One of the breakout stars of the original Halo was 343 Guilty Spark. And like all good celebrities, Sparky parlayed his notoriety into a media empire that included a reality show [Keeping Up With The Reclaimers], a perfume [Eue De Digits], and even a line of decorative dish towels. And now he’s back, reuniting with his old pal Rion — and writer Kelly Gay — for the new novel, Halo: Point Of Light (paperback, Kindle, audiobook), the sequel to Gay’s Halo: Smoke And Shadow and Halo: Renegades. In the following email interview, Gay talks about how the Sparkster inspired her to write this sci-fi space opera story.
Let’s start with some background. What were Halo: Smoke And Shadow and Halo: Renegades about, and where did they fit into the Halo saga in relation to the games and other books?
Smoke And Shadow and Renegades follow the story of Rion Forge — John Forge’s daughter, from Halo Wars — and the crew of the Ace Of Spades as they salvage post-war scrap and search for her father and his missing ship, the Spirit Of Fire. Along the way they come into contact with 343 Guilty Spark. Their journeys combine, Spark looking for the Librarian and Rion looking for her father. The books fit into the Post War era of Halo, and have some ties to the Forerunner Saga by Greg Bear.
And then what is Halo: Point Of Light about, and when does it take place in relation to Halo: Smoke And Shadow, Halo: Renegades, and, of course, the games?
Point Of Light runs parallel to the Halo 5 timeline, taking place about eight months after the close of Renegades, and continues Spark’s hunt for the Librarian. The hunt draws them deeper into the cosmos and deeper into ancient history as they try to right the wrongs of the past and figure out what the future might hold for each of them.
Where did you get the idea for Halo: Point Of Light and how, if at all, did the story change as you wrote it?
The story came from Spark’s interaction with the Librarian in Renegades. She gave him a coordinate key with a plea to fix the past and make right what the Forerunners turned wrong.
The story didn’t change too much from conception, though there were some minor changes having to do with Rion’s family and how better to tell the story of the past in a way that was more actionable and contemporary to the main timeline.
Of course, your idea for Halo: Point Of Light had to be approved by 343 Industries, who oversee all things Halo. But did they do any more than just say, “Cool, go nuts” or did they make any big suggestions to the plot?
Renegades was created in such a way that some things were left unanswered, so should the story continue there were options to explore. One of those was the Librarian angle mentioned above. When we had our initial chat about what I thought for the next book, I pitched that particular angle, as it held the most interest to me, and felt like a natural progression to the storyline overall. 343 is wonderful about allowing us authors the freedom to work out storylines. If there are times when things can’t be explored or we have to go in a different direction due to other media or in-game conflicts, then they will offer suggestions to work around those things, or if there’s something worth adding or exploring to the story they’ll put it out there. In those instances, and in general, it’s always a very collaborative atmosphere.
So did they nix any of your big ideas, and then say, “…and no, we can’t tell you why. You’ll see in…uh…a year…maybe…hopefully…”?
Ha! No, if something won’t work, they’re pretty open about saying why. I don’t think there was anything significant that was nixed in Point Of Light. We made some alterations in rewrites, but those were small things.
Has there been any talk of having Rion and the crew of the Ace Of Spades appear in a future game?
Not that I’ve heard, no. But I think it would be really cool to see the characters animated and on screen.
Halo: Smoke And Shadow and Halo: Renegades, like all things Halo, were sci-fi space opera stories. I’m guessing Halo: Point Of Light is one as well. But are there any other genres involved?
There’s certainly some overlap of sci-fi subgenres; there’s action, adventure, military. Mostly, they tend to be shelved under sci-fi adventure.
Are there any writers, or maybe specific stories, that had a big influence on Halo: Point Of Light but not Halo: Smoke And Shadow and Halo: Renegades?
No, there wasn’t anything that was just specific to Point Of Light.
How about such non-literary influences as movies, TV shows, and games? Besides the Halo games, of course.
I have a lot of loves out there in terms of media that have impacted me and inspired me in general as a writer over the years, but when it comes to Point Of Light, I can’t really pinpoint any one thing coming into play in a significant, noticeable way because I had tunnel vision writing this book, and it was all influenced by events in The Forerunner Saga and by what had happened so far in the Halo universe and in Renegades.
And what about Motörhead? The ship is called the Ace Of Spades, after all. Do they meet some new race of aliens called The Lemmi? Do they crank up the song when they go into hyperspace?
He he. Oh, I can see it now, the entire ship blaring…
The Ace Of Spades came seamlessly into the story from the playing card John Forge always had tucked into his gear — his lucky card. I never made the Motörhead connection before, but now that you have, it’s makes the name even cooler.
One of the interesting things about Halo: Point Of Light is that the audiobook is narrated by Tim Dadabo, who does the voice of 343 Guilty Spark in the games. But does he do it in 343 Guilty Spark’s voice? Or as 343 Guilty Spark?
Tim is a gem. He’s so good at what he does. For the chapters and dialogue from Spark’s point of view, he does use the 343 Guilty Spark’s voice, though modified somewhat to keep in line with Guilty Spark’s progression from monitor to A.I. who now retains his human memories and has lived with a human crew for nearly a year. He uses other voices for the remaining characters and the overall narration is non-character specific.
Nice. Now, in the previous interview we did about Halo: Renegades [which you can read by clicking here], you said that while there was nothing set in stone at that time, you would like to keep writing stories about Rion. Is that where things stand again now, or do you already have a new Halo novel in the works?
I would definitely be open to more Rion and Spark, and in exploring new stories as well. The universe is so large and there are a few things that I’d love to get my hands on. Beyond that, I’m unable to say more.
You also said in our previous interview that you were, “finishing up a fantasy novel and plotting a sci-fi novel.” Are you still writing them?
I’m still writing. It’s a slower process because paying work comes before speculative work, so I’ve often had to set these aside as drafts get written, and revisions, copy edits, and proofs come in.
Finally, if someone enjoys Halo: Smoke And Shadow, Halo: Renegades, and Halo: Point Of Light, what sci-fi space opera novel or series of someone else’s would you suggest they check out?