The Voidstrider books are pulp. They’re meant to evoke the same experience as the old stuff, the Lensman books of E.E. Smith for example. (Roger Jon Grey got his name partially from “Gray Roger,” villain of Triplanetary. And that’s one of the dozens upon dozens of easter eggs in the series.)
Those books, if you’ve never read them, are foundational. They’re also dated, tinged with ideas of eugenics (something I plan to reply to eventually in Voidstrider), colored no small amount by misogyny and racism, scientifically implausible, more than a bit lacking in any kind of human personality… But, still, wow. The way the tale expands, with new villains being discovered and the battles getting ever more incredible until you’ve got what are essentially superheroes whacking each other and wiping out solar systems in the process. It’s really something.
I think Neal Asher may be the true heir to Smith in this regard. I haven’t come across anyone else writing about building what’s essentially a gun that shoots a black hole at something. His Rise of the Jain trilogy is a fucking accomplishment.
When I started the series, I was thinking a lot about Doc Smith’s Lensmen. But I was also giving a lot of thought to some other inspirations. I first discovered the Robotech series through the “Jack McKinney” novelizations, and later devoured the show (a college roommate and I binged the series one semester, and had all sorts of weird in-jokes about it). The format of those novelizations really informed the structure for Voidstrider. Roughly 200 pages, you’d blast through one in an afternoon or two.
Another source of inspiration was my lifelong love of comics. Like just about every other kid in the 90s, I got into Marvel’s X-Men — my favorite bits are from Claremont’s lengthy tenure, when the team ventured out into space. Not just the Phoenix saga, but any issues with the Shi’ar and the Brood.
I have also always been a gigantic Fantastic Four fan. (Dan Slott’s recent run was a masterpiece. I’m still on the fence about the current North/Coello run.) Marvel’s First Family are superheroes, for sure, but they’re also an excellent rendition of that old pulp mainstay, the super-scientist and his family.
I watched a lot of Jonny Quest as a kid too. Read plenty of Tom Swift adventures. And I’m eagerly awaiting the Venture Bros film.
Voidstrider doesn’t really feature a “super-scientist,” but you can well imagine there were a few working in the background to create the Voidstrider drive system that gets mentioned constantly throughout the first three volumes (and will finally be demonstrated in the upcoming fourth volume). And, much like the Fantastic Four, once the experimental ship finally leaves its dock, my heroes (some of them, at least) will be catapulted into strange new worlds and alternate dimensions.
One final bit of inspiration: Perry Rhodan. It’s had far less of an impact, mainly because you just can’t get Perry Rhodan in English. (Ace released a bunch of translations back in the day, which are impossible to find. Good news, J-Novel Club is releasing English translations of the rebooted Perry Rhodan NEO series that started back in 2011. They have 13 volumes (translating the first 26 original German editions) out so far.
The Perry Rhodan series is everything pulp science fiction ought to be, if you ask me. It’s Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers and Fantastic Four and all of it, and that kind of magic pulp synergy is exactly what I’m attempting to do in the Voidstrider universe. Here’s hoping I do it well enough that, five decades from now, someone’s translating the books into other languages to open the universe up to a whole new world of fans.