SciFi Collaboration

Earlier this week I gave a presentation at a local library (Freeland Library, part of Sno-Isle Libraries) about writing science fiction, and then collaborating for sequels based on my book, Firewatcher. This post is about that possibility of collaborating with other writers and authors. I’ll cheat a little here by copying from myself.

I won’t reveal any spoilers, but Firewatcher was written about one ship that escapes from Earth to colonize – anywhere is space, but with the equivalent of an unlisted address. Within the background for the story, five other ships launched at exactly the time. Each can be a book, or a series. That’s a lot of writing. I’m in my mid-sixties, and I have other things I want to write and work on. Open the doors, set some rules, and let others in to play. (One writer has already called dibs on the sequel of what happens on Earth after the ships leave. I have dibs on the prequel, but there are options, there.)” – Why Meet The Author

It didn’t start that way. The story is about one ship colonizing one planet. Simple. Familiar. As I wrote it, though, I realized it could be expanded. Most stories can be expanded, but this one is easy to expand. Instead of just launching one ship, launch six. The first ship I wrote about has already inspired at least two sequels. There are five other ships to write about. One of the benefits to an author is being able to write science fiction without having to invent more science. It took me roughly five or six years to develop the background science, background maths, and the Earth’s situation that are the framework for the story. There’s already interest in a sequel based on what they leave behind. (I’ll let them divulge their identity at their convenience.) Others can use the same rules and play with their own ship.

Collaborative writing is not new. Most television (now streaming) series use a suite of writers working to a canon and a set of rules. Within books, Larry Niven’s Man-Kzin Wars series is another model. There are others.

The canon here is simple, one book so far, Firewatcher. I’m already a few thousand words into the first draft of its first sequel. The rules are simple, so far. Interested writers can contact me for a copy, which is effectively just the start of a FAQ. It may grow into a wiki, if necessary.

Earth is big, really, really big, so it is impractical to open the collaboration to the entire planet; so I am starting it local, Whidbey Island writers and authors. There are over 300 people in the Whidbey Authors Facebook Group, which is large enough by numbers, but I don’t know if there is sufficient interest. If so, great! Contact me soon because…

If slots are still available, I’ll broaden the invitation to the local islands in February.

If slots are still available, I’ll broaden the invitation to all of the Puget Sound islands in March.

If slots are still available, I’ll broaden the invitation to the Salish Sea islands in April.

If slots are still available, I’ll broaden the invitation to Cascadia in May.

Why limit it to islands? One reason is purely commercial, it is a marketing gimmick. Cross-promotion can be powerful. Writing is an art. Selling books is a business. So it goes. Another reason is that island cultures reinforce self-reliance and compromise and adaptation. Fewer things are certain, just like in a colony. Power, water, food, every vital utility becomes more apparent when you can’t just call 9-11 or 9-9-9 for help. The more similar the writing mindset, the easier will be collaborating, marketing, branding, the marriage of the business and artistic part of writing.

Rules can free and limit, simultaneously. The same can be said about an established universe with prescribed maths, sciences, histories, cultures, and motivating current events.

The frugality of re-using one set of rules appeals to me because more effort and expression can go into the artistic rather than the logistical aspect of writing a book.

I bring this post back to frugality because that’s what this blog is about, and because frugality was implicit in the story, and frugality would be implicit in such a reality. Hikers and sailors know that you have to be prepared for the necessities and contingencies; and that they all have to be carried by you or the boat.

Writing is frugal. Writing can be one of the most minimalist arts: a person, some ideas, and some way to record them whether on paper or electrons or whatever.

I don’t know if anyone wants to join in, but it didn’t cost much to create this opportunity, and it is an opportunity that can benefit more than one person.

Thanks again to Whidbey Island Arts Council and Sno-Isle Libraries for spreading the word, and for Freeland Library for hosting the event. Now, pardon me as I give my fingers and forearms a break because I don’t want to get carpal tunnel syndrome, and this evening I get to write about an alien (who thinks the other one is an alien) and an alien (who knows the other one is the alien) find they have more in common with each other than they do with some in their respective communities.


About Tom Trimbath

real estate broker / consultant / entrepreneur / writer / photographer / speaker / aerospace engineer / semi-semi-retired More info at: and at my amazon author page:
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2 Responses to SciFi Collaboration

  1. JGPryde says:

    Anxiously awaiting the prequel but realize that certain aliens require another level of closure more urgently.
    I also suspect that at least one of the six ships is an imposter sent out to abort the original scheme. We’re dealing with advanced AI after all. Let’s call that ship “HAL”.

  2. Tom Trimbath says:

    Want to join in? Write. Write. Write. And that ship you describe could fit nicely into the extended backstory. Call it the seventh ship.

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