When author David Gerrold started writing his new sci-fi novel Hella (hardcover, Kindle), he figured it would be a stand-alone story. But as he reveals in the following email interview about it, Hella eventually took on a life of its own, and is now not only getting a sequel, maybe two, but it’s also inadvertently a sequel to three of Gerrold’s other books.
So, what is Hella about?
I wasn’t sure what it was about until I finished writing it. Hella is a world where everything is much larger than it is on Earth: trees, grass, insects, birds, and especially the dinosaur-like creatures that migrate with the seasons. But it’s viewed through the eyes of Kyle Martin, a young neuro-atypical person who is fascinated, eager, curious, and enthusiastic about everything. By the time I got to the end, I knew that it was about Kyle’s growth — that strange and wonderful shift from childhood to the first recognition of adult responsibility.
Where did you get the idea for Hella and how did that idea evolve as you wrote it?
Hella started as a response to a one-season TV show called Terra Nova. It was brilliantly produced, but it fell so short of its potential that I started thinking about the real possibilities. How do you colonize a world with such a lush ecology? How do you create a self-sufficient settlement? How do you protect yourself against unknown alien organisms? Once I started building that world, I realized that it was a semi-sequel to my Jumping Off The Planet trilogy. This is the world that family is emigrating to. But instead of making this story a continuation of their story, I wanted to tell it from the perspective of the colonists already there and how they would react to the arrival of the starship. So only a couple characters from the previous books show up, but they are important.
Hella sounds like it’s a sci-fi space opera story. Is that how you’d describe it?
You could also call it a Young Adult. Although it’s not classified as such, it is told from the point of view of a thirteen-year-old. I’d call it a coming-of-age story more than anything else, but certainly space opera fans will have fun with it. And there is a political component as well, because the arrival of the starship triggers a power-struggle and a coup.
Now, Hella is not your first novel. Are there any writers, or maybe specific stories, that were a big influence on Hella but not on anything else you’ve written?
I would have to give credit to Hal Clement and Robert Forward for thinking beyond the limits of Earth-like planets, and Fred Pohl and Arthur C. Clarke who were masters of writing from inside the worlds they invented.
What about non-literary influences; was Hella influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games? Aside from Terra Nova, that is.
I love the David Attenborough nature documentaries, all of them. I particularly like the way they demonstrate the interactions of various life forms. But beyond the Attenboroughs, any nature documentary that shows the interrelationships of species will hold my interest and inform my writing. I have dozens of DVDs and Blu-ray discs about dinosaurs. They fascinate me.
As I mentioned, you’ve written a number of other novels prior to Hella. Some of these are stand-alone stories, while others are part of series, including The War Against The Chtorr novels and the Star Wolf series. So, what is Hella?
Hella was originally supposed to be a stand-alone, but I started thinking about what might be on the unexplored eastern continent — and I’ve begun writing a sequel. There is a political aspect that gets set up almost immediately, but much of the story will involve further exploration of the planet. It has some very weird and interesting attributes.
So is Hella now the beginning of a series?
At this point, I can’t imagine there being a third book in the series, but I won’t say no. If the right idea occurs to me. I have a thought about where a third book might go, but I have no story for it yet.
Upon hearing that Hella is getting a sequel, some people will be inclined to wait until the second book comes out before reading it. But do you think this is a good idea, or is there some reason you think they shouldn’t wait?
Hella is a stand-alone. The sequel is a stand-alone. If there is a third book, it will be a stand-alone.
Earlier I asked if Hella had been influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games. But has there been any interest in adapting it into a movie, show, or game?
My agent will be sending the book around to the studios after we have hard copies to show them.
Do you have a preference: movie, show, game…?
It could work as a movie, but a TV series allows for greater character development and deeper backstories. That would be my preferred choice. As for casting — I have no ideas at all yet. My gut says to go with talented unknowns.
If Hella does get made into a TV show, would you want to write the script like you did for the Star Trek episode “The Trouble With Tribbles” or whatever episode of Land Of The Lost it was that introduced The Skeestaks?
I would certainly want to function as a producer, and I would certainly want to write episodes.
Speaking of which, if I may go off topic for a moment, what fills you with more pride: the fact that I asked my mom to make me a Tribble when I was a kid or the fact that I had to stop watching Land Of The Lost when I was a kid because The Sleestaks scared the fuck out of me?
Oh, that’s a tough question. I’m always delighted to know that the tribbles made people happy — but I’m also delighted that the sleestak turned out to be such scary creatures. It’s a tie.
Finally, if someone enjoys Hella, which of your other novels would you suggest they read next and why that one?