”
JMW: What is it do you think about Black Jack that has made him such a popular hero? A hero who can sustain not only one series, but multiple series. What resonates about him?
Jack Campbell: I think the most important thing is that, he doesn’t think of himself as a hero. He doesn’t think of himself as special. He does not believe the hero worship. He thinks he is somebody who has to do the best he can. He knows that if he does not try to live up to this legend, that a lot of people who believe in him are going to die. So he has to do his best. He has to do his best to be someone he doesn’t think he really is. And he does try, and he has a moral core that guides his actions throughout this. So he’s not just an opportunist, he’s not someone who thinks he’s the greatest thing that ever was. He’s just somebody who is trying to do his job.
JMW: But the series is no longer just the initial “Lost Fleet” series you’ve got a second “Lost Fleet” series, and you’ve got a third “Lost Fleet” related series called, “Lost Stars.” Will there be more?
Jack Campbell: Yes, there will be. Initially I just planned for the six books in the “Lost Fleet” series, but as the series was ending there was a lot of demand from readers to more about what happened to Geary and the other characters, and of course the publisher wanted me to do more. I had to come up with new storylines and part of that was “The Lost Star” series as well as the Beyond the Frontier. Giving new situations for Geary to encounter and new things for him to deal with.
So I’ve already turned in the sequel to be second, “Beyond The Frontier” book. That’ll be the third one, that’s called, “Guardian,” it will come out in May. And I’ve just finished the manuscript or the second “Lost Stars” book which is going to be called, at this point [Row] Queen. And hopefully there will be more beyond those it depends on the reader’s. I have some ideas and concepts. Hopefully I’ll be able to carry them on for more stories.
JMW: So the universe is open ended it’s not a closed system if you will, from a story standpoint?
Jack Campbell: No, I mean the original series, the six books the original “Lost Fleet” were, a complete story arc. But of course, any story is going to have lots of loose in especially when it involves major wars in all kind of things. There’s always things that go on that you have to deal with and Geary dealing with that right now. Dealing with the situation, challenges that are quite difficult even if they’re not the same as the ones he faced before.
And at the same time, some decent people who were on the side of the enemy are dealing with their own sets of challenges. And by integrating those two story lines I’ve really helped keep things fresh for me for the for the stories and come out with new ideas.
JMW: You mentioned those decent people who are on the other side and that is the core of “Lost Star.” What inspired you to take their point of view?
Jack Campbell: Well there were two aspects of it. One was that a lot of readers wrote me instead, they want to hear more about the [inaudible 00:05:06]. What were they like? Throughout the series, I didn’t make them cardboard enemies. I try to make them real people in which some of them did terrible things because they wanted to, but others seemed to be doing the best they could with the situation. They weren’t uniform or monolithic enemy who are just evil because they were evil. Because of that, people want to know more about them.
So that was one aspect of it, and another big aspect was, as I said the need to keep the stories fresh. This was a totally different perspective. I would be able to tell things from the point of view of bad guys. Give then different kinds of activities and actions which I didn’t have before. Basically tell new stories instead of retelling the old ones.
JMW: How much of the tactics and strategy that we seeing your books is based on what you learned during your time in the Navy?
Jack Campbell: I did apply a lot of that. Most of it was simply in figuring out how things would actually work in space rather than replicating something that happened on earth. I had to think about what ships would be like in space because the environment is so different. What kind of weapons, what kind of encounters would make sense given that kind of thing. And then from that using my training I could figure out how you could actually do 3-D engagements on a battlefield with no limits. That is so huge that light literally takes hours to go across the battlefield.
I could then, because I was a ship handler, and I know about relative motion from experience. I could work out in my mind how you would actually do a three-dimensional battle with these massive ships traveling at tremendous speeds over these vast distances. So it played a very big role in it. And then of course the whole questions of sensors and combat arrangements, the formations they’ve used. The command and control arrangements and the relationships of the different officers and specialists to everybody. All of that goes into it.
Jean Marie Ward writes fiction, nonfiction and everything in between, including art books, novels (2008 Indie Book double-finalist With Nine You Get Vanyr), and short stories such as WSFA Small Press Award finalist “Lord Bai’s Discovery” and “Personal Demons” in the award-winning anthology Hellebore and Rue. Her videos include author interviews and tutorials.