Written by Warren Hammond
Pick a random science fiction book from the shelf and you’ll likely be swept away by a swashbuckling hero battling for the fate of the universe. Or perhaps you’ll find yourself enthralled by epic clashes of cultures and civilizations. Another dazzling possibility is you’ll get your mind blown by technologies so powerful that they will instantly revolutionize our societies for better or worse.
Science fiction is a genre of big stakes and big ideas.
Therefore the starring roles in most SF stories go to the history-makers. SF protagonists are usually the most consequential individuals in the author’s broad universe. It’s a top-down approach that has kept me coming back story after story, year after year.
But human progress has always come in fits and starts. Progress is a force of nature. Like a volcano, it can go dormant for centuries before spewing massive flurries of innovation. Like a large-scale tornado, it can be fickle, choosing to erase one civilization from the map but leaving the next completely untouched. Progress benefits some but destroys others. What of the people and cultures who draw the unlucky straws of history?
With some notable exceptions, these people tend to be forgotten in science fiction. But it’s their stories that interest me most, and the KOP series is one of those stories.
Planet Lagarto is a failed colony loosely based on the Congo of the early 1900s. Like the Congo, Lagarto was colonized to reach a valuable resource hidden deep in its jungles, a unique fruit that makes an especially intoxicating brandy. But like the Congo’s rubber trade, Lagarto’s big-money market only lasted as long as it took for others to begin producing their own fruit.
When the collapse came, Lagarto’s economy was hollowed to nothing and its empty husk was dumped onto the scrap heap of history. Now Lagarto is a world so corrupted by poverty and perpetual desperation it can never be redeemed. What better place for a hard-as-nails cop story?
Juno Mozambe is a fitting hero for such a world. He is a man with so many bad deeds to his name that redemption is but a pipe dream. A former cop, he was the dirtiest of the dirty. A ruthless enforcer with a mean streak who is now bent on reclaiming the police force he once dominated.
I often get asked what’s wrong with me. Seriously. What happened to me as a child? Why would I make a world so dark and bleak as Lagarto?
My only answer is because I wanted a canvas so black that even the tiniest speck of light would shine like the sun.
Because the people of Lagarto still have hope. Even on this most neglected and abused world, hope still burns. And hope even burns inside the armor-plated heart of a man so jaded by decades of violence that he can no longer tell the difference between right and wrong. Go visit Africa today, and you’ll find that same hopeful spirit in so many people despite a lifetime of drawing the short straw.
For me, there’s nothing more beautiful.
From the Tor/Forge June newsletter. Sign up to receive our newsletter via email.
More from the June Tor/Forge newsletter:
- Journey to Planet JoCo: “Todd the T1000” with John Scalzi and Jonathan Coulton
- Werewolf Anthropology by Rhiannon Held
- It’s a Character Thing by J. A. Pitts
- Exploiting the Multiverse for Fun and Profit by Paul Melko
- Summer Manga Sweepstakes