Risingshadow has the honour of publishing a guest post by Jon Del Arroz.
Jon Del Arroz began his writing career in high school, providing book reviews and the occasional article for the local news magazine, The Valley Citizen. From there, he went on to write a weekly web comic, Flying Sparks, which has been hailed by Comic Book Resources as “the kind of stuff that made me fall in love with early Marvel comics.” He has several published short stories, most recently providing flash fiction for AEG’s weird west card game, Doomtown: Reloaded, and a micro-setting for the Tiny Frontiers RPG. Star Realms: Rescue Run is his debut novel. You can find him during baseball season with his family at about half of the Oakland A's home games in section 124.
Information about Star Realms: Rescue Run:
Since being court-martialed by the Star Empire, smuggler and thief Joan Shengtu has done what she needed to do in order to survive - gaining a reputation along the way. When a new client’s mission goes sideways, Joan finds herself caught in the middle of dueling gambits between the Star Empire and the Trade Federation. Recruited to perform the heist of a lifetime, the fate of the Star Empire rests in her hands.
On the opposite side of the galaxy, Regency BioTech manager Dario Anazao sees an unsustainable situation brewing that promises a full-scale revolution. The megacorporations of the Trade Federation have kept the population in horrible working conditions, violating their human rights. With no one else to help, Dario must take it upon himself to rescue the workers of Mars.
Can two heroes from warring factions come together to make a difference in the galaxy?
Star Realms: Rescue Run is the first novelization of the critically acclaimed Star Realms spaceship combat deckbuilding game.
GUEST POST: WORLD BUILDING IN SOMEONE ELSE'S WORLD: TURNING A CARD GAME INTO A NOVEL BY JON DEL ARROZ
The world building for Star Realms: Rescue Run didn’t come out of my own imagination. It began as a card game and app that I played regularly before working on the novelization. I had a hundred images of battleships and space stations to inspire me. I could close my eyes, envision people aboard and create an atmosphere that expanded upon an image and make a card come to life.
Star Realms as a game breaks those two card types, the aforementioned bases and ships, and into 4 factions: Trade Federation, Star Empire, Machine Cult and Blob. The cards have some visual elements that are synergistic, with logos, colors, and what the cards do for the gameplay. Those card images and a few lines from the app version of the game were where I began to build a deep culture that would be suitable for a novel.
I decided one thing early in the process. The faction names in book form had to be shorthand for a “real” name. While they work well as cards, the terms needed something more for the fully fleshed out universe of a novel. Like the United States of America is often just called the United States or US, I figured the Trade Federation needed to reference the place it called home, and so I expanded its formal title to the Terran Trade Federation. The Star Empire, being a group of colonists who split off from Earth reference their first Emperor as defined on their flavor page and thus are the Martine Star Empire. The Machine Cult I don’t touch on in this book beyond a few references here and there, as I wanted to establish the human element of the Star Realms universe before delving into the strange (which I hope I can do in a sequel). The Blob we see for a short time, which I turned the name into racial slur humans use for them because of their looks. The Blob refer to themselves as the Lly’bra, which doesn’t seem that easy to pronounce, and explains why Blob became the common way of reference to them as aliens.
From there, the world becomes easier to break down into something that makes sense. The faction names themselves dictate a lot of the conventions that they hold, and I tried to keep in flavor in line with what the cards do for gameplay. Since I focused on the human worlds and their separatist colonies, I tried to create a feel of the frontier for the Star Empire. Life is hard. People have to smuggle or bend the law to make ends meet. There’s constant threat of battle from the encroaching Trade Federation and the Blob alike. I envisioned a people that have to be on the move. Their leadership stays aboard a starship that roams about the empire of colonies rather than living on a planet that could get bombarded at any moment. I drew this inspiration from the card Emperor’s Dreadnaught, as I thought about how to make it feel like the ships/bases gameplay. The fleet is nimble and can pack a punch, but it relies on a couple of great strategists in order to be able to compete with the larger forces of their enemies.
On the opposite side is the Trade Federation. Here I decided to create a population problem, one where most people, even in a vibrant trade environment, can’t get jobs. There’re just too many people and the corporations don’t know what to do with them, so they ignore them. I kept the look into the Trade Federation stationary: since the game is bases and battleships, and the Star Empire represented more fleeting moments of ships, therefore their foil the Trade Federation represents stability that comes across in location. The people higher up in the company, in management, live lavish lifestyles. They have parties where full hologram-projected scenes are created to distract their patrons. Body modifications enhance personal virtues or eliminate physical limitations. People in management have no real wants or needs. The only drive is from corporations that hunger for the ever thinning margins of the bottom line. As a result, the lower classes or underlevelers end up in a situation of extreme neglect from those higher up in the company. This is what drives the main conflict of the story.
As I progressed in writing, Star Realms came out with expansions that didn’t just have those two card types but also contained gambits, missions, heroes and events. I tried to incorporate what I could from those, especially the named heroes in the game so that people could have a little extra flavor when they picked up the game next. White Wizard Games, who produces Star Realms was very helpful to me throughout the process. In the end, the structure that the card game provided actually gave me an easier experience in building a world I believe to be unique, dangerous and yet fun to read.