When I first sat down and began my preliminary prognostications for the story that would ultimately become the Desolation Trilogy, I had pretty strong ideas about the type of story I wanted it to be and the people who would populate the universe I was assembling.
I’ve talked about the character of Reed Cooper, and in thinking about the worldview of a man whose early life was so full of violence I began to wonder about what would be the anchors that would keep him on the right side of things and not just accept becoming a ruthless loner. His uncle, of course, would have been someone who showed him it was possible to trust someone to have your best interests at heart, and I knew his friendships with his crew mates on the Infinity’s Queen would be based on their having proved themselves to him over time. But… what else might have been enough to allow him to maintain a spark of humanity within himself?
I didn’t want my story to fall into being a romance novel; frankly I don’t think I have that kind of story in me. But, I realized that having experienced love might have been one of those pivotal experiences in Reed Cooper’s life that could help anchor him, and so I began composing the background for the woman who had been Cooper’s One True Love.
Originally, Serita Grant was not supposed to be Cooper’s love interest in the story. Sure, she and Cooper had loved one another once, but I wanted her there as someone to stand with Cooper not because she had unrequited feelings for him but because it was the right thing to do, and the situation was one she would be personally outraged by and determined to see this person she had a history with get through this horrific situation safely. My idea, at first, was that they would rebuild a solid friendship, not fall back in love. But, as I wrote more about her and began to see how her personality pulled her character – and Cooper’s pulled his – I couldn’t help but see them rediscovering their feelings for each other.
Serita herself began with my desire to not create the type of heroine that was common during my childhood; an oft-helpless creature whose primary purpose was to fall into peril so the hero could save her. A lot of movies and TV shows in those dark days of the late ’70’s and early ’80’s seemed to feature a very pretty but willowy lady whose primary response to danger was to scream helplessly and faint. That offended me on a lot of levels.
The first woman in my life was, obviously, my mother, and she was definitely not like those women movies and TV seemed to think women should be like. My mother was a fiery redhead who had grown up in rural New Mexico, the daughter of a tough-as-nails southwestern lawman and a rancher’s daughter, and she did not suffer fools lightly. She was a loving mother who dedicated herself to her family, but her temper could be fearsome. I’ve written about my fighter pilot father, a strong and even intimidating man who had grown up two-fisted in Prohibition-era Chicago, and he loved and respected my mother not only as his wife but as his true and equal partner in life. They had their arguments at times, they could be thunderous… and my mother backed my father down more than once. Those qualities of strength, toughness, and will were things I wanted Serita to embody.
That toughness would be necessary for her to have if she was going to be capable of surviving the world I was creating… and if she was the type of person to have feelings for a hard man like Reed Cooper and be his equal, she would have to be hard herself; especially considering the challenges she herself had faced in her life.
From the outset, I envisioned her as having cybernetic enhancements. The trauma of the accident she survived, her own sense of having had her very humanity diminished; all were part of demonstrating something important about her: namely just how tough she really was. Not just because she now had the bionic components to make her stronger and faster than any normal human being but because she had the mental toughness to accept her new reality and still find a way to move forward. That Cooper would accept her as she is was meant to be a surprise for her… and became the realization for me that rediscovering their deeper emotions for each other had to be part of their story.
J. R. Winton