With Terminal Peace (hardcover, Kindle, audiobook), writer Jim C. Hines is completing the Janitors Of The Post-Apocalypse trilogy he launched with 2017’s Terminal Alliance and continued in 2019’s Terminal Uprising. In the following email interview, Hines discusses what inspired and influenced this epic and humorous sci-fi space opera saga.
For those who didn’t read the first two books, Terminal Alliance and Terminal Uprising, or the interviews we did about them [which you can read by clicking here and here], what is the Janitors of The Post-Apocalypse series about, and when and where does it take place?
The books are set in the early 2250s, but nobody’s using human dates anymore. Around the year 2100, Earth got hit by a plague that basically wiped out humanity and left us shambling, feral monsters.
I should note I started writing these books several years before COVID.
Then the aliens arrived. First contact went badly when feral humans tried to eat the aliens, but eventually the aliens decided plague-afflicted humans would make badass soldiers if they could just get our brains working again.
When Terminal Alliance starts, “cured” humans have been serving in the Krakau Alliance for about 35 years, fighting a galactic war against the Prodryans. Our protagonists are humans who didn’t make the cut for infantry, so were assigned to sanitation and hygiene duties on the Pufferfish.
Shortly into Terminal Alliance, the rest of the crew are incapacitated, leaving our janitorial heroes to run the ship, fight bad guys, and apply their cleaning skills in ways the universe has never seen.
And then for those who have read the first two books, and thus can ignore me writing SPOILER WARNING in all-caps, what is Terminal Peace about, and how does it connect to the second, Terminal Uprising?
Terminal Peace is set four months after Terminal Uprising. The events of that book have caused a lot of political backlash, weakening the Krakau Alliance, and emboldening the Prodryans to unite and try to wipe out the rest of the galaxy once and for all.
Mops and her crew are taking the Pufferfish to the planet Tuxatl, where a disgraced admiral believed there might be some secret weapon or technology that could save them from the Prodryans. It’s a long shot, but the war is going badly, and even a slim hope is better than no hope at all.
When in the process of writing Terminal Alliance and Terminal Uprising did you come up with the idea for Terminal Peace, and what inspired its plot?
I dropped the seeds for Terminal Peace into the very end of Terminal Uprising, but I didn’t have much of the plot figured out at that point. I just knew there would be something on Tuxatl. I left that for Future-Jim to figure out.
Then I started writing Terminal Peace, and cursed out Past-Jim for not coming up with more plot details. Past-Jim was a jerk. Future-Jim hates that guy.
In the interview we did for Terminal Uprising, you said that while it and Terminal Alliance were sci-fi space opera stories, Uprising wasn’t as space opera-esque as Alliance. Where does Terminal Peace fall?
Terminal Peace falls somewhere between the other two books. A lot of the book is a first contact story, but there’s also more action set in space, with the war threatening to devolve into a free-for-all among various races.
And how about its comedic aspects; is Terminal Peace as humorous as Terminal Alliance and Terminal Uprising?
There’s definitely still humor, but I feel it’s a little more serious than the previous two books. Partly it’s because the stakes have risen, so there’s more focus on that tension. And partly it’s because of the personal challenges Mops is facing this time around.
That said, there’s still plenty of humor, janitorial creativity, translator confusion, and general fun.
So who do you see as being the biggest influences on the humor in this series?
Terry Pratchett is the obvious and easy answer. I really appreciate his style of humor, the way he writes really funny prose, but never at the expense of the characters. There’s always respect for who the characters are, and that’s something I try to do, too.
Pratchett also spoke out against using humor to punch down, which is another thing I try to keep in mind as I’m writing.
As for other influences, are there any writers or stories that had an influence on Terminal Peace but not on Terminal Alliance or Terminal Uprising?
The biggest unique influence was personal. Mops’ story in this book is very much informed by the medical issues my family was dealing with in the years after book two came out.
What about non-literary influences; was Terminal Peace influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games?
There are certain episodes of Star Trek that informed what was happening on Tuxatl. There’s a whole subgenre of stories exploring the trope I’m playing with there, where the [SPOILER] is [SPOILER] the planet, and the people have to [SPOILER].
Now, in the previous interviews you said that the Janitors of The Post-Apocalypse series was going to be a trilogy. Is that still the plan?
That’s the plan. Never say never, but book three was the last one under contract, and it wraps things up pretty neatly by the end. No cliffhangers here.
I’ve sent a finished stand-alone fantasy manuscript to my publisher, and I’m getting ready to start working on another new book, probably fantasy again.
But if Netflix wants to make Janitors Of The Post-Apocalypse: The Series, I’m sure I could be persuaded to come back and write more.
So you’re no longer pushing for an anime with Tom Hanks [Toy Story] as the voice of Kumar; Kevin Conroy [Batman: The Animated Series] as the voice of Gromgimsidalgak; Kathy Bates [Misery] as the voice of Mops; and Michelle Rodriguez [F9] as the voice of Wolf?
I would still love to see something like that, sure.
As we’ve been discussing, the release of Terminal Peace brings this trilogy to a close. Which means the people who’ve been waiting for Peace to come out can finally read all three books back-to-back. Do you think this is the best way to take in this story?
I think each book can be read on its own, but especially in book three, there are references early on to the events of the prior books. I tried to refresh the reader about those details as they came up in the book, but if you feel like reading all three together, you might have a clearer picture.
So, is there anything else you think people should know about Terminal Peace?
I think it’s critically important that everyone know the appearance and fashion sense of Gabe (in red on the cover) is based on author Maurice Broaddus, and I’m hoping to hand him a plunger one of these days so I can get him to duplicate that action pose.
Finally, if someone enjoys Terminal Alliance, Terminal Uprising, and Terminal Peace, what humorous sci-fi novel of someone else’s would you suggest they read next?
Maybe the Murderbot books by Martha Wells. They have a wonderfully dry and often humorous voice, while still telling intense, action-packed stories. Or maybe Uhura’s Song, a Star Trek novel by Janet Kagan. Her cat-like aliens were one of the influences on the Jynx of Tuxatl.