Most of the time, whenever I talk about the things that inspired The Desolation Trilogy, I find myself talking mostly about my grandfather, and the Western influences I had growing up.
So, why set my story in a science fiction universe?
In 1977, when I was eight years old, my mother took me to the Lensic theater in Santa Fe, New Mexico to see the movie Star Wars. I still remember standing in the opulent lobby of that old-school theater, holding my mother’s hand as we moved through a literal sea of humanity towards our seats. From the moment the famous screen crawl began I was enthralled like I had never been before; the idea of a civilization that encompassed any number of planets and species all interacting with and working together was fascinating to me. Of course, my favorite character was Han Solo; who when I really think about it was obviously the first seed in my mind of the gunslinging pilot trying to survive on the edge of space.
Science fiction was a huge part of my life from then on. Star Wars was rapidly followed by Battlestar Galactica, then I discovered afternoon reruns of Star Trek. As I got older, I gravitated towards the grittier sci-fi; films like Alien and Blade Runner.
Blade Runner was another pivotal event for me; the idea of a detective in a dystopian future. The elements of the story captured both the advancements of things like flying cars and off-world colonization, but disassociated from such things to focus on the harsh realities of crime and violence in a grim future that wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be.
The character of Lieutenant Dan Quinn began with such things; I wrote a number of short stories as a teenager of futuristic cops still trying to do The Job in difficult circumstances. Again, my grandfather’s law enforcement career was an influence; he and I talked more than once about how dramatically the technology to investigate crimes had changed during his 40 year career, “but it still sometimes comes down to a cop with good instincts being willing to trust a hunch.”
When I was grown, at least partially out of my respect for my grandfather, I chose to pursue law enforcement and did a short stint in the Border Patrol. That experience, combined with my natural interest in the idea of The Frontier even in advanced civilizations, fueled my desire to tell the story of a law enforcement officer who might spring from an advanced civilization but who has to deal with the same realities of investigation, corruption, and violence that has been the reality of borders and frontiers since the dawn of human history.
First, I asked myself what kind of law enforcement agency might exist in such a futuristic circumstance, tasked with policing the vast jurisdictions spanning entire sectors of the galaxy, and then I asked myself what kind of person would be willing to put on that uniform. The agency I envisioned, the Terran Legion, faces the same issues of one agent often having to patrol a vast area alone, even though he knows help might be hours away, as the Border Patrol does today. It takes a special kind of person to do that job, despite the risks.
Dan Quinn evolved over time; becoming an amalgamation of not only my grandfather and his commitment to protecting people, but of the tough and committed law enforcement officers I was fortunate enough to know and to have worked with; tasked with protecting the innocent people they are all sworn to serve.
I can only hope the tales I tell do them Justice.