LJ Cohen’s Halcyone Space sci-fi series follows a band of intrepid young explorers as they try to navigate the world of political intrigue, rogue AIs and a brewing rebellion — in space.
Because of Cohen’s wide and diverse set of characters, she focused their story and personal development by allowing each of the available three books to focus primarily on one set of characters.
“It’s a juggling act, making sure that each character moves the story forward in a critical way and that each subplot serves the greater arc. It involves a lot of planning and the liberal use of a large white board, a wiki, and several spiral bound notebooks.”
With so many characters to focus on and keep track of, when it comes to romance, Cohen defers to her characters, allowing what feels right for them to shine through.
“I saw Derelict as primarily Ro’s story, as she has the most to gain and lose through its course. I hadn’t planned on any romantic relationships at the outset. In fact, Nomi wasn’t even a character initially. But when I understood Ro’s main internal conflict — learning to trust — then it became crucial that she have someone to work through that with. And the literal communication problems the station had in establishing a connection with the ship seemed like an appropriate metaphor for a relationship.”
Cohen borrowed from many different areas to create the Halcyone Space station and world, with all its’ intricate politics and rules.
“Part of the world came from the thought experiment of what the ‘colonies’ would have looked like if the British had won the Revolutionary War. That’s the historical situation — the war the colonies lost 40 years before the story begins — that sets up the current world of Halcyone Space.”
Cohen also took inspiration from more recent events, like the Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, to create the need to leave Earth and colonize space in the wake of these disasters.
A side-effect of the futuristic element of the series is the presence of AIs (creatures with artificial intelligence) that play a large part in the novels as a common commodity for the characters. That can bring up the question of whether there is an inevitability and inherent danger in introducing AIs into the world — a question that Ro and her crew face in Derelict.
“I think that AIs are subject to the flaws of their creators and programmers. Halcyone isn’t ‘bad’. She’s essentially dealing with PTSD from the virus she was infected with in the war, and in the case of a space ship run by an AI mind, fight or flight becomes a very literal problem.”