Essa Hansen is joining us today to talk about her novel, Nophek Gloss. Here’s the publisher’s description:
When a young man’s planet is destroyed, he sets out on a single-minded quest for revenge across the galaxy in Nophek Gloss, the first book in this epic space opera trilogy debut — perfect for fans of Revenger and Children of Time.
Caiden’s planet is destroyed. His family gone. And, his only hope for survival is a crew of misfit aliens and a mysterious ship that seems to have a soul and a universe of its own. Together they will show him that the universe is much bigger, much more advanced, and much more mysterious than Caiden had ever imagined. But the universe hides dangers as well, and soon Caiden has his own plans.
He vows to do anything it takes to get revenge on the slavers who murdered his people and took away his home. To destroy their regime, he must infiltrate and dismantle them from the inside, or die trying.
What’s Essa’s favorite bit?
Many early readers of Nophek Gloss have commented on the scope of my imagination and all the surreal technology, aliens, and environments. I’m very pleased, because crafting a sense of wonder and trying to bring the unknown to life is one of my favorite bits of this novel! I have a visual imagination that’s full of three-dimensional movement and texture, and it’s a challenge—an enjoyable one—to find the word choices and rhythms to evoke that for the reader too.
My young protagonist, Caiden, is thrust from his boring and isolated world into a massive multiverse full of wonders. He experiences the very concept of space for the first time, passes through “rind” membranes between universes of different physical laws, and enters settings packed with countless species. He has to overturn all his ideas of “normal.” If I had created a character who was jaded by the diversity of the multiverse, it would have been harder to rope the reader into this excitement or have such a great excuse to show off.
One of my favorite examples is a late-added chapter in the last half of the book. Caiden has to perform a spacewalk, the first time this has happened in the novel. I realized I hadn’t described space suits yet, and the scene was quiet and tense: the perfect place to put in a new concept, where the reader has room to absorb it.
So, what kind of space suit haven’t I seen before? What is most unlike the classic full body suit with bubble helmet? My brain said: a cloud of particles. Thus the cloudsuit was born. The wearer puts on tight-fit harnessing with small tanks snug against the shoulder blades. When activated, a skin-tight membrane forms between the latticing, covering the entire body and head. Strange gasses puff these particles out until the material is a hazy, translucent aura around the wearer, with an air pocket of oxygen around the face. Weird molecules regulate temperature, radiation, pressure, and atmosphere.
The classic space suit design is tailored to be so very human—and sometimes gendered, as we were reminded during NASA’s March 2020 spacewalk—but a cloudsuit will work for any species. This is perfect in a multiverse full of diverse beings, and I love that this story has nudged me toward thinking outside of my defaults. That is one of the strengths of far-flung science fiction, challenging us to think beyond our assumptions.
There was another fun new concept in this same scene, the goal of the spacewalk. The chapter was added to give our hero an extra action challenge, and “fight a creature” was one idea, because naturally a beast guards the entrance to where the hero needs to go! Except we’re in deep space. What creature could exist? Here my brainstorming starts down a strange trail…a planet-sized creature…maybe it has its own internal ecosystem that generates oxygen, recycles fluids, and so forth, like a terrarium, allowing it to exist in a vacuum. A sort of inside-out planet, with a hard mantle as its skin and all the components for life within. Thus the holobia was born!
One thing I adore about unusual ideas is how much is implied that will never end up on the page but might get the reader’s mind participating in the world. Could sentient species live inside one of these holobia? Would there be an economic reason to colonize or harvest from them? Can they be used as galactic beasts of burden? Could they be pets, and how would that be very cool?
Now that I know my readers love the sense of wonder and weirdness in my fiction, I’m happy to lean into it. What is better than for my favorite bit to be the favorite of my readers as well?
Essa Hansen is an author, swordswoman, and falconer. She is a sound designer for science fiction and fantasy films at Skywalker Sound, with credits in movies such as Doctor Strange and Avengers: Endgame.