Interview: Sean Danker, Author, ‘The Admiral’


Sean Danker is the author of Admiral, the first volume in a new military science-fiction series:

He is the last to wake. The label on his sleeper pad identifies him as an admiral of the Evagardian Empire—a surprise as much to him as to the three recent recruits now under his command. He wears no uniform, and he is ignorant of military protocol, but the ship’s records confirm he is their superior officer.

Whether he is an Evagardian admiral or a spy will be of little consequence if the crew members all end up dead. They are marooned on a strange world, their ship’s systems are failing one by one—and they are not alone.

In this short interview, Danker and I discuss science-fiction influences, the military, and the challenges of writing about a character who is a total unknown.

UNBOUND WORLDS: With its warring empires and mix of aristocrat officers, fixers, scientists, and low-born grunts Admiral reminded me of an earlier wave of science-fiction. I’m thinking of writers like Larry Niven, Asimov, Harry Harrison, and other guys. It also reminded me of an old tabletop role-playing game I used to play: Traveller. Can you talk about some of your science-fiction influences, both past and present?

SEAN DANKER: I’m definitely a fan of Asimov, and other big names for me are Boris and Arkady Strugatsky, Urasawa Naoki, and Philip K. Dick. A lot of the science fiction I really enjoy is the kind that deals with big ideas, but that stuff is often pretty dry, and some people have trouble getting into it. One of my goals as a writer is to integrate that sort of broader, more speculative thinking with fun books that are easy to pick up and read.

UW: You’re a military guy, right? Has your own service informed the world of Admiral?

SD: I actually wrote Admiral before I joined, but I’ve gained some knowledge and experience since that lets me bring a little authenticity when writing about characters in uniform. Even a futuristic military will have a few things in common with how things are today. The military we see in Admiral is much more developed and enlightened than anything in our world, but there are military quirks and flaws that have stayed with us for centuries, so who’s to say they won’t stay with us for a few more?

UW: It’s going to be nearly impossible to talk about this without spoiling the book, but the book’s main character, the admiral, is almost a total mystery until the closing chapter of the book. How much of a challenge did maintaining the mystery pose to you as an author? Did it limit the way that you told the story?

SD: Maintaining the mystery is limiting because it’s so risky; some readers will inevitably be annoyed or frustrated by the ambiguity. The mystery is the core of the story, and my challenge is to maintain the uncertainty and set up the twists in such a way that the reader enjoys the whole journey. Even if the payoffs are great, it’s no good if no one sticks around long enough to see them. The approach I’m taking is definitely a gamble.

UW: I understand that this is the first volume in a series. Will the next book continue the admiral’s story, or will we be moving on to another part of your universe? I’m very eager to experience more of it, in any case.

SD: The next book picks up immediately where the first one leaves off, and the series moves pretty fast. I do have other books in this universe planned, but for now we’re focusing on the Admiral and his story. I expect the path the series takes to catch people off guard, so my fingers are crossed that it will surprise them in a good way. I hope you like it.