Blog Post No. 519
I didn’t intend to wait this long to write a Behind the Writing for Broadcast Wasteland, the third novella in the Synthetic Albatross Series. I didn’t expect to write one now, either, but I’m running low on ideas for posts while closing in on the end of the year and I felt like it. Initially, I waited because the book came out at the start of the lock-downs in 2020 and I was expecting to go back to events later in the year. I figured that after I sold the first run of orders, I would have enough of an audience that writing this would make sense. I have no idea when I’m going to get back out to sell again, so I figured, now is as good a time as any.
*Spoilers Ahead, though I tried to keep them to a minimum for those who haven’t read it, yet.*
I have a really good source for the idea of this book and I’ve wanted to talk about it for years. Usually when people ask where I got the idea for a story, I have to think about it and the answer is often, a lot of places. Writers get ideas from everything they listen to, read, and watch, along with their own experiences. For Broadcast Wasteland, there’s a particular story that I heard (I think on a podcast) about Cold War era communist countries. They had copies of 8-bit (usually English) computers but there wasn’t a lot of software and there was no internet for distribution. So, in order to disseminate the games and programs that the underground programmers were making, they would send the code out over the radio late at night. Since most storage was done on cassette tapes anyway, people could copy the screeches and beeps off the radio and load those programs into their computers.
I mean, what a fantastic story. That idea stuck with me for years until I came up with the rest of the framework for Broadcast. I knew I wanted to have the concept of information in the form of data coming over the radio and I knew it would work best in an environment where it was illegal to do so. Since I was fully committed to the series being interconnected with different protagonists, I came up with the off world colony and worked from there.
The protagonist, Luc, was a direct reaction to Reggie from The Neon Heart. Where Reggie was a soldier, Luc was just a citizen. I wanted Luc to have to use his wits and get help from others, not strength. He was older (probably because I was feeling older at the time) and I saw him as at the end of his relevance in his chosen culture. Characters with flaws and weaknesses are more interesting than perfect people, so, while he’s the hero of the story, he wasn’t meant to be very heroic.
I think the mild romance was a reaction to Neon Heart, too. If I remember correctly (a flaw of waiting so long to do a behind the writing is my lackluster memory) some of the people who really liked Neon mentioned that they wanted more to happen between Reggie and Teal. I very much didn’t want them to have a relationship, but writing the two of them interacting was pretty fun, so I tried to create a bit of a romance with Luc and Anna, though I never claimed I was a romance writer. I’m also not a very romantic person, so the best I could come up with was basing Luc’s relationship limitations on myself. Not everyone was sold on that, but I still think it’s realistic, because it’s based on real life.
The handheld computer that Luc used was a bit of my own desire for something like that and, so I found out, an imagined evolution to the palmtop computers of the late 90s. I actually bought one of those and made a post about it, though, I haven’t used it as much as I’d like. Maybe one day I’ll do some updates on it and make a new post for that. I thought a mid-point between something like a cellphone and a laptop would work for the mobile aspect of the story and the future colony where technology was maybe a little behind what it would be on earth.
The ending was something I really had to stick to my guns over. I don’t have an editor for the novellas, so at the end of the day, my decisions were final. I did get some push back from some of the beta readers over the resolution to the climax, though. Things at the end happened quickly and the protagonist lost some agency over the story, but I was much more interested in sticking the crossover with the other books. Before I started to write the book, I had to consider all the connections I wanted to make, how, when, and where. Not only is there the mysterious hooded figure to consider (if you want to know who that is you’ll have to read the latest novella, Snow from a Distant Sky) but I really wanted to cement the shared universe beyond just the casual mentions. Being the third book, I felt like it was pivotal to land that feeling of a shared universe, so I went for it in the surprise ending. I also felt like it was a more realistic conclusion. Plus it was fun.
I hope that gave you a little insight into where I got the idea and how I wrote it. I’m sure there are a bunch of other questions readers still have and I’d love to answer them. Leave a comment and I’ll reply and if there are enough, I’ll make a second post about it. Heck, the Behind the Writing for The Neon Heart was three parts, I may make a second post for this regardless.