When Michael Mammay wrote his first military sci-fi novel Planetside, he thought it was a stand-alone story set in a fictional universe rife with possibilities. But in the following email interview about his second book, Spaceside (paperback, Kindle), he says that, as it turns out, this second book ended up being more of a sequel than he anticipated.
To start, what is Spaceside about, and how does it connect, both narratively and chronologically, to the previous book, Planetside?
Spaceside picks up about two years after Planetside. Colonel Butler has retired from the military and is now working in the corporate world for a defense company. He nominally works in security, but in reality they’ve just brought him on for his notoriety and contacts. That changes when the CEO puts him on an assignment to investigate a breach in the security of a rival company.
When in relation to writing Planetside did you come up with the idea for Spaceside, and how did that idea evolve between then and when you finished Spaceside?
I wrote Planetside with no thought of a sequel. In fact, I’d sold it, and still didn’t plan on a sequel. I then signed a two-book deal with Harper Voyager, and really that’s when I started thinking about it. I had a long time between when I sold the book and when it came out, so I used that time to come up with the idea for Spaceside.
Now, in the previous interview we did about Planetside [which you can read here], you said that it was a self-contained novel. Is that true for Spaceside as well?
Spaceside is meant to stand alone, but the things that happened in Planetside definitely shape the character and the world he lives in, so I think it would help to have read it.
You also said, in that previous interview, that the second book, which we now know as Spaceside, wasn’t going to be so much a sequel as it was “season 2.” Is that how it turned out, or did it end up being more like a sequel?
It’s a little more of a sequel than I first planned. It’s hard to explain without spoiling a lot of things. Events from book one affect things that happen in book two. From the first chapter of Spaceside, Colonel Butler is dealing with the repercussions of the ending of Planetside.
With that said, we went out of our way to make sure that someone who picked up Spaceside without reading Planetside wouldn’t be lost.
Planetside was a military sci-fi thriller. Is that how you’d describe Spaceside as well, or are there any other genres at work in this story that weren’t part of Planetside?
I think they fall pretty squarely in the same genre. I think the two books will appeal to the same readers, and early reviews seem to back that up.
Are there any writers, or specific stories, that had a big influence on Spaceside but not on Planetside?
With Planetside, I had a lot of influences. With Spaceside, I already had a world and a voice, so I really just tried to keep that consistent. I didn’t have a lot of new influences. I do read widely in both sci-fi and fantasy, but at this point when I sit down to write, I’m pretty independent.
What about such non-literary influences as movies, TV shows, and video games; did any of them have a big impact on Spaceside?
No. I do think that I have other projects I want to do that are being influenced by what I consumed, but Spaceside really came from the idea of “Okay…the events of Planetside happened….how does the world react?”
And this is my last question about influences. You’re a retired army officer who served in Desert Storm, Iraq, and Afghanistan; a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy; and have a master’s degree in military history. How, if at all, did your military service and studies influence Spaceside?
This…I’m not sure I can articulate it, but all that stuff…it affects everything I write. It affects everything I am. I’m 50 and I spent 27 years in the army. That’s over half my life. There’s no way that doesn’t show up in everything I put on paper.
As for specifics, I really try my best to write realistic soldiers. None of my characters are based on real people, but I like to think that veterans who read my novels will still recognize some of them as being similar to real soldiers they knew.
Did you ever have to do something that was inaccurate or unrealistic but was best for the story?
I fake a lot of science. I don’t think the worlds I build or the way my soldiers move through space would hold up to even a cursory inspection. I’m okay with that, because that’s not what my stories are about. I’m more concerned about characters, the military, and mysteries. In those elements, I try to be as accurate as I can. I want my combat scenes to feel real.
And did you ever change anything to make it more accurate or realistic and have it inspire some new aspect of the story you might not have thought of otherwise?
Not that I can think of, no.
As we’ve been discussing, Spaceside is the follow-up to Planetside. Are there plans for a third book? Galaxyside? Universeside? Side Of Fries?
Harper Voyager and I recently announced a new two book deal, and the first book of that will be the third book in the Planetside series. I’ve already finished the first draft of that book, but it doesn’t yet have a title. Side Of Fries…I might steal that one.
I will say this: Spaceside has a pretty definitive ending, and the next book really does work as a stand-alone. The characters are back, but they’re on to an entirely new part of the galaxy.
Finally, if someone has read and enjoyed Planetside and Spaceside, what military sci-fi of someone else’s would you suggest they read next? And to keep things interesting, please pick one that gets the military stuff wrong, but you liked it anyway.
It’s tough for me to recommend something where they get the military stuff wrong because usually I’m not going to read that for very long. What if I give you something really good where whether they get the military stuff right or wrong doesn’t matter?
My favorite military sci-fi of the year has been Kameron Hurley’s The Light Brigade. I don’t think it gets the military stuff wrong…I just don’t think the accuracy of the military stuff is super important. It’s more of a corporate war, and where I write a military based on my own experience, Hurley really invents her own from scratch, and she does it well. At the same time, I think what makes The Light Brigade stand out is the brilliant speculative nature of it. Hurley envisions an entire new way of fighting, and it’s amazing. I think you’ll see it on the Hugo short list this year.