History often provides the best material for stories, as Midlander Ray Tabler recently discovered. The science fiction writer’s new full-length novel takes inspiration from a 19th century event.
Back in 2008, Tabler visited the West Side Book Shop, which sells used books in Ann Arbor. There he found a book about the Anglo-Persian War of 1856-1857. Tabler was intrigued by the accounts of an ambassador having an affair with a monarch’s wife, subsequent land grabs and ensuing battles, and believed it would be the basis of a good story.
In Tabler’s novel, titled “A Grand Imperial War: A Light Space Opera,” an affair leads to a riot which in turn leads to war between an alien nation and humankind. The main character, an imperial marine, is caught right in the middle of the events and must navigate battles, secret missions, romantic predicaments and more with his comrades.
“The people in this book, they’re like futuristic Victorians in a lot of their attitudes,” Tabler said.
While the material is meant for older readers and deals with some difficult situations, the tone of the book is meant to be humorous. Tabler enjoyed seeing his characters develop throughout the course of the narrative. He tried to make them relatable and naturally flawed. One of his favorite parts to write was Stanislaus VII, the emperor of all humankind, who is a lovable buffoon.
“I just like to see what crazy thing he’s going to do next,” Tabler said with a laugh. “He’s such an idiot but he’s so lucky. It’s like he has these angels on his shoulder that just take care of him.”
Tabler has been writing science fiction short stories since 2001, eventually sending them into magazines in 2006. Tabler sent in the first two chapters of “A Grand Imperial War” to a magazine in 2011 but didn’t write the rest of the novel until late 2020 when a colleague encouraged him to continue writing.
“It’s the perfect retirement job,” said Tabler, who retired in 2018. “The barriers to self-publishing now are so low, I could do this.”
Tabler took the advice to heart and completed the novel this summer. He would often go to a local coffeeshop early in the morning and work on his stories, typically typing …….