Like any good sci-fi space opera universe, the setting of the strategy board game Twilight Imperium has a lot of different kinds of aliens, and is thus a good place to set a lot of different stories. Which is what editor Charlotte Llewelyn-Wells has done in the novelette collection Twilight Imperium: The Stars Beyond (paperback, Kindle, audiobook). In the following email interview, Llewelyn-Wells discusses what went into assembling this anthology.
Twilight Imperium: The Stars Beyond is a collection of novelettes set in the sci-fi space opera universe of the strategy board game Twilight Imperium. The idea for which was yours. Why did you think that game — and, more importantly, that fictional universe — could lead to some interesting stories?
The Twilight Imperium universe is such a vast, interesting place, with so much history and lore built into the setting, that it’s the perfect world to explore through fiction. Every faction has such a rich and complex background, and we wanted the opportunity to explore several different ones, see their perspective on the universe and how they interact with those around them, and the best way to do that is through short fiction.
And whose idea was it that the stories would be novelettes as opposed to novellas or short stories?
As the editor of this collection, having longer stories was something I discussed very early on with my publisher, Aconyte. Because we wanted to explore a bit more of a historical moment, when the factions are starting to reach out and explore the galaxy for the first time after the Twilight Wars, we felt that these stories needed a bit more space to dig in and explore the faction’s involved, their journey, and the issues that they’re dealing with. Or at least, that these specific characters are dealing with.
As for the stories themselves, are there any connections between them? Beyond the shared setting, of course.
These stories are all stand-alones, however this is a connected universe, and since the factions are all starting to reach out and interact, you will see some of the factions pop up in multiple stories — sometimes as protagonists, sometimes as antagonists, and sometimes just as background characters.
Were there any other parameters that the stories in Twilight Imperium: The Stars Beyond had to adhere to?
All the stories had to fit the tone and style of Twilight Imperium, which has more of a space opera style than hard science fiction.
We also wanted stories to explore a specific period in the history of this universe, which is when the faction’s start to reconnect and reach beyond their home planets and systems so it did require authors to delve into the history of their chosen factions, how the Twilight Wars affected them, what their journey into the wider universe might look like, and how they might deal with the problems, issues, and other people they encounter.
As for the specific contributors, one of them is Tim Pratt, who previously wrote the Twilight Imperium novels The Fractured Void, The Necropolis Empire, and The Veiled Masters. Is his story, “Defiler’s Reef,” connected to his novels?
Though “Defiler’s Reef” contains members of the Letnev, a faction that makes a regular appearance in Tim’s trilogy, this is a brand new short story that stands alone from those novels.
Along with Tim Pratt, you’ve previously worked with two other contributors to Twilight Imperium: The Stars Beyond: M. Darusha Wehm and Robbie MacNiven, both of whom have written novels for Aconyte, as well as stories for the anthology Tales From The Crucible, which was connected to the sci-fi battle card game Keyforge. But the other contributors to Beyond — Alex Acks, Sarah Cawkwell, and Danie Ware — their stories are the first they’ve written for you. How did they come to your attention?
I’ve been lucky enough to work with Danie Ware on other tie-in fiction projects in the past, and both Alex and Sarah are amazing writers of science fiction and tie-in fiction who’d expressed an interest in working with us. I was really lucky that all three of them were perfect fits for this anthology and able to bring their unique voices to the Twilight Imperium universe and give us some incredible stories.
Tim Pratt, M. Darusha Wehm, Robbie MacNiven
In the previous interview we did about The Devourer Below, a collection of short stories connected to the Lovecraft-inspired cosmic horror board game Arkham Horror, we talked about how you had those writers pitch you ideas. Did you do the same for Twilight Imperium: The Stars Beyond?
Yes, I asked all the authors to pitch me up to three different ideas so I could see what they were interested in, and so I could make sure we got a selection of stories that worked well together, explored different themes, and to make sure we didn’t get six stories about the same faction. It’s standard practice for tie-in fiction authors to pitch ideas since we’re telling stories in someone else’s universe and we want to make sure that we’re bringing that world to life in the best way possible.
So do you think any of the stories could work as expansions to the game?
Potentially, but fiction is a different medium to gameplay and it allows us to explore the world in a different way, through smaller interactions and individual characters. Fiction brings the universe to life in a new way and gives us the opportunity to tell stories that aren’t always possible through games.
Is there anything else you think people should know about Twilight Imperium: The Stars Beyond?
While this anthology aims to bring a specific period of Twilight Imperium‘s history to life, it’s also designed in a way to make these stories accessible to everyone who lives science fiction and space opera. So if you’re new to the Twilight Imperium universe and worried you’ll need an in-depth knowledge of the world to understand or engage with these stories, then please don’t worry because we’ve worked really hard to make sure that everyone can enjoy them, whether you’re a long-term fan or just discovering it for the first time.
Finally, of the other fictional universes Aconyte work with, is there one you’d really like to put together a similar collection about?
I think one of the amazing things about the fictional universes we work with is that they all have so much room for storytelling potential, and I’ve been lucky to help create fiction is so many different worlds. It would be fun to create similar collections for a lot of our worlds, including Descent: Legends In The Dark and Legend Of The Five Rings because they’re both universes that I love working on and spending time in.