Oct 01

2018

Author Interview: M. Darusha Wehm, “The Martian Job”

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (0)

Welcome to Mars, where one last safecracking job could nab you enough platinum to last a lifetime. But how will you pull off your heist? Do you hack into the vault, blast your way in, or finesse the locks? Can you trust your misfit team of grifters and con artists? Can they trust you? The Martian Job is a 160,000 word interactive novel by M. Darusha Wehm. We sat down to talk about the Red Planet and its literary influence. The Martian Job releases this Thursday, October 4th. 

Tell me a little bit about the kind of Mars colony this game is set in.

I took a lot of inspiration from the company towns of mining operations—where the corporation runs everything from the tavern to the bookstore. I wanted it to be a little friendlier than historical company towns really are, though. I tried to create a colony that was clearly in the early days, but not a horrible place to live and work.

The Martian Job is an incredibly fun heist game, but I can’t read anything about Mars without thinking of its literary history: the Barsoom series, War of the Worlds, The Martian Chronicles. How does it feel to enter into a particular literary canon, and what literary influences were you working from in this, if any?

There is something about Mars as the quintessential next planet for humans to make our home that is so compelling for science fiction. Mars shows up in so many stories, because I think it’s really captured the imagination of anyone who wants to think about the possibilities of humans being a multi-planet species.

The game is full of little Easter Eggs referring to other stories about Mars—from Burroughs to the Golden Age up through to contemporary work. Some are obvious but others are a bit more challenging to spot. It was super fun figuring out how to work them all in!

Choice of Games actually hasn’t released as much “hard sci-fi” as one might expect, though I felt The Martian Job also straddled action and urban in terms of genre. And you write quite a bit of speculative fiction as well. Talk a little about genre.

Genre can mean so many different things—is it setting, or plot, or tone? Is it all of those in varying degrees? Most stories have aspects of multiple genres—even realist fiction can have romance, adventure, and mystery elements all in the same family drama. I really wanted to bring that fusion of both tone and plot to The Martian Job. There are political sci fi plot paths to follow as well as the classic heist/adventure story. There are redemption arcs, descents into embracing moral ambiguity, power plays, and finding community.

What were the challenges you found in plotting for interactive fiction?

I really enjoyed following the different possible paths the protagonist could take. For me, the hardest part was not being able to have a single personality to work with, and make sure that the plots made sense and were believable whichever kind of character the player chooses to create.

How does The Martian Job measure up to your plain prose fiction and poetry?

I think fans of my other books will find a lot of familiarity here, although some of the choices you can make are not what most of my typical protagonists would do. The Martian Job is definitely at the fun, easy-read end of my spectrum.

What are you working on next?

I have a new science fiction novel coming out in December. It’s called The Voyage of the White Cloud, and it’s a novel-in-stories set aboard a generation starship that tells the tales of everyday people living in the middle years of a thousand year journey.

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