It was about a year ago that I first heard about Medieval Mars. I was looking at the blog of Christian science fiction author Travis Perry. He often posts about interesting story ideas. That particular day, he shared an idea about a future world in which humanity had colonised the planet Mars, but civilisation had fallen, plunging society back into a medieval culture. This was all very cool, but what really grabbed me was the very first sentence of his post: “I've built a new story world and I'm inviting other authors to come explore it with me.”
I was immediately hooked. I could do this. I had been working on my writing craft for years. Travis would provide editing and would publish submissions of suitable quality in an anthology. This would be a very cost-effective way of taking my first step. Despite my lack of any previously published works he was willing to give me a chance.
My first step was to read the original novella written by Travis, which set up the world and introduced some core characters. The next step was to come up with a story idea of my own.
I wanted to write a fantasy quest story - the medieval settings seemed to lend itself to that. I would send a character on a grand adventure in search of something valuable. Hours of playing King’s Quest in my youth doubtless fuelled this particular fire.
My thoughts drifted back to high school history classes. I remembered learning about the manors that served as the heart of medieval life, with the Lord living in the manor house, and the peasants, or serfs, in the attached village, working the lord’s lands. This was my starting point. My protagonist (Alastair) would be a serf (called a hand in the medieval mars world).
Next, I needed something to serve as the object of Alastair’s quest. The setting provided some fascinating possibilities for that. This wasn’t just a medieval world - it was a medieval world in our future. These people look back on their technological past as “the time of magic”. My hero would be looking for a magical relic possessing scientific powers he wouldn’t begin to understand. I raised the stakes and added extra heart to the story by putting the life of Alastair’s beloved (Lynessa) on the line. Without this magical relic - she would die.
The last thing my story needed was a spiritual theme and character arc. The one thing that sticks out to me about the medieval church is that very few people were able to read the Bible. This lead to a lot of misunderstanding and falsehood. It seemed believable, in a medieval society, that the thing threatening Lynessa’s life would be viewed as a curse - sent by God as punishment for some unknown sin. (Yes I’m being coy - no spoilers here.) This leaves Alastair disillusioned about God. Why would he put his trust in a god who chose to curse the woman he loves?
As he embarks on this dangerous quest, through the jungles of Argyre Planitia, populated with giant beasts and genetically-engineered dragons, he also has to come to terms with the concept of grace, and gain a truer picture of God’s relationship with mankind.
The photo below, taken at the Sydney Botanical Gardens, inspired my description of a tree Alastair uses for shelter in the story.
Along the way he faces an antagonistic force in the form of a native population who will do anything to protect the magical artifact from treasure hunters like Alastair. At the suggestion of Travis, I made these people descendants of colonists from Indonesia. This allowed me to give them a few words of their own language, and some historic weapons specific to their tribe.
Needless to say once my manuscript was written it needed edits. I got it as good as I could, and then submitted it. Travis came back with some issues - some important story problems that needed to be fixed. With his help I got the story into shape and the rest is history.
Medieval Mars: The Anthology went live on 12th of July 2015. It is available in both Kindle and paperback formats. The contract allows me to self-publish my story as a stand-alone, which I plan to do. Hopefully it will serve as a product-funnel to drive interested readers to the full anthology.
So now I’m an author. I get to do all those fun things like set up my goodreads author profile, and add “Author” to my linkedIn, but this isn’t the end. This is the very beginning. I’m hard at work on my next project - a series of novellas set on a cruise ship in space, and I have a novel manuscript that I continue to edit.
I am thankful to Travis for giving me this break, I am thankful for all of you at Christian Writers Downunder who have given me much encouragement, and treated me as an equal, even though I was a wannabe, and I am thankful to God for giving me a gift and an opportunity to use it. May he get the ultimate glory.
Martian Background in author photo by Stuart Attenborrow.
Adam David Collings is an author of speculative fiction. He lives in Tasmania, Australia with his wife and two children. Adam draws inspiration for his stories from his over-active imagination, his life experiences and his faith.
Adam is a great lover of stories, enjoying them in books, movies, scripted TV and computer games. Adam discusses these on his own youTube show – Stories with Adam Collings.