While science fiction is often about looking forward, sci-fi writer Sean Danker is kind of taking a step back with his new novel, The Glory Of The Empress (Kindle), a prequel of sorts to his 2016 novel Admiral and it’s 2017 sequel Free Space. Though in the following email interview, he explains why The Glory Of The Empress isn’t so much a look back as it is a look off to the side. No, your other left.
What is The Glory Of The Empress about, and how does is connect to the previous books in this series, Admiral and Free Space?
The Glory Of The Empress follows the crew of an experimental Evagardian warship with a secret weapon system on its maiden voyage. The plan is to test the ship’s capabilities on softer targets before sending it to war, but they don’t know what they’re walking into. Everyone’s afraid of Evagardians because their military and their ships are the best, but alone and outnumbered, with disturbing questions and more than just themselves to protect, technology and military muscle alone won’t be enough to get them home.
Glory takes place just before Admiral.
Where did the idea for The Glory Of The Empress come from, and how different is the finished novel from that original idea?
Sometimes my novels change dramatically when going from concept to manuscript, but The Glory Of The Empress didn’t really change at all. The idea was to do a story about a small crew up against overwhelming odds, and that’s what we ended up with.
The Glory Of The Empress has been called a military space opera. Is that how you see it, or do you think there’s another subgenre of sci-fi, or combination of them, that describes this novel better?
Military space opera is the right label; Admiral and Free Space are also called military sci-fi, but they’re really just space opera. There’s lots of action in those books, but no battles or actual military stuff. Glory, on the other hand, is military sci-fi no matter how you look at it.
It’s also been said that Admiral and Free Space — and thus, by extension, The Glory Of The Empress — are humorous. But are they straight-up comedies like Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy or is it more like the situational humor of John Scalzi’s Old Man War?
Probably neither; there’s a sort of good-natured cynicism that drives most of the humor. That, and the characters are generally competent people who don’t take themselves too seriously, even when things are pretty dire.
So what other comedic writers, or just stand-up comedians, do you see as having a big influence on The Glory Of The Empress?
Terry Pratchett’s ghost is always with me, not so much in the voice of my sci-fi books, but definitely in their spirit.
What about non-comedic writers, are there any that had a big influence on The Glory Of The Empress, but not on the previous books in this series?
Heinlein springs to mind. Space Cadet had a huge influence on the whole Evagard concept, the culture and sensibilities. I think there’s some of Starship Troopers visible in Glory. Maybe a little Orson Scott Card, too.
And how about non-literary influences; are there any movies, TV shows, or video games that had an impact onThe Glory Of The Empress?
Gundam, various ones from pre-2000, like 0083, V, and even W. Char’s Counterattack for sure. There isn’t any mecha-type stuff in my Evagard books, but stylistically and aesthetically, I’ve definitely been influenced by Gundam space battles. Legend Of The Galactic Heroes and Outlaw Star are two other really notable space series that I was into back when I was first thinking about branching out into space fiction.
As you mentioned,The Glory Of The Empress takes place just before Admiral. In figuring out how that would work, did you look to any other prequels — literary or otherwise — to figure out what to do, and what not to?
It wasn’t actually meant as a prequel, so I didn’t have those considerations when I was planning it.The Glory Of The Empresswas a standalone book in the same universe that happened off to the side. You see a few characters from Glory in the later books, and there is some content that foreshadows and gives insight to the broader, overarching story of the Admiral, but Glory really doesn’t do a lot of things that you typically expect a prequel to do.
The main thing it does is show you another side of the Evagardian universe, and it lets you see the Evagardian military in action. In Admiral, the characters are stuck on a planet with no military resources, and Free Spaceis this desperate chase, again with no resources, so you hear all this about how great and mighty Evagardians are supposed to be in those books, but you don’t get to see these military characters at their best. In Glory, you do.
So if someone hasn’t read any of these books, would you suggest they read The Glory Of The Empressfirst or last?
Glory fits in anywhere. It’s a perfectly good introduction to the Evagardian universe, and it doesn’t require any background. It might make more sense to read it first, because then when you get to Free Spaceand you meet some of these characters again, you know exactly what’s up with them. On the other hand, some readers find it fun to meet the later characters, then go back and learn how they got there. The main books in the series should be read in order, but there’s no wrong place for this one.
Along the same lines, is there a story-based reason you think someone should read all three books in rapid succession? Or shouldn’t do that?
The books were written with intent to binge; they’re relatively short, they move fast, and starting with Free Spacethey all end on a very serial note. The problem is that you’re always having to wait for the next one to come out.
Are you planning to write any more books in this series?
I already have. There are six volumes in the Admiral’s story, which is complete. Then there’s Glory,and one more side book that follows Deilani from Admiral.
As for when those will be available, I’d have to refer you to the publisher.
We’ve talked about the movies, TV shows, and video games that influenced The Glory Of The Empress. But has there been any interest in making The Glory Of The Empress into a movie, show, or game?
I’m not aware of any interest in the rights to The Glory Of The Empress specifically, but it would translate easiest to film. It was outlined with a lot of screenwriting sensibilities, and the set pieces and such are geared toward that kind of storytelling.
If The Glory Of The Empress was to be adapted into a movie, who would you like them to cast in the main roles?
I guess you could also make The Glory Of The Empress into a strategy game, but the most interesting approach would be to go with a Telltale Games-style interactive movie with a decision-based narrative. Dontnod’s Life Is Strange is my favorite in that genre. Great soundtrack. A game like that about the high-stakes spy stuff from the Admiral books would be neat.
Finally, if someone enjoys The Glory Of The Empress, what would you suggest they read next and why?
I’d selfishly suggest that they stick with me and move on to Admiral — but what I see a lot of on social media is “If you like Lois McMaster Bujold, try Sean Danker” and maybe it goes both ways. So if someone liked my approach to space opera, I’d point them toward Bujold. She was a big influence on me, and her Vorkosiganstuff is great.