Deane Saunders-Stowe has previously worked in architecture, computer-aided design and currently works as a web developer. A self-taught author, he has just published his first novel, Synthesis:Weave – a sci-fi space opera planned as the first in an ongoing series.
When an explosion hits the Tenebrae space station in an apparent terrorist attack, it’s down to IT security specialist Sebastian Thorrson and former marine (and lower limb amputee) Aryx to track down the perpetrators. Their investigation takes them across the galaxy and into encounters with, among others, a semi-invisible comet-dwelling hermit and an unknown alien race with the ability to warp and reshape reality itself…
How would you ‘pitch’ the novel – what can readers expect?
A planet-hopping adventure that blends science fiction and fantasy, but with a physical aspect. My partner and I were chatting one morning and this idea popped into my head – what would happen if magic was real? What would the physics of that be?
My partner Kris has severe osteoarthritis in his knees and is frequently in pain. He’s said that if he could afford it, he’d like to have his legs amputated and wear prosthetics, which prompted me to wonder what it might be like if someone’s prosthetics could take the form of a solid forcefield that could change shape to adapt to particular situations. In lots of sci-fi you have characters with disabilities that have been ‘fixed’ in a way that bypasses the issues their disability would otherwise present. I wanted to create a character, Aryx, who still has some limitations, but also this technology that can be used in lots of different ways.
Had you always planned to feature a disabled character as one of the main protagonists?
I started writing the book after I met Kris, so I’d had these thoughts about the prosthetics from the outset. The way I’ve written it is that Aryx has many daily challenges to overcome, as many disabled people do – albeit on a different scale, given the epic things happening to him. I didn’t want to give him ‘godlike’ abilities, though; he still needs to use a wheelchair in certain situations. I needed a hero that had some difficulty to overcome, which added depth to his character and gave him mechanisms for getting out of certain situations in ways an able-bodied character couldn’t. Aryx doesn’t let anything stop him, though he can be a little too self-sufficient at times, by refusing to accept help.
The publicity material for the novel includes some arresting rock climbing photography – can you expand on this?
They’re inspired from a set piece in the novel, where Aryx lands on a planet in an escape pod and has to climb this massive cliff. I needed some dramatic imagery to help promote the book, so Kris suggested that he go to a climbing centre and scale one of the walls with his wheelchair tethered to his back via a strap. He can use his legs, but bending his knees causes him lots of pain – we secured his legs at an angle so they wouldn’t move, and he climbed the wall using his knees with the wheelchair attached to the back while I took different shots.
It was then a case of spending several hours finding a pose that looked good, cutting him out and applying a Photoshopped background to create a striking picture…
What were your main creative inspirations when writing the novel?
I was inspired by Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and other classic-era science fiction writers. The way I describe things came from them, but I ended up cutting a lot back because it got too wordy – people don’t need scientific concepts explained as much now as they did.
I also love the TV series Babylon 5 and a computer game called Mass Effect, which guided my design for the book’s space station. I wanted a lot of the action to take place in natural scenery, which comes straight from me living in the Forest of Dean. Local place names too; there’s a village I drive past each day called Sollers Hope, which sounds to me like some far-flung mining colony, a last-ditch attempt to make some profit in space!
Having now produced your first novel, what are your future plans?
Synthesis:Weave is going to be an ongoing series – I’ve got at least three books planned, and it may continue beyond those depending on how much life there is in the plot and characters. The first book ends with a few questions left hanging, but it’s fairly rounded in its own right. The second will focus more on Aryx’s situation and some of the issues from Sebastian’s past…