Mention the words “rebellion” to most science fiction fans, and they’ll immediately think of Star Wars. But in the following email interview with writer Jay Allan about his military sci-fi novel Rebellion’s Fury (paperback, Kindle) — the second book in his Flames Of Rebellion duology after 2017’s Flames Of Rebellion — the author of the Crimson Worlds books and the Blood On The Stars series admits that while he also thinks of those movies, these novels were also inspired by real-life rebels.
I always like to begin with a plot summary. So, what is Rebellion’s Fury about, what is the Flames Of Rebellion series about, and how does Rebellion’s Fury connect, narratively and chronologically, to the first book, which is also called Flames Of Rebellion?
Seems like a good place to start. Rebellion’s Fury is pretty much an immediate follow up to Flames Of Rebellion. Flames told the story of a colonized world, which the residents call Haven, falling into rebellion and trying to break away from the oppressive Earth-based Federal America. It ends with a victory of sorts, but one that left a lot of doubt as to whether it would be final and end in independence for the colonists.
Rebellion’s Fury answers that question with a resounding “no,” as the Earth government sends a massive reprisal force to crush the rebels and bring the planet back into line. I tried to keep the story interesting, with lots of stuff going on. The rebels have to fight off the federals, while also trying to secure aid from Federal America’s rival powers on Earth. So, there’s diplomacy, treachery, and friction between rebels with different sets of beliefs on how the rebellion should progress. Imagine Lenin, Washington, and Robespierre all scheming against each other, while struggling to beat off government forces threatening to crush them all.
Where did you get the idea for Rebellion’s Fury and how different is the finished novel from that original concept?
I’m a history buff and always have been, so I was, of course, interested in various rebellions and the like. I tend to be someone who appreciates freedom and feels like we’re moving rapidly in the direction of losing what we have left. The idea of the distance and remoteness of a new world, far from Earth, seemed to me to offer a chance to show a resurrection of the concept of individual liberty, long after it was lost on Earth. Call it a dystopian future with an escape hatch.
Now, when I think of rebellions, I usually think of Star Wars. But when it came to figuring out how the rebellion, and the rebels in it, would behave in Flames Of Rebellion, and thus Rebellion’s Fury, were you more inspired by real-life rebellions or fictional ones?
I was twelve when Star Wars came out, so I was ground zero for it, and I loved it. But I was aiming for something grittier, and definitely more based on history and actual revolutions than Star Wars. My initial thought was to try to touch on aspects of revolution as it has actually happened, and how it could sometimes result in positive change, but just as often — and probably more often — it leads to something worse than what was there before. I focused mainly on three historical rebellions, the American, Russian, and French, which I kind of thought of as the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. You can throw something like the Cuban Revolution in there, as well.
So, I’ve got my Washington and Franklin types, but also stand ins for Jacobins and would-be Bolshevik dictators. I really wanted to write a book that would tell a story fundamentally about well-meaning freedom fighters, but I wanted to be sure to put some villains on their side, too, and to show the excess and brutality that often comes along with rebellions. I also wanted to hit on some misguided characters, not so much villains as well-meaning people who get carried away or believe the wrong people.
I tend to like to explore motivations of characters, and one thing I really wanted to do was have some of the rebels conflicted, torn between angst at the government’s brutality, but discomfort with going all the way and rebelling against it. I did this by having some combat veterans who’d settled on Haven after serving in Federal America’s armed forces during a previous war. They struggle with what to do, still loyal in ways to the oaths they took, but also discouraged by the government’s actions.
I also wanted to keep it at least somewhat realistic, and I used interstellar distances, and the cost of transporting and supporting military formations so far from Earth as an equalizer of sorts. I really tried to pay some attention to logistics and the costs involved in those kinds of operations. It’s hard to imagine that the American Revolution, for example, could have succeeded without an ocean between it and Britain.
Rebellion’s Fury is a science fiction novel, but is there a subgenre of sci-fi, or combination of them, that describes this book better?
I write a lot of military science fiction, and of course, as a story about a war, these books certainly qualify for that genre. But, as I try to do in many of my other works, I really get into the politics and maneuvering that goes on, as well as conflicting motivations of the characters. It is science fiction, of course, but I like to think these aspects would fit into a story set in almost any time.
It’s gritty and takes place mostly on a single planet, so it’s not quite a space opera like many of of my other books, though there is a bit of space combat.
Are there any writers or specific stories that were a big influence on Rebellion’s Fury, but not on Flames Of Rebellion or any of your other novels?
No one in particular for this book, but of course there were many for me generally.
Doc Smith, whose books are inarguably dated by today’s standards, but who managed to tackle scale and imagination like no one I’ve else I’ve ever read. Joe Haldeman…The Forever War has had its share of praise for many things, but to me at 14 or 15, it was probably the best example of writing that made you feel like you were there, in the story. I always think about that when I am writing. Heinlein, of course, and Asimov. In the more recent time period, David Drake, for weaving history into his stories and using actual historical events as the seed for new adventures, which is something I try to do myself. Lots of others, too. I was always a voracious reader, though I have to say that writing has taken a chunk out of my reading time.
I should also add that I read a lot of non-fiction, mostly history, but some science-related stuff, too.
How about non-literary influences; are there any movies, TV shows, or video games that had a big influence on Rebellion’s Fury?
Lots of these, I’m sure, for many of my books in general, but this series was influenced mostly by history.
As we mentioned, Rebellion’s Fury is the second book in your Flames Of Rebellion series. What can you tell us about this series?
Flames is just a two-book series. It was a little too much to tell in one book, but I wanted to do something that was fairly short and told a single, specific story. Most of my other books are in series, sometimes long series, and I wanted to give something else a go.
That doesn’t mean I’ll never revisit the universe, of course, but there’s nothing on the drawing board right now.
As you know, there’s been some debate among readers as to whether they should wait until an entire saga is out before reading all of the books in a row, or if instead they should read each book as it’s released. What do you think people should do with the Flames Of Rebellion books?
Well, apart from my deeply held belief that people should do what they want and not worry so much about what others think, I understand the reason people want to wait, but from my point of view, if it’s a series I like, I’ll read it as it comes out.
With the Flames Of Rebellion books, this isn’t an issue. If you’re a “wait until they’re all out” type of reader, go for it. They’re all out.
Generally, I do try to move series along at a good pace in terms of releases, and I always try to make each book a complete story, even when it’s part of a longer plot. For example, when my friends at Voyager put out my Far Stars trilogy [Shadow Of Empire, Enemy In The Dark, and Funeral Games], every one of them could have been a standalone story, and they released the whole thing over a four-month period, so people didn’t have to wait long.
As you said, Flames Of Rebellion is not the first series you’ve written. For instance, you’ve written nine books in your Crimson Worlds saga [Marines, The Cost Of Victory, A Little Rebellion, The First Imperium, The Line Must Hold, To Hell’s Heart, The Shadow Legions, Even Legends Die, and The Fall]. But you’ve also written two other series that were connected to the Crimson Worlds books: Crimson Worlds Successors [Mercs and The Prison Of Eldaron] and Crimson Worlds Refugees [Into The Darkness, Shadows Of The Gods, Revenge Of The Ancients, and Winds Of Vengeance]. So are Rebellion’s Fury and Flames Of Rebellion connected to the Crimson Worlds universe as well?
For a very short time I pondered keeping all my books in a single universe. But then I decided there were just too many things I wanted to do, and they wouldn’t always fit that well into the same reality. For example, Flames Of Rebellion exists in a similar time frame to Crimson Worlds, but situation is quite different in many ways.
That said, do you think the Flames Of Rebellion books are similar to the Crimson Worlds ones, and that people who enjoy the latter would like the former as well? Or do you think the Flames Of Rebellion books are more like some other series of yours?
The stories aren’t entirely similar, but the semi-dystopian futures and the gritty military action are coming from the same place. I’m pretty sure anyone who enjoyed either of these series would have a good chance of liking the other. Crimson Worlds is probably my series that is closest to this one. The Far Stars and Blood On The Stars books, for example, are set in the far future, with no real connection to today, but Crimson Worlds and Flames Of Rebellion are all set in the next couple hundred years, and Earth is still the center of humanity.
So has there been any interest in making a movie, TV series, or video game out of Rebellion’s Fury or Flames Of Rebellion?
Lots of interest from fans and readers, but sadly not from the industry. Though I think it would work well as a movie, since it is just two books and the scope is manageable.
If that happened, who would you like to see them cast in the main roles?
I tend not to think about this kind of thing much myself, but I can tell you my friends and family all seem to think Chris Hemsworth [Thor: Ragnarok] would make a great Erik Cain from Crimson Worlds. That said, I suspect they’d be just as happy to see him as Damian from Flames Of Rebellion.
Finally, if someone enjoys Flames Of Rebellion and Rebellion’s Fury, which of your other novels would you suggest they read next and why that one?
If they want to try out something a bit different, there’s my Far Stars books. We’re working on some new stuff for that story right now, and I’m pretty happy with how that turned out.
There’s also Blood On The Stars, my current series, and to date, my strongest selling. It’s pretty much straight up military science fiction, with a good dose of space opera thrown in.