This post is cross-posted from ForgottenStars.net, and slightly spoilery for the book.
So, where exactly did I get the idea for Stardancer? Easy answer. I got it from a lot of places.
(This is long, but I hope it’s at least a little interesting!)
Like many a writer, my first efforts at fiction writing were fanfiction — Star Wars fanfiction, specifically. I suppose that’s not terribly surprising, huh? Fanfic has been the starting point for many a writer, and Star Wars was one of the biggies.
Now, when I was writing Star Wars fanfic, I wasn’t writing original stories in that universe. Instead I took the basic thrust of the Original Trilogy’s story and rewrote it, with “new” characters and some plot twists along the way. I changed Luke Skywalker from a farmboy to a competitive pilot. My Han Solo character acted the part of a cynical space-rogue, but that was just a front for his own revolutionary activities. Princess Leia? Well, she was the voluptuous space pirate who ended up being a part of the good guys. And instead of rebels versus a Galactic Empire, I had the galaxy basically divided into two “countries”, a democratic republic and a harsh Empire. These two entities had been at war for decades, and now it was coming to a violent head.
I kept some other stuff, of course. I had an Emperor and his Vader figure, although I played up the angle in the Original Trilogy of Darth Vader wanting to kill the Emperor and take over. The thrust of my Episode One (which coincided with Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope) was the necessity of destroying my Empire’s new superweapon; in my Episode II, the freshly defeated Empire — well, it struck back. And so on.
I finished my own version of the Star Wars trilogy, in the first year or two after I graduated college. Then, I started working on the first draft ever of my Arthurian novel, The Promised King (and let me tell you, that draft was an embarrassing mess). I thought I was done with Star Wars fanfic, but I found myself sucked back in, around the time The Phantom Menace came out. Now I was wanting to continue on — but not, as George Lucas was doing, by going backwards; I wanted to write what would have been a putative Star Wars Episode VII.
I did start that project, but I never finished it, choosing instead to eventually leave fanfic behind for good, as I started working on that Arthurian novel a lot and writing short fiction for attempted publication. Problem was, my space opera story for my own Episode IV was sticking in my head. The central idea was the discovery of a planet that has been literally sequestered from the rest of the Galaxy for centuries, a planet that was once a part of a vast Empire that has been gone for so long it’s almost completely forgotten — but its descendants are still lurking out there somewhere. I liked that idea, and filed it away in the back of my head. I knew I’d get back to that strange planet, whose inhabitants were forbidden to travel to the stars, but I knew it wasn’t going to be my re-worked Luke, Han, and Leia who went there.
So who would?
I had no idea.
I wasn’t worried about it. I wasn’t even consciously thinking about this, much. When I get ideas, I almost never jump on them as soon as they pop into my head. I let them marinate a bit. Or percolate. Or simmer for years and years and years — and I’m not kidding about that. This whole thought process, beginning with this little lost planet? That’s from 1999 or 2000. A long way back.
Meanwhile, at some point in 2001, I got a movie on a VHS tape that I had heard was very good, an animated film from Japan that would be suitable for The Daughter, was was only 2 at the time. The film? Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro.
If you’ve seen that film, you know that it’s about two young sisters, one of whom is roughly 13 or 14 and the other of whom is around 6 or 7. They move with their father to a small village, out near a hospital where their mother has had an extended stay, and here they have adventures, some of which are supernatural and involve the giant furry beast who lives in the nearby enormous tree. (Yes, it sounds heavier and more depressing here than it really is — the film is utterly delightful and magical and you should see it if you haven’t.)
I didn’t watch My Neighbor Totoro and immediately conclude that I should have two sisters go to my little lost planet. But that notion came along not very long after I saw the movie, and it’s clear to me that this is where that part of the puzzle came from. Now, I did make my two Princesses older than the ones in the film, but I liked the idea of the dynamic between two sisters. Brother-and-sister has been done a lot, but sister-and-sister, not quite so much.
From there, it sat in my mind. For years. I wrote a couple of pages, over ten years ago, just to see what it might feel like. I considered serializing the story online, in blog form, writing one chapter at a time. I kicked around a lot of options, through the last half of the 2000s, always kicking this idea of these two Princesses (because obviously they were Princesses!) and the odd planet they found, but never quite getting ’round to writing it.
I’m not sure what I was waiting for, but finally, sometime in 2011, I decided that it was time to stop waiting for the story to be “ready”. There is never a “ready”, when it comes to stories. I believed in this idea, more than any other I had (and I have quite a few), and I wanted to write it, more than any other. The question was, What was I waiting for?
And thus, it was off to the races.
Three years later, here we are!