(All images in this post are *unauthorized* dramatic re-creations from our novella “The Mona Lisa,” with the spaceship played by a model given to Ann and me by a Romania friend. These images do not in any way represent screen shots from any new or future version of Halo, okay dude?)
UPDATE: Tessa’s version of events, which involves a lot more swearing…
Thereâ€™s nothing like a little challenge to roil the blood and take over your life for a couple of months—all while not being able to say much of anything about it publicly, but, finally, I can announce that: Tessa Kum and I have sold a monstrous, kick-ass, action-packed, insanely entertaining 35,000-word novella entitled “The Mona Lisa” to Tor editor Eric Raab for the anthology Halo: Evolutions–Essential Tales of the Halo Universe. Other contributors include Tobias Buckell, Brian Evenson, Karen Traviss, and Eric Nylund. Halo: Evolutions should be available in bookstores by November-December.
Our story is set in the period between Halo 1 and Halo 2, in the Soell System, amid the debris field now circling the gas giant Threshold. The Prowler Red Horse is on a recon mission that largely consists of salvage. As the story opens, they’ve just brought a strange civilian escape pod on board the ship. For once, there are signs of life, and Sergeant Zhao Heng Lopez and her team are waiting for the engineers to get the pod open, unsure of what it might hold. What they find inside eventually leads them to [REDACTED---CLASSIFIED], which might hold the secret to [REDACTED---CLASSIFIED] and [REDACTED---CLASSIFIED] with ice cream and a thick [REDACTED---CLASSIFIED] that’s [REDACTED---CLASSIFIED] in the hold, after a flash of earlobe.
One thing we wanted to do was break with tradition, so our two main characters are women: Sergeant Zhao Heng Lopez and medic Benti. Other prominent characters include the Prowler’s commander, Foucault, his AI Rebecca, the pilot of a Pelican named Burgundy, a slew of marines, and, erm, someone wielding a cricket bat. Yes, you heard correctly. A cricket bat. How’d that sneak in there? The Aussie influence from Tessa, my partner in crime on this Bataan Death March of an experience. (Me: “Wanna collaborate on a Halo story, â€˜cause Iâ€™m in over my head?” Tessa: “Hell yeah!” Two months later: “I’m gonna die if I read this again,” “Where the hell am I again? My brain doesn’t work anymore.” Ann: “Jeff, I’m sick of this *#(!&)@ process, too.”)
As readers of this blog know, I am indeed all about process, so below the cut you’ll find some insight into the story behind the story, for anyone who’s interested. (I’m sure Tessa or Ann will correct me if I get anything wrong!)