Sci-fi author, scriptwriter, poet and general word nerd, Emily Inkpen is obsessed with putting all the right words in the right order in every story she inks. In her most recently penned tales from planet SP714, the setting for The Dex Legacy series, the forthcoming sci-fi audio podcast, she explores the limitless possibilities of fantasy and sci-fi story crafting.
TFN: How did you get your start in writing?
INKPEN: It’s cliche to say I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, but it’s true. I wrote my first book when I was twelve, finished my second when I was fourteen and wrote a sequel before I started A-levels. I founded the Glasgow University Creative Writing Group in my third year.
After I graduated, I started working as a copywriter. I had various projects on the go for years. Then one night, as I lay thinking about a collection of characters I’d carried with me since my teen years, a vital piece of their story clunked into place and The Dex Legacy was born.
What is it about SFF that appeals most to you in terms of writing? reading?
Science fiction has no limits. Within it, I’ve found philosophical ideas explored in full, studies on the questions underpinning reality as we know it, visions on different versions of humanity. There’s mystery, mythology, worlds and galaxies. It’s a genre that very rarely says “no,” and that’s why I love it as both a reader and a writer.
How did you get started in writing for podcast fiction?
It was an unexpected and welcome invitation. Chris Gregory, of the Alternative Stories podcast, read a couple of my short stories and asked if I’d like to write something for him. I did, and it turned out to be successful. The Bomb is now episode one in what will be the Dex Legacy audio drama series.
Talk a little about the Dex Legacy. What’s it about?
The Dex Legacy is about Varian, Isra and Ren, the adopted children of a megalomaniacal weapons manufacturer called Nathaniel Dex. It follows this dysfunctional family, with Nathaniel, his business partners, Tristan, Osa and Devek, and the children pulling together and against each other as the needs of the company and the needs of the individuals collide.
The characters have been with me for a long time, and it’s inspired by bits of everything I’ve ever read, watched and experienced. It’s Final Fantasy VII meets the Lannisters, but there’s much more to it. It’s brutal, violent, psychologically challenging, highly political and darkly humorous, and nothing is ever quite what it seems.
The planet, SP714, is one of two planets seeded by exploratory vessels a thousand years into Earth’s future. As a result, there’s more exploring to be done and stories to tell. I’m definitely not done with this universe yet!
How does podcast writing compare to other forms you’ve written in?
I write novels, and I’m a copywriter. In my novels, I can bury myself completely in my characters and story.
When I’m copywriting, I’m usually presented with challenges. A colleague will pop up and say, “Emily, we need a message that includes these three words in this order, says X, mentions Y, and has a strong call to action… and it can’t be more than ten words.” At which point I scratch my head, give it some thought, and start coming up with options.
Copy can be like a puzzle, and piecing together an audio episode is a real mix of the two. You have your characters, your story for the episode, your overarching plot for the series, and your setting… and it can feel like all you’ve got is the words spoken and the silences between them. Every element has to work hard to make it work at all.
I like to think that practicing all of these forms makes me a better writer in general.
What are some of the themes you’re most passionate about?
I go full tilt into the psychological and political side of things. Once you know what’s in a character’s head, you can play with how they’d react to external pressures, often political in nature. Wars, corporate hierarchies, even family dynamics are highly political. There’s so much conflict to be found.
I’ve always been fascinated by how and why we are the way we are. I love how we’re made up of ourselves, plus our experiences and shifting circumstances. We are all works in progress, and my characters are the same.
Has writing for podcasts opened up opportunities for you on other fronts?
Absolutely. It’s given me a platform which, in this industry, is invaluable. There are so many amazingly talented writers out there, trying to be heard and noticed, and this has definitely given me an edge.
Not only that, but I appear in the episodes as “Auto”, an AI assistant embedded in all Dex Industries technology. Since doing that, I’ve appeared in audio dramas by other writers, so it’s ignited a real passion for performance. Apparently, I have a “good voice”, so I might as well put it to work!
How can readers/listeners connect with you?
If you sign up to The Dex Legacy newsletter, you’ll get a secret link to a recording of me reading a prequel short story called, “The Dark,” about Ren’s experience being kidnapped in the Domonos Mountains two weeks before episode 1. It’s constantly alluded to throughout the series, and I enjoyed bringing it to life in audio format.
For anyone interested in learning more about writing or producing audio dramas, what would you suggest?
Chris and I will be holding a workshop where you can learn all about it. If you’re interested, use any of the methods above to reach out, and I’ll send you more information.