Featured Sci-Fi Novel: 'Oblivion' by Steven P. Lee
Oblivion, the first book of The Gene Weavers Sequence by Steven P. Lee, is a fast-paced science fiction thriller set in a colonized planet called Obsirion II. The book is centered on Sergeant Mint Harris, the chief of police in a settlement of Obsirion II, who investigates a reported murder and other strange mysteries with repurcussions that could impact all of humanity.
Author Steven P. Lee has already written the first two books of his sci-fi thriller series, and already started on the third. He was encouraged by the "Ancient and Malevolent" tagline, and he started working on a story as a weekend project while he finished Gene Weavers Book 3 in the week. The weekend project eventually became the main project and he began to enjoy the process of writing a more grounded piece as opposed to the grand space opera feel of the Gene Weavers books.
Interview with Steven P. Lee
How would you describe the planet of Obsirion II?
Mankind has spread many light years away from Earth after discovering enigmatic alien machines, Starjump constructs, in the first crewed journey to Proxima Centauri. The Obsirion system and Obsirion II were subsequently purchased from Earth Central by the British Corporation as a colonization project. It is a primitive world with life at a similar developmental stage to Earth during the early Mesozoic era. Only one continent has been colonized, the rest are preserved for indigenous life. Much mining of ores and refinery materials takes place in the system, mostly at the gas giants, serviced by a formation of space stations in orbit around Obsirion II. As the colony is only 50 years old, it is still very much a frontier outpost of mankind where reliable technology is favored over the highest of tech. Rugged is best while the infrastructure is established.
The nearest Starjump construct is many light years away meaning that travel back to Earth via Proxima Centauri is conducted under cryo-stasis and communication takes many years.
You said that your books are more "grounded" and mostly takes place on a colonized planet. Why did you prefer to write a science fiction story that way?
The books in The Gene Weavers Sequence are pure space opera and take place across a broad sweep of UIG and PER planets. Action is split between space travel and conflict and events on planetary locations.
Oblivion is totally different, with no action occurring any further than in orbit around Obsirion II. Even then, there are probably no more than 2 or 3 pages that high up. When I say it’s more grounded, I literally do mean ‘on the ground!’
It was kind of intentional; Oblivion is the introduction to the menace I’ve created, the expanse of humanity’s quest into interstellar space. But it all happens on the frontier, not in the long civilized inner, and older, regions. High technology is risky out there if it fails there may be no quick way to fix it, so tried and tested, older technology is favored with rugged engineering – things are built to last. I also think science fiction can be stretched too thin, diluted, by including too many locations. Sometimes less is more.
How do you blend elements of science fiction and horror in Geneweaver?
I’ve kept the 2 books of The Gene Weavers Sequence horror-free. True, there are monsters, but they’re just alien creatures trying to survive as best they can, albeit with an artificial evolutionary kick in some cases. I guess there is scope to introduce more frightful, possibly terrifying elements into Gene Weavers Book 3, it is still in the part-written, mid-planning stage after all. If I do so, I will have to be careful as I don’t wish to divert it away from the action-packed space opera vibe I’ve already created.
The Oblivion universe is more the home of the horror elements. I tried to make the murder near the very beginning as grim as I could and designed my antagonist to have powers and abilities that give me a fairly free hand to do whatever I want to my poor, suffering characters.
At the same time, I was keen not to make it feel too dark and oppressive, so I’ve cut a careful path whilst maintaining a fairly bleak backdrop – and all endings can’t be happy, can they?
How did you develop your protagonist, Mint Harris?
I loved the idea of using Mint as a forename, it sounded peculiarly different to my ears. As to development, I’m sorry to disappoint and say there is no D&D style character sheet for her, she exists only in my head and my written work. Consequently, she developed organically as the story progressed and I was able to examine her reaction to the different situations I contrived for her. All the characters, from Mint to Aaron to Bruce Webster grew in that way.
Could you tell us more about the group of teenage friends who become central to the action?
Well, Bruce, who I’ve just mentioned in my answer to question 14 is the leader of the group, if you like. The others probably wouldn’t see it that way, except for Gabriel Parkes. I liked the dynamics of the young group central to Stranger Things and fancied trying something similar. As in that excellent TV show, the friends are stretched, challenged, broken and abused. I can’t reveal too much for fear of spoilers but it’s far from an easy ride for them – if they reach the final pages they are far from the characters initially introduced to the reader.
You said that you'd rather write stories that are easy to get into. What do you think is the best way to make your story more accessible to readers?
Action, pace, relatable characters and locations. I’ve struggled with some books that you start reading and feel like you’ve missed out on something important beforehand like there’s a written history released beforehand that you need to have read and digested before you can relate to the story being told. Don’t get me wrong, that can be a fascinating way in and shows a great level of worldbuilding by the author, but it can sometimes distract from the story that is being told.
I’m never going to be described as a literary writer, I write to tell a story and provide entertainment, not to create a great piece of wordsmith art. I admire anybody who can do that, but it isn’t my style or intention.
The setting of your novel sounds sophisticated. How did you develop your world?
Bits and pieces pop into my head at random and notes are jotted down here, there, and everywhere. After collating them, I have a scribbled framework and visions in my head. I’ll admit I’ve taken influence from the Aliens film in the rugged, quite comparably basic infrastructure on Obsirion II and there’s perhaps a touch of the Halo game feel buried deep.
I like to keep up with astronomy, science, and technology and research the techniques and equipment we could use as we delve into the blackness that surrounds us. Those snippets of knowledge are dropped in, hopefully quite casually, but I consciously withdraw from going into reams of detail. If the reader is sufficiently intrigued to do their own research then that’s great, but I don’t want to write a textbook!
How is technology important in your novel's story?
Technology is the foundation of science fiction, you cannot take it away, the clue is in the name after all. Humanity has advanced by leaps and bounds since the industrial revolution, particularly over the last century and, even within that timeframe, over the past forty to fifty years. It’s fascinating to consider how our technology and knowledge will change as we charge into the future.
In The Gene Weavers Sequence, I’ve electronically augmented the brain, but gone along a different path in Oblivion. There is a great deal of scope to explore but at the same time, will it change so much? What will remain familiar? A Victorian transferred to modern times may well be overwhelmed but there would still be so much they would find familiar. Will people be fundamentally different from how they are now? I can’t imagine so; the same traits will drive them in the future, feelings, and attitudes are unlikely to change, though the processes of expressing and acting upon them may be very different.