After Nathan Hale succumbs to the Chimera virus it’s up to disgraced Corporal Joseph Capelli to take up the fight. Fyodor Malikov offers Capelli the opportunity to strike a killing blow against the Chimera, but with his fellow soldiers ready to shoot him on sight will he live long enough to deliver it?
Novelist William C. Dietz is the author of Resistance: A Hole in the Sky, the official prequel to the new game Resistance 3. He recently spoke with me about the challenges of getting audiences to embrace a new hero, his military past and the high tech future of fantastic fiction.
I understand that you served with the Navy. How did this experience inform your career as a writer of military science fiction?
I was a slacker in school, and couldn’t find a job, so I joined the Navy. That as it turned out was an outstanding decision. First because they did a good job of whipping me into shape, second because I was able to acquire some marketable medical skills, and third because I had to absorb all of the organizational and cultural things that make the military what it is. And years later when I began to write military science fiction that paid off.
In addition to Resistance, you’ve written for several other popular shared worlds, like Star Wars and HALO. Did you learn anything from these prior novels that you were able to bring to bear in Resistance 3: A Hole in the Sky?
I think so. When you agree to write a book in someone else’s universe you have to put ego aside, listen to the generalities of what they want, and try to come up with a concept that pleases both parties. So over time I think I have learned how to work with groups of game designers. It’s important to take direction yet still stand your ground at times. Resistance 3: A Hole in the Sky is a great example of that. During the first meeting with the creative team they suggested some things I didn’t like. But, after giving them some additional thought I not only came around, but enthusiastically embraced those ideas. Later however, as I got into writing the book, I put forward some plot elements that the team had questions about. We talked them out, everybody compromised a bit, and the result is what I believe to be an outstanding novel. So this kind of endeavor requires a willingness to work as a member of the larger team.
This novel is the official prequel to the Resistance 3 game. What does it feel like to be responsible for introducing such a massive property?
It’s wonderful! I love the Resistance universe, and one of the things that makes it so special is that SONY, Insomniac, and Del Rey have done an outstanding job of using novels to elaborate on the games and provide fans with exciting stories that compliment game play. By that I mean stories that provide an opportunity for additional character development, plot development, and context.
You’re working with a new character, and I’d imagine that players and readers may have a hard time warming up to spending time with “the new guy”. How did you approach this?
My first reaction was similar to what many gamers must have felt. The end of R-2 came as a shock. And then, when they told me that the character I didn’t like was going to be central to R-3, I wondered if the team had lost their minds! But, as mentioned earlier, the more I thought about it the more I liked it. This guy is very brave, he’s a true patriot, and he did what he though he should do. The decision haunts him however–and triggers a search for redemption. Once I realized that I couldn’t wait to get started.!
I had read a while back that you’re actually a gamer, yourself. Is that true? What do you enjoy playing?
I am a gamer and I love HALO, Mass Effect, and Call of Duty to name a few.
How much research goes into writing a book like Resistance 3: A Hole in the Sky?
Quite a bit. Before I write a game related book I always play all of the games related to that universe all the way through. Typically I use the “Easy” or “Normal” setting so I can pause and take notes. The idea being to learn all of the characters, weapons, and background. That can take weeks. Then I study the background material that the creative team sends me, read prior novels written by other authors if there are any, and take more notes. Finally it’s always a good idea to check out whatever wikis may be available, online reviews, and talk to the guy at the game store. He’s the oracle.
The Resistance universe employs an alternative history timeline involving things like the Tunguska blast and more. Are you much of a history fan yourself? Do you have any particular areas of interest?
I am into history–especially the Napoleanic Wars. Besides my love of science fiction I’m a fan of C.S. Forrester’s work (the Hornblower books) and Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe’s novels.
The games take place in the late fifties, when you were a child. Were you interested in science fiction back and related things like comic books and movies back then? Had you heard of an alien invasion then would part of you have been excited?
Radio was big when I was a kid! TV was ramping up but we didn’t have one for quite awhile. There was a neighborhood library however, and it was stocked with books by authors like Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke, Norton, and all of the other greats. Rather than do my schoolwork I consumed them at the rate of two or three books a week which meant that I often got good grades in English and did poorly in everything else. So if William C. Dietz been writing Resistance books back then William C. Dietz would have read every one of them!
“Transmedia” is a term that is popping up quite a bit in publishing circles these days. While the human need to tell stories is as strong as ever, the form that those stories takes is starting to change. We’ve got storylines that sprawl across movies, games and books now. As a guy who is in the middle of this, how has the business changed since you first got started? Further, what kinds of changes do you think we’ll see in the next few years?
You’re right… Everything is changing and I feel fortunate to be involved. Today’s authors can contribute to shared worlds, and in doing so, leave their own stamp on a constantly evolving story. Resistance is a wonderful example of that. I didn’t invent the universe, but I have had the privilege of adding to it, and I’m proud of that. As for the future I think all sorts of things lay ahead. How about books that have a musical score? Or games you can smell? And virtual reality movies that play in your head. Some or all of that is on the way. I hope they will need writers.