As this year started there was nothing we were more excited to write than The Beam’s second season. The project promised intelligent thrills, layered atop the future history we poured our heart into early last summer.
The Beam hosts our biggest world, by far, and our most celebrated. Unicorn Western gets a lot of love, but that giant book’s enthusiastic reviews mostly say things like,”I can’t believe that you made something so stupid end up so awesome!!!”
The Beam’s reviews say things like:
The world that the authors have painted is probably the most believable and relatable sci-fi world I have ever seen. Everything from the characters to the political environment and future history of the world is intriguing and well thought out
The characters aren’t just pieces in the game, but real, multi-dimensional human beings living through whatever comes their way.
I don’t usually recommend a book to people. I have to really, really love it to tell someone else to read it, and then to ask them again later if they did. And then it’s got to be really worthwhile to recommend it to more than a few of my close friends. Well, it made it beyond my circle of friends. READ THIS.
We had a lot to live up to. Fortunately, Johnny and I are wired to love challenge. As daunting as our first full followup promised to be, we were both eager to greet it.
But The Beam’s world is BIG, and it seems like every time we start hashing out story ideas they quickly begin to multiply like mogwais in a bath. We already have a line of Sterling Gibson faux nonfiction books (one written and another one coming), plus the Lexi Maxxwell collaboration, The Future of Sex, with six 20,000 word entries in that series.
Other writers want to create stories in this world as well, but want their books to be great, we must make our own story as strongly as possible. The Beam’s first season offered us an awesome start, but the followup had to be better on every level, and build a strong enough scaffolding to hold our stacked ideas for many years to come.
Season one was both easier and harder — easier because the world had been visited once already. The Beam of Realm & Sand’s creation was quite different from the one I’d built with a different writer a year earlier. R&S’s was less glossy, more tangible — it had more to say, and used far more words to say it.
While writing the first season, Johnny and I had to explore our new world together. In some ways that made things more difficult because we had to create something from nothing, and in other ways easier because we could do whatever we wanted.
Back in Season One we were playing God. We had 85 years of established history to manage, but even that felt mostly playful. By the second season we felt a responsibility to the first. And by contrast, had to treat the first season as gospel.
In between the two, mostly to further explain the world to ourselves, we wrote fictional author Sterling Gibson’s Plugged: How Hyperconnectivity and The Beam Changed the Way We Think — a “nonfiction” book that explores our (present and possible future) world and the consequences of our future Internet with such a thorough level of detail, we affectionately refer to the book as The Beam Season 1.5
At Realm & Sands it’s my job to write the beats — the loose outline Johnny uses to write the first complete rough draft. I had nearly nine months to get Johnny a finished outline for the season.
But I couldn’t do it, no matter how hard I tried.
There was too much story, and I was afraid of getting something wrong. The Beam is too big, too important, too special a world to miss getting right.
Uncertain, I wavered and stalled.
Then, just days from needing a start to our newest story, Johnny and I had one of those long meetings that goes on forever, turning endless options like the faces of a Rubik’s cube, desperate to get the colors all matching.
We finally realized we had only one option: I wanted to outline the second season all at once, just as I had with the first. But there was no way to do that — if we wanted to make the second season the best it could possibly be.
We had to break our large story into smaller pieces, and that meant we had to outline and write our second season a single episode at a time. This created a grueling production schedule, because the most important thing when writing great fiction (at least for us at Realm & Sands) is to maintain our creative flow — no stopping and starting.
So Johnny wrote each episode of the rough draft Monday through Friday, then I’d read it, and plot bones for the next episode over the weekend so that he could the story in motion going after catching his breath through the weekend.
Grueling but worth it. I can barely believe how amazing this season turned out.
It’s bigger and more confident. Our story now knows where it’s going in and what it must do to get there. As with Season One, Episodes 7-12 all have many open boxes.
We can’t wait for you to open them up and love what you find.
Thank you for reading, we could never do this without you.