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Interview: Brian Trent on “Crash Site”

Brian TrentTell us a bit about “Crash-Site.”

“Crash-Site” is set on the planet Osiris, one of the first extra-solar worlds humanity settles in my fictional universe of stories. The fledgling colony soon learns that an ancient vessel may have crashed somewhere on their world, and that amid that wreckage a treasure trove of advanced technology is waiting to be discovered. The story is the quest for this crash-site, told from the perspectives of an array of characters caught up (sometimes willingly, sometimes unwillingly) in the chase.

Behind the scenes, “Crash-Site” is also a direct sequel to “A Thousand Deaths Through Flesh and Stone” (F&SF’s May/June 2017 issue). We see here what has become of Harris Alexander Pope, the reluctant hero from the Partisan War on Mars. Having retired to Osiris, Harris gets caught up in the search for the vessel, teaming up with another recurring character of mine: Umerah Javed of “An Incident on Ishtar.” In a way, “Crash-Site” is a sort of nexus in my “War Hero” universe of stories, bringing together multiple characters and events that have far-ranging ramifications for the development of Osiris. However, no familiarity with these other tales is necessary.


What was the inspiration for this story, or what prompted you to write it?

The story was built around the idea that a quest like this can mean wildly different things to different factions (and therefore to different possible directions for the future). There are cunning opportunists, grieving outcasts, self-serving exploiters, and those who are simply trying to increase survival odds. It represents a potential turning point for the colony’s future. It’s not simply about riches as in, say, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. The downed vessel comes from such an advanced culture that it can potentially catapult corporations or governments to planet-spanning dominance. Into whose hands should that fall? To other characters, it’s seen as a kind of magic cave, like in the tale of Ali Baba, or even a magic lamp that might grant wishes. To still others it’s the odyssey of scientific discovery, or limitless resources on a resource-strained planet.


Can you tell us about any of the research you may have done for “Crash-Site?”

“Crash-Site” required steep, daily imagination exercises. That’s par for the course, but here I had lots of character heads to get into, lots of narrative shoes to walk in. Each day I’d tackle a different mosaic in the story’s construction: there’s Harris and Umerah, trying to track the grieving worldmapper who allegedly knows where the mysterious vessel is. There’s the story of that worldmapper himself, and why he’s out there in the fungal forests of Osiris. There’s a pair of corporate hunters hard on the trail. You don’t want to compose in terms of “heroes” and “villains” — because even the “villains” have their own motivations that are very real to them. Even Thanos in Avengers Infinity War doesn’t think of himself as a bad guy. At one point in “Crash-Site”, a character says to another, “I thought you people were good!” It’s up to the reader to decide that for themselves, particularly when the full cast of players is revealed. Getting into their heads is key to that.

I needed to think about what life in the Osirian colony would be like: this is a world with a single equatorial sea that creates a narrow habitable zone–prime real estate– while much of the planet is harsh hinterland. Osiris is a very unusual place by terrestrial standards. I spent a lot of time squinting at its blue supergiant sunrise, gazing at its ringed moon, thinking of the ocean and “walking” along the docks and seaside communities that developed there. This also involved a few day-trips to seaside communities here in my home state, visualizing them in frontier terms in which resources are thin. Frontier colonies are a fascinating study.


What was the most difficult aspect of writing this story, and what was the most fun?

“Crash-Site” was a true pleasure to write, partly because I’m fond of ensemble stories with multiple characters. I particularly enjoy constructing plots which have disparate narrative shards coalescing. The challenge is not just keeping everything straight, but in crafting a believable, fully realized world where the local details of environment and culture are consistent. The fun is in winding everything up and letting the chase unfold.

 Ten Thousand Thunders

What are you working on now?

I recently finished final edits on my novel Ten Thousand Thunders, which is due out from Flame Tree Press this October, so now I’m hard at work on the sequel. Incidentally, Ten Thousand Thunders is the origin story of the universe in which “Crash-Site” exists, taking place some seventy years or so before the events of this story take place. And I’m also working on an alternate history series I’m very excited about.




“Crash-Site” appears in the May/June 2018 issue of F&SF.

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You can pre-order Ten Thousand Thunders by clicking on its cover image; clicking on Mr. Trent’s photo will take you to his website.


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