It’s been said that in space, no one can hear you scream. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do it, especially if you’re being…murdered.
The good thing is, if you are being murdered, it may be because you’re a character in one of Mur Lafferty’s Midsolar Murders novels. In the following email interview, Lafferty discusses this series, as well as its newest installment, Chaos Terminal (paperback, Kindle, audiobook).
Photo Credit: Karen Osborne 2018
For people who didn’t read the first book, Station Eternity, what is The Midsolar Murders series about, and when and where do these murders take place?
I like to call the Midsolar Murders books “Murder, She Wrote meets Babylon 5.” If the Jessica Fletcher / Miss Fisher / Father Brown amateur sleuth really existed, I firmly believe that they would be completely avoided and mistrusted by everyone they know. Who wants Miss Fisher at your birthday party if someone’s going to die?
So I have an amateur sleuth, Mallory, who is tired of people dying around her. First Contact has happened, and aliens aren’t ready to welcome humans among them (and without FTL we can’t really explore as we like), but a sentient space station is interested in Mallory’s situation and allows her to come live among aliens to see if murders still happen. They do, and it’s bigger and worse than anything she’s dealt with on Earth.
And then for people who have read Station Eternity, and thus can ignore me writing SPOILER ALERT, what is Chaos Terminal, and when does it take place in relation to Eternity?
Chaos Terminal takes place a few months after Station Eternity, and features Mallory’s relationship with the Sundry, the sentient literal hivemind, aboard the ship. It also introduces a new alien. People from Mallory’s past arrive, and murders start happening again. (Also, Tina learns diplomacy.)
When in relation to writing Station Eternity did you come up with the idea for Chaos Terminal, and what inspired this second story’s plot?
My friend Ursula Vernon [a.k.a. T. Kingfisher] likes to tell me obscure and often visceral animal facts, and one day we were talking about wasps, and she told me several interesting / horrifying things about pheromones, hormones, behavior, etc., and mentally I was slotting nearly every weird thing she told me into the Sundry plot of the next book.
Station Eternity was a sci-fi space opera murder mystery. Is Chaos Terminal one as well?
Yep. When you establish a book in a genre, it could upset existing readers if the next book in the same series goes far afield. The core of the Midsolar Murders books is, well, space murder. So books 2 and 3 each has a new crop of people introduced and become suspects / victims / murderers and Mallory has to solve it. But the overall plot of Mallory and her friends living aboard a living space station, that story continues (and is tied into the murder mystery as well.)
By my count, Chaos Terminal is your ninth novel, though you’ve also written six novellas and a ton of short stories. Are there any writers, or specific stories, that had a big influence on Chaos Terminal but not on anything else you’ve written, and especially not Station Eternity?
The only person I can think of is aforementioned Ursula, but that was more us sitting around talking about bugs and less her actual writing. The funny thing is, I can answer that question for book 3, which I just finished. So holster that until the next book comes out and I’ll have a better answer.
In the meantime, what about non-literary influences? Was Chaos Terminal influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games?
Midsomer Murders, of course, is a huge influence, both the TV show and the books. I want to say Knives Out and Glass Onion were influential, but they’re so amazing and complex stories that I feel like I admire and aspire to someday make such interesting stories.
Now, as we’ve been discussing, Chaos Terminal is the second book of The Midsolar Murders series. But is this series an ongoing thing, is Chaos the second book in a trilogy…
Ongoing! Because that’s what I discussed with my editor when we agreed on the deal.
And three so far, and that’s what the deal was for.
Yes, you mentioned book 3. Does that book have a name or a release date yet?
Book 3, Infinite Archive, is tentatively scheduled for fall of 2024.
Earlier I asked if Chaos Terminal had been influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games. But to flip the script, as kids don’t say anymore, do you think Chaos Terminal — and, of course, the rest of the Midsolar Murders series — could work as a series of movies, a TV show, or a game?
I think it could be any of the above. I’d love to see these stories in another medium. We’ve seen from The Expanse and Foundation that special effects are better than ever before, and murder mysteries always translate on screen as well as in prose.
I haven’t played a ton of murder mystery games, but I hear there are good ones.
So, if someone wanted to adapt The Midsolar Murders series into some movies or a TV show, who would you want them to cast as Mallory and the other main characters?
I love Brie Larson [Captain Marvel] for Mallory. I always saw Daveed Diggs [Hamilton] or Daniel Kaluuya [Get Out] as Xan, Ben Miller from Death In Paradise as Adrian the ambassador. Anyone acting in video games today could play any of the aliens, so many talented voices. Just take the cast of Baldur’s Gate 3 and give them alien roles in Midsolar Murders. Easy.
Finally, if someone enjoys Chaos Terminal, and they’ve already read Station Eternity, which of your other novels would you suggest they read next?
My first space murder mystery was the Hugo, Nebula, and Philip K. Dick awards nominee Six Wakes, taking place in a different world from the Midsolar Murders where clones wake on a generational starship among their own dead bodies and have to solve their own murders.