I’m delighted to present a feature with Gary Bloom, the visionary author behind the enthralling science fiction saga Antares Ascended. Bloom’s narrative introduces us to the Homyns on their home planet, Doma, a species as enigmatic as the universe they inhabit. Dive into the depths of his imagination with us as we explore the intricacies of constructing a world teeming with complex histories and profound powers. From the seeds of inspiration to the fruition of a universe that captures the hearts of sci-fi fans, let’s journey through the creative cosmos of Gary Bloom.
About the book
Antares Ascended is set far from Earth. A humanoid species known as the Homyns live on the planet Doma, which orbits the star Cycla. Their origin is tied to a group called the Travelers, who merged with an indigenous life form called the Volet, resulting in the Homyns known today. This merging gave them a unique ability called Karva. The story unfolds with the backdrop of an enemy rising from the royal house, threatening the peace established by the ruling House Antares.
The story follows Ogan Antares, who is desperate to avoid another War of Lords and seeks justice and an end to the rebellion instigated by House Virachoa. The plot includes political intrigue, betrayal, and the struggle for power within this complex society. The story sets the stage for a gripping tale of power, loyalty, and the fight for justice in a world far from ours.
Q: What inspired the story and themes in Antares Ascended? How do they connect to or diverge from your previous works?
Interestingly, this was loosely based on an idea that I’d had in college, which I’d called “Wolf Brigade” – the most important aspect being the “king” (which morphed into the Archon of the Empire) and his three disparate kids.. as well as the “pulse baton” which I imagined to look like a suped-up baseball bat, to be used for both melee and shooting. It sat dormant for a long time, especially while I’d focused on creating my Olympus Union universe.
Then, I watched a Masterclass series with Neil Gaiman. He started talking about turning conventional ideas on their head and looking at the story from a different perspective. Well, in many of the sci-fi stories I read, the Empire or the Government was the bad guys, and the rebels were the good guys (heck, the Jovian Wars of my Olympus Union was literally a rebel uprising against a corrupt interplanetary government).
So, I started world-building and came up with this concept of the Empire being the good guys, and the rebellion started with assassinations within the royal family. The Archon is trying to keep the Empire intact while his Nephew is trying to murder his way to power and the throne. I wrote this on Patreon for about three years, ending it in December of 2021.
Earlier this year, a few people suggested that I combine the story, build it out more, and tweak things I hadn’t liked during the original run, so that’s what I did. We dive deeper into the concepts of “Karva” – the shared mindspace that all of the “Homyn” race have the ability to use. We dive deeper into the religion of the Empire, understanding where some corruption exists, and getting more understanding of the pantheon.
I explore more of the dynamic between the Council of Travelers – members of the ruling Major Houses, and how they’re transitioning from the older generation to the new one .
The Archon’s older son gets to be a little more foolish in his exploits and then gets a better opportunity to be redeemed. The rebel King Tupan Virachoa becomes even more maniacal, spiteful, and arrogant. Tupan’s mother, Ocala, has the opportunity to be even more devious behind the scenes.
We’re meeting even more characters than in the original Patreon run, who help us to further explore the planets and moons to hatch plots within plots .
Most importantly, we get to understand the Archon, Ogan Antares, and his balancing act between father, head of the Empire, a husband mourning his murdered wife, and a Homyn trying to figure out not just his legacy but how to undo the foolish mistakes of his forebears.
At this point, I’ve been working on book two and started outlining book three.
Q: Can you discuss the development of your main characters in this book? Were there any particular challenges?
A few of my characters go through different evolutions. The Archon, Ogan Antares, explores varying stages of grief, not necessarily following the path as we know it in our society on Earth, but dealing with the natural rage of his race and shedding what he feels are his “perfect good guy” expectations of his post. Each of his three children deals with the assassination of their mother, the betrayal of their cousin, and finding their place in the Empire, with three incredibly different actions (and their father deals with them in three very different ways).
We see heroes emerge and rise up, while certain villains rise to claim the spot of others in heinous ways.
The hardest part for me is writing for anger. I actually would get myself worked up about other things that have nothing to do with the book or the universe and write my thoughts. Being heinous and vicious, I actually have taken some inspiration from the Joker, specifically out of the more recent Batman Beyond run.
Ensuring that I don’t have a complete goody-two-shoes is always tough, too. It’s important to ensure there are flaws, making mistakes, getting angry, saying stuff you don’t mean, having to apologise or walk things back. It costs people their lives, results in the breaking of important plans, and so much more. That’s real life. Nothing works perfectly, so I try to make sure that plans somewhat come together, but there’s nothing perfect.
Q: How did you approach the world-building for this novel? Did you incorporate any new elements or concepts?
For one thing, I built a whole lot before I started writing. Years ago, I even put together a coalition of sci-fi fans on Twitter to run stuff past. See what made sense and what was confusing. Crowdsourcing was fun because I didn’t let everyone see everything.
I also made it a point to build a lot more than I’d probably ever need but keep it there in the event that I did. It’s a tip that came from a friend years ago while I was writing Olympus Union: not to show everything and to make assumptions that the people living in that universe just make assumptions. So, animals and plants, foods and beverages, cities, hobbies, companies, and so much more.
I like to allude to them, mention a character or an idea that the other characters just take as commonplace. For some reason, I took a liking to the element Cobalt (probably because that’s what my wedding ring is made of). It’s been laced throughout my universe. There are also assumptions that my characters make, which might be contrary to what you’d assume here on Earth.
Exploring different planets more and more has been an ongoing exercise. I’ve probably added just as much in the last four months as I did in all of last year because inspiration keeps on spiking.
While I didn’t really create new elements or change the laws of physics, I did create a lot of new animals. Granted (and this might be a loose spoiler alert), there are definitely some Earth-based animals around. The great mystery of who “the Travelers” were that wound up on the planet Doma and merged with the Volets to become the Homyn race… I don’t mind spoiling that it’s humans because the Homyns don’t actually know.
And, maybe one day, they’ll figure it out, but I drop more than enough hints that you should be able to piece it together. The concept of Karva was my big one. It’s a shared mindspace, but you need three to complete the circuit. No one ever tries to do it with two, but there are hints about why that’s not something you want to do. But we also explore a lot of powers that some have within the medium, which others do not. I took some inspiration from some of my favourite space operas to consider who would have the extra ability and why.
Q: Could you describe your writing process for this book? How did it differ from your previous works?
The first thing that I did differently was absolutely the amount of world-building that I did for this series versus how much I did for Olympus Union. While I certainly did a lot more after that series, there was a massive base to write from. Also, writing this as a series of short stories first has given me the ability to do so much more.
Going in to clean up some loose ends, filling gaps, and giving originally minor characters much larger roles has been a lot of fun and made for better writing. I’m doing the same with book two right now, and I’ll keep the process for book three. There are actually characters that I created to come out of nowhere who became a big deal.
Something else I’ve done is write myself notes to do things a couple of days later in my to-do list app. “Flesh out Alene Voin’s back story” and create a scene within a particular city that I created. Then go back and ensure I tied it to the storyline properly, and if new ideas spawned from it, take two paths: a) modify the existing chapter(s) or b) set up a follow-up concept for a later chapter or book, to spin things in a different direction, and blow apart an assumption.
When I wrote Olympus Union, it was all about writing my way through the outline. Sometimes, I’d jump around within it, but it was always about sticking to the outline because I was afraid that I’d mess up the story. Now, I accept the concept of a story as something less fragile but a working document until the book is done. That means I could completely re-work chapters to make a better idea fit into the storyline.
And I did. Twice. It made the book so much better!
Q: What do you hope readers take away from Antares Ascended?
More than anything, I hope they find it interesting and fun enough to lose themselves in the world. One fan who became a friend, Thomas Salerno (who is a tremendous writer in his own right), actually got so into this universe that he wrote a story within it. And for those who eventually stumble across House Salerno, yes, I did that as a tribute to him.
I’d love it for readers to have a favourite character and to recommend the series to others. It’d be great if they’re like my reader and former colleague, Kirat Maloka, who tore through the book so fast that she’s asked me a couple of times when I’ll be done with the second book!
Those are people who will likely end up in a dedications section of book two, and it’d be awesome if there were more people that I end up name dropping as supportive fans. There is no delusion that I’m Zahn, Stackpole or Scalzi, but it’s always so humbling and flattering when people actually ask me about my work or compliment it.
That makes me do more research, watch more author videos and read articles to constantly improve my writing for them.
Q: Can you share any upcoming projects or expansions to the Olympus Union universe?
I’ll admit that I haven’t touched the Olympus Union universe in a while, even though I use that domain for almost everything. Once I get through Antares Ascended book three, I’m actually toying with a duology back in the OU. Something around Mars and the “space pirate” group that I created called the Red Scythe.
I’m probably not going to work in there again until late 2024 or so, but I’ll go back into it. For now, I’m focusing on Antares Ascended. In book two, I’m exploring more about the outer planets, more uprising and contention, and spending more time on the watery planet Sanctum.
I’d like to get more into the planet Tovan and the inner workings of other ruling Houses at another point. Eventually, since the War of Lords is mentioned so often as a major turning point in their society, I’ll get to writing that prequel one day. There’s just so much here, and I keep creating more possibilities as I build the universe that I’m going to have fun in this universe for years!
So there you have it, folks, an insight into the creative mind of Gary Bloom and some helpful writing tips, too. If you haven’t read Antares Ascened yet (why not), you can buy the Kindle version on Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.