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Even though Operation Iago is my fifth science fiction novel, and the second book in the Confederated Worlds series, I still get a thrill when I swipe through the ebook edition or riffle the pages of the trade paperback and see a story of mine in print.
Part of the thrill for me comes from knowing how the story started life. Writers come up with all sorts of metaphors for the process of writing a novel. Running a marathon. Building a house. Giving birth.
One way I look at a novel is as an oak tree. A thick trunk, reaching deep into the earth, extending branches into the sky. Words like leaves, thousands of them working together, creating a shady spot for readers to pause and refresh.
Yet large as it is, and long as it may take to grow, the oak tree starts as a single acorn. So too does a novel. An acorn of an idea, dropped on a fertile spot of the subconscious, and watered by new notions about characters, locales, and events, can grow into a novel.
The acorn from which Operation Iago grew
I’ve been reading encyclopedias for fun since elementary school. (Yes, I was that kid). Flipping pages and following cross-references is a constant source of surprise and joy.
Wikipedia certainly has its flaws. But in one key way, Wikipedia beats the stuffing out of the World Book, and even the Encyclopaedia Britannica, in one key way. It’s not limited to the ~50,000 articles of a 25-volume hardbound encyclopedia. Wikipedia has 4.5 million articles in English, almost 100x the number of even the Britannica. That’s a lot of link chains to get lost in!
It was only by wandering along a link chain through Wikipedia that I ended up learning about the Silesian Uprisings of 1919-1921. Don’t worry, there won’t be a quiz.
The details aren’t important. What caught my attention were a territory with mixed ties to two neighboring states. A referendum on which of the two states to join. A referendum imposed after one of those states was defeated in a major war. Plus violent interference in the referendum by a side triumphing in the war.
I already knew the Confederated Worlds books following Take the Shilling would touch on defeat and revenge. The plot engine of Operation Iago fueled itself when I realized loss of a world in a “free and fair” election biased by an enemy’s violations of a peace treaty would stoke the Confederated Worlds’ fires of revenge.
(Though to continue the acorn metaphor, Operation Iago almost got dug up and fed to the pigs. After finishing Take the Shilling, and while working on other projects, I first planned to skip ahead to the next book, A Bodyguard Of Lies (look for it in spring 2015). But then I realized Tomas Neumann’s experiences on Arden in the hot peace following the First Interstellar War mattered enough to show to you.)
Of course, I put a lot more into Operation Iago than obscure historical events with serial numbers filed off. Fond memories of my favorite college elective, a Shakespeare class, mixed with my recent thoughts on religious or religious-like sentiments being required for space settlement, spawned the Ardenese dialect and many of its customs. An eccentric multimillionaire’s personal growth techniques reappear as the “Peters-Stein Technique.” I dusted off high school trigonometry and coded a LibreOffice Calc spreadsheet to determine Arden’s habitable zone and ten day seasonal cycle.
Above all, I sought ways to give my readers an exciting story, in an evocative world, featuring a likable character struggling to grow as both a leader and a man. A story you can find at the links below.