Sam Peters writes on his thrilling debut, FROM DARKEST SKIES
I’m Sam Peters. I write stories. I remember as a kid how my parents rather frowned on how much time I spent playing video games. Now I’m in their shoes and do a fair bit of frowning too, but there’s a part of me that begs for the day when I get paid to play video games just I can mentally go back in time and go ‘Ha! See!’ I don’t think that day’s ever likely to come but I reckon writing stories is the next best thing.
From Darkest Skies started life a long long time ago as a table-top roleplaying game. It was the late 90s and I was a big fan of Babylon Five and the X-Files so I figured – why not have a game that tries to mix both? We designed the world together – something that I think invested all of us in the stories that followed – and I set up the history with the mysterious aliens. In the original version, that history was somewhat different, but there was always a sense that the aliens left by choice rather than force and no-one quite knew why or where they went. It was, for a while, possibly the best game I ever created.
The game came and went as games are wont to do. Players came and went and it slowly lost that early magic. We moved on to other things but I never threw away the notes. Having been spawned from a game played in few-hour weekly sessions there was an episodic sense to the plot that led me to try and write it as a serialised e-book. I wrote a sample episode but I couldn’t get anyone interested in the project. It petered out again. And that’s probably as well because back then there was a plot and a world but the heart of the story didn’t exist.
That heart turned out to be Liss, the artificial intelligence that lies at the core of From Darkest Skies. Liss is Keon’s recreation of his dead wife Alysha (Keon being the protagonist of the story). The plot shifted to revolve around Keon’s quest to discover why Alysha died and who was responsible; but as I wrote it I found that even that wasn’t what the story was really about. Turned out to be about grief and loss and love and letting go and memory and whether the versions of people we create in our heads are really the people they actually are. It’s about the trap Keon has made for both him and Liss: for Keon the trap is that Liss is too close to the original Alysha for him to ever let go and move on and yet she’s too – for want of a better word – artificial. Liss’s trap is that she sees this perfectly. She loves Keon with all her artificial heart because that’s the way she’s made. She knows she can never be Alysha and so the best thing she can do for Keon is to disappear; but what’s the best thing she can do for her?
There’s a murder mystery and a conspiracy and a dangerous and hostile alien world and a touch of the cyberpunks too but it was that trap that made From Darkest Skies so fascinating to write.