‘I ran a Kickstarter campaign to become an official writer for the forthcoming computer game Elite: Dangerous,’ Allen says. ‘But that wasn’t the only reason I did it. I wanted to bring an opportunity to my students and give them a budget to make a short feature film.’
The author and academic’s latest fiction release, Elite: Lave Revolution is set on a world he first glimpsed on BBC Micro back in the 1980s, with David Braben’s original computer game Elite.
‘The computer game Elite was a place to escape to after school. It fired my imagination and when I played, I was in space, flying with other pilots and docking at space stations. Lave, the place you started at, was just a circle on the screen.’
Fast forward thirty years and a lot has changed. Game creator, David Braben has been awarded an OBE in the Queen’s birthday honours list for his contribution to the computer gaming industry and his science fiction classic is back with the sequel, Elite: Dangerous, a new award winning release from his company Frontier Developments and Allen Stroud’s been along for the ride.
‘It was pure luck that reunited me with Frontier’s new Kickstarter project in 2012. I offered to help and ended up swapping late night emails with David and Executive Producer Michael Brookes. I was able to contribute to the design, something I’d never dreamed of being able to do.’
The story for Elite: Lave Revolution came out of that process. An epic Big Brother meets Star Wars novel, drawing inspiration from a wide selection of science fiction greats. ‘As Elite was released in 1984, it seemed fitting to find ideas in George Orwell and our modern surveillance society.’ Allen explains.
But now this project is more than a book. Allen has run the successful BA (Hons) Film and Television Production degree at Bucks New University for six years. In that time, student numbers have risen 57% and in 2013, the course achieved a student satisfaction rating of 84%. In 2014, Allen was nominated for the Times Higher Education Award of ‘Most innovative Tutor’.
‘We raised £3,000 to for a film budget. After that, I asked students to submit showreels as applications to be the film director.’
The winner, Marcus Baxter is now busily engaged in pre-production for the short feature that tells the story of a prisoner onboard a space station during the novel’s final scenes. ‘Right from the beginning, Allen has been sharing his work on this project with us, and other fellow students, and encouraging us to be involved, and seeking to become affiliated with the project for our benefit.’
‘It’s an ambitious idea,’ Allen says. ‘Science Fiction always is, plus the film has to fit into the novel and fit within the restrictions of the Elite world, but I’m confident they’ll do a great job and hopefully this will be the first of many.’
In fact that’s the plan. Armed with his Kickstarter experience and a new cohort of young filmmakers, Allen is looking ahead to future work, sourcing budgets and empowering students to take the next step after they graduate. ‘The challenge for anyone trying to be creative is to make the most of the opportunities that come along. For me, that’s also about involving others, writers, musicians, filmmakers, artists, anyone whose work deserves to be recognised by a wider audience. Hopefully, everything we make will draw people in to play Elite: Dangerous and see what a great job Frontier are doing with the game.’
In addition to his work behind the scenes and his beautifully crafted novel, Allen has produced original music and digital artwork for the Elite world. He also contributes to the popular podcast, Lave Radio, which covers the development of the game and regularly gets 5,000-10,000 downloads per episode. He’s also organising Lavecon on the 5/6th of July weekend at the Kettering Conference Centre in Northamptonshire, where the public can drop in and play the latest version of Elite: Dangerous and meet the authors of authorized fiction from Gollancz and Fantastic Books Publishing.
‘This work needs to be out there,’ Allen continues. ‘Everything about this game and its associated fiction projects is exciting and incredible. The artists, programmers, designers, writers, everyone have been inspired by the incredible good will of the fan community around the reincarnation of this thirty year old computer game. It’s a privilege to be a part of it and I want people to give it the attention it deserves. If you do, you’ll fall in love with it all, just like I did as a child.’
Will there be any more Elite fiction from Allen? ‘I hope so,’ he says. ‘I’ve got another Fantasy book to write this year and I’m working with another gaming legend Julian Gollop, on his new project Chaos Reborn. But, I’d like to write more about Lave. There’s more to the story and characters after Elite: Lave Revolution. I’d love a crack at a sequel, but that’s up to Frontier and the fans.’
Allen is organizing Lavecon on 5/6th of July. He will also be at Fantasticon on 16th August in Hull.
LaveCon - http://laveradio.com/
FantastiCon - https://www.facebook.com/
About the book: Elite: Lave Revolution is available from Fantastic Books Publishing at https://www.fantasticbookspublishing.com/
About the author: Allen Stroud is a university lecturer and active academic researcher working on a PhD in the methods of fictional world building. He runs the successful BA (Hons) Film and Television Production degree at Buckinghamshire New University. He has been writing science fiction and fantasy stories since he was a young child.
About the game: The game’s founder, David Braben was honoured for his contribution to the video gaming industry. See http://www.bbc.co.uk/
For further information about Elite: Dangerous see this interview with Braben by one of Fantastic Books’ Elite authors: http://thenextweb.com/
Dan Grubb, CEO, Fantastic Books Publishing
Tel: 01964 671997