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Sci-fi optimist K.B. Wagers writes diverse empires in space

Space for multitudes


K.B. Wagers didn't want another white protagonist. - COURTESY DON BRANUM
  • Courtesy Don Branum
  • K.B. Wagers didn't want another white protagonist.

For all its comparisons to Star Wars, there's one major difference in her Indranan War space opera trilogy that local author K.B. Wagers notes: "I'm a really big proponent of writing inclusive books. I didn't want to write another story with another white protagonist."

As much as the public might love characters like Rey, she says, "you're still only kind of inching closer to the diversity that's necessary. When you look out at humanity moving out into the stars, the question would be why is it always Americans that end up out in space, when realistically if you're talking about moving off of Earth, the Chinese and the Indians are going to be the ones who are really going to want to be pushing this because they're going to need the space... We don't really think about that in the U.S."

In Behind the Throne, the first of the trilogy (published by Orbit in August 2015) and her prodigal-daughter-returns story, said protagonist is Hailimi (Hail) Bristol. The book opens as a pair of Imperial Trackers drags the runaway-turned-gunrunner to her home planet of Pashati, part of an empire ruled by women with Hail's mother as Majesty. But of course, little is as it seems, and as Hail's reasons for originally escaping become more clear, so does her understanding of why her royal family needs her now.

After the Crown, the trilogy's second title, due out Dec. 13, picks up almost immediately after the end of Behind the Throne, and follows Hail as she attempts to fulfill her role as heir and keep the Indranan Empire from the brink of war.

Wagers says she tries to keep in mind that when writing science fiction, especially far-reaching science fiction, there's a culture gap. The author needs to make the culture familiar enough to the audience to make the story relatable, even if it's a culture that has been settled on another world for, in Wagers' case, more than three millennia. (The narrative reads as about five or six thousand Earth years from today.)

But it's a gap that writers can use to make an impact.

"This is the starry-eyed optimism of science fiction writers, where we're like... 'Can we not have to deal with some of the stupid racism and homophobia and things like that?'" she says. "I wanted to take those kinds of issues that are issues in our world today and make them so commonplace that nobody's got an issue with it. Nobody's actually saying anything about it because it's something that's just been going on for so long."

For an author who wants better for those who do struggle as a result of our world's repressive isms, the results of the 2016 presidential election were challenging. But Wagers was on a Dec. 1 deadline for the final book in her trilogy, Beyond the Empire (due out December 2017). So she targeted her frustrations in a way only an author can.

"When I started [writing] again, I started killing people off."

She laughs, then adds, "I can't blame it all on the election. There had been a very intentional death there that had been planned since about Page 3."

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