Writing Halo and Science Fiction

By Greg Bear

There are lots of reasons for me to love science fiction. I grew up on sf—books, comic books, TV, movies—and very quickly decided I wanted to write it. I also wanted to create special effects, a la Ray Harryhausen, and later Star Trek and 2001: A Space Odyssey. The genre—if it is a genre—expanded my brain, challenged my prejudices and the prejudices of my culture, and drew me time and again back to the sciences. To this day, pulling me into a conversation about an idea—any idea—elicits this rambling mental journey back through science, books, movies, artistic visions. There’s no easy way to separate them in my head.

Being given the opportunity to work in the Halo® universe is like a homecoming. So many science fictional ideas find an honored place in the Halo games, from Larry Niven’s Ringworld to Heinlein’s Starship Troopers to the cosmic expansiveness of Edward E. Smith and Olaf Stapledon. By the time we’re discussing the Forerunners, we’re in Arthur C. Clarke territory. And I love all of these authors.

But there are other aspects to the Halo Saga. The mythic angle cannot be avoided. We’re talking about human origins, cosmic cataclysm, monstrous transformation—genocide, biocide. The troubled histories of many ancient gods come to mind.

Why weigh down what is in essence an entertaining adventure and action game with all this freight of history and myth? One reason only: because it’s fun. It stretches our thinking. We play in these fabulous environments and ask how they came to be; our questions generate more questions. Storytelling is the best way to explore those questions and perhaps lay down some answers.

But because many, many people contribute to the Halo universe—the creators at Bungie, the current creators and guardians at 343, and the many fans and players themselves—playing around in Halo must be a group effort.

And that’s the other benefit of loving science fiction—the great sense of community, of shared questions, of a shared adventure in exploration and discovery. The science fiction community took me in as a teenager, gave me opportunities, exposed me to new ways of thinking about art and literature. The Halo community is part of that outreach.

I hope Halo: Cryptum and the next two novels in the Forerunner Saga will engage you as well. Whether or not you’ve actually played Halo, if you love science fiction as I do, I hope you’ll find yourself in familiar territory—that is, lost in a profound sense of wonder.

We’re all players here; and the players create new ground, and new stories, every day.

Greg Bear is the author of Halo: Cryptum (0-7653-2396-6; $24.99 / $28.99 CAN), the first book in the Forerunner Saga.  This trilogy of novels, based on the hugely successful Halo® videogames franchise for the Xbox 360, tells of events that took place thousands of years before those that occur in the games.

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