In Ginger Smith’s military sci-fi space opera novel The Rush’s Edge (paperback, Kindle, audiobook), a lab grown soldier with a built-in expiration date has to deal with his planned obsolescence. But as she says in the following email interview, this is a more personal story than you might expect.
Let’s start with an overview of the book’s plot: What is The Rush’s Edge about, and when and where is it set?
The Rush’s Edge is not based in our solar system, so the “when” is kind of irrelevant, although the events in the story take place in Haleia Prime Year (HPY) 2451 in my timeline. Humanity has had the power of space travel for about 700 years. They have spread over the planets of the Spiral and into the Spiral’s Edge, a sort of wild area of lawlessness on the frontier of known space. The Coalition Of Allied Systems, the government that controls the Inner Spiral, has just begun to reach out to bring the Edge systems under their control.
The book is about a lab grown “vat” solider named Halvor Cullen and his former CO Tyce Bernon, who spend their time salvaging crashed ships past the Edge’s border. Hal knows he won’t live long — vats like him usually die on the Edge, chasing the elusive adrenaline rush they’re programmed to crave. Tyce is determined not to let that happen, however. He tries to channel Hal’s boundless energy into work, thinking he can distract Hal from his more self-destructive urges.
Then Hal’s ship gets a new crewmember — a tecker named Vivi. As they become friends, Hal wonders if he’s got a chance with a natural-born like her. Then, on a job, the crew finds a sphere that downloads an alien presence into their ship. Multiple clashes with the military force Hal and his crew to choose sides. The battle they fight will determine the fate of vats and natural-borns throughout the galaxy.
Where did you get the idea for The Rush’s Edge, and how, if at all, did that idea change as you wrote it?
There were a variety of different concepts and ideas that came together to create the universe and characters of The Rush’s Edge. My father and I shared a love of sci-fi when I was a kid, and I wanted to create something like the stories I loved from those days.
My father was also a veteran of the Vietnam War, so the struggles that veterans face when returning home to our isolated society were foremost in my thoughts. In my novel, vat soldiers are second-class citizens and relegated to the farthest reaches of the galaxy because the natural born citizens of the Coalition just don’t want to deal with them. Soldiers like Hal struggle with being separated from their vat brothers and sisters and they don’t do well without the same camaraderie they experienced in service.
So, I guess you could really say that the story started with the characters of Ty and Hal, two veterans trying to survive in a world where they don’t exactly fit. But they have each other’s backs and that helps them more than anything else.
The funny thing is in its earliest stages, the story was supposed to be Ty’s story, but it ended up being all about Hal and his journey to find out if he can be more than the Coalition programmed him to be. He just stood up and demanded top billing. When that happens, you just have to go with it.
And is there a reason you decided to make Hal a gene-spliced, tech-enhanced super soldier as opposed to a cybernetically-enhanced soldier or a combat robot or something else entirely?
There’s no specific reason I chose tech-enhanced rather than cybernetically-enhanced. The Coalition uses the vat soldiers’ interfaces to download information and train them, but it leaves them their individuality because the military is smart enough to know that free thinkers are more of an asset in combat. In the past, the Coalition had a war with a race of artificial intelligences called the Mudar, so they’re very distrustful of anything that resembles them, preferring human soldiers to artificial intelligences that could become self-aware and turn on them.
The Rush’s Edge sounds like it’s a sci-fi space opera story. Is that how you’d describe it?
It’s mostly space opera with a dash of military sci-fi and a sprinkle of romance in the same way that there was romance in Star Wars: A New Hope.
While The Rush’s Edge is your first published novel, it’s not the first thing you’ve written. Are there any writers, or even specific stories, that had a big influence on The Rush’s Edge but not on anything else you’ve written?
I don’t think I could possibly answer this question — I’ve read so many things over my life, it’s hard to put a finger on what influenced me. As Tennyson says in Ulysses, “I am a part of all that I have met; Yet, all experience is an arch wherethro’ Gleams that untravell’d world.” All reading inspires writing in some way, I suppose.
Okay, then how about non-literary influences? Was The Rush’s Edge influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games?
I would have to say my non-literary influences are much easier to pin down. I love a lot of classic space opera like Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, and later series like Firefly, Babylon 5 and Killjoys. I really wanted reading The Rush’s Edge to be as much fun as Star Wars: A New Hope was the first time you saw it. I spent a lot of time as a kid running around pretending to be a Jedi, so I wanted to harness that same kind of fun and excitement in my novel.
As you know, sci-fi space opera novels are sometimes stand-alone stories and sometimes they’re just part of a larger saga. What is The Rush’s Edge?
It’s a stand-alone novel with the possibility of a follow-up. Being a debut novelist, you don’t know if there will be an opportunity for a sequel or not, so it’s best to tie up as many of the character-related threads as possible.
However, that doesn’t mean there’s not more of Hal’s story to be told. I’m already at work on the rewrites for a sequel. There are larger forces at play in the Spiral that can be built on in a sequel. But I’ve always hated cliffhangers since I was young, so it will also function as a stand-alone book. I try not to leave my readers hanging.
In a related note, you said in an interview I read online that you were writing some short stories connected to The Rush’s Edge. Are any of these stories included in the paperback or Kindle versions of The Rush’s Edge?
Unfortunately, no. I may end up releasing one or two of them on my website. The great thing is that the Spiral is a big place, and there are so many stories to be told if people are interested. I am considering doing a collection or looking for other venues for them. I’ll be putting any news about it up on my website.
You also said in that interview that you were already working on a new novel.
I guess I might as well come out with it — I was referring to the sequel to The Rush’s Edge. It is finished and in rewrites right now. Remember, you heard it here first, folks.
Woo-hoo! Earlier I asked if The Rush’s Edge had been influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games. But has there been any interest in adapting The Rush’s Edge into a film, show. or game?
Well, the book isn’t yet out, so there’s not been a whole lot of interest because people don’t know about it. Hopefully as The Rush’s Edge gets out there and people like it, someone will be interested in adapting it.
Do you have a preference as to what form it should take?
I think The Rush’s Edge would work best as a show because there’s so much about the universe left to explore, but I’m open to any other forms of adaptation.
And if that happened, who would you want them to cast as Hal and Tyce and the other main characters?
Ohh! This is a lot of fun. I can pick anyone in the world for my cast?
Awesome! First of all, I think Alexander Ludwig is a good choice for Hal. He’s the right age and his work on Vikings was just amazing. He’d have the right physicality and edge as Hal.
As for Tyce, Tom Cullen would be a great choice. I’ve really enjoyed watching him in Knightfall.
Finally, Julia Garner from Ozark would make a great Vivi. She’d bring a toughness to the role, plus she just has the perfect curly hair!
Finally, if someone enjoys The Rush’s Edge, what sci-fi novel of someone else’s would you suggest they read next?
I really enjoyed Madeline Ashby’s first book in the Machine Dynasties series, and I have plans to read the rest of them. I just found her world of vNs fascinating.
Also, with the Dune movie coming out, I’ve been thinking of how much I enjoyed the Legends Of Dune prequels that detailed the rise of the Bene Gesserit and the Spacing Guild. Knowing that background information brought a whole new dimension to Dune for me.