Twilight Imperium: The Stars Beyond edited by Charlotte Llewelyn-Wells

The Stars Beyond Discovered!

2022 marks the 25th anniversary of Twilight Imperium. For the entire year of 2022, FFG will celebrate this beloved franchise. As part of this celebration, we are publishing our first Twilight Imperium anthology, The Stars Beyond.

Twilight Imperium: The Stars Beyond edited by Charlotte Llewelyn-Wells

The anthology comprises of 6 epic Sci-Fi stories by talented writers from across the tie-in fiction universe. We took a few moments to sit down with each of them and get the low-down on the stories and find out a bit more about the authors too.

The Fifth Stage, by Alex Acks

First, tell us a little bit about yourself…

Well, I’ve written for Six to Start and Activision-Blizzard, and published over 30 short stories. I live in Denver (where they bicycle and twirl their ever-so-dapper mustache) with my two furry little jerks.

Aconyte: Give us the elevator pitch for your short story

Alex: A minor human diplomat still mourning the loss of her fiance tries to open negotiations with the mysterious Arborec, only to discover the lost love of her life may still live on in a form she doesn’t understand.

A: Who was your favourite character to write about and why?

AA: The story is focused very tightly on Kyona the diplomat, because it’s very personal to her. I got to do a lot of deep emotional character work on her, and that is always my favorite thing.

A: What is your experience with the game?

One of my friends has a tradition where we all get together on his birthday and play Twilight Imperium all day. We even flew out to do this with him when he was living in California to finish his doctorate. So I’ve played the game once or twice a year for many years… and this year, I finally grasped the strategy well enough that I won! I was playing the Titans of Ul.

A: Were there any specific stories, authors, or non-literary influences for the story?

AA: I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately about the process of grieving and letting go, which was really what made me want to write that particular story.

A: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

AA: I’m a pretty workaday writer, as these things go. The main way I get story processing in my brain is to read a bunch and then do everything but write for a while–I particularly like going for long bike rides while I just mull over things. And then eventually, it’ll all fall together in my head, I’ll rush home, and then I’ll drink about a thousand cups of milky black tea while I’m actually getting it written all down.

Contact, by Danie Ware

First, tell us a little bit about yourself…

I’m a bookseller, crusader geek, veteran gamer, and author of the Ecko trilogy (a sardonic CyberPunk/Fantasy mashup) and Children of Artifice (an LGBT science fantasy). I also write Sisters of Battle for the Black Library and Judge Anderson for Rebellion. I am also a champion plate spinner, role-player, re-enactor, cat-lover, and fitness freak.

Aconyte: Give us the elevator pitch for your short story

Danie: Yssaril spy uncovers a devious plot, but how deep does it really go – and can she stop it in time to save the galaxy?

A: Who was your favourite character to write about and why?

D: Honestly, I liked all three of the main characters. There’s a certain charm to a classic villain, and the Letnev backdrop provided a wonderful opportunity to go to town with illustrating Viesniel properly, shiny boots and all. I liked the Winnu Ambassador because he was complex, with layers to both his personality and storyline – he goes through quite a dramatic character arc. I think I liked the Yssaril best, though, as she gave me the chance to rediscover a narrative skill set that I know very, very well. It’s been a while since I got to use it, but it fitted like an old pair of shoes.

A: What is your experience with the game?

D: I’ve not played the game, so the background to this was the first time I’d encountered the Twilight Imperium. Found it absolutely fascinating, though, so will be going on my Christmas list and I’m definitely looking forward to playing it for real!

A: Were there any specific stories, authors, or non-literary influences for the story?

D: I read Tim Pratt’s Necropolis Empire and Fractured Void, which were great stories, and very good for background and visualization – particularly for the Letnev and their world, and for the Yssaril, who was a wonderful character. Weirdly, though, the greatest influence was my own (am I allowed to say that?) because Za, my Yssaril spy, was <exactly> like a sane and stable version of Ecko – her innate abilities and skill set were completely familiar, things I know as well as I do breathing. The wealth of background info was amazing, as well – really brought everything to life.

A: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

D: Wait, we have quirks? My writing tends to be quite emotionally driven – which makes me much more of a pantser (things have to ‘feel right’) and lends itself to writing strongly defined characters with a lot of tension and interplay and/or a lot of butt-kicking combat. For this story, the strongly defined characters (and the tension) definitely stayed, but the narrative was quite political, and hence had to be very carefully structured. A new experience, but a very good one – and was delighted with how it turned out!

A Ghost of a Chance, by M Darusha Wehm

First, tell us a little bit about yourself…

I am a Nebula Award-nominated and Sir Julius Vogel Award-winning author of the interactive fiction game The Martian Job, several SF novels, and the Andersson Dexter cyberpunk detective series. I have also written the Devi Jones: Locker YA series, and the coming-of-age novel The Home for Wayward Parrots. I live in New Zealand after spending several years sailing the Pacific.

Aconyte: Give us the elevator pitch for your short story

Darusha: On a potentially lucrative expedition, captain Khu’bin of the Mentak freighter Entropic decides to take a shortcut through mysterious and often deadly Shaleri space. The ship is met by three vessels of unknown origin, and Khu’bin must negotiate passage with the strangers. Khu’bin’s formidable experience as a pirate has not prepared her for first contact with an utterly incomprehensible new race, and her attempts to appease the blockade are met with hostility. After a brief but intense battle, her ship and all its crew are destroyed in an uncanny flash of eerie blue light. Then, impossibly, the encounter begins again. How many times must Khu’bin and her entire crew of 108 souls perish before she manages to appease the Ghosts of Creuss, or will they be trapped in a never-ending cycle of death forever?

A: Who was your favourite character to write about and why?

D: I loved Captain Khu’Bin, but my favourite was the Creuss, Sei Hiamaeli. I really like writing characters who think differently than humans do, and it’s so much fun to try to create a character who is truly alien but also relatable.

A: What is your experience with the game?

D: I have never played! But I really enjoyed the novels The Fractured Void and The Necropolis Empire by Tim Pratt.

A: Were there any specific stories, authors, or non-literary influences for the story?

D: I’m a big fan of time loop stories, so it was fun to create one of my own. The story is basically Groundhog Day for space pirates, and I also drew from all the excellent tales of found families on ships from both science fiction and sea stories.

A: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

D: I like to put little Easter eggs in everything I write that are only meant to be inside jokes for myself. In this story, there is an obscure reference to a Leonard Cohen song. There’s a virtual cookie for anyone who finds it!

Shield of the Reef, by Robbie MacNiven

First, tell us a little bit about yourself…

I’m a sci-fi and fantasy author and a military historian, originally from the highlands of Scotland. While I’ve written a lot of different stuff (X-Men, Warhammer 40,000, Descent), Twilight Imperium has been my latest project and a very enjoyable one at that!  

Aconyte: Give us the elevator pitch for your short story

Robbie: A human bounty hunter named Lyra returns to the Soldar Reef, the little corner of the galaxy she calls home, only to find it much changed. A conspiracy is at hand involving the Sol Federation and the champion who usually protects her homeworld, known as the Shield of the Reef. If left unchecked, the diabolical evil could threaten not only her family but the very existence of everything she has come back to. 

A: Who was your favourite character to write about and why?

R: The Saar, Pelt. He’s delightfully irreverent, a little bit of an ass. Fun to write, but he’d be insufferable to know in real life.

A: What is your experience with the game?

R: I played the game a few times while I was at university. It has this really grand sweep that makes you feel like you’re part of galactic events, and it made me really want to explore more of the background behind it, so to actually get to write fiction in the setting is amazing! 

A: Were there any specific stories, authors, or non-literary influences for the story?

R: Well, I was re-reading Dune at the same time as writing this. This story is quite a bit lighter, but I like to think a tiny bit of the factional politicking that makes Herbert’s books so great rubbed off. 

A: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

R: I’m not sure how interesting it is, but I rarely do much in the way of first-draft edits before I submit my story or novel. One sweep, two at the most. Maybe it leads to loads of typos and my editors hate me for it, but I’m a big believer in momentum while working and not getting bogged down in early rewrites.

First Impressions, by Sarah Cawkwell

First, tell us a little bit about yourself…

I’m a freelance writer based in northeast England. My work for Black Library includes the Silver Skulls novels The Gildar Rift and Portents, and the Architect of Fate novella, Accursed Eternity. I am probably best known for my stories featuring the daemon princess of Khorne, Valkia the Bloody!

Aconyte: Give us the elevator pitch for your short story

Sarah: Two very different races meet for the first time in many years to discuss opening trading relationships. It’s up to a young and enthusiastic Hacan trader to convince the wise and pacifistic Xxcha to open up their borders. Can he begin to make reparation for the deeds of the past?

A: Who was your favourite character to write about and why?

S: Reeth, the young Hacan who leads the delegation to the Xxcha world of Archon Ren. It’s through his eyes we learn the depths of the distrust the Xxcha have for other species. He is young and a little naive, but it’s that innocence that serves him well in this instance. It was nice to write the quickness and restlessness of the Hacan against the methodical ‘plodding’ of the Xxcha.

A: What is your experience with the game?

S: I have been playing Twilight Imperium for a few years now. The last game we played was over the 21/22 New Year and at eight hours in, we still hadn’t finished! Me and my friends are all tabletop roleplayers and when we get into the political phase, we can spend ages just talking in character! It’s a brilliant game which I can’t recommend highly enough.

A: Were there any specific stories, authors, or non-literary influences for the story?

S: Nothing specifically in this instance. Having come from a grimdark sci-fi writing background, it was a refreshing change to have the chance to write something infinitely more optimistic!

A: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

S: I’m not sure it’s interesting, but it’s definitely a quirk… Reading my stories aloud while writing them, particularly dialogue. I like to hear how it sounds out loud and my poor husband, in the other room keeps saying “what did you say?”

Defiler’s Moon, by Tim Pratt

First, tell us a little bit about yourself…

I am a Hugo Award-winning SF and fantasy author of over twenty novels, and scores of short stories. I work for Locus, the magazine of the science fiction and fantasy field, where I currently serve as senior editor.

Aconyte: Give us the elevator pitch for your short story

Tim: Expansionist colonizers from the Barony of Letnev arrive to conquer a lush inhabited moon called Promise… but find out the local Saar population is a lot harder to subjugate than expected

A: Who was your favourite character to write about and why?

T: There are two main characters, the ambitious Letnev admiral Alyce and the untested Saar warrior Rorum, and both were delightful; Rorum is a more complex figure, though, and grows a lot in the course of the novella.

A: What is your experience with the game?

T: Never played it, but after three novels and a novella I’m pretty steeped in the lore!

A: Were there any specific stories, authors, or non-literary influences for the story?

T: There are lots of good stories about overconfident invaders who ultimately get their asses handed to them, from Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters to Return of the Jedi.

A: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

T: I do really fun stuff with point-of-view when I can. The opening line of this story only fully makes sense when you reach the end and it recontextualizes what came before.

 

If you haven’t done so yet you can dive into our Twilight Imperium novels with our first trilogy, The Fractured Void, The Necropolis Empire, and The Veiled Masters, by Tim Pratt

Twilight Imperium: The Fractured Void by Tim PrattTwilight Imperium: The Necropolis Empire by Tim PrattTwilight Imperium: The Veiled Masters by Tim Pratt

Twilight Imperium: The Stars Beyond edited by Charlotte Llewelyn-Wells

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