Sep 04


Author Interview: Paul Wang, “Choice of Broadsides: HMS Foraker”

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (0)

Command a royal warship and destroy your enemies at sea! As a veteran navy captain in the world of Choice of Broadsides, you’ll fend off smugglers, slavers, and foes of the crown to seize your place in history. Choice of Broadsides: HMS Foraker is an 85,000 word interactive novel by Paul Wang. I sat down with Paul to talk about writing it, the nature of fic, and what he’s working on next. Choice of Broadsides: HMS Foraker releases this Thursday, September 6th. 

You’re one of the most prolific Hosted Games and Choice of Games authors in our stable of writers. How did Foraker come about?

Initially, Foraker was supposed to be sort of a palate cleanser before going into Lords of Infinity. There were a few systems I wanted to test out on a smaller scale before I committed to implementing them in a larger project. Likewise, I wanted to get back into the saddle when it came to writing in the particular style of the Dragoon Saga, as opposed to my other work in The Cryptkeepers of Hallowford and Burden of Command. I figured a relatively small self-contained title would be just the sort of thing I needed to shift gears.

I also really, really like Choice of Broadsides, and I’ve been wanting to write a story in its setting for years now.

What drew you to write,  essentially, Choice of Broadsides fic? Is that an unfair characterization of Foraker? If so, why? Show your work. 

Choice of Broadsides fic” is absolutely how I’d characterise Foraker, and it’s more or less how I’ve always envisioned it. When I started writing, I didn’t really have any pretensions that it would get an official release or be adopted into Broadsides “canon”, so it’s a real honor to be given that official recognition.

If anything, I’d take Foraker being thought of as “Broadsides fic” as a compliment, doubly so if it ends up being thought of as “really good Broadsides fic”.

I think much to the disappointment of many, publishing this was the kind of thing we’d do only with someone like yourself. I.e., I think we have no plans to accept submissions for addendums/sequels/in-world adjuncts to others of our games. But of course, you’re mister alt/low-fantasy historical-ish military genre. So this is your wheelhouse. How fun was it to be inhabiting the world of Broadsides, as a writer?

Choice of Broadsides was the first Choice of Games title I ever played, all the way back in 2011 or so. It’s what more or less convinced me that writing interactive fiction was a thing that I could do, though not necessarily as a day job (that came later). It’s been a huge influence on me as an IF writer. I even originally envisioned Sabres of Infinity as “Sharpe to Broadsides‘ Hornblower”, so actually being able to play around in this setting is a huge thrill.

That being said, I’m highly conscious of the fact that this isn’t my setting. I’ve tried to avoid taking particularly egregious liberties with what’s been established, which is why Foraker is set in one of the “gaps” which Broadsides mostly left empty. Even so, I’ve had a blast filling in that gap in the same “historical roman a clef” style of the original, though I’ve probably gone into quite a bit more detail with my references.

The main thing I chose to iterate on from Broadsides was the focus of the story. Broadsides follows an officer from before their examination for Lieutenant all the way up to taking command of a frigate and in my opinion, it ends just as it starts getting good. Frigate command is probably the most storied and exciting part of a naval officer’s career in the age of sail. Beforehand, they may be the Commander of an undergunned sloop or a Lieutenant under another Captain. Afterwards, they’ll command a big lumbering ship of the line, shackled to blockade duty or acting under the constant watchful eye of an admiral. A frigate is fast enough to get into trouble and heavily-armed enough to shoot its way out. Forester first introduced Hornblower as the captain of a frigate. O’Brian’s Jack Aubrey commands the frigate HMS Surprise through most of his series.

Foraker places the player in much the same position they left Broadsides, in command of a frigate on independent duties, far away from the oversight of an admiral or the drudgery of blockade duty. Command of a frigate not only means control of a powerful fleet unit, but also serving as absolute dictator of a community of hundreds, who must maintain discipline and morale. A Captain must also lead that community into life and death struggles against similar floating communities. In that sense, Foraker is the equivalent of appending a chapter onto the end of Broadsides, and expanding that chapter into a whole story.

Still, it wouldn’t feel right to me to write a direct sequel or anything like that, not just because I’d be overriding Broadsides‘ original ending, but also because I’d be muddying the waters if Broadsides‘ original authors ever decide to do a sequel themselves. Which is part of the reason why the story is both geographically and chronologically removed from the original.

Everyone wants to know what you’re working on next.

I’ve still got some work for Burden of Command left, but I’ve been working on the systems and mechanics for Lords of Infinity for the past few months, and I look forward to starting the actual writing work for it soon.

Is it “Damn, the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” or “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”

Long Answer: There are something like half a dozen different conflicting accounts by half a dozen witnesses. While the sentiment of the original quote is probably accurate, the actual words have probably been lost to time.

Short Answer: “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!”

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