Today I am interviewing Jack Campbell, author of the new military SF, space opera novel, Vanguard, first book of The Genesis Fleet series.
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DJ: Hey Jack! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Jack Campbell: I’m a retired US Navy officer who lives in southern Maryland with my wife and three kids. I’ve lived a lot of places and done a lot of different jobs, but basically I’m a sailor. I started writing seriously back in the mid-1990s, mostly science fiction and fantasy, but a few other things as well. Vanguard will be my 30th book in print.
DJ: What Vanguard about?
Jack: Humanity is expanding rapidly into new star systems, many people wanting to leave behind the rules and restrictions on crowded worlds. But when they left behind the old restrictions, they also left the old protections that had maintained order. When some of the new worlds decide to take advantage of their neighbors, seeing opportunity for power and gain where others had seen freedom, the new worlds have to depend on improvised weapons and volunteers to defend themselves. If they fail, the growing power of aggressor worlds could turn regions founded on freedom into the first interstellar empires.
DJ: What were some of your influences for Vanguard and The Genesis Fleet series?
Jack: Vanguard is a prequel of sorts to the popular Lost Fleet series, with The Genesis Fleet series showing how and why the Lost Fleet’s Alliance first formed. It’s the Lost Fleet universe still in terms of how things work and in familiar star systems. I had to keep Vanguard consistent with that.
My other influences are the authors I admire who told big stories. Andre Norton, Leigh Brackett, Robert Heinlein, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and C. J. Cherryh, just to name a few. I have to add Tolkien to that mix, because he showed me the importance of building a big, new world where everything makes sense in the context of that world.
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers with sympathize with them?
Jack: There are four main characters in Vanguard. The first introduced is Rob Geary. He was a junior officer in the space fleet of Old Colony Alfar who has come out to a new world to escape the rules and politics that kept him from accomplishing anything there. But once on Glenlyon he finds himself one of the only people with any space fleet experience, and called on to help the new colony when it comes under attack. Rob doesn’t want to give up the future he’d been hoping for, but knows he’s needed, so he does his best, trying to do more than seems possible with the resources he has.
Then comes Mele Darcy, a former Marine from the Old Colony of Franklin, and Lochan Nakamura, also from Franklin, who describes himself as someone who has failed at everything he’s tried and wants a new start. Mele is a no-nonsense sort who is adrift and looking for her own future after being downsized. Think of her as the lone gunfighter who rides into town and has to decide whether to risk her neck for people she doesn’t know. Lochan doesn’t know what he wants, but encounters with first Mele and then Carmen Ochoa convince him that maybe his past failures could have taught him a few things, and maybe he can help where help is needed.
And finally there’s Carmen. She’s a Red, the derisive and menacing nickname for natives of Mars. Since Mars gained independence it has devolved into a world ruled by gangs, petty dictators, and wealthy autocrats. Carmen survived her childhood and fought her way off Mars, and now she’s determined that other worlds not suffer the same fate.
DJ: What is the world and setting of The Genesis Fleet series like?
Jack: The “world” of The Genesis Fleet spans many stars. Old Earth and the first colonies planted by slower-than-light ships are crowded and tired. The new jump drive has made faster-than-light travel between stars immensely faster and cheaper, so newer worlds are being settled at a breakneck pace as every group that has yearned for its own home heads to the stars. There are so many worlds that so far most of those settled are Earthlike, with the first cities being planted in the best sites in terms of geography, weather, and other factors. Modern construction gear can throw up cities quickly, but such gear is expensive, especially with so many worlds wanting it and the increasingly long trips to the furthest colony worlds. On each world, every group can build their styles of buildings, celebrate their heritages, and lives as they want.
But some worlds are spending their money recruiting mercenaries from Old Earth, and buying weapons. With Old Earth and the Old Colonies downsizing their militaries, a lot of used weapons and warships are available fairly cheap, along with people trained to operate them who are now out of work. And Mars offers a huge supply of hardened fighters for the highest bidder.
In Vanguard, worlds like Glenlyon and Kosatka discover that their peaceful intentions and desires don’t matter much to places like Scatha and Apulu who see all those free worlds as sheep ripe for the fleecing.
DJ: This is a military science-fiction story, and one of the first things that comes to mind when I hear that is there some type of new technology or weaponry! Did you create any cool tech for this series?
Jack: I didn’t create the idea of a Wing-in-Ground vehicle, but I use it. A WiG is something the size of a ship that travels at the speed of aircraft a few meters above the water. WiGs can land on beaches or open fields. The Soviets were in the lead developing them (look up Caspian Sea Monster for an example) but like a lot of other projects the WiGs died along with the Soviet Union. Since then they haven’t been pursued much, probably because they’d be so disruptive to existing shipping and air freight, and because they’d be perfect for smugglers of all kinds so no government wants them easily available. But WiGs are cool, almost literally flying ships, and would be perfect for people settling and moving around on a new world.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing Vanguard?
Jack: Exploring the beginnings of things that were long-established in the original Lost Fleet series. In the Lost Fleet the Alliance simply is. But why did form? What happened? Who were the people who first settled star systems like Glenlyon and Kosatka? What did they want and what were they looking for and what did they do? It’s a new aspect to a familiar universe. That universe also venerates the ancestors of those now living, so Vanguard lets me show some of those ancestors as living people with all of their flaws and virtues.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
Jack: Hopefully the characters and their battles against impossible odds!
DJ: Did you have a goal when you began writing The Genesis Fleet series? the Vanguard is only the first book of the series, but is there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across when readers finish it? Or is there perhaps a certain theme to the story?
Jack: The overall theme for The Genesis Fleet is setting the stage for The Lost Fleet centuries later. Why does the Alliance exist when so many of its member star systems are unhappy with the Alliance government? In the future, Admiral Black Jack Geary is trying to save the Alliance. What does that mean and why does it matter? How did the Alliance manage to sustain a century long war against the Syndicate Worlds? And how did the Alliance first come into conflict with the Syndicate Worlds? This is history for the men and women in The Lost Fleet, but it’s a history that has heavily-influenced their lives and what they believe in. Vanguard begins the job of showing how that all happened.
DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from Vanguard that you can share with us?
Jack: “Micromanaging lets you pretend to control things without understanding them or caring about them.”
“Darcy, you do stupid better than any other smart person I ever met.”
“Mars took all the idealism that Earth sent it and reforged it into cynicism and a survival-of-the-fittest mentality that forces everyone to do whatever they must.”
DJ: Now that Vanguard is released, what is next for you?
Jack: I’m working on the next book in the series, Ascendant. The first of The Lost Fleet comics (Corsair) is coming out on June 7th with original stories that are set about the time of Leviathan and Shattered Spear. And on August 15th Blood of Dragons, the second in the Legacy of Dragons science fantasy series, will be coming out as an audiobook from Audible.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Jack-Campbell/e/B001H6W4PU/ref=ep_sprkl_at_B001H6W4PU?pf_rd_p=479564851&pf_rd_s=auto-sparkle&pf_rd_t=301&pf_rd_i=jack%20campbell&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=0CRNZJVFTGXYJ8G7108X
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about Vanguard and The Genesis Fleet series that we haven’t talked about yet?
Jack: The story is about the people, not the equipment! But the equipment is pretty cool, too.
DJ: Is there anything else you would like add?
Jack: Thanks for the opportunity to connect with your readers/listeners!
DJ: My pleasure! Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
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Jack Campbell returns to the world of the New York Times bestselling Lost Fleet novels with a new action-packed military science fiction series that explores the founding of the Alliance . . . and the men and women who fought to create it.
Earth is no longer the center of the universe.
After the invention of the faster-than-light jump drive, humanity is rapidly establishing new colonies. But the vast distances of space mean that the old order of protection and interstellar law offered by Earth has ceased to exist.
When a nearby world attacks, the new colony of Glenlyon turns to Robert Geary, a young former junior fleet officer, and Mele Darcy, a onetime enlisted Marine. With nothing but improvised weapons and a few volunteers, Geary and Darcy must face down warships and armored soldiers—or die trying.
As battles rage and pirates take an increasing toll throughout the colonies, the only hope for lasting peace lies with Carmen Ochoa, a “Red” from the anarchic world of Mars, and Lochan Nakamura, a failed politician. They have a plan: to lay the groundwork for mutual defense that could someday grow into an alliance. But if their efforts don’t succeed, the growing power of aggressor worlds could turn regions of space founded on freedom into battlefields between the first interstellar empires…
the first interstellar empires…