We have two new chapters from Part 2 ready to release those who request them. Please leave a comment and let us know if you prefer PDF or Kindle format, and whether you would prefer to download them from the site or have us email them directly to you.
These two chapters (and probably the next one as well) are rather more infodump-ish than most. Infodumps are one of the main hazards of writing sci-fi. Larry Niven explained it nicely back in the early 70’s (or before) and a short bit I call “The X-ray Laser Problem.” Niven was writing a series of sci-fi mysteries at the time and he wrote the piece to lament that these were tricky. Say you have a locked-door murder mystery (his example). In contemporary fiction, the reader knows all the limitations and such, but in sci-fi, what if the bad guy had an x-ray laser that can shoot through walls?
You can’t just drop that on the reader at the end (if you want to still be read). If there are x-ray lasers in that universe, you have to say so and describe what they can do and what they can’t, and how this adds to the mystery. The problem arises though when the author gets carried away talking about his uber-cool x-ray laser. After all, he did research and exercised a bunch of creativity to invent the thing, and he naturally wants people to know all that. So he infodumps.
Back when Niven wrote his piece, there wasn’t much infodumping. At some point that changed and now some successful authors (David Weber comes to mind) have made infodumps part of their style. I don’t know how this came about (maybe it was Tom Clancy who showed that readers actually liked a wealth of technical detail), but the views on infodumps have evolved and are still evolving, and they seem to be getting more controversial again.
In our own experience, the negative commentary we’ve gotten on Alecto (with one or two exceptions) all focuses on the discussion of the physics of hyperlight travel. Admittedly, that chapter does toss around some pretty chewy terminology and concepts, which are not to everyone’s taste. But some people seemed to like it and most seemed not to mind it. And of course, there’s no pleasing everyone and it’s silly to try. So we don’t regret including it.
I also think most of the commenters who objected to that infodump missed a key point. That is, when writing a series, not everything presented in a given book (especially an early book), is directly relevant to that book: some of it sets the stage for later books, and this applies particularly to infodumps. In a story where hyperlight travel, and the main character’s unique abilities in regards to it, are major plot points, a detailed discussion is warranted and (in our humble opinion), this is best done sooner rather than later.
Waiting until a later book and then having to suddenly hit the brakes to explain things because “Oh, we haven’t told you how this works yet?” strikes us as being potentially awkward. (Do you really want to interrupt a tense battle scene to describe the operation of CIC or the organization and subordination of the bridge personnel? I think not.)
Better to build up the reader’s familiarity with the universe in the beginning, so they know what the ‘rules’ are up front (avoiding the x-ray laser problem), and so the arc can progress more quickly and smoothly towards that end, without repeated technical interludes getting in the way.
Of course, this means that a reader jumping into the series in the middle might find themselves lost on certain points, but that is a another tradeoff, outside this discussion.
As MWB is the second book in the series, and the first ‘major’ one (Alecto might be thought of as the appetizer), we’ve elected to do most of our universe building here. So things tend to get more infodump-ish. In parts, we have elected to err on the side of ‘over-writing’ the draft rather than ‘under-writing’ it, as it seems better to present our esteemed beta readers with too much info, and on review trim it, than give them too little and leave holes.
That, at least, is the spirit of these chapters. You have been forewarned. And, hey! you got an infodump on infodumps out of it, too!