Wednesday, January 13, 2016

A. Livadny speaks about his work on Phantom Server

It all started a year ago on an early December morning.
I was finishing the second novel of my History of the Universe. I remember the rain pelting against the window pane and the wind trying to break in, my modem desperately scrambling along the window sill, whimpering about the loss of signal. :-)
You just can’t imagine how much can happen in one year. These days my Internet connection is rock solid in any kind of weather and book shops are storing my Phantom Server - the first novel of the trilogy of the same name. But that early December morning, I had no idea that I might take on a new project.
When the rain finally subsided for a while, my modem had a signal. I checked my emails and noticed a letter from Alex Bobl, a fellow sci fi author and literary agent with Magic Dome Books.
A new series? Space Online? I was quite skeptical at first: LitRPG and hard science fiction were unlikely bedmates. I could feel the two cast wary glances at each other, as if asking: aren’t we just too different to be happy together?
You might not believe it, but as days went by, I warmed to the challenge. My imagination began offering me scenes of ancient space stations, of planets inhabited by xenomorphs, and of human players. I imagined them logging in, asking myself what kind of development branches would be appropriate in this world?
The action in Phantom Server takes place in deep space and is ruled by future-day technologies. But what kind of devices would such technologies produce?
A concept of a new universe unlike anything I’d created before took some time to gestate. Phantom Server revealed itself to me gradually.
Although admittedly interesting, the project was also difficult in many respects. The classics of LitRPG are all set in the time-tested traditions of fantasy worlds where most characters and situations are already familiar to the reader. An online space world was something entirely different. The convention-defying alien civilizations, the heroes’ numerous abilities and skills, the complex relationship between humans and xenomorphs and the semantic gulf separating them - all this demanded some serious groundwork. But every evening as I would finish another installment and read it out aloud to Lana (Andrew’s wife, his untiring supporter, critic and inspiration) I saw her eyes light up with genuine interest.

She offered her fair share of critique too, of course. Sometimes she’d say something that would fit the manuscript so well, allowing me to submerge deeper and deeper into this first-person account where the hero was bound to borrow some of my own character traits - not all, but only certain ones.
Halfway through the book, the two genres were already lounging together on the couch, strangers no more, rooting for the heroes - especially Charon who will hopefully become one of the readers’ favorites despite his fearsome looks and his seemingly alien nature.
The first book’s ending proved an even bigger challenge. When finally I thought that it worked, I sent the manuscript to Alex. A few days later, I received it back with a healthy dose of constructive criticism.
At first I got so angry I refused to change anything. But once I’d cooled down and reread the whole book, I began reworking the last chapter.
It’s up to you to decide whether the book works or not. I really liked combining the two genres; this was a truly valuable experience which I tried to develop and hone in the following books, The Outlaw(Phantom Server Book #2) and The Black Sun (Phantom Server Book #3).
One thing I can tell you for sure: the trilogy is complete and self-sufficient. All the story questions have found their answers, leading the plot to its logical denouement.
As for December 2015, it has proven to be remarkably warm. :-)

Happy reading!

Andrei Livadny

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