Samit Basu is the author of the acclaimed sci-fi novel Turbulence, which found the passengers of London to Delhi flight suddenly gifted superpowers. The author writes about the sequel, Resistance, and the benefits of being an SF author (like getting to write a kaiju attack).
Resistance is the second sequel I’ve written; before Turbulence and Resistance, I’d written a multicultural/epic fantasy trilogy that ate most of my twenties.
Writing your second book is always tough: you’re conscious of an audience for the first time, of the need to not disappoint, the need to outdo what you did the first time, the need to create something that not only gives your readers more of what they liked before but also keeps you interested in its creation by being different, more challenging, more complex.
Fortunately, Resistance isn’t my second book; it’s my sixth, and at this point I’ve been writing for ten years and I know what I want out of this whole writing thing. I write because it’s so much fun. And writing Resistance was probably the most fun I’ve had writing anything.
When I wrote Turbulence, I wanted to write something set in the world we live in, the here and now. A book more controlled and grounded and real than my previous work. A story set only in places I’d actually been to (well, I’ve never been in the sky above a Pakistani nuclear reactor but, you know, more or less only in places I’d actually been to), something that would be about mixing reality and the fantastic to create not a new world, but an augmented reality, so a lot of the pleasure in the story would come from the familiar meeting the strange. I’d done lots of monsters and gods and djinns, and wanted to write characters I knew, in places and life-phases I knew. It was a refreshing thing to do after 1500 pages of worldbuilding, after a trilogy where people teleported into space, talked to gods, went through 10,000-word battle scenes and came back from the dead. Not having to describe places because people would know what Piccadilly Circus looked like? Super. Avoiding long explanations of superpower theory and encapsulating decades of superhero pontification with a single X-Men reference? Yesss.
I spent a while working on comics and film projects after Turbulence, though, and while those are great to do, after a point you get tired of not being able to take complete charge of a story. As a writer, every different medium teaches you something, upgrades your creator-ninja level, but after all that discipline you reach a point where you’re done being constrained by space and time and other people’s needs, of worldbuilding inside boxes. You miss the freedom a novel gives you. And if you’re naturally inclined towards writing SF or fantasy, and the laws of physics and other mundane reality-type things are really more like guidelines for your characters, we’re talking about a LOT of freedom. By the time I got around to starting Resistance, I was itching to write something huge and complicated, something that would need a real-world production/art budget that only the human imagination can give you. It was time to build another world. I’d never been to New York or Tokyo, but how long could I keep a superhero story away from these cities? And why not make things slightly more insane by fast-forwarding 11 years in a superhero-ruled world with all the tech/science/culture breakthroughs that would involve?
The first chapter of Resistance features a battle between a giant lobster kaiju and a giant mecha in Tokyo Bay in 2020. The book scales up from there. I really hope you have as much fun reading it as I did writing it.