What was the inspiration behind Artefact?
The idea really developed from piloted drone warfare – these US warfare systems that are used in Afghanistan and Iraq, but operated by pilots back in Nevada. I got to thinking about how the operators live their lives: fighting wars by day in countries that they have probably never visited, then returning to their homes by night to lead a normal life. The simulant technology is really just an extension of drone warfare. As the technology is extrapolated so too is the psychological stress on the operator. Harris is an example of someone who becomes increasingly dependant on this destructive cycle, becoming – as one character puts it – a war junky.
Does fighting a war remotely make him any less of a soldier?
That’s an interesting question, which is hopefully addressed at the end of the story. Harris ultimately finds that he doesn’t need to fight remotely, and that revelation is in some ways liberating. It also almost kills him!
What about the Artefact itself – how did you come up with the idea?
This is something of a SF trope, born out of an interest in works of authors like Arthur C Clarke. I’ve always enjoyed the sense of wonder that these classic authors created – the notion that the universe is so much bigger than we could ever understand. The idea of an alien machine of unknown purpose – that offers such potential to those that understand it, but equally corrupts them at the same time – was something that engaged me. Because physical proximity to the Artefact causes that corruption, I thought that it connected well with the principles of simulant warfare.
What was the most challenging thing about writing this novel?
The writing is the easy part! As with any working author, balancing my day job and writing is the real challenge. There never seem to be enough hours in the day. Thankfully, I have a very understanding family – I usually write during the evening and at weekends.
How much research went into the novel?
I read up a lot on the Vietnam War and the US-Soviet Cold War, but most of the future history is my own creation. There are also echoes of a subverted Space Race in the book; I researched the early space missions extensively. Time dilation also plays an important part in the book, and I read a lot about theories on that topic. Despite the research, I was grateful to have the assistance of a scientific edit!
Which was your favourite character to write?
This is a tough one! I liked writing all of the Simulant Operations squad. They came alive for me as I wrote; when bad things happen to them (and, rest assured, some very bad things happen!) I really felt for them. My favourite character was probably Captain Conrad Harris. He is the point of view character for the novel, and I had plenty of opportunity to explore his origins and motivations. He has a very blunt and directed world vision; acting first then thinking about it afterwards. But I also liked writing Corporal Jenkins: she’s far fierier than the rest of the squad and often has instant emotional reactions that the others don’t.
What we can expect from the next Lazarus War novel Legion?
More action. More explosions. More suspense. Captain Harris is not going to let this rest – he wants to act on the information that he uncovers in ARTEFACT, and he finally has hope. Unfortunately for him, in the Lazarus War universe hope can be a terrible thing. There is also a war brewing with the Krell – though they might not be the biggest threat in the galaxy anymore. Harris and his squad will push the simulant technology to the very limits, expanding its employment beyond the realms of ARTEFACT…
On that topic, how does the simulant technology actually work?
What else do you read and watch in your spare time?
I am a big SF fan and an enthusiastic reader – especially classic SF such as Heinlein and Haldeman. But I’m equally inspired by video games and cinema. I’m an avid fan of the ALIEN and PREDATOR universes, in all media, and those have heavily influenced me. I’ve love to write a novel set in those universes one day.