Eric Nylund has published seven novels: virtual reality thrillersA Signal Shattered and Signal To Noise; contemporary fantasy novels Pawn’s Dream and Dry Water (nominated for the 1997 World Fantasy Award); the science fantasy novel A Game of Universe; and two of our favorites, Halo: The Fall of Reach and now Halo: First Strike. I was lucky enough to get Eric to take time out of a rainy Seattle day to talk about his experience working in the Halo® universe.
First Strike went on sale recently and has been very well received by fans—which makes sense considering Nylund's firstHalo novel, Halo: The Fall of Reach, has sold close to 200,000 copies and appeared on the Publishers Weekly bestseller list. It surprised some fans that he didn't return to write the second novel in the series, Halo: The Flood.
"I knew the second novel would be a difficult project, covering the events of the game. If you're a fan, you've already played through these events—so half the fans are going to be mad because it's not exactly like the game … and the other half will be mad because it'stoo much like the game.
“Bill [William C. Dietz] did a great job with it. He gave us our first look inside the Covenant, showed what the ODST [Orbital Drop Shock Troopers] can really do, and told us what it was like to be assimilated by the flood first hand. Great stuff."
Of course Eric is no stranger to difficult assignments.
"The first novel, Halo: The Fall of Reach, was written in seven weeks. Of course I couldn't have done that without the support the Consumer Products Group [formerly the Franchise Development Group]. The universe was already hammered out pretty thoroughly in the story bible by Eric Trautmann and Brannon Boren. They were handed basic story stuff by Bungie, and they fleshed out many of the details in the universe. That saved a lot of time.
"I actually had 16 weeks to write Halo: First Strike, but there's a caveat. My son was born right in the middle of it. I had some time off for paternity leave, during which I was still pretty busy, but I did get a chance to read some good reference material. The biography of Gunny Hathcock [Marine Sniper by Charles Henderson], the Army's manuals on special ops and urban combat, stuff like that. I've also had the chance to hear what fans thought of the first two books and incorporate that feedback into this one. I do read the forums."
With several of his own books under his belt, Eric Nylund still relished playing in someone else's universe.
"I've enjoyed seeing the character of the Master Chief evolve over the three books. Besides the Master Chief, I like writing Doctor Halsey. I think she's the closest to my own personality. She has more of an idea of what's really going on—the big picture—than any other character."
Though he was given an endpoint for both books (Halo: The Fall of Reach had to lead up to the beginning of Halo, andHalo: First Strike had to lead up to the beginning ofHalo® 2), he had a lot of creative freedom. Naturally that brings up the question of what exactly is covered in Halo: First Strike.
"It covers the period between the games. It picks up right whereThe Flood left off and covers the events that precedeHalo 2. I also got to come back to the events onReach, so you'll get to see what happened after thePillar of Autumn left—more SPARTAN action, more of Doctor Halsey, and most importantly, you’ll find out how Sgt. Johnson shows up alive in Halo 2. Unfortunately, Yayap won't be back.”
Can we look forward to more Halo novels from Eric Nylund?
"You never know what the future holds, but I'd like to. I've enjoyed working with Jason Jones, Joe Staten, Loraine McLees, Jaime Griesemer, and everyone at Bungie. We're kicking ideas around. We'll see where it goes."
By Marty Greene