Sam Cane – ex-con artist (sort of), ex-soldier (definitely), and woman on the run.
She’s looking to escape a life of petty crime on Earth that’s got her in too deep with the wrong people. Taking a job with one of the corporations contracted to open up and exploit new worlds in the growing Commonwealth, she’s assigned to a young colony right on the edge of human space. It looks like the perfect escape, until she arrives on IGC-187X and things start to go downhill. Fast.
Arriving at the colony site, she finds it mysteriously deserted, its communication systems sabotaged and her ride rapidly heading out of the system. Failing to repair the communications system in time, she realises she’s stuck on the apparently deserted planet unless she can get a deepspace message out. Exploring the colony site further, she realises two things – that something terrible has happened to the colonists, and that she’s not alone. She contacts survivors from the colony, who tell her they were forced to relocate due to raider activity, but their story doesn’t quite add up. Betrayed by them, she connects with the only sane person left – Adissa, the daughter of the colonial administrator, who has been living underground since her father had gone mad and led the colonists to a mysterious settlement elsewhere on the planet.
Suddenly, getting a message out has taken on a new urgency. Playing a deadly game of cat and mouth with the colonists, Sam and Adissa work together to try to get an old buried launch array on-line. The full horror of the situation starts to impact on Sam as she realises just how far the colonists have fallen and that something far worse is lurking hidden under the deserts of the arid world.
Out on the fringe, she’ll find out that what you’re running from isn’t always the thing that will kill you.
Guest Post 1 – The Evolution of Sam Cane
I started what was to become the first of the Sam Cane series quite a few years ago now. It looked very, very different to what hit the virtual shelves in 2016. I’d been watching a lot of films like Starship Troopers, and it showed. Square-jawed, good bloke hero, with a bit of a dark past goes toe-to-toe with a mysterious alien race attacking isolated frontier colonies, spiralling into a wider conflict. The background was a bit on the Dystopian side, with an authoritarian government ruling a vaguely militaristic state that’s a product of human civilization almost collapsing.
When I took some early chapters to my writers’ group, the main thing I took away was ‘what makes this different to any other MilSF out there?’. It was an excellent question, and one I went away to ponder. The project went into a digital drawer to ferment for a couple of years while I worked on other things.
I came back to it for… some reason I don’t recall. I decided pretty early on after I restarted that I wanted to get something in print by going down the self-publishing route, just to prove to myself that I could and to give myself a bit of a morale boost. I therefore didn’t try this with publishers, and it also set the length to novella/short novel (they range from 30-50k in length).
How I tackled the issue of making this a bit different is best reflected in the main character. I’d already made a conscious decision to be a bit less Dystopian and a bit more hopeful – I wanted to write a human society that, while not perfect, wasn’t despotic and had more or less done away with sexism, racism, homophobia and similar foolishness. I felt the main character, so as not to be bland in their ‘good guyness’ and to explore the world more effectively, had to be something of an outsider. I also wanted to avoid any sort of dark-secret trope while still creating an interesting backstory.
Sam – or more fully, Samrit Cane Kokhani – emerged from this process. Yes, along the way ‘he’ became a ‘she’. She’s an ex-soldier, but not the unassuming front-line hero type – she counted bullets and hated every second of it. She’s a career criminal, not because of anything that happened to her or because she’s come from abject poverty, but because of choices she made. She does have some secrets in her past, that have led her to try go straight. But, again, these are as a result of her choices rather than bad things that have happened to her. I wanted her to be someone who isn’t a victim, who isn’t driven by trauma, and most certainly doesn’t need rescuing. She occasionally just needs a hand when she gets herself into a sticky situation.
All of this flowed quite naturally from the decision to step away from a more traditional Marines in Space narrative. Once I’d got rid of most of those tropes (as much as I love that type of story), it became a lot easier to build an interesting character who, in turn, influenced the developing plot and gave me ideas for later instalments and spin-offs.
There were challenges, as well. Sam’s a difficult character, and in many ways not a nice person. I therefore had to make sure that there were likeable elements about her, like her sense of humour, her perseverance and her well-hidden softer side. At the same time, I didn’t want to build a Strong Female Protagonist who’s great and everything and looks stylish while doing it – she had to be fallible, she had to get things wrong, and she has to face up to her mistakes to fix them. I hope I’ve achieved that balance, and the feedback I’ve had so far has been very positive.
Sam’s been an absolute blast to write, probably my favourite in factm as well as being someone to spark a lot of other interesting characters off. I’m looking forward to continuing her adventures.
Buy it here at Amazon
Tim Chant grew up (mostly), went to school in East Anglia and university in Scotland. He took his History degree and did the only thing he could with it – joined the civil service. When not shackled to his desk he writes science fiction, alternative historical fiction, historical fiction and any other fiction that takes his fancy. When not doing that, he’s an inveterate roleplayer and wargamer (and getting back into historical fencing). He lives in Edinburgh with his partner and their two rabbits.