By Jason Schmetzer

Once upon a time, I went to Seattle.

This was a couple years ago. Probably pre-covid but honestly, who can remember what life was like pre-covid. I’d been called out along with several other BattleTech writers and developers to do an intensive, 2-day story summit for BattleTech. I’m going to do the list from memory and I’m certain I’m forgetting someone, so bear with me. I think it was myself, Mike Stackpole, Blaine Pardoe, John Helfers, Ray Arrastia, Phil Lee, Brent Evans, Loren Coleman, Randall Bills, and Bryn Bills.

We tacked a map of the Inner Sphere up. Randall, I think it was, really enjoyed the 2×3 giant Post-its. And then we went at it. We knew the general sense of where we were going: what you read in ilClan, at long last, and the story Blaine both capped and kicked off with Hour of the Wolf.

But what else. Sure, that was the “metaplot,” as we like to call it. The center of the map. But what else?

Let’s just say it was a very long, and very short, two days. Early mornings, long nights, a lake and some Mexican food.

But one of the things that came out of it was the seed for the book that’s just come out. Tamar Rising. Ray and Aaron asked me to tell you a little how that happened, how we got from that room and those post-it’s in Seattle to the book I hope you’ll be reading when it comes out next Wednesday, January 19.

It went like this: An idea that began something like “well, okay, those worlds are just sitting there.” And then grew from the exceptional work of a LOT of people who were and were not in that room.

We came home from Seattle with notes like ‘a new Tamar Pact forms.’ And that’s about it. So we formed a little story control group and started figuring out how to take those five words and turn them into a book setting. You’ll soon be holding the end result, so I’m not going to tell you what happens. Instead, I’m going to try and peel back the curtain a little and tell you how it happened.

Now, I’m a novelist. A storyteller. I don’t care about events, except that they’re driven by or happen to people. People, who have emotions and goals and pain and love and desires and always, always make bad decisions. So I started with ‘okay, who’s going to do this?’

All we knew at this point was the Jade Falcon OZ was as empty as a high school cafeteria on the first day of summer. So it could have been anyone. A revolutionary on an abandoned JF world. A mercenary. A Kelswa heir. Ryan Steiner the 22nd.

Or a woman named Sarah Regis, with a famous family name in the LCAF. Whose famous family just happened to already come from Arcturus, a world that just happened to be historically significant in the Commonwealth, and just happened to be an ancestral Tamar Pact world.

So there’s a who. Now we needed a why.

Well, the Commonwealth was, at the moment, kind of crap. A weak leader, a military that’s spent the last several books getting its butt kicked, many of its worlds seized by the two Khans fighting for Terra… yeah. That part was easy. The military has a responsibility to the people; if the government isn’t going to honor that responsibility, the military may take that honor upon itself.

So there’s a who and a why. All that was left was the how.

And here’s a secret: once you have who and why, the how of almost any story is just fiddly bits.

It quickly became clear that the Jade Falcon OZ was too big for just Tamar. No regiment is going to just take over that many worlds. For one thing, they don’t have the JumpShips. Or any HPGs. And all those worlds have people on them, who want to have their own say in things.

So the Jade Falcons of Jiyi Chistu were invented. The Alyina Merchant League. Our old pal Vedet Brewster, who I was honestly surprised was still alive, much less relevant, got to get back into the spotlight. The Hells Horses got to loom larger than life; the Ghost Bears go to go on being Ghost Bears, which is to say ‘really scary in a staying over there in their room’ sort of way.

What we tried really hard to maintain for all of them, though, is that they’re believable. Will they all be there in ten years? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe there will be new ones. All of these little states are built from people with plans, good or bad. Sure, they’re spots on a map in different colors, but they’re all driven by people.

And here’s the key part: they’re all them, in one or another, interesting.

And playable.

We knew, even at the summit, that Hour of the Wolf would be polarizing. It would define an era. And while it had some of the largest most incredible battles, if you didn’t like one of three factions, well, it was fun to watch but who cares.

And sure, if you’re a Combine player or a Capellan player, there’s not a lot for you in Tamar Rising. Your book(s) will come. But I challenge anyone to not find at least one nugget of interesting in Tamar. It’s the wild west. A new Chaos March, except not one smack in the middle of everything. You can play pirates or mercenaries or small state or Clan.

And as for Terra and the ilClan?

Still there. You’ll see.

Tagged with: