When I was growing up, I loved stories. I loved been read to by my parents and grandparents, reading with others, etc. But a few select stories connected with me in a special way. I loved The Mouse & The Motorcycle series, for example, and The Littles. At an even younger age, I loved Richard Scarry’s books and Dr. Seuss. But when I got older, when those books became “less interesting,” the stories which stuck with me and still do today were two in particular: space opera and Bible stories. The adventure and heroics of space opera always thrilled me. I loved the laser gun fights, the fighter duels, the damsels in distress and, most of all, the good conquering the evil. In some ways, that last point in particular relates a lot to the Biblical stories I loved–stories of men and women relying on faith to defeat the enemy of disbelief and evil. I thrilled to the story of Joseph and his many colored coat. Loved the story of Zaccheus the wee little man. I loved the story of the leprous Roman officer who doubts Elisha but winds up cured. And I loved the story of Moses.
I remember the first time I saw Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments. Is it any wonder I became a Heston fan, in spite of his fanaticism for the NRA (which I loathe)? I really loved the way he played heroes. I loved the power of his voice, his facial expressions, the way women swooned after him. As Moses, he was a strapping hero, bringing to life a larger-than-life character in a way only a larger-than-life movie star could. Later, he did Planet Of The Apes, which I also loved. I liked him so much, I even found watchable The Colbys, something few Americans at the time did, which explains its immediate cancellation.
So it’s no surprise that teenaged Bryan, the creative dreamer, came up with the idea which became The Worker Prince– an epic space opera about a prince who was born a slave and discovers his secret adoption as he begins to learn who he is. Given the coming of age nature of the story, and the fact that no space opera thrilled me more than Star Wars, capturing the feel of Episode IV: A New Hope became a natural fit in my storytelling pallet as well. I had to create an adventure younger Bryan would love.
Given that both Star Wars and the story of Moses involve religious conflicts of sort, that aspect also seemed natural to my world building. The current evolution of societal attitudes toward Evangelical Christians, in particular, seemed the perfect backdrop. With Evangelicals being marginalized and labelled incorrectly as “fundamentalist” by many on the Left, for disagreeing with the Left’s attitude toward abortion, homosexuality, etc., it points to a possibility of an “us v. them” which could very much become even more of a reality than it is today, as I posit in the story. Such a conflict is ripe with emotions which are very strongly felt by each side, embuing the situation with the perfect tension and level of division for a story like mine. A fan of West Wing, I found myself also imagining how political aspects of the conflicts already described could play into and complicate the story. Thus, both political and personal betrayal and scheming play significant roles in the plot and ensuing complications.
Although I would have loved to have robots characters more predominant, I stuck to the background bots such as waitbots, cabbots, barbots, etc. because who can compete with R2D2 and C3PO? I sure didn’t want to try. I did what blasters and fighters, although my VS28s differ a bit from the X-Wings, I believe. And I did want speeder bikes, thus Skitters were born. But I also borrowed from Superman, Back To The Future and even Robert Silverberg’s Majipoor saga in my world building and settings. In part, I wanted to pay tribute to all those stories because they’d thrilled young Bryan so much. But I also wanted to have a familiarity I knew they’d evoke, yet make them new by making them my own. So the Skitter chase through the forest was born as was the airtaxi race between Davi and his rival Bordox. The opening scene where Davi’s parents, Sol and Lura, send him to safety in the stars evolved. As did scenes of the VS-28s in battle. Readers familiar with scenes from those other sources will recognize the tribute but also see that I’ve made scenes of mine own out of the borrowed elements. It evokes fun memories but it’s still a unique tale.
As I wrote, I referred a lot to Lord Valentine’s Castle in worldbuilding and the Timothy Zahn Star Wars books for reference in writing action scenes. I also borrowed pacing, of course. And like the films mentioned, my heroes are humanized with humor. They are imperfect, struggling with their role of being heroes. But, at the same time, they are the kind of people readers would like to hang out with and know. They’re friends in the making, you might say, and the comments from readers which please me the most are when they express their fondness for the characters that way. Because like Star Wars, Superman, Lord Valentine’s Castle, Back To The Future and the story of Moses, The Worker Prince wouldn’t work without the characters at its heart. Ultimately, they are who the readers connect with and how their interest is maintained through all the twists and turns.
Above it all, though, I wanted a story, like the classic science fiction I grew up with, which could be enjoyed by people of all ages with parents and children watching together, discussing, and sharing their impressions with each other. As a result, I avoided profanity, sexuality and extreme violence. The story does have sexual tension and romance, and it has violence. People die. People get hurt. And characters are truly evil in their attitudes and actions. But I worked hard to tell a believable, intense story without including elements which might alienate a portion of the desired audience. So far, per all feedback from beta readers, critics, etc., that seems to have been a success.
As I hold the finished book in my hand, and as I continue writing the sequels The Returning and The Exodus, I am still amazed to see it all come to fruition from that teenager’s dreams. It’s a life long accomplishment in a way, and one I am quite proud of. The book is far from perfect prose, of course. I am a beginning novelist, and it is my second novel, the first to be published. But as imperfect human beings, writer’s work can always be criticized for weaknesses. What I hope is that the strengths still outweigh that and will capture your hearts and imagines in ways which enable you to overlook the few faults which exist in the craft and author behind it.
In any case, that’s how The Worker Prince and The Saga of Davi Rhii came to be. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have enjoyed writing them. For what it’s worth…
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, the collection The North Star Serial, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. He’s also the host ofScience Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.