Exclusive Interview: “Beyond Enemies” Author Marisa Wolf


Surviving combat requires a great many things: the right equipment, good leadership, a lot of luck. But soldiers also rely on their compatriots.

In the new military science fiction novel Beyond Enemies (paperback, Kindle, audiobook), writer Marisa Wolf introduces us to two soldiers who couldn’t be any closer. And no, I don’t mean that in a romantic way.

In the following email interview, Wolf discusses what inspired and influences this story, as well as why she chose to give it a snarky tone.

Marisa Wolf Beyond Enemies

The main characters of Beyond Enemies are Talinn Raeze and Bee, who first appeared in your short story “Next Question,” which was published in the anthology Chicks In Tank Tops. For people who haven’t read that story, who are Talinn and Bee, what is their relationship, and what happens to them in “Next Question”?

Talinn and Bee are a pair in the Artificial Intelligence Troops (AITs, referred to by themselves as the Eights), which means Talinn was genetically engineered to host part of an AI neural network in her brain, and Bee is the AI grown alongside her

In “Next Question,” they have successfully finished their training and been sent to their first assignment. We first meet them when Talinn is inverted and chugging suspect liquor (a natural way to celebrate such milestones), and to be fair they never really do have their feet under them again the rest of the story.

And then what happens to them in Beyond Enemies, and when does this novel take place in relation to “Next Question”?

In Beyond Enemies, Talinn and Bee figure out that the war they thought they were fighting isn’t the war they’re actually in, and they have to decide what, if anything, they want to do about that.

The novel takes place sixty years later, give or take a few years. You meet some folks from “Next Question,” some new folks you haven’t met, and some folks that are a bit of a question mark.

The press info your publisher sent me says, “Talinn and Bee always did have a fondness for fire.” They’re Beavis and Butt-Head, aren’t they? Er, Beevis and Butt-Head. You wrote a sci-fi novel about Beavis and Butt-Head, didn’t you?

Dude! No spoilers!!

For the record, they totally find themselves as entertaining as Beavis and Butt-Head find themselves, so hooray for thematic resonance. Or something.

Aside from being about Beavis and Butt-Head, Beyond Enemies sounds like it’s a military sci-fi space opera story. Is that how you’d describe it, genre-wise?

That’s about it: a little military sci-fi, a little space opera, a lot of conspiracies all the way down.

It also sounds like it might be a bit snarky.

It is. Bee, for one, is sure she’s hilarious.


Why did you want this story to have a sense of humor?

I wanted the book to have a bit of humor because 1) that’s how I process the world, and 2) I love the sort of military sci-fi where the characters are fully formed characters, not permanent SuperSeriousSoldier with no personality. All the military folks I know have an amazing sense of humor (sometimes amazingly dark), and I wanted to do them proud in the book, even though Talinn and Bee [SPOILER ALERT] don’t exactly stay in a military setting forever.

So, who do you consider to be the biggest influences on the snarky tone of Beyond Enemies?

My dad. Like Bee, he also thinks he’s hilarious (don’t tell him, but usually that’s true).

I also love when a book makes me laugh out loud: Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, Lois McMaster Bujold, among others, have a knack for inserting humor — the latter two especially right about the time they’re about to stab you in the heart with something deeply true or so human it hurts.

Also, there’s a bit of the Anne McCaffrey dragon / rider snark between Talinn and Bee. I was so obsessed with Anne McCaffrey’s books for so long [that] they’re a definite / forever influence.

Aside from Adams, Pratchett, Bujold, McCaffrey, and your dad, what other writers do you feel had a big influence on Beyond Enemies, both in terms of what you wrote and in how you wrote it?

When I had the opportunity to write for Chicks In Tank Tops, I fell into a rabbit hole (book hoard?) of Bolo books, which are mostly about smart tanks and their people. They were originally written by Keith Laumer, then by other folks such as David Drake and David Weber. Books that give you such a good story and also things that will stick with you, that’s my jam.

What about non-literary influences; was Beyond Enemies influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games? Aside from the movie Beavis And Butt-Head Do The Universe, of course.

An early reader asked if I’d ever played Shadowrun, seeing some influence in there, and I had (a group of us even cosplayed from the game once upon a time), so even if it wasn’t on purpose, clearly that’s in there.

Beavis and Butt-Head for sure for sure — maybe that laugh is how Bee expresses herself…

Seriously though, I’m a lifelong nerd, and I’m sure all kinds of things have worked their way into my style and approach over the (cough) decades.

And what about your absurd rescue dogs, Josey and Olive? What influence did they have on Beyond Enemies?

They had all the influence, though maybe not any help; Olive has a knack for coming up and closing my laptop if I haven’t paid attention to her in a while. They did provide a lot of snuggles and ample distraction during the writing of the novel, so I’m sure that qualifies as part of the process.

Josey, Olive


Science fiction stories — be they military sci-fi or space opera or whatever —are sometimes stand-alone stories, and sometimes they’re part of larger sagas. What is Beyond Enemies?

It’s a stand-alone story. I mean, I do have plenty of ideas for a second book, but as it stands now it’s its own thing with a beginning, middle, and end. If it sells like hotcakes and people want more, I aim to please, so, you know. Go forth and summon more Talinn and Bee and their misfit friends!

Which reminds me: Is “Next Question” included in any version of Beyond Enemies?

It’s not, because it’s part of Chicks In Tank Tops (a truly delightful anthology filled with girls and their tanks of all kinds!), but the events of it are referenced with enough background to avoid confusion.

Also there’s a free short story on ( that shows the universe from a non-Eight perspective…and also some key details of “Next Question” from a different POV.

Earlier I asked if Beyond Enemies was influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games. But to flip things around, do you think Beyond Enemies could work as a movie, show, or game?

So I love games, but I’m not great at the “creating” of them, so movie or TV show.

And if someone decided to make that movie or TV show, who would you want them to cast as Talinn, Bee, and the other main characters?

Emily Blunt would be an amaaazing Talinn, and I’m not just saying that because of how awesome she was in Edge Of Tomorrow. She has the snark / determination chops for Talinn, and they could then probably use her voice slightly tweaked for Bee.

[Euphoria‘s] Zendaya for Jeena, mostly because I think Zendaya can do anything, and the layers to Jeena would be fun to see her process.

Simu Liu [Barbie] for Tiernan because he does such a great job with humble heroes, and I’d love to see him rock a cocky jet pilot.

Anna Kendrick [Pitch Perfect] for Caytil – give us all the dry humor!

And Wes Chatham [The Expanse] for Sammer because he should be on our screens more and he’d be great at the unspoken emotional heavy lifting.

So, is there anything else you think people need to know about Beyond Enemies?

It earned me a punch in the arm from my sister. She was one of my alpha readers, and was at a con with me while she was reading it. She’d gone up to the room to finish, and then reappeared late in the evening, marched across the lobby, and punched me hard in the arm. She was both happy and so, so mad at me for all the other feelings, and made me promise even if there was never an official sequel, I’d write her more adventures of Team Breezy. So please know if you read it and alsowould like to give the author a nudge for your feelings, it’s been preemptively sorted.

Marisa Wolf Beyond Enemies

Finally, if someone enjoys Beyond Enemies, what sci-fi space opera novel or novella of someone else’s would you suggest they read next and why that one?

 If you haven’t read the Murderbot books by Martha Wells — first is All Systems Red — I strongly, strongly recommend. Humor, emotions, connections among unlikely allies; it’s got it all.

If you want a little bit more of a military bent, P.A. Piatt’s Abner Fortis series (first book: Cherry Drop) is fantaaaaastic. Action! Humor! Characters that grow and develop! I love all of these books.

I could go on but I guess I’ve already pushed the question by sneaking in two…


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