Aug 22 2012
In October 2011 I did my first interview with Sarah Newton, who then worked with Cubicle 7 as head of the editorial team and line developer. Since then her novel Mindjammer has been released and she also left Cubicle 7 to form her own company Mindjammer Press. Mindjammer has recently relaunched and I took this as an opportunity to do another interview with Sarah again.
By the way, if you haven’t read Sarah’s novel yet, you really should check the interview out, because there might be an opportunity for you to win a paperback copy of Mindjammer!
Stargazer: It’s good being able to talk to you again, Sarah. How have you been in the last months?
Sarah: It’s great to talk to you again, Michael – thanks for having me on the blog! My writing life has been extremely busy since we last spoke – lots of great news to share with you!
Stargazer: In the introduction to the interview I mentioned that you created your own company called Mindjammer Press recently. Can you tell us a bit about this?
Sarah: That’s right – that’s one of the big events for us this year. After the previous production delays with the Mindjammer line, we decided to bring everything in-house and set up an imprint purely to focus on producing and publishing Mindjammer books. That includes the roleplaying line, and also the fiction line I’ve been working on. It’s a very exciting move – we’re liaising with industry artists as we speak, and have a production schedule set out right through to 2015, so at last we’ll be able to bring fans and gamers the Mindjammer products you’ve been asking for, including the Mindjammer novel, available right now, and the second edition Mindjammer – The Expansionary Era, releasing in early 2013.
Stargazer: Let’s talk about Mindjammer 2nd Edition a bit. The 1st Edition was based upon Cubicle 7’s Starblazer Adventures and needed a copy of the SBA rules to be played. Will the new edition follow the same model or will it be a stand-alone game?
Sarah: That’s a great question. At the moment, we’re in talks with Evil Hat Productions about that very thing. What I can say is that Mindjammer will no longer be a Starblazer supplement – it’ll be its own thing, with the rules, equipment, skills, starships, characters, and so on, all specifically tailored to the Mindjammer setting. As far as the rules system is concerned, it’s going to be completely compatible with the new FATE 3 Core which Evil Hat are currently working on, contextualised to the requirements of the Mindjammer setting. So, this time you’ll have integrated rules for the Mindscape and technopsi powers; a detailed system of genurgic enhancements and transhuman abilities; a very modern planet and star system generation system, drawing on the latest astrophysics and exoplanetary theories; brand new rules for planeships and slowboats, with ship sentiences fully integrated; organisation rules encompassing instrumentalities, governments, starship crews, and cultures, including memetic combat; and new systems for alien lifeforms and intelligences. Overall it should feel much more like modern 21st century transhuman scifi, but keeping that action-packed space opera vibe.
Also – and this is really exciting for me – it’ll be about twice the size of the first edition core book. That allows me to pack in so much more content – the 1st edition, while solid and playable, had to skimp on a lot of the Commonality background material, cultures, genotypes, starships, etc. This time we have the opportunity to provide a much fuller RPG. We’re also replacing the “Black Zone” mini-campaign with a new adventure, and will be issuing the Black Zone as part of an expanded Venu adventure book a little further down the line. Whether Mindjammer – the Expansionary Era ends up as a standalone RPG or as a supplement to the new FATE Core, it’ll be packed with new content!
Stargazer: I very much enjoyed reading your novel Mindjammer. Is a sequel already in the works? I am pretty sure I am not the only person who wants to know what happens to our beloved protagonists and the Commonality at large after the conclusion of the first novel.
Sarah: Thank you! Writing Mindjammer was great fun, and I’ve been thrilled to bits with everyone’s comments – hearing from people who’ve enjoyed the story and want to know more about the characters is probably the best reward any writer can ever receive. I am indeed writing a second book – Transcendence – which is now about half-done, and should be available roughly this time next year. It’s a direct follow-on from the events of Mindjammer, so if you want to find out what happens to Max and Lyra, Clay and Stark, and even Wing, then this is for you! There are a host of new characters, too, and some big things happening! Following that, I’m already pencilling in the storyline for the third novel in the series, which at the moment I’m envisaging drawing the events of the overall story arc to a close, and I’m also writing Mindjammer short stories, which should appear in two anthologies over the next few years. Good times for Mindjammer fiction!
Stargazer: The name “Mindjammer Press” suggests that your company’s focus will be on your transhumanist setting, but do you have plans for products beyond the Mindjammer universe?
Sarah: That’s a strong possibility. At the moment, my mind and my heart is set on publishing all the Mindjammer material we already have waiting in the wings – I have ten RPG products and six fiction products either already written, in writing, or planned, so that should keep us busy for some time! Ultimately, though, if Mindjammer Press proves a success, I would love to be able to expand into producing other material. Although we’re not soliciting submissions at the moment, please watch this space – and if anyone out there would like to see anything special produced by Mindjammer Press, or have any cool ideas, please fire away!
Stargazer: Another project you have been involved with is Achtung! Cthulhu. An adventure written by you for Call of Cthulhu and Realms of Cthulhu has been released a couple of weeks ago. What can you tell us about the Achtung! Cthulhu setting and the aforementioned adventure?
Sarah: Achtung! Cthulhu is something that I’ve been discussing and planning for several years with Chris Birch, author of Starblazer Adventures and my colleague and great friend on Legends of Anglerre. It’s great to be working together with him again and his new imprint, Modiphius, on the Achtung! Cthulhu line. The Achtung! Cthulhu setting combines two separate ideas Chris and I had, put together in an unholy marriage! Chris is a huge fan of World War Two history and gaming, and has wanted to produce an action-packed WW2 RPG for a long time; those who know me will know I love conspiracy theories, horror, and lots of the “secret history” legends which echo around the world after major events. Achtung! Cthulhu is the result of those two things colliding: it’s a thrill-packed RPG setting right in the middle of the theatres of World War 2 – Occupied Europe, the USSR, the Pacific – where there’s a “secret war” being fought between undercover and desperate agents – the player characters – and evil, intrigue-filled conspirators and servants of… Well, that would be telling! Chris is managing various threads in the setting – call them separate “campaigns”, if you will, each of which has a different tone – some pulpy, some gritty, some weird science, some supernatural – and a different set of locations. I’m writing one of those campaigns, called Zero Point, which is a “secret war” campaign, primarily set in and around Occupied Europe, but eventually going global. It’s flexible in tone – it’s possible to play it quite pulpy, with larger-than-life heroes, or quite “traditional” and gritty. It’ll have either eight or ten separate parts, of which Three Kings is the first. We’ve just finished editing the second part, Heroes of the Sea, which has now gone into layout and should be out soon; I’m expecting to have part three written by Christmas, so that’s roughly one part every three months. There’s also an associated novel I’m writing, which I’m talking to several publishing companies about at the moment.
Stargazer: Aside from Mindjammer and Achtung! Cthulhu, what are you working on right now? And what games have you been playing recently? Is there anything cool you want to share with us?
Sarah: Well, so far this year I’ve been working on a number of projects, including material for the upcoming Big Rubble book for Moon Design’s awesome Gloranthan line, using HeroQuest and RuneQuest. I’m a huge Glorantha fan – it was pretty much my first major RPG, back in 1980-81, and I’ve followed it ever since. I love the second edition HeroQuest rules, and have just got the new 6th edition RuneQuest rules, which look awesome – I can’t wait to play! It was an absolute blast writing for Glorantha – a dream come true – and I hope to be doing more in the future. I’m also working with Ben Monroe on his new MagicWorld project for Chaosium, which is a distillation of the basic roleplaying system into a wonderful and detailed fantasy roleplaying system utilising lots of material from the Elric and Stormbringer games. I’ve been writing material for the MagicWorld Companion – it really is a lovely example of how versatile the BRP system is, and I look forwards to seeing that appear in print!
I’ve also been working this summer on a series of adventures for Triple Ace Games’ Leagues of Adventure RPG, a campaign called The Great Game. Leagues of Adventure is a wonderful Victorian era RPG, and the first one to really grab my attention for the excellence of its setting. The premise is very simple; the world as described by Victorian era science-fiction and adventure writers such as Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, H. Rider Haggard, Stevenson, etc, is real. Your characters are members of adventurous clubs and societies – the “leagues” of the title – exploring and adventuring across, above, and even below that world! It’s loosely a steampunk setting – there’s as much or as little steampunk science as you want – but for me the fun really comes from being able to play the types of adventure you read about in those 19th century adventure tales like 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, She, The War of the Worlds, and so on. The Great Game is a four-part adventure which takes you to some fantastic Victorian science-fiction locations – it combines an Indiana Jones feel with Alan Quartermain and lots of historical skullduggery. It’ll be published by Triple Ace Games in four parts, hopefully beginning later this year.
Last, but by no means least, I’m writing two books for my Chronicles of Future Earth far future science-fantasy setting, for Chaosium’s BRP. The first of these is a brand new novel, entitled The Worm Within, which I’ve almost finished and which should be appearing from Chaosium in 2013. It’s a tale set in the north of the Venerable Autocracy, in the dangerous borderlands between Korudav Province and the Amadorad Protectorate, where some terrifying events are unfolding. It follows on indirectly from the events of the first Chronicles RPG book; it’s a standalone tale, but I’m hoping it will be the first of several fiction works set in the Venerable Autocracy and the Springtide Civilisations.
The second book is the Chronicles of Future Earth Player’s Guide. This is something I’ve been wanting to write for years, and finally it’s going to be a reality. This is a full-blown guide to the Venerable Autocracy, providing details of all its provinces, regions, cultures, races, and gods, including descriptions of the friendlier jeniri, the “Cousins of Man”, and the esteri, the “Not-Men of Urth”. It’ll be twice the size of the first Chronicles book, for players and GMs alike, and will contain oodles of maps, histories, cultural material, and more. And after that…
So – it’s been a busy year so far!
Stargazer: In my introduction to the interview I promised our readers a chance to win a copy of your novel. Please tell us what they have to do in order to get their hands on a brand-new paperback copy of Mindjammer?
Sarah: Well – here goes. I have three questions for you – the first two sets of correct answers drawn from the hat when the competition closes will each win a signed copy of the Mindjammer novel!
Question 1: In Mindjammer, what organisation do Thaddeus Clay and his team work for?
Question 2: In the FATE RPG system, what kind of dice do you normally roll, and how many of them?
Question 3: In transhumanism, what’s the event called where technology becomes so advanced that it’s impossible to see what happens afterwards? (Hint: it’s also the name for the heart of a black hole!)
(Please send your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org using the subject “Mindjammer Competition” and include your snail mail address. DO NOT post them in the comments below. The competition closes on Friday 12:00 German time. The winners will be informed shortly thereafter.)
Stargazer: Thanks again for answering a few questions for us, and of course for the great opportunity for our readers to win a copy of the novel Mindjammer! As always it has been great talking to you.
Sarah: Thanks again for having me Michael – and thanks to everyone for reading! Happy gaming!