It’s time for a particularly exciting blog post—a discussion of my first major foray into pure fiction, without game rules, which happened to be one of my most exciting projects yet. The work in question was just recently announced—Fantasy Flight Games’ The Worlds of Android, a setting book chock full of fiction and art detailing their Android IP (used in Android: Netrunner, among other sources).
There were a lot of reasons this project was cool, but the big one for me was getting in on the ground floor of the setting. FFG had, of course, previously detailed stuff from the setting in novels and games, but this was the first really comprehensive piece on the setting itself—and I was getting to create all sorts of cool details for it. I’m used to working on heavily established IPs like Star Wars or Warhammer, so the level of freedom I was able to exercise was breathtaking, especially given how big a deal this was going to be for such a cool IP. If I’m gushing a little bit right now, it’s because I still haven’t gotten over how much it meant to me to be able to do this.
As a bit of a primer on the Android setting for the unfamiliar, it’s a near-future, cyberpunk-ish setting that focuses on introspective themes. Stuff like how technology doesn’t solve problems where people are unwilling to do so. I like lasers, swords, and the various intersections thereof as much as the next guy (which you can probably tell from my previous output), but people are always going to be the key to driving a setting or a story forward.
Android is a setting with a bunch of cool tech, from braintapes and AI to the Beanstalk, a commercial space elevator, but it never loses focus on the human element. In fact, that’s one of the key struggles of the setting—as the name suggests, androids are kind of a big part of the landscape, and their status and people’s perspectives on their personhood can get pretty complicated—but also compelling, especially when you consider that the real world may be approaching very similar issues soon enough. The applicability and thought-provoking detail doesn’t stop at artificial intelligence, either. The questions of how information technology, media and the Net change the world are big topics as well, and I’ve been consistently impressed with the thought put into addressing them by the writers who have worked on those areas of the setting.
But that’s enough of my promises about how cool the book is. Thanks to the wonderful folks at FFG, especially Katrina Ostrander, the Fiction Editor and one of the key people on this whole thing, I’ve been given permission to straight-up preview some of The Worlds of Android! First off, I’d like to talk about what I worked on within the book. There were a few different topics involved, but they were all heavily linked together by means of one of the major recent events of the Android setting’s internal history—the Worlds War. This topic (and yes, that’s an extra “s” there—this wasn’t a World War, but a conflict between Mars, Luna, and Earth) has been a part of the setting since the original Android board game, and major figures in the setting from the novels and other sources are linked by how it shaped them, but The Worlds of Android is the first time it has been discussed at length
My focus was on some of the elements of the War that occurred on Luna and Earth—battles now infamous across the Net and meatspace alike, such as assaults on the Beanstalk (mentioned above) and Starport Kaguya (the moon’s primary point of contact with Mars and Earth).In addition, I got to detail the Lunar colony of Heinlein, which was a site of great import throughout the War, including hosting the peace talks that ended it. There’s a few other bits and pieces of my work elsewhere, but mostly I worked on Luna and the War. The elements match up quite nicely, as the War shaped the modern face of Lunar colonization. One of the earliest such events was a precursor to the struggles of the War proper, a series of populist uprisings and protests transformed by an unexpected assault. The following text is an excerpt from the book, detailing some of the events that led to the Lunar Insurrection, and by extension, the Worlds War:
“At the height of the helium-3 boom on the Moon, almost all of the major world powers had their own mining concern operating on the Lunar surface. Crescent Co., Héliobras, Melange Mining, Pestroka Technika, Rajanipati Limited, and Xiangong Inc. all maintained significant mining facilities and colonies to support them. Each company was driven by its bottom line; the corps took every shortcut and seized every available advantage. They were determined to wring every last credit they could from the regolith, the machines, and their employees.
Competition between the corps was fierce, and eventually they turned their sights on each other. In the months preceding the War, industrial sabotage was nearly as common as actual mining, and it wasn’t always equipment that was targeted. Many workers were injured in the destruction, and the death toll began to mount. Private security forces were stationed to protect corp facilities, but this only seemed to increase the bloodshed. Certain Lunar mining facilities developed reputations so bloody that no one would work for them, leading to the importation of some proto-android labor forces that relied on weak AI.
An Alliance between workers from numerous corporations petitioned the Earth countries to reign in their corps. They wanted reparation for the lives and livelihoods lost and the immediate apprehension and trial of the corporate executives and mining overseers responsible for the whole situation.
The rival powers of Earth began negotiating a solution through backdoor diplomatic channels, but in the meantime, the corporations on the Moon continued to escalate the number and intensity of attacks on one another. Not long after the miners first broadcast their grievances, Prosperity Mining Depot, the primary dock belonging to Melange Mining was bombed by unmarked prisec forces. Life support failed, suffocating hundreds of innocent miners.
The brutal events at the Prosperity Mining Depot outraged the Lunar population. They demanded an immediate apology from Earth and swift action to sanction the corps and prevent any further casualties. But the political situation on Earth remained delicate, and the negotiation tables had many complex issues to discuss, which would take more time than the miners would tolerate. To the Loonies, as they were derisively called by Netcasters on Earth, the message from the United States and China and other countries seemed clear: Luna’s concerns—and lives—were not as important as Earth’s appetite for He-3.”
The outrage of the Lunar population might have hit its peak after the events at Prosperity Mining Depot, but they eventually found they had plenty of other troubles. These concerns, the losses they brought with them, and the resolutions that were reached over and even after the Worlds War, played a big part in shaping Lunar culture and geography, from the gardens now planted in Prosperity Memorial Park, to the rough-and-tumble culture pervading the Docklands where He-3 is processed and shipped to Earth. As my second preview, I have a spread from the book that details some of that very Lunar geography, and some of the secrets buried beneath the surface.
If you guys are as excited about this book as I am, you should be aware that it is set to release before the end of 2015. For the official rundown on the book, including details beyond my sections, visit the product page at the Fantasy Flight Games website.