Exclusive Interview: “The Weltall File” Co-Author Jacob Holo


With The Weltall File (hardcover, Kindle), writers David Weber and Jacob Holo are extending the sci-fi series the Gordian Division that they launched in 2019 with The Gordian Protocol, and continued a year and then three years later with The Valkyrie Protocol and The Janus File, respectfully. In the following email interview, Holo discusses what inspired and influenced this sci-fi police procedural, including their plans for future installments.

Jacob Holo David Weber The Weltall File Gordian Division

For people who haven’t read any of the books, or the interview we did about The Valkyrie Protocol, what is the Gordian Division series about, and when and where do these novels take place?

The Gordian Division books feature a setting with mature temporal and (once we’re past the first book) transdimensional travel. The two 30th century universes we deal with most diverged from each other back in 1940 (details in The Gordian Protocol) and include a highly-advanced post-scarcity society (SysGov) along with its militaristic, xenophobic neighbor (the Admin). Many of the plot points throughout the series stem from how the governments and citizens of these two society do (and don’t) get along, though David and I certainly haven’t limited ourselves to that as we explore various corners of this multiverse setting.

Thematically, the Protocol books [The Gordian Protocol and The Valkyrie Protocol] tend to focus on the intersection of technology and morality with epic stakes (sometimes involving the possible destruction of one or several realities) while the File books [The Janus File and The Weltall File] are more about the intersection of technology and crime with much more personal stakes (such as the double homicide central to The Janus File).

And then for people who have read them, or our interview, and can thus ignore me writing SPOILER ALERT, what is The Weltall File about, and how — both chronologically and narratively — does it connect to the previous book in the series, The Janus File?

The Weltall File takes place three months after The Janus File, and once again features Detective Isaac Cho (from SysGov) and Special Agent Susan Cantrell (from the Admin) teaming up to solve a case that threatens to undermine the fragile peace between their two peoples.

When in relation to writing The Janus File or the other books did you come up with the idea for The Weltall File, and what inspired this book’s story?

I put together a list of high-level plot concepts while researching The Janus File, which included reading — and thoroughly enjoying — plenty of Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct novels. One of those concepts eventually evolved into The Weltall File.

Now, The Gordian Protocol and The Valkyrie Protocol were time travel sci-fi police procedural adventure stories, while The Janus File was that as well as a murder mystery whodunit. Is The Weltall File more like Janus, is it closer to Gordian and Valkyrie, or is it something else entirely?

I would characterize The Gordian Protocol and The Valkyrie Protocol as a mix of time travel, alternate history, and military sci-fi, whereas The Janus File and The Weltall File are sci-fi police procedurals with an element of time travel.

So, are there any writers, or stories, that had a particularly big influence on The Weltall File, but not on the previous Gordian Division novels?

The biggest influence would be the aforementioned Ed McBain novels. Toni Weisskopf [Baen’s publisher] recommended I read them as part of my research prep for what became The Janus File, and her advice proved instrumental in whipping our early concept for the third book into shape. On top of that, they’re great books.

What about non-literary influences; was The Weltall File influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games? Like maybe some video game or VR game you’ve played…

Given that The Weltall File features a futuristic eSports tournament, I took influence from a variety of games. The eponymous Weltall is a futuristic real-time strategy game, so watching high-level tournament play for Starcraft II eSports proved to be a very informative. The different playstyles for the various Admin and SysGov players were based in part on strategies I observed during Starcraft II eSports.

And what about your cat, Nova? What influence did she have on The Weltall File?

Stress relief…and the occasional typo as she walked across my keyboard.

Now, along with The Weltall File, there’s a fifth installment of the Gordian Division called The Dyson File due out November 7th, and you wrote that one solo. What is Dyson about, and where does it fit into this series, chronologically?

The Dyson File takes place a few weeks after The Janus File, and once again features Detective Isaac Cho and Special Agent Susan Cantrell. This time they’re investigating the suicide of the lead engineer for the Dyson Realization Project, an initiative to demolish the planet Mercury in order to create a massive swarm of solar-collecting megastructures. The suicide proves to be anything but typical, though, with ties to a much larger crime.

Where did you get the idea for The Dyson File?

The Dyson File is based on one of the high-level concepts I jotted down while performing research for The Janus File. I essentially started with how police would initially treat a suicide as if it were a murder and worked on how that could lead into a wider conspiracy. Also, both the Historical Preservation Society and the Dyson Realization Project had been mentioned in previous novels, so I thought it’d be interesting to bring those two concepts into the foreground, as it were. Readers have already seen how the Society opposes the Project at every turn, often committing crimes to make their points.

Is there a reason you’re writing this one solo, as opposed to with David Weber, with whom you co-wrote the other Gordian Division novels?

During my time working on the Gordian Division series with David Weber, Toni Weisskopf expressed an interest in publishing some solo novels from me. These discussions led to me turning in two proposals: one set in the Gordian Division series, which became The Dyson File, and one wholly original. Toni decided to greenlight both projects, and so here we are. The other manuscript, which I turned in a few months ago, is called Shattered Sol. I characterize it as a cross between Joss Whedon’s Firefly and Larry Niven’s Ringworld. It follows a scrappy crew on a scrappy ship having adventures in a solar system that’s quite a bit different from today’s. For example, Saturn doesn’t have rings anymore, Mercury is a gas giant, and Earth is a unit of measure — no one remembers the original planet.

And is The Dyson File a time travel sci-fi police procedural murder mystery whodunit adventure story as well, like The Janus File and The Weltall File?

Except for the time travel part, yes. While The Janus File and The Weltall File both include an element of time travel, it’s not the focus of their stories. For The Dyson File, time and transdimensional travel doesn’t have a role to play, except for the fact that Susan is from another universe.

I’m probably reading too much into this, but with The Gordian Protocol and The Valkyrie Protocol being the same kind of stories, and having similar titles, and The Janus File, The Weltall File, and The Dyson File doing the same, it seems like you have two subseries within the Gordian Division series. Am I right about this?

Yes, that’s how we’ve approached the series. In general, the Protocol books deal with big threats, big ideas, and big moral quandaries for the protagonists to grapple while the File books are much more tightly focused and personal in nature. You can think of the Protocol books as the “zoomed out” stories and the File books as the “zoomed in” ones, though we’ll be mixing the two rather thoroughly in the sixth book: The Thermopylae Protocol.

Then, do The Gordian Protocol and The Valkyrie Protocol form a duology, while The Janus File, The Weltall File, and The Dyson File are a trilogy, or is it not that formal?

Nothing so formal. In general, David and I approach each project in the setting as a stand-alone story, even while we are crafting a larger “future history” of sorts, especially with regards to the relationship between SysGov and the Admin. Certainly, I believe readers will enjoy a richer experience if they read through the series in order, but, on the other hand, that isn’t a requirement for getting into any particular book.

Also, if the sixth installment combines elements of both the Protocol and File books, shouldn’t it be called The Thermopylae Protocol File?

While elements from both subseries are present, the conflict leans more toward the epic feel of the Protocol books, hence the title. In fact, the next scene I have to write will feature multiple nuclear explosions, and that’s just the warmup for the third act.

Now, in the previous interview we did about The Valkyrie Protocol, you and David both said you thought an adaptation of the Gordian Division would work best as a TV show, and that you wanted Chris Hemsworth to play Raibert. Who then would you want to play the main characters when the show gets to The Weltall File storyline?

I’m sorry, but I’m drawing a blank here, so let’s go with Daniel Radcliffe [Harry Potter] for Isaac Cho and [Black Widow‘s] Scarlett Johansson as Susan Cantrell because those were the first names to pop into my head. Honestly, I’m really bad at these sorts of questions. My wife once asked me to cast five characters from one of her books, and I literally just gave her Scarlett Johansson with different hair colors for each of them. True story.

Jacob Holo David Weber The Weltall File Gordian Division

Finally, if someone enjoys The Weltall File, what time travel sci-fi novel of someone else’s — and no, not one of David’s — would you recommend they check out? Oh, and extra points if there’s a murder involved.

I would recommend Alastair Reynolds’ Aurora Rising from his Prefect Dreyfus Emergencies series The main story starts with the destruction of a habitat around the planet Yellowstone that turns out to be the tip of a very big, very sinister iceberg. Also, Reynolds’ use of time travel in the setting — namely the Conjoiner faction’s exordium technology — is well executed, though it doesn’t have a huge role in this story. Definitely worth a read!



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