With Forbidden Suns (paperback, Kindle), writer D. Nolan Clark — a.k.a. David Wellington, a.k.a. David Chandler — is bringing his sci-fi series The Silence trilogy to its natural conclusion. Though in talking to him about it, he revealed that it’s an ending he never saw coming.
Photo Credit: Jennifer Dikes
To start, what is The Silence trilogy about, what is Forbidden Suns about, and how does Forbidden Suns connect, both narratively and chronologically, to the previous books, Forsaken Skies and Forgotten Worlds?
I hate to give away too much, there are a lot of twists and turns in the stories. Let me try to be vague.
Forsaken Skies is about a planet called Niraya, which is owned by a trans-stellar corporation. When aliens threaten to invade, the corporation decides it isn’t worth saving, the money just isn’t there. So an old retired space pilot named Aleister Lanoe decides he’s going to save the place, or die trying. He gets together an unlikely crew of pilots, and they turn back the invasion, though not without paying a heavy cost. Lanoe loses more than he can bear.
In Forgotten Worlds, he’s out for revenge. Saving the entire human race from the aliens is just a side benefit. He goes looking for new allies, and finds them, though in the last place he’d ever expect.
In Forbidden Suns, he finally gets the chance to take the fight directly to the enemy. He thinks he knows what it means to make sacrifices now, and he’s got the will to end this. He finds out, though, that there are some things no one can afford to lose. But will he make that discovery too late? And what happens to all the people he supposedly loves, who get sucked into the wake of his single-minded crusade? This third book wraps up all the mysteries and the long-simmering tensions of the first two books. All answers will be revealed.
Cool. So where did you get the original idea for The Silence trilogy, and how different are the finished books from that initial idea?
Seven Samurai was an obvious inspiration, but that was just a starting point. As with all of my favorite characters, it was Lanoe who led the way. I had no idea just how determined this guy could get, or what he would do in response to the hell I put him through. Seriously, sometimes it feels like that, like the characters come to life and they know they’re in a story and you’re trying to kill them off and they fight back. The ending of the trilogy is nothing I could have imagined when I started working on Forsaken Skies. Especially the last scene, and the final line. That was all Lanoe, and it blew me away. It’s kind of magical when that happens.
What was it about the original idea that made you think this story needed to be told as a trilogy, as opposed to a single book or a five-book series or whatever?
I knew it had a definitive ending. I knew this wasn’t a story that could just float along forever with new aliens and new threats, this was about one man’s lonely need for vengeance and it had to end with him winning or losing, and what that would do to him. The first book was just straightforward space opera, just spaceships burning in the void. But even as I was writing it, I knew this was headed in just one direction, at high speed. Five books would have been too much; it would have been exhausting to live with his pain. Three books turned out to be just right.
Forbidden Suns and The Silence Trilogy are science fiction novels. But as you know, there are a lot of subgenres in sci-fi. Is there a one, or combination of them, that you think best describes these books?
Not precisely, which is always the case with my books. Not that there’s something special about me, I just never think in terms of genre when I start writing. My first published novel, Monster Island, was a zombie story, but when I started writing it, I thought it was science fiction. I thought it was how I was going to get my start as a science fiction writer. I love horror, fantasy, sci-fi, mysteries…I just love stories, and I never want to limit myself to one genre or subgenre or another.
Are there any writers or specific books that you think had a big impact on Forbidden Suns, but were not an influence on Forsaken Skies, Forgotten Worlds, or anything else you’ve written?
Wow. That’s a tough one. There are elements in Forbidden Suns that you don’t see a lot in the previous two books, but… I guess Moby-Dick was a big influence here, honestly, whereas I wasn’t necessarily thinking about it in the previous two. Iain M. Banks’ Use Of Weapons and The Player Of Games were on my mind as well.
How about non-literary influences; are there any movies, TV shows, or video games that you feel had a big impact on Forbidden Suns?
Well, Star Wars is the obvious choice. That’s what got me started down this road. I saw the original movie in a theater when I was six years old. Back then, you couldn’t watch it on demand, or even on DVD. You saw it in the theater and then, when it stopped playing, you knew you might never see it again. It had such a huge effect on me that I decided then and there I wanted to be a writer because if I wanted more Star Wars, I was going to have to make my own. In some sense, this is the book I’ve been trying to write for forty years, now.
Now, aside from Forbidden Suns and The Silence, you’ve also written the horror trilogy of Monster Island, Monster Nation, and Monster Planet as well as the Jim Chapel spy trilogy of Chimera, The Hydra Protocol, and The Cyclops Initiative under your real name, David Wellington, and The Ancient Blades trilogy of fantasy novels Den Of Thieves, A Thief In The Night, and Honor Among Thieves as David Chandler. Why did you decide to use a different name for your sci-fi work?
That was a decision I made with my editors. They didn’t want people thinking this was a horror trilogy, picking up the book, and then being disappointed one way or another.
And has it worked to your advantage? Because it’s not like people don’t know. It’s in the “about” section of your website.
You know, it’s amazing, these days pseudonyms shouldn’t work at all, people are able to just type the name into Google and figure out who it is. Very few people actually do, though. I think a lot of readers don’t even notice the name on the cover, they just want what’s inside, and I’m okay with that. Books should stand on their own.
So do you think fans of your sci-fi novels would like your horror, fantasy, or spy novels, and vice versa?
Some readers, yeah, the ones I want to reach the most, the people who just like books. Who like all kinds of books. I mean, it’s fine if all you like is science fiction; clearly, I’ve got you covered, here. But most sci-fi fans like fantasy, too, and my David Chandler books are definitely going to appeal to anyone who liked The Silence and who wants to see what I can do with magic and dwarves and elves and stuff. I have themes I go back to, regardless of the genre, and I always put a lot of action and some humor in all my books, so I don’t think anyone is going to feel led astray if they pick up one of my earlier books.
Which of your David Wellington or David Chandler books would you suggest fans of Forbidden Suns and The Silence Trilogy check out first, and why that?
It’s a question of taste. Bad taste, specifically. If you don’t mind gore and blood and nastiness, 13 Bullets, my vampire book, is full of action and suspense and it’s a hell of a show. If gore isn’t your thing — and I totally get it — you can try Den Of Thieves, my first fantasy novel, which has an amazing plot and some characters you’re going to fall in love with.
I asked earlier about the movies, TV shows, and video games that influened Forbidden Suns and The Silence Trilogy, but has there been any interest in adapting these books into movies, a show, or a game?
I can’t comment on that right now, other than to say I think the trilogy would make a phenomenal video game. It’s all about spaceships dogfighting around frozen moons and screaming through winding canyons on worlds locked in perpetual sunset. I’d love to see a space shooter made out of these. Just super high-octane high velocity spaceships duking it out, as the pilots banter over the radio…man, that sounds like fun.
Finally, if someone has read Forbidden Suns and the other books in The Silence Trilogy, what sci-fi novel by someone else would you suggest they read next and why that?
Iain M. Banks’ Against A Dark Background is one of my favorite novels of all time, and there’s some similarity there, though enough difference that I don’t have to embarrass myself by making a direct comparison. It’s a hell of a book, and everyone should read it.