While some people think we need a military force in space, other recognize the more pressing need to have something akin to the Coast Guard. Now, I don’t know if writer K.B. Wagers is one of those people, or not, but they’ve certainly been more interested in it lately, if their recent novels about the Near-Earth Orbital Guard are any indication. In the following email interview, Wagers talks about the third NeoG novel, The Ghosts Of Trappist (hardcover, Kindle, audiobook), as well as their plans for this series going forward.
We’ve discussed the particulars of the NeoG series in the previous interviews we did about A Pale Light In The Black and Hold Fast Through The Fire, so let’s jump right into it: What is The Ghosts Of Trappist about, and when does it take place in relation to the end of Fire?
Ghosts takes place over 2439 and 2440, so about two years post Hold Fast. At its heart it’s about people trying to deal with their pasts, trying to find a way to a better future. Our resident hacker, Sapphi, hasn’t been the same since her brush with death in Hold Fast and when she encounters a glitch in her online world everything she’s been trying to ignore comes back to haunt her. By that same token, Commander D’Arcy Montaglione is welcoming new crew to his ship, one of whom brings with her memories from Mars that he’d rather stay buried. Meanwhile, Max is wrestling not only with her family’s interference in her life but her own insecurities and Jenks is growing up? (I know, I was surprised as anyone!)
I pitched two more ideas at David [my editor] while working on Hold Fast (I think, what is time anyway?). I’m endlessly fascinated by the fact that space is so huge and the potential for something to be out there is ridiculously large as well. As much as a baby as I am about horror I also loved the idea of there being a thing lurking out in the black that even the pirates are afraid of…and well, who can resist writing about pirates?
A Pale Light In The Black and Hold Fast Through The Fire were both military sci-fi space opera stories, though, as you said in the interview about Fire, it had a bit more action. Is The Ghosts Of Trappist also a military sci-fi story, and does it have more action than Fire, less but more than Black, what?
I’d say they’re all military sci-fi given that we’re working within the framework of the NeoG, which is at its heart a military organization — though I hope a kinder, more compassionate one than what we presently recognize in our world. Ghosts is a little bit mystery, a little bit science fiction, a little bit sports. There’s a fair amount of action, but also a deep dive into what it means to be human and what it means to put your trust in other people.
Are there any writers who had a particularly big influence on The Ghosts Of Trappist but not on A Pale Light In The Black and Hold Fast Through The Fire? Or any of your other novels?
I’ll be honest, 2021 involved job shenanigans, a move, and a house sale, so there wasn’t a lot of reading that happened beyond a ton of poetry, so I can’t think of anything genre related that would have influenced the book in any fashion. Though possibly the poetry did. Ghosts did end up being one of the fastest and easiest books I’ve written, taking barely three months for drafting. (Shout out to my parents for feeding me and putting a roof over my head during the chaos of all that!)
What about such non-literary influences as movies, TV shows, or games? Because you’ve said in the past that A Pale Light In The Black was like the movie Dodgeball, while in the interview about Hold Fast Through The Fire you said, and I’m quoting here, “…certainly the post-apocalyptic setting of [the video game] Horizon Zero Dawn had an impact on my mindset.”
I absolutely loved Arcane: League Of Legends (you know I’m a sucker for a good family story) and thought that both Knives Out and Glass Onion are masterclasses in storytelling. My gaming situation was on hold until I moved into my new home, so I didn’t do much of anything on that front until the book was finished. Though once again Horizon probably had an impact on the story edits somehow with the release of Horizon Forbidden West.
Speaking of which, has anyone ever asked you to write a Horizon Zero Dawn novel? Or a Halo one? Or maybe Star Wars? I think you’d be good at that.
I absolutely would love to write a Horizon Zero Dawn novel. We’ve been putting feelers out in that direction but haven’t heard anything as of yet. [makes “call me” gesture at Guerilla Games] There’s just so much in that world and it would be a treat to get to expand and explore it more. I haven’t done any outside IP work yet, but I’m definitely looking at dipping my toes in that pool.
Something else that seems to often have an influence on your novels is emotions. I’ve often said that one of the things I really loved about your Indranan War and Farian War novels is that Hail displays an emotional vulnerability that not a lot of writers, sci-fi or otherwise, would’ve shown. I don’t want to get too personal, but what is it about sci-fi that makes you feel like you can get that emotional in your writing? Or is it just that you’d get emotional no matter what you wrote, but you love science fiction so…
I’m just an emotional person. [laughs] Which is fine with me. I don’t see a lot of point in trying to get through life without feeling things (and admitting that the feelings are there). That absolutely tends to come across in my writing. I love the challenge of taking a genre that’s sometimes more focused on how “things” work and flipping that into a focus on the emotions of the people (or robot dogs).
In the interview we did about A Pale Light In The Black, you said the NeoG books were loosely connected stand-alone stories. And in the interview about Hold Fast Through The Fire, you said there were two more books coming, one of which was The Ghosts Of Trappist. First, do you know yet what the fourth book will be called and when it might be out?
The draft for the fourth NeoG book is tentatively titled And The Mighty Will Fall, though I don’t know if we’re sticking with that or coming up with something else. I’ve been seesawing a lot on the title during the drafting process. Sometimes I love it, sometimes I hate it. We’ll see what happens. This book was a doozy to write as it’s a complete departure from the normal format we’ve been doing for the NeoG novels thus far. It’s fast and brutal and I put some well-loved characters through the wringer both physically and emotionally. As it stands now, I think we’re on schedule for a U.S. summer 2024 release date.
Second, will that be the last NeoG book, or are you planning to write more?
[laughs] Ahhh, the million dollar question.
At present the fourth book wraps up our contracted NeoG stories. Would I love to write more? Yes. Would I love to write something different? Also yes. Last year was a nice break for me and a rest for my brain, but hopefully things are about to kick into gear again. I’ve got a lot of ideas and finally some space to make them happen. All we can do is wait and see! (I will say, if you dear reader, love the NeoG novels, and want more, the best way to help that is to scream about these books to anyone you can pin down.)
Anyway, is there anything else that people need to know about The Ghosts Of Trappist or the NeoG series?
Just that we’ll be doing some giveaways in the next few weeks so hit up my website and sign up for my newsletter. You can also mainly find me in this uncertain social media weirdness on Instagram and Tiktok.
Finally, if someone enjoys The Ghosts Of Trappist, and they’ve already read the other NeoG books, what military sci-fi space opera novel or novella that you’ve read since Hold Fast Through The Fire came out would you recommend they check out?
Anya Ow’s Ion Curtain is a brilliantly queer military spy thriller about an interstellar Cold War. Cannot recommend it highly enough.