From the Grave of the Gods, Book 1 in The Augment Saga Series, is a strong contestant in this second year of Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Sci-Fi Contest. His newest novella, The Flight of the Aurora, comes out in less than a month, on September 20th, 2022.
So how about learning more about Alan K. Dell and his views on science fiction?
This is the very first post in the blog’s new interview series, where we learn about guest authors and their work and thoughts on our beloved genre.
I’ve just read From the Grave of the Gods and was impressed by the plot and the storytelling. So I thought, why not invite Alan K. Dell, the author of The Augment Saga, to be my very first guest? To my delight, he agreed to make a special appearance on my blog.
Besides writing science fiction, Alan K. Dell works as a parish administrator for his local church, where he also volunteers as a musician. But music is not his only hobby! Besides playing the guitar, Alan is into illustration, graphic design, photography, astronomy, and, of course, reading sci-fi and playing video games.
He lives in Essex, England, with his wife and two children.
Without further ado, here are five questions to Alan K. Dell.
1. What is your series about?
For much of my childhood, I loved sci-fi, and I still do. I used to make-believe play space opera scenarios with my own characters, taking a lot of inspiration from Star Trek, Babylon 5 etc… I even built models of spaceship controls out of bits of cardboard, bottle caps and polystyrene packaging. A lot of those scenarios and characters formed the basis for what has now become my series, The Augment Saga.
From the outset, it seeks to give a plausible answer to the questions:
What if humans discovered alien technology? What would we do with it? How would it affect our development as a species?
It also asks deeper questions about what it means to be human, and how biological immortality can impact a person. I chose to go down a largely optimistic route when exploring these concepts. So on the wider scale it’s about the rise of humanity to the galactic stage but told in a character-driven way, mostly from the perspective of a person who is able to be there to see it all.
The series starts with its prequel novella, The Re-Emergence, which places the series in its wider galactic context. I think gives the reader a glimpse at where this is all going. The first novel, From the Grave of the Gods, introduces us to our main characters and starts to explore the themes of the series. There is also a follow-up novella releasing on 20th September called The Flight of the Aurora, which follows on from the novel, acting as a bridge between it and the second novel, which is my current WIP (work in progress).
2. Why do you write science fiction?
Believe it or not, I didn’t set out to become a writer. I didn’t approach it until my early twenties; the thought had never even occurred to me. But that make-believe play I mentioned in the previous question? It stuck with me. The characters formed and matured, the scenarios morphed into a more complex chronology, and, crucially, it just would not get out of my head. I found myself thinking about it more and more until, eventually, I needed to evict it.
My first attempt was to create a webcomic series, which I didn’t even get past the first page illustrating! I did a lot of worldbuilding, making timelines and spreadsheets. So then, in 2009, I decided I would write a novel. That didn’t go past the first chapter and I shelved the whole thing for ten years.
In 2019 I was inspired by another sci-fi author: Drew Wagar. A couple of years prior, Drew had worked on his second official novel for the videogame Elite: Dangerous. It was a remarkable project because he wrote the entire story around in-game events that were influenced by the game’s online community of players. In fact, he left the ending for the novel in the hands of the players!
He organised an event (which gained a lot of hype in the gaming press) in which the players would decide the final outcome: who lives and who dies, and whatever happens, happens. The resulting book, Elite: Premonition, was really very good.
I don’t quite know why, but those events prompted me to pick up my shelved project and give it a proper go. And so The Augment Saga was born.
Also, of course, I write sci-fi because I love space and science - particularly astrophysics.
3. What is your favorite sci-fi subgenre?
Now, this is a tricky one to answer. I really want to say Space Opera, but it’s not quite so cut and dry. When I started writing, I had to do a lot of reading to catch up since I had never read any sci-fi at all! Space Opera was always my go-to with TV and movies, and so I wanted to make sure I read that subgenre as well, considering I am taking my series in that kind of direction.
But I have discovered some really amazing books outside of that, too. The classic high-concept political and feminist sci-fi of Ursula K. Le Guin, for example. Beautiful work. She fast became my favourite author! I also found myself being drawn more towards hard sci-fi too.
4. What is your favorite sci-fi book?
It’s been tricky to choose a favourite sci-fi book too. The four-part Shadeward Saga by Drew Wagar is definitely a firm favourite, as are Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed. In the Space Opera camp, I can definitively point to Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky.
I think if I really had to choose, I’d go with Shadeward but by a very narrow margin!
5. Where do you find inspiration for your stories?
Aside from what I mentioned above from my childhood, I have found a lot of inspiration in reading the work of other sci-fi authors, and I have a great love and respect for fellow self-published/indie authors. They inspire me to keep going; to switch on my laptop, open my WIP and write.
I also love sci-fi art. I own a book called Beyond the Horizon, which is a collection of the works of the sci-fi artist John Harris. I find his work particularly inspirational. Of course, at a foundational level, the optimistic vision of the future presented in Star Trek is a big influence on my writing.
Since I haven’t yet written anything of significant length outside of The Augment Saga, I’m not really sure where I would find inspiration for a fresh story. I know some people get ideas while they’re walking their dogs and stuff, but I think I’m still working from the general blueprint that’s been stuck in my head for most of my life.
It’s an interesting question I’ll have to revisit a few years from now!
I have never read a book with such detailed scene descriptions as From the Grave of the Gods! It was so vivid the story played like a movie in my head. That being said, would you like to see your book adapted to the big screen?
Thank you! I’m glad you think so. I feel like they’d translate well to screen. It is a dream for many to have their works adapted like that, and while it would probably help financially, I don’t know whether I could relinquish enough creative control to allow it to happen. I’d be a very annoying consultant. XD
So that’s it for today, folks!
I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I did. If you have any questions for Alan, you can leave a comment down below.
Or you can go to his website and learn more about his work.
See you next post,
Carla Ra is a scientist by day, sci-fi writer by night.
You can check out her anthology ARTIFICIAL REBELLION here.