LET’S BE FRANK
So with all the aforementioned awesome still fresh in our minds, I thought it might be fun to chat with one of the authors a little bit about what’s in store. Since Frank sits about 30 feet from me, I went for efficiency. Also, he knows the most. Let’s see what he had to say…
GRIMBROTHER ONE: Let’s start with a bit of a “State of the Union” with regards to Halo fiction overall. Where are we at right now?
FRANK O'CONNOR: We’re actually in a creatively challenging place, and I don’t mean that as a synonym for something negative. It’s literally challenging and we’re getting a lot out of that. We’ve set up a universe now that’s actually quite complex. We have gray areas where at the start of the Halo universe, everything was pretty black and white. We had a known bad guy that couldn’t be reasoned with. We had an opaque mystery in the Forerunners that couldn’t be penetrated. We had simple, almost binary motivations and everything was either good or evil. Now we have a galaxy in chaos and a lot of nuance in motivations and politics. We have Covenant with their own agenda, we have the beginning of an Elite civil war. We have a religion in tatters but perhaps in the beginning of a revival. We have Halsey whose past crimes have been exposed, but then so has the victory and good those crimes were in service of. And of course, we have the Master Chief dealing with the loss of a vital part of his own identity, and questioning his past. All of that stuff is feeding into the novels and comics and it’s all grist for the mill.
GRIM: The novels have been an incredibly important part of the Halo experience right from the beginning with Halo: The Fall of Reach. How has their role evolved in helping tell Halo’s broader story?
FRANK: We’re always careful to make sure the novels support and enrich the game, but to ensure they work as standalone pieces. Folks reading this are super familiar with our canon, and when they think of the Chief, they think of his origin story, the hardships he and the Spartans went through, the Insurrection, first contact – all of that – but remember, most players simply don’t have that background, so we want those guys to be enriched and delighted when they do start reading the novels. But we also want them to enjoy the literature, which in itself spans more than one style – from the action and tactics focused Fall of Reach, to the esoteric, very alien atmosphere of the Greg Bear novels.
GRIM: Fans have noticed some new approaches to releasing print-style media, specifically with the addition of shorter-form fiction such as the recently-released Halo: New Blood by Matt Forbeck. Can you talk a bit more about how these new formats can add to the Halo experience?
FRANK: We have more of these shorter, digestible pieces in the works. I’m finishing one right now that explores the nature of AI through the eyes and travails of a less-exposed Smart AI character, but someone you guys will be familiar with. This lets us do a couple of things – it lets us create fiction for people with shorter attention spans, or you know, busy lives, but also lets us pivot quickly on ideas and opportunities, and flesh out things we can’t easily explore in an explosion-filled game.
GRIM: What can you tell us about your own new addition to the fiction, Halo: Saint’s Testimony?
FRANK: I’m writing in a subject that has always fascinated me, beginning with Halo from 2001 – the nature of AI and the nature of life itself – or rather consciousness. There’s a lot of philosophy and physics pointing to consciousness being an aspect of existence itself – the universe itself evolving thought with life as a node of that evolution. And there is more than one way to skin that cat. This won’t be an action epic, but it will be mercifully short.
GRIM: This isn’t your first foray into writing Halo fiction, either; many fans are quite familiar with your previous work, Halo: Midnight in the Heart of Midlothian. How is it different for you personally when approaching a single story versus helping guide the overall direction of the narrative from a franchise perspective?
FRANK: I think of myself as a typist rather than a writer. And I suffer idea block all the time. If I have an idea, I can hammer out a few thousand words in a couple of hours, but getting the idea just right, and then forming what’s often a partially baked notion into a narrative flow, that’s hard. I know a lot of writers and they’re all much more disciplined and better organized than I am. And that’s not false humility at all – it’s a confession of disorganization and fuzzy thinking. Thankfully I have amazing colleagues and editors to form my rubbish into something that’s at least comprehensible. But I look at folks like Greg Bear, Eric Nylund and Joseph Staten enviously. I wish I had half the talent or focus those guys do.
GRIM: I suppose we should probably talk about Mister Chief’s development in a different interview…
FRANK: Mister Chief is the absolute zenith of human endeavor and a perfect encapsulation of human talent. So I don’t think there’s really much more to discuss.
GRIM: How do you see the way fans experience and consume Halo fiction evolving in the future?
FRANK: As you mentioned before, we now have the ability to create short form fiction and distribute it effectively instantly as eBooks. But I love paper too, so I think you’ll see evolution in the form and function of the content, but the spirit of a book, in a period where we’ve lost giants like Ian Banks and Terry Pratchett, will continue to evoke the smell of newsprint and the sensation of pages turning, regardless of delivery method.
GRIM: Any cryptic final words for the fans?
FRANK: Everything you read this year is soil from which surprises will spring, many of them in Halo 5. I just watched a cinematic that made me tear up a little. But also made me proud of the scope of the worlds our writers and authors have helped build. And there’s lots more to come.
GRIM: Thanks Frank!