Friday 14 December 2012

Elite: Dangerous Author Interview - Chris Booker

Today we have another special guest for our Elite:Dangerous author interview series. Welcome to Chris Booker and read what he has to say below.

 Please introduce yourself, who are you and what do you do?
I'm Chris, and I work at home as a freelance web developer, usually turning design agency visuals into full websites or writing bespoke web applications.  It's just me at the moment but I'm always working toward the goal of growing the business into something larger.  I enjoy what I do because working on different projects allows for some variety, but I actually used to want to be a fighter pilot - not much difference is there?  One of my big dreams is still to learn to fly a plane though (I've been lucky enough to have a go more than once) and I love the feeling of freedom you get from it.

When did you first start playing Elite and why did you come to love it so much?
I remember my dad buying Elite to play himself on the 48k Spectrum - I would have been no more than 6 or 7 at the time, and was discouraged from playing it because I wasn't old enough.  I think that was either because he thought it was a 'serious' game and I wouldn't get it, or maybe my dad just wanted more time to play it for himself!

The reason I loved it so much is exactly the reason David Braben states that publishers wouldn't take it on - because it gave you a huge open world and left you to explore it on your own.  I still prefer 'epic' games today; I love to explore.  I have about 100 hours in Skyrim and I think I've only done the first storyline mission!

Have you reached Elite status in game?
Not legitimately I'm afraid! I used to play Elite Plus on the Atari ST and I think that was when data editors started appearing that let you do strange things with the game, so I definitely managed it that way.... Like many people, I think I might have just scraped into 'Deadly' without cheating.

What inspired you to start writing?
I haven't really seriously sat down to write since I was at school - but I remember getting enjoyment out of that right up until I discovered computers! I like to set challenges for myself and learn new skills, but equally, I am one of those people that needs to aim for something - so setting a deadline like this is the perfect opportunity to finally give it a go.

You’re funding your writers pack with a Kickstarter project. Tell us more about that and how we can support.
This Kickstarter is a little different.  Of course, I need to be able to fund the writers pack, and that's the only reason I need to raise the money.  What this book really needs though is contributions from writers and illustrators; it’s an open source book!

Anyone that has a good idea for a story, or a steady drawing hand should consider joining this project as a contributor - it will take your mind off waiting for Dangerous to come out in 2014, and you'll be helping to bring the galaxy alive for others too!

Your book is a little bit different from the others in that it will be a collection of short stories, what made you go in that direction?
I want to do what I can to make sure Elite: Dangerous gets made.  I've pledged what I can afford, so I was thinking of what else I could do.  I don't think committing to a full length novel is a terribly good idea for someone who hasn't got prior experience with that, but I thought a short story would be a good thing to aim for.  I hoped I wouldn't be alone in thinking that, and thought that if I started the ball rolling, other people from the Elite community would consider taking up the writing challenge too.

Will you be contributing a story? If so, do you know what it will be about?
I will, that's why there are only 14 slots for Authors, I've already pledged £50 directly to the Elite: Dangerous project and that will be going in anyway even if my Kickstarter doesn't work out, It's all I can afford right now.  I'd love it if this Kickstarter succeeds and I can make that into £4,550 - or maybe even more than that.

I have a couple of ideas for stories at the moment that I'm thinking through.  The one I like at the moment explores the emotional conflict that a space trader might experience if he survives a fight with pirates by destroying the other ship, killing the guy who is piloting it.  One the one hand, he (or she) is elated to be alive, the adrenaline might be rushing, but I'm sure there would be some guilt.  Maybe not though, maybe they are secretly quite bloodthirsty!

Do you have any other writing we can read?
No fiction I'm afraid, I tend to spend a lot of time writing computer code - but that's an acquired taste! 
I like to read Bernard Cornwell though; I really love his take on historical fiction.  If I could even get 1% of that quality across though, I'd be happy!

What makes the Elite universe a good setting for stories?
When Cornwell writes, he develops his own characters and story and places them in a real historical event, which makes it believable to me because there's something to connect with and something very real about it.
My favourite thing about what Frontier Elite 2 did was to take our own galaxy or at least a believable interpretation of it - and place the player there.  Everything you traded within Elite was a recognisable commodity and your mind did the work that the graphics of the time couldn't.  I really can't get on with worlds where every little detail has been re-invented so that you don't know what anything is supposed to be.  Instead of sparking my imagination, it just shuts it down.

The way that Elite is set up - even the name of the sequel 'Frontier' gives me this feeling of the Wild West; where some people are just trying to get on with their lives, some are out searching for gold, there are notorious criminals, lawmakers and bounty hunters all plying their trades.  It's a great setting.

Why do you think you can write a great Elite story?
Like I said above, the setting is great and I think that’s half the work.  It has plenty of opportunity for all kinds of stories, and it’s believable.  Because it’s the future, there's a little bit of wiggle room to imagine some of the science that hasn't been discovered yet, or to explore how humanity will be different when it's not all confined to one planet.  I find that interesting, because some things will still apply, but loads of other things will be completely different.

Do you have anything else you'd like to share with us?
Yes - the Kickstarter link!  Please, please help in any way you can - because helping this project is helping Elite: Dangerous become a reality, as well as enriching the universe and adding more detail and character to it. 

Writing a novel sounds like tough going and my hat comes off to you and the others that are taking on that challenge.  For us amateurs though, 1,000 words a month over a year seem perfectly achievable, that's only 35 words a day!

I look forward to reading some great books and stories in the future, and to exploring the galaxy with everyone in a multiplayer Elite game.

Thanks to Chris for sharing his time, please support his kickstarter and I hope to have another Elite: Dangerous author interview very soon!


  1. Thanks for helping out, I'm really pleased with how the Kickstarter is going so far and have everything crossed for Elite: Dangerous. I think 2014 is going to be a great vintage!