Buckell kindly answered a few questions about the Xenowealth and the kickstarter.
TB: It’s a universe I created many years ago that grew initially in short stories, about a future where aliens colonize Earth and scatter humanity across a series of worlds connected via wormholes. Since I grew up in the Caribbean, I included Caribbean people in that diaspora, which, for me, is something close to my heart as the Caribbean diaspora already exists throughout our world. I wanted to explore that in my fiction, while also paying homage to the great space adventure I grew up reading. Emphasis on adventure, I’m a high-octane junkie.
PW: What do these stories offer for readers familiar and unfamiliar with the universe?
TB: Many of my initial fans for the books came via the stories. I always tried to write them as entry points. My hope is that the short story collection would be a great way for people to get intrigued and try the books.
But the Kickstarter (if I can pitch) also has a lot of stuff in it in the stretch goals for any potential reader. There are two more short story collections unrelated to the Xenowealth, with a wide variety of fiction inside. And there are now three novellas from the award-winning METAtropolis series also included in the stretch goals. And a whole free Xenowealth novel, The Apocalypse Ocean, that stands alone in the series very well. So this is a great ultimate Tobias S. Buckell sampler pack of a Kickstarter. There’s something in there for everyone.
PW: The Xenowealth novels have had a long and sometimes turbulent publication history, including kickstarting the aforementioned latest novel in that sequence, Apocalypse Ocean. How has that KS experience shaped this kickstarter for the story collection?
TB: Yeah, this is truly a hybrid and interesting series. The first three books are published by Tor Books, the largest publisher of SF/F in the field. My editor and I hit a point where our sales just wouldn’t budge any higher. They weren’t dropping, but we were holding flat. We decided to try a new series (Arctic Rising), which did well for me, but it meant Xenowealth fans didn’t get a 4th and 5th novel, as originally planned.
So I turned to Kickstarter in late 2011 for funding The Apocalypse Ocean. Readers came through, and I wrote the book in 2012. That was an amazing experience. So I knew there were Xenowealth fans out there, and for a long while I’ve been noticing an interesting phenomena with the short stories I’d set up as singles for sale at Amazon. And that was the best-selling stories were routinely the Xenowealth-related ones.
Duh. I realized people who loved the books were trying to figure out if there were more stories in the world, and I hadn’t given them an easy way to find them. But they were still hunting them down anyway.
So under the idea of ‘give readers what they want’ I realized I’d need to bring all the Xenowealth stories together as a collection so that they could easily find and collect all the Xenowealth stories in one place.
PW: How has the Xenowealth universe, from your initial conception back in Crystal Rain, changed or evolved as you’ve created and developed the world?
TB: Well, at the start I had only the haziest of ideas about what lay beyond New Anegada. I’d done some work in college on a series of stories connected to each other, featuring the wormholes. I’d had some idea of creating aliens that acted like 18th century European empires. But as I wrote these novels, I had to start making these things real, so a lot of the ideas changed as each book demanded I answer them. There’s a big difference between even my proposal for Crystal Rain and what I finally wrote.
PW: Since starting the Xenowealth universe, you’ve branched out into other projects and universes, from METAtropolis to HALO to Arctic Rising. How has writing in these other universes been informed by your experience writing the Xenowealth universe?
TB: Xenowealth is where I cut my teeth learning pacing and adventure. I’ve taken those lessons out with me.
PW: Further, how has writing the Arctic Rising novels and other works influenced your perception of what you’ve done with the Xenowealth novels and stories?
TB: I’ve come to realize what a wide canvas the Xenowealth was, and how much fun it was. When I wrote the story “A Cold Heart” for the anthology Upgraded, the story reminded me how much fun the over-the-top action in the Xenowealth could be. I’m digging into some meatier things, playing with different characters, but Pepper’s Chaotic Neutral problem-solving style is a joy to play with as I write.
PW: What stories remain untold in the Xenowealth universe that you would like to bring to readers?
TB: Oh, so many. I really want to detail Pepper’s journey from Earth to New Anegada, hinted at in “A Cold Heart”. I want to show the war in which Earth shut the wormhole down to achieve its independence. And the fifth Xenowealth novel is roughly sketched out, which explores the last attempt of the League to bring down the Xenowealth, as well as explore what happens to the great threat to the worlds I hinted at when The Apocalypse Ocean finished.
As I mentioned, it’s a wide canvas, and I could do so much.
PW: Thanks, Toby! Find out more about the kickstarter on his kickstarter’s page!