Jack Campbell is the author of the “The Lost Fleet” series of space-based military science fiction and now the graphic novel continuation of his work is out thanks to Titan Comics. We had a moment to virtually sit down with the author and pick his brain as to the nature of his work here!
Science Fiction (SF): First I have to ask, how was the experience of writing a graphic novel of your work compared to putting together the previous novels?
Jack Campbell (JC): It’s a different way of telling a story. A regular print story depends on words to “illustrate” events and places and people, but the graphic novel presents those things right up front. On the other hand, compared to a print story there’s very little room for dialogue. Everyone has to say only the most important things, and say them in as few words as possible. The action itself flows by use of images, but the images are sort of a freeze-frame depiction of what’s happening since this is a graphic novel rather than a movie or other video. Writing a graphic novel requires thinking through the action and deciding where to “pause” for each panel to both keep the action moving and convey the bigger picture of the flow of events. I also had to compress the space battle actions since the time those took wouldn’t fit in the graphic format.
SF: How was working with artists Andre Siregar and Sebastian Cheng in bringing your words to life?
JC: It was fun and interesting to see how they’d interpret things from the story, give them my feedback, and then see the results. I don’t often provide in-depth visual detail about anything, leaving much of that up to the imagination of the reader, but of course in a graphic format the artists have to fill in those gaps and show what they see. I did give them a hard time with some of my demands, such as that spaceship formations be shown as three-dimensional rather than flat. But realism like that is a hallmark of the Lost Fleet universe, so we did our best to make it happen.
SF: Did you sneak any Easter Eggs into the books for fans of your series?
JC: A few! Lieutenant Bailey has green hair, which will tell fans of the series that she’s from the same world as Lieutenant Jamenson (and Freya Morgan from Vanguard and Ascendant in the Genesis Fleet books). There are some rough visual depictions of battles from the series, and a flashback from Steadfast set on Old Earth which shows Black Jack and Tanya at Stonehenge. And of course a look at the Dancers (also known as Spider-wolves), the only alien species that has yet shown any interest in being friends with humanity.
SF: What was the most interesting and surprising parts on bringing this tale to print?
JC: As mentioned above, the graphic format is a different way of telling the story. That led to a steep learning curve for me. Fortunately, I received invaluable help from my editor for the comics (John Freeman). The art of integrating the images in the panel with the flow of the story, so the eyes are naturally led to the next panel, is amazing when done right. As with anything else, having to do it yourself makes obvious all of the things that you just took for granted when someone else did the work and all you saw was the final product. That and I had the opportunity to meet another community of creators, the artists and editors and writers who bring comics and graphic novels to life. That alone was a marvelous outcome!
SF: Was this story a one off or might we be seeing more comics set in the Universe which you’ve created down the line?
JC: At this point, that’s going to be up to the publisher. If they opt to continue on, Corsair leads into a second series. I’m open to it, so I’m hoping the sales of Corsair are good enough to continue the story now. If not, I can always bring it to life later on.
SF: “The Lost Fleet” has become an extensive universe by this point, how do you keep track of all the continuity which takes place in your work?
JC: A lot of that rests in my head, though I do have various lists and files. I learned early on that I needed to keep a physical list of ship losses to keep track of them, and we started adding in lists of the major ships in the fleet to the books so that readers as well as myself could keep track of that. Each book always has a file from the publisher for the copy-editor that lays out essential information, so that’s helpful as well. There have been some very nice star charts made by fans, such as the original that appears in the Titan editions of the Lost Fleet novels. But mostly, for better of for worse, it’s in my head. If I mess up, I can certain that readers will spot it and call me on it, so I do my best to keep the continuity error free.
SF: Will there be a chance that “The Lost Stars” could see their way into comics as well?
JC: That again is up to the publisher! The follow-on to Corsair leads directly into Lost Stars territory. There’s a natural fit between the story-line of Corsair and the Lost Stars, so when Titan asked if I could lead things in that direction it was something I could manage.
SF: If any of your books ever made their way onto the small or big screen, who would your dream actor(s) be for the adaptation?
JC: I’ve only settled on a few dream castings for the Lost Fleet books. Katee Sackhoff as Tanya Desjani, Antonio Banderas as Duellos, Taraji P. Hensen as Captain Cresida, Michelle Rodriguez as Colonel Carabali, Robert Downey Jr. as Captain Falco. I’ve never been able to decide on anyone for Black Jack Geary or for Victoria Rione.
SF: Do you have anything else in the works for “The Lost Fleet” which you could share with us?
JC: In May, the second book in the Genesis Fleet trilogy (Ascendant) will come out. Ascendant continues the story of how the Alliance first began, and the roles played in that by ancestors of some of the characters in the later Lost Fleet books. Right now I’m working in the third book in that trilogy (Triumphant). After that, I plan to return to the Lost Fleet storyline, picking up after the events in Leviathan.
SF: Thank you for your time today Jack! Are there any final thoughts that you’d like to share with our readers today?
JC: Thank you to all readers! A writer is nothing without readers, and I’m still amazed to see people enjoying my work. I hope I never lose sight of how special that is. And I hope readers enjoy Corsair as much as they have my novels and short stories!