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Retrospective

 

This is a Valice – Origins retrospective written by the author. It’s full of story spoilers, so you’ll probably want to finish reading the book first!

 
All good and evil;
Forces just as tangible
As space and as time

So goes the haiku that opens Valice – Origins. This a story whose roots go back to somewhere in the year 2004. Its primary inspiration? Certainly most of the sci-fi and adventure movies I’ve seen all played some role in shaping the bits and pieces of this story, whether it’s the dialogue, the action sequences, or the characters. But what really set the story in motion was what the game Beyond Good & Evil, a game where you play as a young woman photographer who favors the color green (seem familiar?). And from the simple idea of rebels versus one big nasty empire, this time set on Earth, Valice got its start.
Valice – Origins treads on a lot of familiar territories. But then again, it becomes something that I’ve never quiet read myself. When was the last time you saw a movie or read a book about our Earth, 200 years in the future, where the history has been wiped, cat-people roam the undergrounds of the cities in search for a home, an Empire that screams dystopia makes everyone’s life a living hell, and all the while, two omnipotent universal forces are sitting back and watching the show? The first book of the Valice series has been re-worked so many times, with new elements put into every draft I did of it (four in all, plus a whole bunch of editorial revisions). I essentially created a universe where thousands of things are going at once; a universe I wish to expand some time in the future. What constrains the story and makes it a more subjective experience is that it’s a narrative – a “triple” narrative.  
  The World

Sci-fi that takes place in the future is always difficult to write and believe. Look at Blade Runner and 2001. Sure, both great movies, but Atari is all but a memory and Pan American is long gone. Of course, it goes beyond the idea of making the audience feel more connected to the world by using corporate logos. Flying cars. Day trips to the moon. Personal jet packs. It’s 2009, and we’re still waiting for even a hint of these things science fiction promised us. But look at what else we’ve got coming, and look at what we already have. A high speed communication network able to display web pages, streaming video, and capable of hosting high definition video conferences. Invisibility cloaks are up and coming, oribtal mirrors might prevent global warming from getting worse, the moon might soon be a way station to Mars or be used for the latest space telescopes. We’ve done things sci-fi writers never expected; or at least never envisioned in their modern form.

So how can we sci-fi loving world creators deal with this issue? It just so turns out that Valice is made part fantasy with a single idea that ties in well with the whole story. Forget about the past by wiping out humanity’s history completely and beginning a new. Imagine the possibilities! But wait, how is such a thing possible in the first place? Well, perhaps a force that presides over the universe could do it. And as we find out in the pivotal part four of the story, nothing is as it seems in the Valice universe. What? Didn’t I drop enough clues for you? Didn’t you begin to figure that something was slightly off? Regions instead of countries? An intolerable empire that has ruled for a 100 years that still exists because humanity knows no better? No mention of past events that we’re well aware of? Not until old Promee spills the beans do we begin to realize just what we’re dealing with in this universe. And from then on, the stakes rise considerably. Origins takes place in a futuristic world that seems stunted technology-wise. And all of a sudden, it’s no wonder why.  
  The Felile

One of the most challenging things to do in sci-fi, or fantasy to a lesser degree, is creating the alien being; the other people or race. Since we humans are still lonely creatures and have no idea what the people in other places of the universe look like, we have to make them up ourselves. And how do you do that without making them look totally ridiculous? And how can you make them “human,” so that they don’t have all these amazing powers and completely put humans to shame? So maybe felile aren’t really true aliens, but they are certainly their own people. And the last thing I wanted them to be were weird, beyond understanding, or caricatures. Okay, so they’re cat people. Why cats? I don’t really know. I suppose they could’ve been reptiles. But they’re cats. That’s just what the Empire chose to use.
 

So you come to chapter three, where we meet our first felile, and you somehow didn’t look at the book’s cover at all, so you’re not expecting to see cat people. And when you’re introduced to Kepper, you’re thinking “Awww, kitty man!”, or “What the hell, cat people?”, or “Yay it’s a book about furries!” Okay, first off, felile are not in any way, shape, or form furries. Hell, I didn’t even know what a furry was the first year of writing. And actually, they’re pretty unique creations. Giving humans cat ears and a snout was not easy when it came to illustrating what the felile were supposed to look like. I knew from the beginning I didn’t want them having tails, but the look of the felile wasn’t nailed down until about year three or so. What I think works about their people is that they truly begin to become their own race, or species around part four. They feel, they love, they bleed. Even one of them is a little evil. They’re… human.  
One of the most interesting, poignant dynamics I believe has not been explored enough in literature other than fantasy is the relationship between human and non-human. Although it isn’t really seen in more than a few examples until near the end of the story, I find myself always thinking about what life would be like on an Earth that we shared with another race. Could you imagine that for a moment? Felile and human children playing together. Meeting a felile in a movie theater with the same taste in film as you. Playing a game of tennis with your felile co-worker (and yes, he’d totally destroy you). This is something I really want to explore with this series – and have in Valice 2. Unfortunately for you guys, as of this writing, Valice 2 is only at first draft – complete status right now. You’ll have to wait to read all of the little things I put in there about the human-felile dynamic. And once again, they’re not furries. Furries scare me.
Valice

When I first starting writing Origins, I wasn’t quite sure what Valice was. As I got more and more through the first draft and Valice’s introduction was approaching, only then did I begin to imagine what it was. At first, I thought of a floating castle-like place ala Laputa (Castle in the Sky). But I evolved that idea quickly, and before long, Valice in its current form came to be. While it’s easy to draw and convey in its primary form (a diamond), Valice is such an intricate place that it won’t be fully explored until Valice 3. And its city wasn’t even touch in Origins. In Valice 2, I shape the world around its existence. What if Valice existed? What would people think? How it would be like living in there? How would its advanced technology affect the rest of us? And how much would a summer vacation there cost? Valice itself is obviously the core object of the series, and it will have a story all its own.

 
   The Characters

I want to make my characters real. Sure, not all of them can be three-dimensional. Valice is full of minor characters that serve little other purpose than to simply exist and make the story seem bigger. But everyone has their own little role to play in shaping the major players. And what a triple narrative allows me to do is to see the main characters from a different angle. The reader is never stuck in someone’s shoes for long. And while there are only three narrators who change the most over the course of the story, every changes a little bit by book’s end. Origins spans years – and I can tell you that epilogues excluded, Origins takes place over the longest amount of time in the series. This makes the book more episodic than the rest, but the character changes are something I’m going to convey in the rest of the series, as well, no matter how much time passes.

Fun Facts and Other Stuff

The characters Jave, Crane, Trisky, and Chris didn’t exist until the third draft. Bapst and Sisal were added in the fourth, as were several other story segments to basically flesh out moments and characters. Sure, not all of these characters are very important, but now I couldn’t imagine the book without them (okay, so Bapst was pretty useless, I admit, but I wanted one more Terra-Force bad guy in the mix). The entire segment at the Cristyl orphanage didn’t exist until I dreamed about (the only Valice dream I’ve ever had). Getting Origins in book form took much longer than it should. Will I do it again? Sure will, considering it’s a trilogy. Now, I have so much more I want to say about this story of mine, but it’s going to have wait until the next retrospective, which I will write after Valice 2’s completion. So expect more series tidbits, background history, trivia, and commentary in the future.