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Dark Expanse: Surviving The Collapse

Buy the ebook, Dark Expanse: Surviving The Collapse at


William Snee
William Snee
Interview with William Snee

Alex Shvartsman

Alex Shvartsman

Interview with Alex Shvartsman


Nancy Fulda

Nancy Fulda

Interivew with Nancy Fulda


Simon Kewin

Simon Kewin

Interview with Simon Kewin


Deborah Walker - Photo not available

Deborah Walker

Inteview with Deborah Walker



 interviews William Snee and Alex Shvartsman, editor for Dark Expanse: Surviving The Collapse

Willian Snee &
Alex Shvartsman


12-21-2014: interviews William Snee and Alex Shvartsman, the editors to shared universe anthology Dark Expanse: Surviving The Collapse.

MilSciFi: Welcome. Please tell us a little something about your anthology.

Snee: Dark Expanse: Surviving the Collapse is a collection of stories set in the Dark Expanse universe.  A number of talented award-winning authors were able to provide depth and insight into this unique shared universe. The 18 stories cover a number of races, missions and settings within the game. The stories range from humorous to serious, on planet and off.

MilSciFi: What inspired you to put this anthology together?

Snee: While at the PhilCon science fiction convention, Alex and I began discussing potential marketing efforts for the game. Additionally, there was a need for more exposure and racial background narratives.  Alex informed me that we could hire professional level writers at a reasonable rate.

So through Alex's contacts, I was able to hire a number of writers.  The quality of the work was so good, that I kept buying stories even though I had the racial background pieces which were the main concern.  Buying the additional stories, I made a decision to publish the anthology as a device to let people know about the game.

Shvartsman: Like Bill said, I see tremendous value in developing the world of the game further through storytelling. And, even at professional rates, short fiction is dirt-cheap as compared to most other ways to spend marketing dollars. I was able to introduce Bill to a number of excellent authors who were excited to write stories in the world of Dark Expanse. It was a win-win for everyone involved. And once there was enough material to work with, anthology seemed like the natural next step.

MilSciFi: How did you find and/or recruit the authors of your anthology?

Shvartsman: I generally like to have open submission calls, but for this project, because of the shared world nature, I didn't want to make a lot of hopeful submitters write Dark Expanse stories on spec, so we limited the opportunity to a relatively small group of professionally-published authors.

I reached out to several headliners to see who might be interested, and was able to recruit my good friend Ken Liu (who is a Hugo and Nebula award winner and one of the hottest writers currently in the genre). Additionally I provided the "World Bible" document that Bill created to a number of neo-pro authors on a private forum, and then they could send their writing samples and pitches to Bill. That's how we recruited most of our other contributors.

MilSciFi: Since this was a shared universe anthology, just how much freedom and/or control did you have over your authors?

Snee: Since Dark Expanse is a real-time strategy game, where the player is either the imperial leader or fleet commander, most of the action takes place at the strategic level.  Since most narratives take place between people, there was little conflict between the stories and the game mechanics.  The writers were asked to make use of the game world races and if possible utilize in-game actions as much as possible within their stories.

Prior to writing a story, the authors were asked to write a small story pitch.  This pitch allowed the developers to identify any potential conflicts with the game mechanics.  Any decision that became a story restriction was added to the Dark Expanse World Bible as future guidance.

One of the tools we used was a shared workspace on the Dark Expanse forum.  This allowed the writers to ask questions and share ideas with the developers and other writers.  The combined group was able to flush out a number of concepts that were needed for the stories. Each story was reviewed to make sure they did not conflict with any game mechanics.

Shvartsman: Since Bill is the ultimate expert on the world of Dark Expanse as its original creator, I followed his lead when it came to continuity and making sure the writers don't break any of the game setting rules. He was both lenient and generous with his time. There were a number of important restrictions (for example, there's no time travel in DE) but mostly authors had plenty of creative freedom to explore various aspects of the game's universe.

Part of the fun was using characters and worlds from each others' stories. I set my own story on the world created by Nancy Fulda, and then two of the authors used the federation I created in their stories.

MilSciFi: Does science and technology play an important role in this project (or in your work in general), or is it secondary to the story telling and characterization?

Snee: Within the Dark Expanse game, we try to adhere to real-life science and restrictions as much as we can.  However, we regularly break the rules to provide more entertaining gameplay.  This also holds true for the anthology.  Many of the stories created by the various authors have helped to flush out and define the universe.  These include some technical details and racial descriptions that had not previously been available.

MilSciFi: Most authors we encounter write novellas/novels; so if an author went over his word count, would you expand the project to accommodate them, or require them to do hard edits to cut back on the length?

Snee: To help manage cost, most writers were given a hard word limit for their stories.  Occasionally, on an individual basis, should the story demand it, that limit was extended.  Upon occasion, a few of the writers exceeded the limit, but not by much.  As a general rule, we accepted those stories with the additional text.

Shvartsman: In most cases the authors were able to deliver their stories within the requested word count. Since Bill was a bit flexible on the length, I was able to work with the authors to expand or cut as needed to produce the best possible story. We didn't have anyone who went over the word count by so much that it presented a real problem.

MilSciFi: Do you have plans to expand upon this anthology, such as novels based on the individual stories?

Snee: Yes, Deborah Walker is currently developing a standalone novel called "As Good as Bad Can Get".  This story grew out of a concept for a racial story about the game's unaligned races.  Deborah and I originally discussed the concept and quickly realized that there were too many ideas around the story to restrict it to just a short story.  We were able to come to an agreement, and Deborah began writing.

We have received a number of comments that many people wish the stories had continued.  Should time and finances permit, we may look at taking a few of the stories and expanding them to full books.

MilSciFi: Who published your anthology?

Snee: The anthology was published by Deorc Enterprise, the creators of Dark Expanse.  The e-book is exclusively available on Amazon at this time:

Shvartsman: You can also sample some of the stories at the Deorc web site:

MilSciFi: What advice would you give someone considering putting together an anthology?

Snee: Plan lots of time for reading, editing and selecting the stories for your anthology.  Additionally, if the anthology has a theme, have the cover art created prior to the writers submitting the stories.  This helps the writers to visualize and get a taste of where the anthology is going.  Be clear on the types of stories for which you are looking and those you are not seeking.

Shvartsman: Start out by finding a unique concept. There are so many space opera anthologies, urban fantasy anthologies, etc. that you will have a difficult time standing out in the crowd unless your list of authors is truly astounding. However, if you come up with an intriguing concept that alone may sell the reader on trying out the book.

Once you have your concept, reach out to the best authors you think you can entice and get tentative commitments from them. Just like a Hollywood movie, the anthology will have an easier time getting attention if it has several popular headliners attached.

Also, please do not add to the noise by trying to produce yet another e-book only, royalties-only anthology. Those virtually never succeed. If you can't afford to pay your contributors a reasonable rate for their stories, and having a reasonable budget to advertise and otherwise promote the anthology, consider holding off until such a time when you do. (And there's always Kickstarter, but that's a whole other conversation.)

MilSciFi: What advantages are there for an author becoming involved in an anthology?

Snee: The author can write a shorter work with a faster completion time.  Lesser-known authors can get exposure and the reader gets to try a variety of potentially new authors.  Just like a box of chocolates, you never know what you'll get.

Shvartsman: Most authors welcome new opportunities to submit their work and, hopefully, have their work accepted, published and then read. The more popular/high-profile the anthology, the more valuable it is for the writers involved. Anthology and other short fiction sales are a great way to build up a resume, build a fan/reader base, and sharpen one's storytelling skills.

MilSciFi: Who is your single-most influential author in science fiction, and what impact have they had on our own work?

Snee: There are two primary writers that have impacted Dark Expanse.  They are Jack Campbell, the author of The Lost Fleet series and David Weber, the author of the Honorverse series. While Alex and I like many different science fiction authors, these two best represent the feel and style of the Dark Expanse game.  The game genre is primarily based on fleet versus fleet combat at its core.  There are a number of other in-game actions that can be taken, but for most players, the fleet combat is the key event.

Shvartsman: As Bill mentioned, he and I like to read very different books. I enjoy novels that lean further to the "space opera" end of the spectrum when it comes to military SF. Some great examples of this are the Old Man's War series by John Scalzi, Cobra books by Timothy Zahn, and the Deathstalker novels by Simon R. Green.

MilSciFi: What is the one thing you find the most difficult about working in military science fiction?

Snee: Whether in a story or within the game, fleet combat is always the most difficult thing to represent.  Combat has so many different variables that can impact the outcome, they are hard to capture if both story and game.  The "reality" of the combat is also difficult to represent, there is a balance between the mundane and entertainment.  Too much reality, and the story and game slow down, but too much fantasy and things quickly become unbelievable. Therefore, finding that balance is always a challenge.

Shvartsman: For me the challenge was to avoid the clichés. I didn't want people to read the anthology and say "this is just like Star Wars" or "this is just like The Lost Fleet." I wanted there to be a distinct Dark Expanse flavor and pushed the authors toward it. This isn't, strictly speaking, a "military SF" challenge but rather an intellectual property challenge for any space opera-style game universe, but I hope the direction Bill and I provided to the authors allowed us to succeed in making the DE stories feel fresh.

MilSciFi: Do you have any other related projects, either in the works or in the world at this time?

William: Deborah Walker has written a standalone book entitled As Good as Bad Can Get that will be released in early 2015.  In this book, she expands upon one of the unaligned races and the Logorasch Invasion.  The Logorasch invasion is one of the periodic game events.  She provides the reader with a greater understanding of why the normally peaceful Logorasch intermittently surge forth and invade neighboring planets.

Klyve Ganthe is a Kyoti, a race of liars, tricksters and con artists. As the Corona Corporation abandons the planet Nimbas, suddenly Klyve finds himself in charge. 

Armed with his wits, a telepathic adviser, and a nagging mother-in-law, Klyve must struggle to bring together the disgruntled factions to keep Nimbas from being overrun by the Logorasch swarm.

A Planet on the Edge of Chaos. Can Klyve make Nimbas As Good as Bad Can Get?

Shvartsman: As author, I have my short story collection Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma and Other Stories coming out on February 1, 2015. As editor, I am already working on Unidentified Funny Objects 4 (due out September or October 2015) and have at least one other project in the works that I am not ready to announce, but am nevertheless excited about.

MilSciFi: Do you have a website?

Snee: Dark Expanse can be found at which has the book listed on our recommended reading and merchandise pages.

Shvartsman: My website is

MilSciFi: Thank you, for your time.

Dark Expanse website:


FTC 16 CFR Part 255 Discloser:
Solicited by Author / with no compensation.


Copyright ©2014 Mike McPhail, All Rights Reserved


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