Don’t you hate it when you’re doing spring cleaning and someone comes in and messes up the place? Such is the premise, loosely, of Joel Dane’s military sci-fi trilogy, Cry Pilot military sci-fi trilogy. In the following email interview, Dane discusses both Burn Cycle (Kindle), the second book of three, as well as the series as a whole.
Photo Credit: Ben Z. NaftalI
Let’s start with some background. In a very general sense, what is this trilogy about, and when and where is it set?
The Cry Pilot trilogy is set on a future Earth (well, the third book rockets into space, but the first two are Earth-bound) in which humanity lives crowded in megacities while, beyond the walls, the “terrafixing” repairs our damaged planet. However, terrifying new enemies come roaring out of the wilderness and our protagonist, Maseo Kaytu, is the first one to master the only weapon that can stop them. Or at least slow them down.
And then what is Burn Cycle about and, aside from being the second book of three, how does it connect, both narratively and chronologically, to the first novel, Cry Pilot?
Burn Cycle starts soon after Cry Pilot. The military recognizes that CAVs, A.I.-developed weapons like the one Kaytu operated in Cry Pilot, are the key to winning this war. In order to protect humanity, they need to train a defensive force to master this new technology. And they also need an assault force to track the enemies to their generation point, and destroy them. That’s where Kaytu and his squad fit in. But things are not so simple…
When in relation to writing Cry Pilot did you come up with the idea for Burn Cycle, and how did the story evolve since then?
I knew the overall shape of the trilogy before I started writing Cry Pilot, and I actually wrote a first draft (which change dramatically, of course) of the climactic scene of Burn Cycle before starting chapter one of that book. However, within some basic parameters, the story evolved a great deal, in response to the characters. My absolute favorite scene from Burn Cycle — maybe from the whole trilogy — didn’t occur to me until I was well underway.
Cry Pilot was a military sci-fi story. Is Burn Cycle as well, or are there any other genres at work in this story?
It’s still very much military sci-fi. Though what I enjoy writing most is the “found family” elements of the story, the relationships between the characters — and the humor.
Are there any writers, or specific stories, that had a big influence on Burn Cycle but not on Cry Pilot?
I often read in very different genres than that the one in which I’m working. I re-read a bunch of Georgette Heyer novels while writing Burn Cycle, but I’m fairly confident that there’s no detectible influence.
What about non-literary influences: movies, TV shows, video games… Did any of them have a big influence on either what you wrote in Burn Cycle or how you wrote it?
Well, I fell in love a little with the notoriously terrible — possibly brilliant — no, definitely terrible — absolutely wonderful — movie Southland Tale while deep in my first draft. Though again, I’d be shocked if that left any traces in the book. I’m trying to think of any other movie or TV show I enjoyed at the time.
Oh! The BBC show River, with Stellan Skarsgard and Nicola Walker. Loved that. Mostly, though, I watch comedy panel shows, which I suppose might influence my attempts at comedy.
Now, I keep talking about Cry Pilot and Burn Cycle as being the first two novels of a trilogy, but I forgot to ask: Is it still a trilogy?
Very much still a trilogy. I finished my first draft of the third book, Kill Orbit, not too long ago. And while I hope each book stands alone, I’m very pleased with the shape of the overarching story as well. Kill Orbit will be out July 7, 2020.
Now, in the previous interview we did about Cry Pilot [which you can read here], you said that a producer was looking at this series. Are they still looking at it?
The producer loves it. Loves it! And so, typically, nothing at all is going on. If the books miraculously leap onto the bestseller lists, that adoration might translate into action. Otherwise, though…
Finally, since I asked you last time what military sci-fi novels you’d recommend to people who enjoyed Cry Pilot, I’ll take a different approach and ask this instead: If someone enjoys Burn Cycle, what science fiction novel that isn’t military sci-fi would you recommend they check out and why that?
I’m not sure if there’s much overlap between Burn Cycle and any of these, but I loved ’em! The first is barely even SF, but one of my favorite books by one of my favorite authors: The End Of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas. I just checked, and Amazon calls it “Metaphysical and Visionary Fiction,” which makes it sound sort of drippy; it’s wonderful. I’m also a big fan of Jonathan Lethem’s Girl In Landscape and Elizabeth Moon’s Remnant Population and — going back a ways — Karel Capek’s War With The Newts. More recently, and closer to sci-fi-type sci-fi, I was blown away by Greg Egan’s Phoresis.