When you’re creating a world like Hellhole or with your Zombie P.I., do you start with a firm idea of what that universe looks like before you set out, or do you start with a character and plot, or is it more organic than that?
It’s more organic than that because I usually have an idea for the story line of something. Hellhole is an interesting… You’ve heard about how supposedly an asteroid hit the Earth and the impact was what caused all the dinosaurs to go extinct? The lava, the weather patterns, the earthquakes, everything that happened after the impact wiped everything out. So I thought that would be a nasty place to colonize as a group of humans. What if we have a planet that’s been struck by an asteroid say a couple of hundred years ago.
It’s stabilized but still quite a mess and there are people trying to colonize it. Who would try to colonize a place like that? It certainly wouldn’t be anybody’s first choice to go and settle down. The people who would be attracted to a place like that would be the outlaws, the misfits, the religious fanatics, people on the run from something. I thought, that’s kind of an interesting group people, they’ve might have a cool story. I’m working with Brian Herbert. I should be saying ‘we’ for all of this. So Brian and I created this world and an interesting main character a well. At some point we had been reading about Napoleon about how he tried this big revolution, and how he failed. He was exiled to this horrible island.
I thought, how about a character who is this military revolutionary general, and who tried to overthrow the corrupt galactic empire. But he lost so they exiled him to Hellhole—of course, he’s more of our heroic guy. He was correct in his revolution that the government was corrupt. He should have won, but he lost.
He’s the one keeping these people alive on the planet Hellhole. He is helping them form a colony that can survive the rigors of the volcanic eruptions, and horrible electrical storms, and earthquakes. Of course, most of the life forms have been wiped out on the planet, but the ones that did not get wiped out are not going to be the cute fuzzy teddy bears; they’re going to be the most vicious, nastiest predators.
The only thing that is left is some pretty nasty insects and animals that are there. This is how we start talking through it, or when I’m writing myself, this is how I do it. You have one idea, which usually sparks something else, which usually sparks something else. It is something I call the collision idea. That you have one idea going along and then a completely different idea just slams into it and takes the story in a completely different direction.