We’re celebrating the launch of CROOKED V.2 by spotlighting the authors who have contributed stories!
Caitlin Demaris McKenna is a science fiction writer and freelance editor. She currently lives, works and writes in Vancouver, British Columbia. When not writing, she enjoys reading, watching video game Let’s Plays, and entomology. She grew up in the Minnesota woods, where on clear winter nights, she would look up at the stars and wonder. Connect with Caitlin at expansionfront.com.
Caitlin’s current project is titled Shadow Game. Wars make unlikely allies. When his ship is damaged, elite assassin Gau Shesharrim is stranded on a hostile world — until help comes from an unexpected source. Discover how Gau recruited his first ally in his crusade against the Expansion. Download Shadow Game for free when you sign up to the Readers Group mailing list here!
Tell us a bit about your story and the story world.
I wrote the Expansion series as a deliberate inversion of the alien invasion trope: many stories feature human beings fighting against stronger alien empires, but what would it be like if our species was the one colonizing the galaxy? How might other intelligent species react to that, cope with it, or fight against it?
In the main series, Gau is a big mover and shaker in the resistance against the Expansion. With this story, I wanted to explore an earlier time in his life when he was just trying to get by, and what might have changed to make him realize he has more potential than he thought.
What was the inspiration behind this story?
A throwaway line in a conversation between Gau and his former employer in Alliance of Exiles, the second novel of the series. He has to get her buy-in for an ambitious plan and evokes a time when listening to him paid off. I got to thinking, “Wait, how did that all go down?” This story is the result.
If you could travel to any science fictional world, where would you go and what would you do?
Iain M. Banks’ Culture universe, hands down. He set out to create a galaxy-spanning post-scarcity society where humans (and many other species besides) are free to live and travel wherever they want on huge AI-guided starships. The Culture offers incredible freedom of choice, up to and including modifying one’s body into an entirely nonhuman form if desired. I’d probably hitch a ride on a ship and tour the galaxy, stopping at any interesting planets or orbital rings along the way
What are some of your favorite sci-fi crime books or stories?
Alastair Reynolds’ Revelation Space series was my introduction to the concept of sci-fi noir, particularly Chasm City. I’d also highlight Richard K. Morgan’s Takeshi Kovacs series starting with Altered Carbon, and his standalone dystopia Market Forces. That one is like Mad Max meets Wall Street.
What authors have inspired your writing?
The modern space opera greats like Iain M. Banks, Alastair Reynolds, and Dan Simmons were all influences. Ada Palmer for her impeccable world-building in her Terra Ignota series. And this list would be woefully incomplete without K.A. Applegate, whose Animorphs series is the reason I am a science fiction writer today.
What are you working on next?
This summer I began writing Halcyon, the first volume of a new space opera I’m calling “Dinotopia in space”. Biodiversity loss has ravaged Earth and forced humans to develop sophisticated genetic engineering tech to reseed the planet with plant and animal life. Along the way, a small group of scientists used the tech to create genetically engineered intelligent dinosaurs who now coexist with humans.
This human-dinosaur alliance has started spreading into the galaxy, but conflicts threaten its edges as separatist groups claim planets for one species or the other. The main characters are two government agents (one human, one dino) sent to investigate a discovery on the separatist world Halcyon that could upend the entire alliance.