Once, Anjali Patel and Mikhail Grikov were soldiers on opposing sides of an intergalactic war. They met, fell in love and decided to go on the run together.
Now Anjali and Mikhail are trying to eke out a living on the independent worlds of the galactic rim, while attempting to stay under the radar of those pursuing them.
On their way back from a mission, Anjali and Mikhail are ambushed by a squad of bounty hunters. Wounded and hunted through a frozen landscape, they find shelter in a mountain lodge.
But their pursuers are still out there, tracking them. And with Anjali too injured to fight, Mikhail must face down seven bounty hunters on his own…
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Some background information:
- This is a novella of 21000 words or approx. 75 print pages in the In Love and War series, but may be read as a standalone. This story is a digital premiere and has never been published previously.
- The initial inspiration for Hunter and Hunted was hearing the 1980s A-ha song “Hunting High and Low” on the radio. Now I am heavily music-synaesthetic, i.e. certain pieces of music basically trigger scenes and sometimes whole mini-movies in my head. “Hunting High and Low” is one of those songs and the scene it always triggers in my head is that of two men fighting in the snow, while the girlfriend of one of the men sleeps in a nearby cabin. Hearing the song on the radio again, I thought, “That’s a good scene. Maybe I should write a story to go with it.” And then I realised that the scene was perfect for an In Love and War story.
- Because the inspiration for the story was an A-ha song, I tuckerised two of the band members, slightly altered in one case, as the name of the planet and the resort town.
- With Flint and his crew, I had to come up with names for seven bounty hunters. Of course, many of those characters don’t even have any lines and mainly exist to give Mikhail and Anjali someone to fight, so they don’t really need names either. However, just referring to them as “the bounty hunter” and “the other bounty hunter” makes the writing very confusing, so I decided to just give them codenames and fired up a generator.
- Toni, the lodgekeeper AI, is named after the popular and long-running German pulp series Toni, der Hüttenwirt (Toni, the lodgekeeper) about a guy named Toni who runs a mountain lodge in the Alps together with his wife Anna and helps couples get together. Of course, Hunter and Hunted is a science fiction novella, so my Toni, the lodgekeeper, is an AI rather than a kindly human.
- Because the lodge scenes have a certain alpine feel to them, when it came to giving Mikhail and Anjali something to eat, I decided to go with alpine cuisine and so I had them eat muesli, because it keeps a long time and would therefore be ideal for the pantry of a lodge that may only be restocked every couple of months.
- I tend to call my In Love and War series (and my Shattered Empire series, for that matter) “cozy space opera”, because the stories tend to focus a lot on interpersonal scenes and character interaction and less on action and fight scenes. By the standards of the In Love and War series, Hunter and Hunted is actually pretty heavy on action scenes. The novella is basically a sequence of fight scenes, interspersed with hurt/comfort scenes, which takes care of the cozy aspect.
- I initially planned for the novella to end after the climactic fight with Flint. However, then I realised that I had forgotten one member of Flint’s crew, for the surveillance man was still out there, unaccounted for. And this is how the confrontation with Eagle/Jesse came about. Coincidentally, it also ended the story on a more hopeful and less violent note.
- Jesse’s homeworld Ribanna is named for a character from Karl May’s Winnetou novels, namely Winnetou’s one great (female) love.
- The various local Harketon vid dramas Toni has on offer are named after the long running German soap opera Sturm der Liebe (Tempest of Love – and the number of episodes Toni has on offer is exactly the number of episodes that had been broadcast on the day I wrote that scene) as well as after several Heimatfilme (more precisely Der Förster vom Silverwald and Und Ewig Singen die Wälder, which I reviewed here), a curious German film genre of melodramas shot in spectacular mountain settings. Given the mountain lodge setting of Hunter and Hunted, it seemed only appropriate that the vid drama output of Harketon is basically Heimatfilme. Though I do think that Anjali would actually enjoy them.
- Meanwhile, the popular Republican vid drama Starship is very much a riff on Star Trek. For while I was at university, a German TV station broadcast Star Trek every single week day, cycling through Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise and then beginning from the start. I watched whenever possible and often said that Star Trek was my daily soap opera. So it wasn’t much of a stretch to come up with a world where it actually is.
- The opera Il Trovatore, to which Anjali and Mikhail listen at the end, was composed by Guiseppe Verdi and first performed in 1853, i.e. it is more than a thousand years old by the time In Love and War is set. However, some cultural works survive more than a millennium – we still read the Iliad and the Odyssey and we still perform plays by Sophocles and Aeschylus, so why shouldn’t Verdi survive? And besides, space opera sometimes needs a little actual opera. As for why this particular opera, for starters, because I like it a lot and also, because it has a stunning aria about flames flickering high into the sky (while a supposed heretic is burned at the stake), which just fit in perfectly with the funeral pyre Jesse built for his fallen comrades. And yes, someone does accidentally kill their brother in that opera.
- The cover is once again stock art by the talented Thai artist Tithi Luadthong a.k.a. Grandfailure.