Please welcome my guest, Ella Drake!
When I started to write Silver Bound, a space western releasing Nov 22nd from Carina Press, the elements of world-building excited me. What’s not to love about creating a world for a book with the tagline: “A dangerous journey across the galaxy”? During the course of the story, we visit five shuttle craft, two planets, two space stations, and two large spacecraft. Yet, the hero is Guy, a sheriff from a small town on a technologically limited planet. To create that space western feel, I created a world for Guy to make him the quintessential cowboy in a white hat. Only, he doesn’t wear a hat and he can fly a shuttle craft. And, his hat wouldn’t really be white-white. He has his flaws.
But as I worked through the science elements–including a slave collar which used implanted nanobots to control the slave, how a memory wipe might work and how it might look visually on a medical screen, stuff like that–the home world had a more historical feel juxtaposed against the futuristic. A seemingly small addition to his character, a lasso, became an intriguing element. Guy knows how to use his lasso, which is a crucial part of who he is and what he might do in the story. He’s a rancher. To add flavor, to show his skill at his job, it makes sense that he might take down a cow or a calf with his lasso. Maybe take down a criminal. But since I have never used a lasso, didn’t know what it was like to throw one, I did some research.
It turns out, roping cattle is a controversial practice. Thought it’s rare, it can cause neck and other injuries in the roped animal. A scene that I’d originally intended to be Guy roping a calf to inoculate it, turned into a scene of chase with his robot dog. He couldn’t hurt the robot by catching it with his lasso, but he still has the expert skills of using the lasso. But was this enough? If concerns over safety of roping cattle, or even a human, is contested, couldn’t a futuristic story find a solution? In this case, I decided to give Guy a lasso made of special material that wouldn’t constrict too tightly.
Within this same scene, striking a balance between the anachronistic and futuristic led me to considering the scene: how to set up the ranch. What kind of robot dog would a rancher/sheriff want or need? And, how does my research balance with the need to create a scene, get the reader into the hero’s head and world, and set the stage as a future set story? Just because my research led me down a path about lassos and rodeos, does the reader need that information?
This is what I came up with, the introduction of our hero:
The rope left his fingers and flew with precision to its target. With a practiced yank, Guy tightened the lasso around his robo-shepherd’s legs. Max tumbled to the dry ground with a woof.
Guy strode forward to stroke Max’s soft, synthetically furred head and removed the lasso. “Good boy. You put up a good chase this time, but I took you down.”
The mottled-brown Max appeared to grin, tongue slurping along the cuts on his hands—the dog’s saliva carried first-aid anesthetic. Its tail thumped on the ground and sent dust flying in a cloud. Guy chuckled and signaled to Max with a wave and a low-key whistle. The knee-height robo-dog took off, leaving a rolling wave of air-thrown dirt in its wake as it circled Trident Ranch’s smallest corral.
And there we are. A balance of today and tomorrow. After hours of researching lassos, holding rope, feeling its texture, tying knots, and generally spending more time with the concept of roping than figuring out what powered the spacecraft in the story, I’m reduced to the few lines above. I think it was worth it.
Thanks, Ella, for sharing some of your process!
Thanks for having me, Victoria!