This was the accidental Compact Universe novel. I wanted a short, related story outside the Amargosa Trilogy and the interim arcs to use as bonus material for the newsletter. (Starting up again soon! Come join us!) No Marigolds in the Promised Land tells about the first attack by the Gelt on a human colony.
I wrote this over a period of months, working between projects on the Martian-like story of John Farno, a terraformer who camps out between domes on Farigha, a Mars-like world. When fusion bombs and kinetic weapons flatten almost every dome on the planet, he finds himself alone with the nearest human forty light-years away.
Eventually, I had to show how Farno gets rescued, which makes a great introduction to the Compact, who has no idea they’re at war yet. Some of the major background players show up, like Admiral Burke and Tol Germanicus. It was supposed to be a short, quick introduction to the series.
80,000 words is not short. But when I put the individual log entries and chapters together, it came out to that. So, that’s what I mean by accidental. How did it get so long? Well, I didn’t want Farno to just hack a hyperdrone, send it home with a message crying “Help!” Then I introduced Patty Friese and did not want her to go straight to Farigha and announce, “Hey! You’re rescued!” I had to twist the knife with each chapter.
When I assembled this into an ebook, I decided to own it when I published it. It does start out reading like The Martian. It was somewhat of an inspiration. So, my original tagline was “40 million miles from home? Call NASA. 40 light-years from the nearest human? Now we have a problem.” Wordy, but not bad.
Then the pandemic happened. Quarantine handed me the perfect tagline. “The ultimate in social distancing.”
It’s now my most popular novel.