With the strategy game Halo Wars 2 (Xbox One, PC) not coming out until February 21st of 2017, fans of the Halo games are undoubtedly going through withdrawal. Thankfully, Gallery Book has a fix in the form of Halo Fractures (paperback, digital), a collection of short stories from such sci-fi writers as John Jackson Miller (Star Wars: A New Dawn), such Halo novelists as Tobias Buckell (Halo: The Cole Protocol), and even such Halo game writers as Brian Reed, who co-wrote Halo 4 and was the lead writer on Halo 5: Guardians, and also penned the comic books Halo: Initiation, Halo: Escalation, and Halo: Fall Of Reach, the graphic novel adaptation of Eric Nyland’s prequel novel, Halo: The Fall Of Reach.
To find out more about the stories in Halo Fractures, I posed (mostly) the same questions to three of the books contributors: Matt Forbeck, who wrote the novel Halo: New Blood; Halo: Last Light writer Troy Denning; and Christie Golden, who’s new to the Halo cannon, but has written novels based on the StarCraft games as well as the worlds of Star Wars and Star Trek.
To start, what is your story in Halo Fractures called, what is it about, and where does it fit in to the chronology of the games?
Christie: My story is called “Promises to Keep,” and it’s set a long time after the events in Greg Bear’s Forerunner trilogy: Cryptum, Primordium, and Silentium. We basically pick up after the Forerunners have re-homed all the species they had gathered up for protection and now they need to decide what to do with themselves. I got to work with some lovely characters like Bornstellar and Chant-to-Green, and even, in a way, the Librarian.
Troy: Mine, “A Necessary Truth” takes place a few months after Halo: Last Light, which was set in October of 2553 during an ONI training exercise designed to mold Veta Lopis and her trio of Spartan IIIs into a top-notch Ferret Team. The exercise turns deadly when a sleazy journalist starts asking questions about the team’s history with Gamma Company, questions that could only have come from a high-level ONI agent.
Matt: My story is called “Lessons Learned.” It starts out illuminating a part of Halo: New Blood from a different angle, specifically the scene in which there’s a terrorist attack on the Spartan-IV training station. It follows the Spartan-IIIs Tom and Lucy, and shows where they wind up after that.
How did you come to contribute to Halo Fractures?
Troy: The editors invited me to participate after I turned in Halo: Last Light.
Christie: I’ve worked with the book’s editor, Ed Schlesinger, for many, many years now, and when this anthology opened up, he reached out to me and asked if I’d be interested. I’ll admit I wasn’t very familiar with the world of Halo, but the concept behind the Forerunners really intrigued me. I wanted to know what happened with them, and I figured if I did, others would, too.
Matt: I suspect it’s because the folks at 343 liked New Blood. I had a fantastic time working with them on that, and I jumped at the chance to do that again, even just for a short story. Plus, there are so many fantastic authors in the book, it’s an honor to join them all.
In terms of your story, where did the idea for the plot come from, and how much guidance or limitation were you given by 343? Like were you told to keep it within a certain time frame, were you asked to write a certain kind of story, like a comedy, what?
Matt: I actually came up with a fresh story for this one. I think I only pitched one idea for this story, and they went with that one right away. That’s unusual for me, since I often like to throw a lot of ideas at the wall to see what sticks. This time, I had the right idea straight off.
Christie: I’m always a sucker for a love story, and I enjoy writing them. The love between the Librarian and the Didact fascinated me. I mean, let’s face it, humans seldom stay married for fifty years, let alone tens of thousands. How did that manifest itself? And then of course with Greg’s books, we were introduced to Bornstellar…talk about a complication.
Troy: I think everyone agreed from the start that the story should involve Veta Lopis and her Ferret Team. I proposed the idea of setting it during a training exercise, and the idea flew.
Christie: Yeah, 343 Industries was an absolute joy to work with, and actually suggested what became the basic concept of “Promises To Keep.” The title of which, by the way, was inspired by Robert Frost’s poem, “Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening,” and the line, “for I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.” Anyway, 343 provided me with whatever references I needed, and offered great workarounds when I bumped up against something that wasn’t doable. It was challenging at first, but they were just fantastic and helped make slipping into this vast new world so much easier.
Troy: I’ve found that there’s a lot of freedom working in the Halo universe. As long as the story really is a Halo story, the editorial teams will do their best to let you write the story you want to.
Troy, did the idea for your story come out of the planning stages of your Halo novel, Halo: Last Light?
Troy: No, it wasn’t until much later in the process. I didn’t even realize Veta would be given the opportunity to lead a Ferret Team until I wrote the last chapter of Halo: Last Light. That was just one of those light-bulb moments that happens. When I was invited to do a short story, it felt natural to make it a training story for the entire Ferret Team.
Did any of you come up with ideas for Halo stories, only to realize that they would work better as Halo novels?
Matt: That’s often a problem for me. It’s hard to limit yourself sometimes when you’re working on such a broad and expansive canvas as the Halo universe. I had to reign myself in hard for this tale.
Troy: Whenever I write a piece of fiction, I always come up with ideas for more sequels than I could possibly write.
Christie: For me, this did end up needing more than the usual short story length in order to get everything told, ending up at novella length. Since it was based on Greg Bear’s three novels, even just trying to catch up the reader took a bit. But it was definitely not the right story for a novel length project.
At any point in the process of writing your story for Halo Fractures did someone at 343 ever say, “Hey, you might want to talk to this other author because he’s working on something in the same time frame and you might want to figure out a cool cross over” or something like that?
Christie: Nope, but I did carefully read all three of Greg’s novels, and worked hard to evoke his “voice.”
Matt: Yeah, I was also allowed to play on my own. That’s probably because I wove my story into New Blood, which was my novel. I kind of siloed myself off from any other concerns that way.
Troy: Not this time, but when I was writing Halo: Last Light, Jeremy Patenaude at 343 Industries did contact me to let me know that 343 Industries wanted me to mention that the Gamma Company Spartan IIIs were going to be taken “out of rotation.” So we brainstormed together and came up with the whole Gamma subplot. Which, I think, really added a lot to the book.
So do you guys think your respective stories would work as a game?
Christie: Maybe as a one-off adventure. While there’s a lot of action, I think if you tried to play it, it’d likely only take about an hour if you took your time. It’s fairly self-contained.
Matt: I think anything can work as a game. Some conversions are just more challenging than others. That said, the first part of my story would make a fun level in a larger game. The second part is a bit more about realizations than action, so that wouldn’t do much as the kind of Halo game we usually expect. Maybe if Telltale made a Halo game.
Troy: I think mine could work as a game. It has a mystery element that would be a lot of fun to play with. The action element would probably be a bit more subdued than most Halo games, but that’s probably true for just about any story vs. game conversion, though.
Lastly, if someone enjoys your story in Halo Fractures — and, in the case of Troy and Matt, they’ve read your respective Halo novels — and they wanted to check out one of your original books, what would you each suggest and why?
Christie: I’d steer them to Instrument Of Fate and King’s Man And Thief. It’s also, provided I can get my act together, looking good for 2017 to see not only a reprint of my 1999 novel A.D. 999, but also the reprinting and, hopefully, continuation of my “Final Dance” series. Very excited about that.
Matt: I usually point people toward Amortals, as that’s my own science fiction novel. It’s not as far-future and militaristic as a Halo story, but it’s got plenty of mystery, action, and fun.
Troy: I think if someone enjoys my Halo work, they’ll probably enjoy my Star Wars work as well. I’d recommend starting with the first one I did, The New Jedi Order: Star By Star.