This Summer, Grail Quest Books will unveil the first three installments of its WARS: The Battle of Phobos novella series. The nine-part series (one trilogy per faction) will serve to introduce readers and WARS gamers to the depth and richness of Decipher’s Inc.’s WARS universe while also building on the gaming and short fiction canon already published.
The Battle of Phobos is one of the defining events of the WARS timeline. The incapacity of the three human factions–the Gongen, Earthers, and Mavericks–to get along comes to a head at the Mars’ moon in 2388. What these factions do not expect is how this broken relationship will be exploited by the appearance of a great rift in space-time.
“Our goal is to establish a group of characters, some of who will play an important future role in the resolution of the conflict in our solar system,” says Josh Radke, the Director of the novella series. “We chose this major event because the Shi and Quay are not yet a factor in the story to potentially overwhelm the reader. Afterall, the primary focus of the overall theme in WARS is the human struggle for a society that can best meet its maximum potential.”
The alluded to threat is that of the Shi and Quay, two alien races who suddenly find themselves in our Solar System via a rift in space created by the Shi–the event around which the gaming material and related short fiction (released in 2004-05) was based. In the WARS canon, the Battle of Phobos is labeled as “the largest battle in human history” and takes place about three years before the space rift appears.
Radke continues, “When considering just the human factions, WARS is unique in that defining ‘the good guys’ is not so simple. It is very close to the American Civil War–which had the North, South, and the law-light Wild West.” Luke Skywalker has the fascist Empire; Jack Bauer/Ryan has America’s enemies; Star Trek has Federation captains who represent the virtues of humanity; Peter Parker and Bruce Wayne have a pantheon of primary foes used by their creators to explore the various questions and motives of our society and the different way we approach them.
“But WARS does not fit so conveniently into these formulas, providing a vital uniqueness,” Radke observes. Afterall, its always easy to cheer for (Earth) humans when they are the focus or the heroes and villains are clearly defined. But what happens when all human parties involved are flawed and at the same time can make a claim at heroic status. So instead of “choose your own adventure”, WARS is naturally an environment for “choose your own side”.
Radke is excited about the implications of this fictional environment. “Dogfights and duels and sprawling battles are the priority in this vision of the 24th century–this is what readers should expect from a book titled ‘WARS’, and they will have their fill. However, those that want a bit more than just romping adventure will have that too. There is an opportunity for an interesting debate for those that wish to do so.”
Each faction’s book trilogy will be written to contain common elements of the overall story of the pivotal Battle of Phobos (and its lead-up events). This way if a reader is only interested in a specific faction then they will still get the whole story–albeit solely from that faction’s perspective–without being obligated to read the other factions’ novellas. The first round of novellas will detail events just weeks before the battle breaks out.
“The event that started it all–the nuclear meltdown in Asia–has always been under-represented in the WARS universe,” asserts Sean E. Williams, the authour of the Gongen volume. “Who were the people responsible? How did they handle the situation? How did they cope afterward? Similarly, how do [the eastern Asian descendants] handle the responsibility that has fallen on them?”
The Gongen novella will be two stories told in parallel: one focusing on Hijen Shijin, the brilliant mind behind Shocho–the artificial intelligence considered responsible for preventing the nuclear meltdown disaster from poisoning the whole planet. The other will follow his descendant over three centuries later, Orochito, as he attempts to navigate treason, conspiracy, and sabotage in his quest to evolve Shocho into an entity better able to defend the Gongen from its present enemies.
On the Earther side, XeLabs scientist, Thomason Grayger, was part of the ‘Shroud project’ (among other things). The initial failure of the Shroud tech, which led to individuals being trapped in invisibility, and XeLabs less than caring approach to helping those subjects, has led him to defect to the Mavericks. Unfortunately for Grayger, an unknown party has contacted Jylan Rathe, a ranking member of CISyn, about Grayger’s defection.
Rathe wants the Shroud prototype (and the subjects trapped wearing it) for his corporation and pulls strings to convince the Central Governance Corp (CGC) to help him. Thus XeLabs tasks its best officer, Captain Rogan Hallard of the Venusian Rangers, to get the technology back. The only way for any of the parties to achieve their goal will be to infiltrate a well-defended Maverick asteroid base–and none are prepared for events that follow, or how they will impact the coming hostilities.
“The novella is meant to begin introducing some of the complex themes of WARS, which is inherently filled with moral quandaries due to the differing motivations and views of the three [human] factions,” explains Earther authour, Nathan P. Butler. “In this case, the conflict is predominantly one of purpose through the arc of Rogan Hallard, a man whose background drives him to see himself as a servant and healer, while his profession and skill set as the Shadowsurfer’s captain makes him often one on the front lines.” Further Butler is looking forward to WARS fans “seeing characters they know become who they are by the time of the post-Rift conflict.”
Finally, there are the Mavericks; for Jim Perry: “it’s Deadwood in space. To me, the idiom that fits the Mavericks best is that of the Old West. Another idiom which suits Maverick culture,” Perry adds, “is that of the golden age of piracy. Their behavior, hooks for hands, pegs for legs and flamboyant physical decoration. Pirates were bold, loud, and liked to make an entrance.” Based on this, Jim’s character of choice, Jack Wilgress, may be something of an exception.
Jack and his gang, the Knaves, are commandeering a vessel filled with ship parts, power cells and weapons. As they are raiding the ship, a rival gang shows up. Killer Cait is angry that Jack beat her to this ship, a target she’s been eye-ing for some time. Jack agrees to meet with her at the Nest to discuss a deal, unwittingly setting up a date with destiny that will plunge Jack headlong into a building conflict he wants nothing to do with as well as the culture of Maverick “body tech-enhancement” he has (so far) managed to avoid.
All three novellas, scheduled for release starting this summer (and continuing through the year), are already available for pre-order. Each novella will be approximately 120 pages and will include ten full-colour art lithographs by artists featured in the card and roleplaying games. The novellas will initially be available through various online outlets upon release, and are expected to be available from at least one major bookseller chain by the end of the year.
Finally, for a limited time, customers who pre-order will receive an exclusive artist sketch card depicting a WARS character by Kat Laurange, Samantha Nowak, or Amanda Nix. Quantities are very limited, so don’t wait! (Sketch cards will be mailed with the pre-order shipment.)