An Organic News Agency 4

Logo3As my new project Shallow Space edges closer to liftoff with a Kickstarter (we’re currently thinking end of year) I realised I wanted to start telling some more of the story that makes up the ‘universe’ that is Shallow Space. I’ve been developing some pretty cool backgrounds, cultures and general details around the various planets and their governments. Some of them are seedy, some of them tie directly into the plot of the game, some are for my sake only. By that I mean that for my own work process I must complete the world building. I can’t operate under a guide of ‘yeah there are a bunch of planets and stellar systems in Shallow Space’. I need specifics: What kind of planet? What is it like? What is its geographical history? Who discovered it? Who lives there now? What are they like? How do they contribute to the politics of (what I currently call) the Terran Empire?

A completed database of backstory (not necessarily a blow by blow account of every second of history from today to the start of the game) allows me to a) Write fiction for Shallow Space that is fully realised and pulls on all possible threads and hopefully no retconning and b) Perform a writing technique I’ve been taught called ‘in and back out’.

This is where the title of the post comes in. As mentioned above I want to start telling the story in some small way and I’ve decided that the news agencies prevalent in the universe of Shallow Space is the way to do that (for now anyway). In preparation I’ve been developing the news agencies that will exist (from the major ‘inter stellar’ media outlets to the minor city based ones.

Now here is the trick. I want those agencies to be true to who they are. I want them to grow ORGANICALLY from their pasts, i.e the society they have grown from, what is important to that society, what they want to see in their news. What sort of, well we’ll call it a newspaper for lack of a better word, would succeed and which would die out?

So to do this I perform my ‘in and back out’ technique which I learnt from the lovely ladies Alicia and Teresa at To start with you need a few external traits – Something that a person (or a society does). For Shallow Space this is usually designed by myself, though sometimes there is a game related restraint. From this external trait I work back to the core – why does this society have this core restraint? There will be a core driver buried down here deep. Once this is known you can come back out to the external with traits (such as types of newspaper) which would also come from this core driver.

The general rule is ‘You can do whatever the hell you want as long as you’re consistent.’ What I’m doing here helps keep things consistent which helps with suspension of disbelief and keeps readers/players in the book/game.

I have placeholder names for the main news agencies, but I know I’ll come up with better with some brainstorming. Once that’s done you should start seeing the odd news article popping up on the Shallow Space blog (and here too). Some will be useful in regards to the plot, some will be just for flavour, but both will add to the whole experience. Shallow Space isn’t just going to be a game. It’s going to be transmedia journey. the story will drive it just as much as the gameplay.

Cover art for Elite:And Here The Wheel, available for purchase now

Cover art for Elite:And Here The Wheel, available for purchase now

Writing tidbits from newspapers is quite fun actually, as the biases and opinions of the newspapers (or their owners if the paper is simply a mouthpiece for some overlord) can be wildly different and thus reporting on the same event from six or seven different points of view can provide a bit of a writers chuckle (This is a self-backslapping girlish snort from when a writer thinks they have done something very cool).

I did the same with the legend of Soontill in my Elite:Dangerous novel And Here The Wheel. Using the news agencies of the time (based on the last game – First Encounters) I reported on fifty years of man’s struggle to find Soontill. The ups and down and the conflicting reports all wrapped up in an easy fifteen page read. It was fun and necessary for me as the author to be able to understand the relationship with this myth and how it fitted in with everything else. I think I captured the moods of the five main news agencies quite well – any fan of First Encounters would surely enjoy it.

September has been the book’s greatest month for sales. Thank you for your support. Its really appreciated. If you enjoyed it please remember to leave a review. This helps other people like you decide whether to buy the book or not. Is this the start of an upwards trend? Hopefully, but I’m not going to sit back and watch. (Well actually for the last month I have, thanks to 12 hour days for the day job plus kid stuff, meaning night job being sacrificed) I’ve made another few videos to support the novel. The first was a second trailer for And Here The Wheel which I’ve nicknamed the ‘Soontill Trailer’. You can watch this below.

Elite the original game also turned 30 a few days back and so Frontier Developments have been having a bit of a party. To help the celebration I put together a video of my (nearly) 30 years of memories with Elite. Its only 10 minutes – there was a lot I could have talked about but I didn’t want a ten hour video!

I’m also working hard on Shallow Space and soon I’ll be dusting off the last novel I was working on before And Here The Wheel. It is set in a universe I’ve called ‘The Chronicle Of Heroes’ and its a universe of my own creation that I’ve developed several thousand years of history for. I have stories (both written and in my head) set across that whole spectrum. This existing novel, ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ is near the beginning of this time and events in the novel shape the future psyche of humanity for ever. A trilogy of novels that I have had in my head (and some notes) for awhile is set near the end of this timeframe. That novel is occupying more and more of my thoughts and it won’t be too long before my brain pretty much forces me to start the draft. First though ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ needs to see the light of day and I’ll be getting back into that after a few more things are tidied up.

This website was initially put together to support my writing of And Here The wheel and then also as a database of Garry Clan intel. Now with And Here The Wheel out there in the world I’ve moved onto my next project so my news topics will no longer just be Elite related. As a result I’ve decided to make a few changes to the website to cater for all audiences. This will happen…when it happens. The Garry Clan will still be here though so fear not. In fact the next newsletter won’t be too far away. There is still time to vote on the current ‘Decision Time’. If you haven’t read the newsletter yet, then you can view it here and then go to the poll to choose what decision you think Robert Garry should do.

This is your chance to be a part of the Garry Clan and help to shape their story. Grab the opportunity. That’s what pirates do!

EliteArchivesFinally, Anthony Olver (An Aussy, but we won’t hold that against him) is running a kickstarter to create THE book of the 30 years of Elite History, called ‘The Elite Archives’. It’s going to be one of those big colourful tomes that sit on your coffee table and looks awesome and will be great to flick through and relive history. It’s being published by my publisher Fantastic Books Publishing and is sure to be an absolute winner. Its already 1/3 funded and has some great pledge rewards. I’m not really doing this thing justice, you need to go over there and have a look at just what Anthony is going to put together here. He has every single version of the game ever sold (in its original box) and he has every piece of merchandise out there. He even has the official Garry Clan t-shirt! It’s going to be fantastic. Check it out here: Your next kickstarter

Oh, just by the way, if you’ve picked up anything up about me in the last year and a half you probably know that I played Elite (the original) on the Atari ST and that I’m a big fan of that version of the game. Well to help out the Elite Archives I’ll be writing a review of the Atari ST version of the game. I can’t wait to write that one 🙂

That’s it for tonight. I wish you good plundering.

Until next time,


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4 thoughts on “An Organic News Agency

  • Cmdr. Red Ravens

    I remember the old EBBS had a spate of good journal articles (not solely related to the HPA Saaaaaaargha) that were often quite good and reflected the inferred traits of the three major powers (as well as Universal Scientist and the much-loved though less-trusted R.I.G.)

    This provided an excellent authorial opportunity to “backfill” the mass psychology of factions without having to directly portray it or forcefeed the reader.

    Trying to do the same with my novel, but it’s a far more tortured process.

  • T. James

    Great to hear novel sales are on the up. Hopefully Garry will be voted sector El Presidente and give you a cut of the protection racket money. Then you can give up the day job and write full-time. 🙂

    Best of luck painting a backdrop for a whole new universe. Shouldn’t take long, ahem.