Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Influence of Battletech Fiction and Game on Each Other




Well, Gencon has come and gone, and it looks like the Legacy anthology sold really well. Also received word on a project I worked on is going ahead, but I'll talk about it later when its closer to being published. I've talked to a couple of people in the know who were at Gencon about the future of Battletech fiction, and while nothing has been set in stone, there are plans to make fiction an important part of the line. There's too much that hasn't been decided yet to say anything more than that. But there will be new fiction in some form.

Since I haven't been around this blog as much as I should have, I left a question or two hanging, like this one from David B. who posted it in the comments section back in May:

Hi Craig. We're approaching 4 months since your last post. I was wondering if you could provide us with your perspective on how the game influences Battletech fiction, if at all.
Thanks!
Sorry I didn't get answer this sooner, David. The answer is that both fiction influences the game and vice versa. They are interconnected so closely, they feed off each other. The novels and stories are referenced when writing sourcebooks and other Battletech products, just as authors reference the game's products for the fiction. One acts as background for the other.

Battletech, as I have said before, is unique in that it has a single timeline. There has been well over several million words written about this universe, covering a thousands years. It hasn't been the work of one person, but dozen of people over the years, each one building on what other did before them. Yes, there are a few fuzzy areas (The subject of "FASA economics," still make a few people twitch), but generally, the universe holds together by it's own set of rules, something that the reader accepts as a matter of course.

The thing is, the story fiction hold a slightly higher position than the sourcebook fiction. Story fiction is what actually happened, the "reality," of the events. Sourcebook fiction is told from the POV of a scholar, or historian, people were were most likely never there to witness the events first hand. They are using second hand sources, have their own biases, and are often writing years or centuries after the events they write about. When reading about the same event from a story and a sourcebook, story fiction always trumps sourcebook fiction.

But a writer cannot go about changing events in sourcebook fiction through the story fiction. They can put their spin on events, create reasons to explain a mistake on a sourcebook, or fill in blanks in the narrative. But they cannot contradict established major events, or alter established details.

At the same time, the novels, especially the "Spine Novels," lay the basics for where the timeline is going and the people who are involved. They end up in sourcebooks, a part of the fabric of the Battletech universe. The Gray Death Legion, Avanti's Angels, and other units first appeared in novels before they showed up in sourcebooks. Details go from novels to sourcebooks back to novels and back to sourcebooks. An example is the background for my story, The Blood of Man, is in the Total Chaos sourcebook in the European Theater sidebar. I was lucky enough to write that sidebar, so it all fit together.

In my case, I've used the sourcebooks to write between the events, to generate background for my stories and ideas for the story themselves. for example, my Battlecorps story, Kurodenkou, the major battle is from a scenario book, supplying location, the forces, and the circumstances for my story. I had to create the characters and write the battle scene, but otherwise, I used what was given in the scenario.The location and background for The Lance Killer came for a couple of paragraphs in the Fed-Com war sourcebook.

There is so much in place in the way of background and events, that all I have to do is supply the story idea and the characters. The framework is there and as long as I stay within that framework, I can write any story I want. But I must be mindful of where the limits are and not to exceed them.

I hope that answers your question, David.

Craig


Sunday, August 13, 2017

BattleTech: Legacy at Gencon


Yes, I went even longer this time between blog posts, but in my defense, there was almost nothing going on in the way of Battletech writing. The Battletech line a new Lead Developer --- Brent Evens --- and it's con season, which means that everyone's focus is one getting stuff ready for the Conventions, the big one being Gencon this coming week.

What it means that everything with Battletech is on hold at the moment, and will be until con season is over. There will be face-to-face meetings at Gencon to finalize plans and put things into motion. Brent has expressed support to make the fiction in all forms a driving force for the storyline, but beyond novels, there are no solid plans (that I'm aware of) that go beyond that. I have no idea what Battlecorps status is, but I'm leaning toward believing it has run its course of action --- but I have no solid evidence to prove that. All those decisions are on a higher level, and I'll find out when they decide on a course of action.

As for me, I will not be at Gencon. It's a matter of economics --- Amount of money need to go and stay four days > amount of money I have. However, I will have have something there at Gencon for those interested in my storytelling. I am part of an original Battletech anthology that will be physically at Gencon, BattleTech: Legacy. The cover is above and the back cover blurb:

    A Draconis Combine warrior struggles with immoral orders in
the First Succession War. A House Davion MechWarrior participates
in a risky heist as part of Operation Guerrero. A history buff
battles the Word of Blake during the Liberation of Terra. What do
these MechWarriors have in common? Each one pilots the same
BattleMech, a survivor that has been repaired and rebuilt countless
times throughout its long and bloody 300-year lifespan.


    The seventy-ton GHR-5H Grasshopper can outmaneuver and
outlast some of the most fearsome enemy ’Mechs, making it an
invaluable asset to battlefield commanders. Even an incapacitated
Grasshopper will be rebuilt to fight another day, with a new pilot at its
controls, because MechWarriors can be replaced, but ’Mechs cannot.
In BattleTech: Legacy, thirteen all-new stories chronicle the fortunes
and tragedies of a single ’Mech across several tumultuous points in its
wide-ranging combat history. Veteran BattleTech authors Kevin Killiany
and Craig A. Reed, Jr. bookend this exciting collection, while other familiar
names and new blood explore important moments in this ’Mech’s history
of constant, unmitigated warfare that leaves no corner of the Inner Sphere
untouched.

My story is the last one in the anthology, called "End of the Road". It's set during the Liberation of Terra, as Stone fights for control of Humanity's home world against the Word of Blake. There's a dozen stories here, tracing the history of one 'Mech through three hundred years of battle, with both familiar names and newcomers penning stories for this collection. There are all brand new stories, commissioned just for this anthology, no Battlecorps reprints here. A shoutout to Phil Lee, who not only co-edited this anthology, he wrote the introduction, a story and the epilogue. I hope if you do attend Gencon, you pick up a copy and enjoy the stories.

So, until things are sorted out, we're in a waiting pattern, but once it's sorted out, I hope to be bring more new stories to the Battletech universe.

Later!

Craig

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

What is it like working for Catalyst?


I realize it's been a while since I've blogged anything --- four months. I wish I had an real excuse beyond the two that took up my time --- a Non-BattleTech novel and the holidays. The novel is done and is now going through the editorial phase ....

But that's enough of the excuses. I did complete something that I sent in to Battlecorps and hope to see it sometime in the future. I won't say more than that until there's more to say. There's a new Catalyst Store that should be more responsive to users' needs (There is no truth to the rumor that Catalyst was running out of virgins to sacrifice to keep Battleshop running --- they ran out of those five years back......)  There's a few things on the way....

The reason for this post (besides a reminder that I'm still alive) was prompted by a comment (Since deleted for some unknown reason because I didn't delete it, and the comment wasn't offensive in any way.) I will however post the comment (Because I'm notified by email when a comment is posted, along with the copy of the comment) without revealing the person's identity until such time I received permission from the poster. It asks a question I would like to answer.

Hi Craig,
Read your blog with great interest. Longtime Battletech fan here, and recently submitted & got approval for two short stories from John & Philip. I'd be interested to hear about your experiences working with the company, as this is my first submission with them.
First, welcome to a small group of people --- Battletech writers. The fact you had two stories accepted by Phil and John is a mark in your favor. Hope you hang around for a long time. We're a crusty bunch, but mostly harmless (At least that's what the Hitcherhikers Guide to Gaming Writers said, which is better than the previous "Warmongering Stormtropers" Until Lucasfilms sued.....)

What has my experience been like? It's been mostly good, but like every other company, there are times you wonder what's going on. But before I dive into my experiences, a little about Catalyst Games Lab and what makes them a little different for other gaming companies.

The most unusual things is Catalyst operates under a defused company structure. Catalyst Employees and Freelancers are all over the world. With the Internet, we don't need to live in the same area, as Catalyst, or even in the same country. So we are a diverse group and we all bring out unique views to the game we write and make art for. The second thing is that most of us working for Catalyst are freelancers, operating under a few full-time employees. That makes Catalyst flexible enough to handle a multitude of projects are the same time. And last is the passion the freelancers have for the game and the universe. For nearly forty years, the Battletech Universe has been a living, breathing universe with a diverse set of factions and an in-universe history that covers over a thousand years, from the start of the 21st century to the current middle of the 32nd. It is a honor to be a small part of such a vibrant universe.

My experiences with Catalyst have been for the most part, great. Most my interaction had been with six people; Jason Schmitzer. Herb Beas, Ben Rome, Phillip Lee, John Helfers, and Randall Bills.

Jason Schmetzer was Battlecorps' editor when he bought my first story, The Lancer Killer. A writer as well as editor, he had an ability to find a story's weakness and suggest changes to make a story better. He left to pursue other projects, but I remember him as the man who started my Battlecorps career.

Herb Beas was the Battletech Line Developer when I became a Battlecorps writer, and it because of him, I had to chance to pitch for a number of Battletech projects. Fact-checking lead to pitching and because of him, I established myself not only as a Battlecorps writer, but as a Battletech writer, with several writing credits in products such as Field Manual: SLDF, Interstellar Players 3, and Field Report 2765: DCMS.  He also left, replaced by Randall Bills.

Ben Rome was Battletech's Assistant Line Developer under Herb Beas and ramrodded Total Chaos  for Herb and wrote most of the War of Reaving sourcebook. It was he that gave me a chance to write up Gannon's Cannons for the sourcebook to honor the son of a Catalyst agent who had leukemia. Gannon is much better these days and I still considered writing the backstory for the Cannons my greatest pleasue to this day.

Phillip Lee became a Battlecorps writer after me, and Jason decided his skills were also suited to helping him running Battlecorps. He is usually the one who first reads a story from the slush pile and his experience as a writer can spots the flaws in a story as quickly as Jason could. Those that pass his inspection are sent to John Helfers. Phil and I have also work on both Valiant: RPG games books, with Phil taking the lead on both books and me writing for him. I consider him a good friend and  and we bounce ideas off each other more often than not.

John Helfers' background I've detailed in the previous blog post, but in all my communications with him, I have found him to be friendly, helpful, understanding and encouraging. He has plans for both Battlecorps and the other fiction lines has me hopeful for 2017 and beyond.

Outside of Battletech's creators, I can't think of anyone more associated with the IP than Randall Bills. He has been working with the IP in one way or another for over twenty years, and is currently acting as Battletech's Line Developer in additions to his other Catalyst duties. A nice guy, when you can get a hold of him, which isn't often.

I've had good relations with all of them, even though the only one I've met in person was Randall (Twice, I think, when Origins was still moving around --- Baltimore and Philadelphia were the two I attended.) And that is the key --- if you have good relations with the people you work for/with, you will enjoy the experience.

I hope that answers your question.

Until later (though less than four months, I promise!)
Craig