Happy publication day World of Water!
2 years ago
Brace for a downpour, folks: today is the day that World of Water, James Lovegrove's latest Dev Harmer adventure, is unleashed upon us.
You can now catch up with Dev - last seen getting hot under the collar in World of Fire - as he visits the ocean world of Robinson D for a relaxing holiday. No, scratch that. What we meant was 'for a battle with an ancient God-beast and a race against time as his own body fails him.'
To celebrate, the very brilliant James Lovegrove has written a piece for us all about his World of Water hero. Read on for more...
World of Water is out now!
Who is Dev Harmer?
The heroes of the golden age of pulp fiction were a mixed bunch. For every noble superman like Doc Savage there was a cackling madman like the Shadow. For every stony-faced arbiter of justice like the Avenger there was a weirdly masked vigilante like the Moon Man. For every square-jawed, two-fisted private detective like Nick Carter there was a mystically-inclined crimefighter like the Green Lama.
While writing the first of my Dev Harmer novels, World of Fire, I was mainlining pulp heroes. For some reason I’d developed a sweet tooth for their high-flown, often absurd adventures. Most of these were penned at breakneck speed by penny-a-word hacks who didn’t give a damn about things like quality prose or logical continuity and cared only about fulfilling contracts and meeting deadlines. Their work lacks finesse and subtlety but nonetheless, at its best, has a crude panache and an undeniable brio.
I decided that, since I was beginning an SF adventure series myself, I would take a leaf out of their books. The hero of my stories would be a distillation of various pulp figures, a modern-day variant. Flawed, reluctant, self-deprecating, self-destructive, with a smart mouth and just enough brains to back it up, he would, I hoped, endear himself to readers in spite of his drawbacks and have a distinct flavour of his own.
His name – Dev Harmer – came to me out of nowhere. When I was young we lived across the road from a farm owned by a family called Harmer (naturally my sisters and I would refer to the patriarch of this clan as Farmer Harmer). The surname implies destructiveness and the infliction of injury, and it seemed to suit the character. As for the Dev part, it’s an abbreviation, short for something – but what that something is, only I and Dev know, and neither of us is telling. It’s no accident, though, that “dev” is the first syllable of another word for demon.
Dev is a victim as well as a protagonist. Almost against his own will, he has had his consciousness digitised and is then beamed across the known universe to various trouble spots, a bolt of pure information which can be downloaded into an environment-suitable clone body. On every new world he visits he wakes up in a brand new host form and must embark on a dangerous mission, all in the hope and expectation that one day he will regain his original body. His enemies are an AI race, Polis+, who are engaged in a futuristic Cold War with humankind. The two empires have reached a state of détente, and Dev’s job is to help maintain the peace.
To tell his stories in an appropriately terse, racy fashion, I elected to alter my own prose style to emulate that of the pulp fictioneers. One basic rule I set myself: no paragraph longer than three sentences. I haven’t always kept to this rule in the novels, but exceptions are few. I thought it would be a restriction, but in fact it’s been liberating. It has forced me to rethink my writing strategies and stopped me being lazy and falling back on old, well-thumbed techniques.
Dev’s new mission sees him sent to a water world where the local indigenes are in a state of rebellion, chafing with resentment at a human military presence on their planet. As he investigates, he learns that there’s more to these “restless natives” than meets the eye and that something huge and Lovecraftian is lurking in the deeps, awaiting its moment to rise.
If, with my Dev Harmer tales, I’ve managed to recapture some of the thrill and energy of the pulp pager-turners, while giving them a bit of polish and a twenty-first-century sensibility, I’ll consider them a success.