Answering Questions – An Interview with Author Bryan Young

In terms of BattleTech writers, Bryan Young is relatively new, but he’s made a big impact in a short amount of time. He’s rehabilitated the hated Clan Jade Falcon into something a little more likable in A Question Of Survival and Without Question, the Fox Patrol is already a beloved mercenary unit, and VoidBreaker will (hopefully) end the Dark Age HPG Blackout once and for all.

With the events of Without Question settling the Jade Falcons into an uncertain future, Bryan and I sat down to discuss the greenest of the Clans, where Jiyi, Katie, and Bugsy are headed, and what Jar Jar Binks could do for BattleTech. Enjoy.

WARNING: There are a few spoilers for Without Question discussed in this interview.

Sean: Okay, well thank you for taking some time to talk with me. I’m sure our readers will love hearing from you, especially since you’re going to be one of the driving figures for BattleTech‘s fiction going forward. So, thank you very much. 

Byran Young

Bryan: Oh, no, it’s my pleasure. I love doing stuff like this. 

Sean: Let’s start with just briefly introducing yourself and what brought you into BattleTech. When did you get started with BattleTech, and what got you into this universe that we all love? 

Bryan: So just to introduce myself first, I’m Bryan Young, obviously. And I’ve written a number of stories and novels in the BattleTech universe. My first novel was called Honor’s Gauntlet, and it was set in the late Dark Age as a tee-up to Hour of the Wolf for the Jade Falcons. My next two novels after that were really taking the Falcons of Sudeten into an interesting new direction with A Question of Survival and Without Question, and I also created the Fox Patrol, just sort of on my own as my Shrapnel series. I have been doing a lot of shorts in other parts of the universe and have a whole bunch of stuff coming up in BattleTech that I’m sure we’ll talk about over the course of the interview.

As far as how I got into BattleTech in the first place, actually, my first entry into the universe was the 1993 MechWarrior game on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. I played that game so much and loved it. And I actually went through and played it again a couple of times, right before I jumped into writing Honor’s Gauntlet, and again afterward. It’s just a lot of fun, and that’s where the initial imagery that got me started on the Fox Patrol came from: my playstyle in that MechWarrior game.

I never really played it on the tabletop. My friend group played tons of HeroQuest, Necromunda, and Warhammer, and mainly RPGs like Star Wars, and Robotech, and all the Palladium games, especially Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

“My first entry into the universe was the 1993 MechWarrior game on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. I played that game so much.”

We played the video game right around the time—I don’t remember which MechWarrior game it was, but it was around the same time Warcraft 2 came out, and my friend had eight networked computers in his basement because his family had, like, a family business in their basement. So all of us neighborhood kids would go over there and alternate between Warcraft and MechWarrior. And we would just have such great fights with that. So MechWarrior was always on the radar. 

And I got into writing. I was putting out my own stuff and it was Mike Stackpole who really helped put me on the scene with my original writing. Then as that was going well, I asked Mike what he thought I should be into. We’d been doing conventions that Catalyst was at for a long time, and I’d done some other work with John Helfers (we’d been in some anthologies together). John Helfers is the fiction editor for BattleTech and, you know, Mike Stackpole’s, obviously, Mike Stackpole.

Mike told me I should talk to John about fiction in general. Shadowrun was something I was always really interested in because we played Shadowrun a ton as the RPG and we played the Super Nintendo Shadowrun game. And so Mike was like, “Well, let’s go talk to John.” And I told John, you know, I’m really interested in writing for you guys. And he’s like, “Well, what are you interested in writing in?” Back then I felt like I had more knowledge in Shadowrun and was like, well, Shadowrun. And he’s like, “Cool. Shadowrun‘s full. How about BattleTech?”

And for like two or three years, we batted stuff back and forth. He wanted me to write a bunch of stuff in the Jihad era because that’s really where BattleTech was at the time. This was before anything major was getting published and they were really trying to figure out where they were publishing, ‘cause it was post BattleCorps, but pre-Shrapnel

MechWarrior SNES

Finally, I got a bunch of pitches approved for stories in the Jihad era. And literally just before I started writing, John was like, “Hold off on all that. We’ve actually decided to pull the trigger and move into the ilClan era, and we’re not quite sure what that looks like yet.” And then, Stackpole and I worked on a project that we were going to co-write a trilogy of Kell Hounds books that was going to culminate at the Battle of Terra. Like, Callandre Kell was originally going to take part in the Battle of Terra. Just as things shifted, that didn’t work. 

Then, there was a big creative summit that I was not party to at this point. It was like Mike Stackpole, Brent Evans (who was still the developer at that time), and Blaine Lee Pardoe was there because Hour of the Wolf was still coming and everything. And after that summit, I got a phone call from Mike Stackpole, and he was like, “Hey, I’ve got good news. You’re on the schedule for a book, we plotted everything out, and you’re gonna get a book. The bad news is, it’s the first one on the schedule, and it’s supposed to come out in, like, five months. So how much do you know about the Jade Falcons?” And I was like, I’ve spent the last three years cramming on the Jihad and the Kell Hounds. The Jade Falcons have only been tangentially involved in that. Why, is this a Jade Falcon book? And Mike was like, “Yeah, start reading Jade Falcon books.” And then he sort of outlined what parameters the book needed, and that turned into Honor’s Gauntlet

So, Honor’s Gauntlet was me, very quickly, on a very tight deadline, turning around a novel. I’m still really proud of that book, but that turned into my first BattleTech work after literally years of studying and working with Mike and pitching stuff and getting stuff together and just sort of having the direction of the universe thwarting all the stuff they kept asking me to do. 

Sean: So it was a really good first impression. 

Bryan: Yeah, yeah. But I mean, once Honor’s Gauntlet came out, it was very much like, okay, what are we going to do next? And writing Honor’s Gauntlet, I sort of was concurrently working on The Fox Patrol, just sort of secretly on my own.

“I had actually written the first five Fox Patrol stories sort of concurrently with Honor’s Gauntlet and every time Phil published one in Shrapnel, I just sent him the next one because he didn’t realize that I’d had them all written in advance.”

I pitched it to John Helfers and Phil Lee as Shrapnel was starting, like, hey, here’s a story I’d really like to tell. It was The Secret Fox, the first short story, and they had some notes for me. And then I was waiting for them to greenlight it, Mike was like, “Don’t wait, just write it. Like, just go ahead. They’ll like it, it’ll be fine,” and they did. I had actually written the first five Fox Patrol stories sort of concurrently with Honor’s Gauntlet and every time Phil published one in Shrapnel, I just sent him the next one because he didn’t realize that I’d had them all written in advance.

Those two were really my first entry into BattleTech as a professional. And since then I’ve been devouring the tabletop game. Honor’s Gauntlet was written in 2019 and it came out in 2020, which was great. Let me tell you that, I had to promote my first BattleTech book right as everyone was still just in lockdown. 

Sean: So a lot of calls like this?

Bryan: Yeah, exactly. But no, it worked out, and I think Honor’s Gauntlet worked as a really interesting lead-in to Hour of the Wolf for where the Jade Falcons were and to set the groundwork for what things were like in the Occupation Zone in those last days before Malvina just emptied everything.

It really helped me understand what things would look like for Jiyi Chistu trying to rebuild, which I think might be why Ray asked me to write A Question of Survival

Sean: That would make sense to me. It seems like the next logical kind of step for you, and you’re already a Jade Falcon expert. 

Bryan: Yeah, at that point I am.

It’s weird because I’ve been able to write Jade Falcons in different eras too, I really had a lot of fun with the short story in the Battle of Tukayyid anthology with the Jade Falcons. And it was then that John told me, “I guess you’re the Jade Falcon guy now,” and I was like okay. And I’ve had a lot of fun with it. I really have. 

Sean: Would that make the Jade Falcons your favorite faction by default? Or is there anything else in the BattleTech universe you’d like to explore? 

“I’m having so much fun in the ilClan era. You can put anything from the history of BattleTech in there and come up with a story reason to make it work, so nothing’s off the table in that way.”

Bryan: I really still want to explore the Word of Blake. I came up with all those pitches and did all that research, and there’s so little fiction in that era that I’d really like to explore that more, but I’m having so much fun in the ilClan era. Whether that’s with mercenaries, whether that’s with Kell Hounds, whether that’s with Kell Hound splinter groups, whether that’s with the Jade Falcons—the ilClan era is just really, really fun and exciting to me. Not just because I’m helping chart the course for it, but because it’s sort of very wide open and anything can happen and there is no shortage of how things can work out, right? Like, you can put anything from the history of BattleTech in there and come up with a story reason to make it work, so nothing’s off the table in that way. 

Sean: I think the ilClan era certainly is one of the most dynamic in BattleTech history. On the other hand, the Jihad sort of has its big milestones already written, so it lends itself to perhaps another short story anthology. Hopefully, there will come a chance for you to write something for the Jihad. 

Bryan: Yeah, no, I’m sure there will be. John keeps mentioning on streams we’re gonna do some Jihad fiction, and I keep going, like, you’ve got a stack of story ideas of mine that you already allegedly liked, so let’s pull the trigger on some of those. 

Sean: So you said you play the tabletop game. Do you play any of the video games or the RPG?

Bryan: I have struggled to find a group to play the RPG with. I tried MechWarrior Online and was terrible at it. So like a week of that went by and I was like, you know, I think I’d probably do better just reading BattleTech books at this point because I’d convinced myself I’d sink all this time into it for research.

Marauder IlClan Rec Guide

I got MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries for my PS5. I played through a bunch of it, really enjoyed it, and then my eight-year-old sort of took over my account. I think I need to start over, but my eight-year-old has just been loving it.

As far as tabletop goes, I’ve been playing a ton of BattleTech: Encounters with my partner and my kid, because it’s easy enough BattleTech for them all to grasp, and it’s only tangentially BattleTech. It’s my eight-year-old I’ve been primarily playing Classic with, and we’ve been having so much fun, but, whenever I go to a convention, I’m really excited to play as much as I can of Classic and Alpha Strike

At AdeptiCon, I think one of my favorite things there was getting to be able to play with Mike on the stream. And you know, Stackpole and I have been partners in the Masters and Minions tournament at Gen Con for the last couple of years, and I think we’re doing that again this year, and it’s always just a blast to get to play BattleTech with folks. I got to play in a bunch of grinders at Gen Con and KarenskyCon too with the Karenskys from the Kickstarter, and that was so much fun.

As we’re recording this interview, it’s just before I’m doing a bunch of live events for the release of Without Question, where we’re doing signings and stuff for the book, but also demo events that I’m gonna play in that I’m really excited about, and just showing people the game, cause it’s so fun.

Sean: Excellent. We should move on to perhaps the all-important question, and I know you’ve probably been asked this a lot: what’s your favorite ‘Mech? 

“My favorite ‘Mech, just visually, is probably the Marauder, but that’s because I started as a huge Robotech fan.”

Bryan: My favorite ‘Mech? It’s sort of like a moving target. My favorite ‘Mech, just visually, is probably the Marauder, but that’s because I started as a huge Robotech fan. As a little kid, Robotech hit me at exactly the right time and I got to do a lot of work on the Robotech roleplaying game including a ton of fiction for it. 

So the Marauder is up there visually, but I really love the Kit Fox, which is why Katie Ferraro ended up with the Kit Fox. You have to be a great pilot to survive in that ‘Mech for more than one encounter. I’m really enjoying playing with the Jade Falcon totem ‘Mechs though, like the Turkina and the Gyrfalcon. However that’s pronounced, I don’t know. I’ve heard “gear” falcon and “jeer” falcon.

Sean: I think it’s like gif and jif. 

Bryan: Yeah. 

Sean: One of those is right, but I’ll never know. 

Bryan: Yeah, no, gif is right with the hard G. But I don’t know about “gear” falcon or “jeer” falcon. Whatever that ‘Mech is called, Jiyi’s ‘Mech has been a lot of fun to play with. I keep having people write me and saying like, “You need to upgrade Jiyi’s ‘Mech,” and it’s like, but he’s really enjoying this one.

Sean: Yeah, I don’t think every single muckety muck in BattleTech needs to be in an Atlas. You can have some people who like being in the middle-sized ‘Mechs, or even the itty-bitty ‘Mechs. 

Honor's Gauntlet

Bryan: Mediums are sort of supposed to be the most common ‘Mech in the universe, and I think there’s something a little bit egotistical about commanders being like, okay, I get the assault ‘Mech.

Trying to approach from a story perspective why a commander would pick a specific sort of ‘Mech is interesting. With Jiyi, his ‘Mech was chosen for me because it goes back to the WizKids Dark Age stuff, but I haven’t felt a need to change it yet. And I don’t know, I like to pick story reasons for why characters have ‘Mechs.

Like, Archer Pryde in Honor’s Gauntlet had a Shrike to offset and contrast him with Malvina, right? In Without Question, Dawn and Alexis both pilot Turkinas to try to thematically tie them together, you know, things like that. And Turkinas is sort of like one thing Jiyi has just warehouses full of, so it made sense. 

Sean: It’s wild to imagine warehouses full of Turkinas without any MechWarriors to call their own.

Bryan: Yeah, well, Jiyi’s got some problems.

Sean: Fair, and we will discuss some of those problems, but first, what’s it like writing for Catalyst as opposed to any of the other publications where your work can be found?

Bryan: Catalyst has a very strong vision of where they want the universe to go, and they’re very collaborative about that vision. Like, when I was working in Robotech, it was pretty much just like I was given a really free hand and had to figure out how and why I would present the fiction I did to help players entering the RPG, especially if they hadn’t seen the cartoon.

“Catalyst has a very strong vision of where they want the universe to go, and they’re very collaborative about that vision.”

But with BattleTech, it’s very much like there’s a big team working collaboratively to tell this huge tapestry of a story. You have to sort of fit into the parameters of what they’re asking of you. And I found it to be really creatively stimulating and creatively nourishing to be able to work with people who are really at the top of their game.

But I still feel like I have a hand to say like, no, I think this might work better, and then they’ll hear me out, right? As a case example, A Question Of Survival was going to illuminate a really important thing in the universe, as opposed to Honor’s Gauntlet, which is very nice, but very much a side story. And I understand that it was very much the assignment given to me because I hadn’t written anything professionally for them. Yeah, they knew I was a professional writer, they knew that I’d written in Robotech, and that I’d worked in the Lucasfilm system for Star Wars, and done like Doctor Who and stuff, but they didn’t know how I worked with their apparatus.

Honor’s Gauntlet felt like maybe a test run. But as soon as they felt confident, I got the call from Ray to say, “Here’s the story point from Tamar Rising. What do you think about that? How do you think that story would be told most interestingly? And here’s the story point from Dominions Divided that nobody knows about yet. How do you think you could mesh those two into a story that works?” And just with that amount of direction and a Zoom call just like this, they helped me spitball out what would become A Question Of Survival

One of my directions was like, “I don’t want to see Terra. Alaric needs to stay away from here. We need to give Alaric some time to like, cool off.” And as I was writing the outline and trying to structure it, I really felt it was important for me to have the Ghost Bears sort of bending the knee to Alaric and showing that scene so that we could bookend the entire book with the need for the vote and the consequences of it.

Ray was very skeptical until he read it, and then he was like, “You know what? I’m just a line developer. I tell you where the story is, but you’re the writer and you know how to tell stories. So when you showed it to me, yes, I was skeptical, but as I read it and as I got to the end, I understood exactly why you had it there.” And I never got a note to not go there or not do that again.

A Question Of Survival

Everybody in BattleTech that I’ve dealt with has been very good about acknowledging when they might have been wrong but also encouraging our ability as the writing team to tell the best stories possible. So my experience has been really great and really supportive. The Fact-Check team has always been there literally anytime I need them if I’ve got a question about a ‘Mech, or a planet, or how anything works. 

My next book, VoidBreaker, which comes out early next year, there’s a lot of space travel in it, and it covers a lot of the Inner Sphere. Just burn times from jump point to planet can be overwhelming to work all that stuff out. The assistant editor, Joshua Perian was literally with me in Discord chat every day helping me work those facts out as the book was being written. It helps so much. They’re really supportive and there to help tell the best BattleTech stories we all know how to tell. It’s been a really rewarding experience. 

Sean: Let’s move on to Without Question and A Question Of Survival. I would have seen these books as being a very challenging assignment. I know your first book was all about Clan Jade Falcon, and you’ve been doing a lot of Jade Falcon work, but where the Jade Falcons are in the ilClan era is a really tough spot.

Bryan: Yeah, yeah. 

Sean: The entire Occupation Zone is now empty, most of the Clan is either dead or on Terra, and those that are left have a really big image problem. So, when you were writing these books, did you kind of have to take a breath to appreciate the challenge of trying to rehabilitate this faction?

“The intention was never to rehabilitate the Jade Falcons per se. In fact, it was sort of my choice.”

Bryan: The intention was never to rehabilitate the faction per se. In fact, it was sort of my choice.  I was told here’s the story we need to tell, but one of the questions I had originally was like, what are the future plans for Jiyi? And no decisions have been made about him. He could have lived or died; it depends on what you do, how you do it, and what the response is like whether we’re going to see more of this faction or not. And it was my choice to sit down and try to logically look at where the Jade Falcons were leading up to this moment for Jiyi, and what logical things a character of his background would do. 

Jiyi was a pretty well-fleshed-out character thanks to Tamar Rising; what a character like that would do and how he would deal with these problems. Some of those questions were solved for me, but trying to dive deeper into them and to understand what the legacy of the Jade Falcons was, and reading all the books from the Dark Age of the Falcons, really adopting the Mongol Doctrine and getting progressively more villainous. And just trying to really explore from a social science fiction writer’s perspective: how’s this gonna go for these people?

A Question of Survival was really contained in the events of sourcebooks that were already done, and it was me trying to figure out character reasons for all those moments to make sense. Jiyi could have come off as a bad guy in A Question of Survival with all the direction that I was given, but I thought that book was more interesting casting the Ghost Bears and the Jade Falcons as protagonists who happened to be opposed to each other rather than one of them painted as the villains and one of them as the heroes. And that was the energy that I moved forward through Wiithout Question, because people seemed to respond well to that. People liked that, and I had a lot of fun writing that book. And I realized that there was a lot more that Jiyi had to reckon with. 

The challenge was, how do I put him through the wringer? What can I do to test him and challenge him? I knew that the Battle of Sudeten was going to be part of that challenge, but after that, there were no sourcebooks for it. So I had a free hand to sort of propose what I think the Jade Falcons are going to have to go through, and here’s how they’re going to have to fight for what being a Jade Falcon means.

Jiyi Chistu

And then, it was Ray Arrastia, the line developer, and Aaron Cahall, and John Helfer’s looking at the proposal and saying like, “Yeah, this makes sense to us. This is how the universe would react to that post-Malvina world.” And here’s how these Jade Falcons, if they are truly interested in coming up with something different—because what Malvina did took their Clan to the brink of extinction—and need to swing the pendulum another way, how would they do that?

So it didn’t feel like a challenge so much as sitting down and trying to logically think about how these things would work in the BattleTech universe and then making it feel believable. I guess there is a challenge there, but I don’t know if it comes off in reading the book more than challenging. It was just fun. Like, it was just fun to write, and torturing Jiyi as much as I did through that book was just like, we learn about who they really are when we put them in the most horrible circumstances and see how they react. And I think we learned a lot about Jiyi because of all of the horrible circumstances and things he was put through throughout these two books.

I think that’s why folks, for the most part, have been really responding to him as a character, because he just can’t win. Even when he wins, it’s just like, well, that was pyrrhic.

Sean: Or even if he wins, there’s just gonna be something else happening immediately after.

Bryan: Yeah. It’s hilarious to me how many people just want to kill him. 

Sean: To be fair, I think a lot of people just want to kill the faction entirely.

Bryan: Oh, yeah. 

Sean: Jade Falcons have been the villains forever, and who doesn’t want to see a villain just get their final comeuppance? 

Both Stephanie, the Khan of the Falcons on Terra, and Jiyi are really reckoning with where they were before and where Malvina took them, and neither of them wants to be there. 

Bryan: Well, my argument would be that they did when Cynthia killed Malvina. That villainy of the Jade Falcons sort of stopped there, because both Stephanie, the Khan of the Falcons on Terra, and Jiyi are really reckoning with where they were before and where Malvina took them, and neither of them wants to be there. 

Sean: That’s interesting you bring up the Khan Terra. Do you think we’re going to get another clash of the remnants of Jade Falcons on Terra versus the remnants of Jade Falcons on Sudeten? Because there are technically two Khans at the moment.

Bryan: That’s a really interesting question. 

Sean: Ha ha! Maybe we’ll be able to get more answers later. 

Bryan: Yeah, no, we might explore that down the line and how that meeting might go.

Sean: Okay, fair enough. Well, back to Jiyi for a little bit. You mentioned that we’re seeing how his character is being tested, and maybe this is just my own biases still showing, but I’m still suspicious of his motives. So I’m going to ask you how much of Jiyi’s reforms are pragmatism versus progressivism?

If he actually had the manpower or had his Iron Wombs up and running and making little trueborns as quickly as his Clan scientists could, do you think he would be as permissive of having freebirths in his army and even having them founding new Bloodhouses? Or would he still continue the trueborn/freeborn conflict typical of Clan Jade Falcon’s history?

Bryan: I think the question really comes down to like, there’s two different Jiyi’s, right? There’s the Jiyi who first arrives on Sudeten and everything is gone and he’s the only one left and he’s gonna start putting things together. He was still an iconoclast in Malvina’s Jade Falcon, so there would still be some element of progressivism, but the pragmatism at the start to just say, we have to survive and we need to do anything we can, seeing how well that’s worked and how well those freebirths have worked out and how these elements that he’s put together have worked, have moved him into some of that progressivism. 

Without Question

So that pragmatism sort of evolved into some of that progressivism. Where he ends up in Without Question is more progressive than the Jiyi that started this journey. And it’s because that pragmatism taught him lessons and changed his point of view in ways that I don’t think he can undo because of his lived experience now, if that makes sense.

I think you’re absolutely right that his progressivism probably would not have advanced to where it got had he had the resources he needed when he started. The scrapping and the fighting and the holding on by his fingernails that he’s had to do over 3151 and 3152 have established in his mind that those changes were right and that he was right to make them, and that he could continue making changes. It’s moderated him in a lot of ways.

Sean: Alexis was an interesting character. I loved following her journey from Ghost Bear to Jade Falcon, and it was interesting to see the way intimate clan relationships have changed from the earlier eras of BattleTech. As it was depicted in Way of the Clans, for example, you’re allowed to have sex, and you’re allowed to have relationships, but love is forbidden in trueborn Clan society, and that’s where the interpersonal conflict came from.

That was interesting as a child, but now that explanation for why love is bad has the same sort of dull ring as Star Wars and why Jedi aren’t allowed to experience love. Alexis, though, is part of a triad in A Question of Survival, and that relationship is defined very explicitly as love in Without Question

Do you think that the Clans are evolving with their attitudes towards love and relationships in the same way that they are with trueborns and freeborns? 

“The more freeborns, I think, that get introduced to Clan society, especially trueborn Clan society, they’re going to change each other’s perspectives on things.”

Bryan: So, two things are going on with Alexis. For one, the Ghost Bears were always more family-oriented, right? The Ghost Bears always had more of a reliance on relationships than the other Clans. Those relationships weren’t necessarily romantic, but Alexis came from a traumatized, orphaned background where she was living on the street as a freeborn and had different cultural cues to where that stuff came from.

So when she gets introduced to a Clan sibko, she gets influenced by their ideas, and they get influenced by her ideas. The more freeborns, I think, that get introduced to Clan society, especially trueborn Clan society, they’re going to change each other’s perspectives on things. Alexis comes from a really unique place where that felt right. 

That was something that we talked about in the development of A Question Of Survival and with the fact-checkers. It’s not necessarily possible with all of the characters, but we’re seeing those influences of the Inner Sphere change these factions pretty drastically, to the point where I think all of the Clans now feel very different. When they all invaded the Inner Sphere, they all felt very much the same, they just had different colors, right? And now, they’ve each settled over a hundred years in the Inner Sphere, in different places, with different philosophies and different leaders. So they’re all evolving in different directions because of that exposure to the Inner Sphere. 

The Jade Falcons, Jiyi’s Jade Falcons, they’re looking at this going, well half of our touman are Ghost Bears now. They’re telling us that this stuff is okay, and they’re some of my best warriors, so cool, it’s okay, I don’t even care, we’re Jade Falcons and we’re gonna survive.

I think that Clans in some of those respects are going to be more permissive of some of those things because of their exposure, but I think Jiyi’s Falcons and the Ghost Bears specifically are going to be there, right? I don’t see Clan Hell’s Horses going like, yeah, fall in love, I don’t care, right? I don’t see the Snow Ravens doing that either. I don’t see the Sea Foxes necessarily doing that. 

Sean: Unless there was money involved. 

Bryan: I would not hesitate to see the Sea Foxes open up a brothel full of Clan caste sex workers. That’s not out of their realm, right? And we need more positive representation of sex work in BattleTech, so why not?

“I would not hesitate to see the Sea Foxes open up a brothel full of Clan caste sex workers.”

Sean: I mean, the Magistracy has been pretty positive of sex work in BattleTech at least.

Bryan: Yeah, in general, I just think we always need more, that’s all. But I think that we’ve just hit a turning point in the Clans where the Dark Age felt like it stagnated a lot of the development of what would happen to societies clashing and meeting and intermingling. And now, in the ilClan era, we’re actually getting to explore all those differences and how each Clan has sort of evolved differently through that exposure to a hundred years of Inner Sphere culture.

Sean: Another thing that has evolved? Mercenaries. I think this is the first novel where we’ve had a mercenary co-op described with the Lone Wolves. Were mercenary co-ops something that had previously existed in BattleTech

Bryan: So the Lone Wolves are actually a pretty old unit in BattleTech. The Lone Wolves have been around for a long time. Their history goes back to the point where like, I think at one point they worked for the false Hanse Davion. They’ve been around for a while. Tamar Rising is where I was first introduced to them.

The idea was very simple. It was just, we’re a whole bunch of really tiny mercenary units that can’t go after huge jobs, so we’re gonna create a co-op so that our chairman can go and say, “We’ve got a whole brigade of BattleMechs, let’s bid on this job.” Not necessarily advertising the fact that, yeah, they’ve got a brigade, but it’s spread across 20 different merc units.

Lone Wolves Logo

So it was something that’s been in the universe for a while, and Tamar Rising really established what the Lone Wolves would look like in the ilClan era under the command of Bugsy Heidegger. Actually, it was funny; the weekend that we had our meeting on Zoom for A Question Of Survival, it was DragonCon weekend and I was in my hotel at DragonCon, and Ray Arastia the line developer, we’re on the call, and I recognized the layout of the hotel room he was doing his meeting in. I’m like, wait, are you at DragonCon, too? And so the next day, we had this call with Jason Schmetzer, John Helfers, and Ray Arrastia, and Ray and I were the only two at DragonCon. Everybody else was, you know, wherever.

Ray and I got together for drinks and we just started talking and he’s like, “What are your plans for the Fox Patrol?” And I was like, I don’t know. I’ve got them to this point where they could do this or that. Mike Stackpole had suggested that if I kept continuing with the Fox Patrol, aim them in a direction that if they got popular, I could start inserting them into the larger story. And I was like, I’m just aiming them toward the ilClan era, and they’re a tool we can use wherever we want. He’s like, “Have you thought about them signing up with the Lone Wolves?” And I’m like, what’s a Lone Wolf? And he’s like, “Look at their entries in Tamar Rising and see if there’s some interesting stuff that you could do. I don’t want to tell you what to do with the Fox Patrol; they’re popular enough on their own right now, but just think about hooking them up with the Lone Wolves.”

“I didn’t realize how fun Bugsy Heidegger would be to write. And after having written Bugsy for an entire other book, just getting to capture his voice again in a full novel, rather than just a serial, was just so much fun.”

And as I read through their stuff in Tamar Rising and saw that they were at the Battle of Sudeten, and knowing that I was going to be dealing with Jiyi and his Falcons, and knowing that I could play with them if I did that, I decided that I wanted to really do that. This was before Fox Tales came out, and the fifth story of Fox Tales sent them off in the Lyran direction, and it was like, oh, cool, we’re hitting the big leagues. And then after this conversation with Ray, I was like, no, I think, I think I want to have them head to Galatea and sync up with the Lone Wolves so that my serial novel, Lone Wolf and Fox, was really deep in the Lone Wolves. And I knew that that was going to send them to Sudeten.

I didn’t realize how fun Bugsy Heidegger would be to write. I had so much fun with him on Lone Wolf and Fox, which is what I wrote before Without Question. Without Question has a pretty interesting structure where it’s got three consistent POV characters through parts one through four and then a rotating POV through each other part. I knew Bugsy was going to be one of those after I finished Lone Wolf and Fox. And after having written Bugsy for an entire other book, just getting to capture his voice again in a full novel, rather than just a serial, was just so much fun.

Sean: So this is going to get into slight spoiler territory, but at one point in Without Question, part of the Mongol faction of the Jade Falcons returns after being delayed getting to Terra.

Just to drive the point of how terrible the Mongol faction was, they briefly seized power from Jiyi and immediately massacred a whole bunch of civilians. Of course, the noble Jade Falcons overthrow the bad faction, Jiyi is restored, and everything is right again, but as an average Sudeten citizen, I don’t think I’d care all that much which internal faction of Jade Falcon is in control if they’d just massacred a bunch of my friends. I think the average person would paint the entire Jade Falcon Clan with a pretty negative brush. And yet, once Jiyi is back, it seems everything is fine. The riots stop, Sudeten is a calmer place, and everything is hunky dory. 

Admittedly, war crimes are a common occurrence in the BattleTech universe, but I’m wondering if maybe some stuff happened off-screen to make the civilians of Sudeten happier with Jiyi in charge.

Bugsy Heidegger

Bryan: Definitely. I think one of the things that you’re looking at is sort of the subplot with Stiletto, the leader of the Sudeten resistance.

The thing that Alexis and Teresa are dealing with, and the thing that Jiyi is dealing with—they’re both separately dealing with very much the same issue—is where people are going like, “We don’t believe you’re gonna make these deals because the Jade Falcons don’t do this.” And as soon as Teresa has a line to the governor of the Magistracy of Antares and says, like, “The Khan that we have now is literally the only one who would make this deal with you. Like, the old Jade Falcons would have never made a deal like this with you.” 

Jiyi basically says like, what can we do to live together? And she lays out some stuff and he proposes self-governance for them. Basically, it’s getting BattleTech back to that feudal system where it’s like, we’re going to protect you, we’re going to take what we need as far as like taxes or tribute or whatever, but  I don’t care about urban planning. I don’t care about you building your sewers. I don’t care about any of this. You can do all that yourself and you can run your theaters and have all that stuff, and we’re not going to do this Clan caste thing anymore. You can govern yourselves. 

At the end of the book, in that final confrontation, that’s really what he promised her. And Stiletto sees what Nikita Malthus is willing to do, and then sees how Jiyi’s treating her. And so the stuff happening on camera, in my view, is that she’s the one running that part of the government now, and Jiyi’s only handling the military aspect.

So it’s a little bit of old-school House politics and a little bit Rasalhague. And again, part of that is where is Jiyi getting those ideas? At the beginning of the book, he’s planning these raids into Rasalhague because this is where they’re getting all of their ideas from, and half of his touman are Ghost Bears. So it’s just that Rasalhague’s idea is really rubbing off on him, but not in the same way.

“I think the average citizen probably still hates the Jade Falcons, but the average citizen on Sudeten doesn’t see Jiyi as the leader of Sudeten anymore.”

It’s because he’s looking at how they took the vote, and he’s just like, “That was ridiculous. We’re not gonna fall into that.” He’s trying to iterate on things to ensure his survival, and if he has to deal with constant terrorist attacks and assassination attempts from his own people, he’s not gonna have any Jade Falcons left.

There’s no benefit to being on Sudeten other than that needs to be their base of operations because that’s where their industry is located, and that’s where they’ve been for a hundred years. So yeah, I think the average citizen probably still hates the Jade Falcons, but the average citizen on Sudeten doesn’t see Jiyi as the leader of Sudeten anymore. They see their own people as the leaders, and that the Jade Falcons are just sort of there and a fact of life. 

Sean: I can see that. Okay, let’s talk fights. Without Question started with some pretty large combat scenes, and then wound up with smaller duels in the middle and end. Do you prefer big fights or smaller ones when writing? What’s the maximum size of units you’d feel comfortable writing in BattleTech?

Bryan: I’m comfortable in any size of battle as long as I understand the stakes for the character whose eyes we’re seeing that battle through. The Battle of Sudeten was more difficult, but for reasons not because of the scale of combat, but because of the amount of canon that’s already taken place in that space, right? I had to collate that against everything that happened in Tamar Rising and everything that happened in Craig Reade’s Elements of Treason: Honor. 

I might prefer the more one-on-one duel sort of combat just because it helps me feel like the character stakes are more understandable and more gripping on a story level if you understand the characters involved. If there’s a battle of two people, and you really understand what’s at stake for both characters, that battle’s way more heightened than, here are 30 BattleMechs going out into the battle and it sucks for me if I lose some. You’re not getting those personal stakes as much.

“I might prefer the more one-on-one duel sort of combat just because it helps me feel like the character stakes are more understandable and more gripping on a story level.”

I’m at home writing both of them, but I think those personal stakes actually hit harder emotionally in the books. I think my favorite battle to write in A Question Of Survival was the duel between Jiyi and Emilio Hall. Not because the battle was, like, bad or anything, but because I just understood where both of them were coming from and where the stakes were. 

For this, structurally, it felt important to kind of have the big battle, because I think BattleTech fans expect the big battle. And so I started using movies that are really ingrained in my head as sort of the structural roadmaps for those. One of them was Empire Strikes Back, where the scale starts very big, and then the stakes get very personal. The other was From Russia with Love, where James Bond kind of starts with the big stuff and then it ends in a fight in a hotel room with just him and Rosa Klebb fighting with knives, and it felt very personal, you know what I mean?

Structurally it made sense for that. Where Craig in Elements of Treason: Honor, Sudeten was the big climax I knew A), people would have already read that, so I didn’t need to climax because a lot of people would know where that was already, and B), I think people were expecting that perspective on the battle. I just needed to get that out of the way, and then move on to stuff that people hadn’t seen before. 

Sean: All right, that’s all the questions I had for Without Question,  so let’s talk Fox Patrol. Where did the idea for Fox Patrol come from?

Fox Patrol Logo

Bryan: There’s a couple of different places it came from. The initial story, The Secret Fox, came out of my playstyle for that first Super Nintendo MechWarrior game. I really hated having to deal with ammo, so I would load up my ‘Mechs with lots and lots of lasers and as many heat sinks as I could. But I could still never get the heat low enough, so I would try to position myself to take contracts on planets where I could just find a lake and sit in it and blast things with lasers. 

And I was thinking about The Iron Giant—one of my favorite movies, like it’s just a really terrific animated cartoon—and I loved that experience of a kid finding a giant robot. I had this image of me in that MechWarrior game overheating and dying in one of those lakes and something happens and maybe they damn it up and so the ‘Mech is beneath the surface and this young girl is taking a swim out by herself and she finds the ‘Mech, and it sort of coalesced with this idea, well, how would she deal with that? The idea of the ‘Mech tech came from there, and that was what I pitched to John Helfers and Phil Lee. And they were like, “Yeah, no, ditch the lake. It’s a great idea, but you can’t do it in the lake.”

But that’s really where that first story came from. I didn’t necessarily have an idea for what ‘Mech it would be or how that would work or what any continuing stories would be, but Mike Stackpole, as he was coaching me on BattleTech stuff, he’s like, “You really need to make your own mercenary unit. You need to make your own mercenary unit that’s just yours, that you can kind of play with wherever you want to in the universe. Like, I’ve got the Kell Hounds, what could be your Kell Hounds?” And I’m like, no one could just make a new Kell Hounds! That’s unreasonable to expect from me right out of the gates, Mike.

But I started thinking about all the mercs that I had been reading about in BattleTech, and I was like, I haven’t really read anything that’s really scrappy, poor, but optimistic mercenaries. And so I started formulating the idea for how the rest of the Fox Patrol would come together. One of my Boy Scout units as a kid was the Fox Patrol, and so I was like, okay, what about fox-based ‘Mechs? I first picked an Arctic Fox, and Fact-Check was like, “Absolutely not.” 

“No one could just make a new Kell Hounds! That’s unreasonable to expect from me right out of the gates, Mike.”

Sean: Haha, nobody likes that ‘Mech. 

Bryan: Yeah. So I was like, well if I wanted a different fox-based ‘Mech, it’s the Kit Fox. That’s when Mike suggested the Kell Hound connection to the Kit Fox. Then the first story came out and people seemed to really like it, and then the second story came out and people seemed to still really like it. It wasn’t until the fourth story that some people were like, “I don’t know,” because it didn’t have any ‘Mechs in it. But I really enjoyed that fourth, I think that fourth story is my favorite. 

The one I get the most feedback on is the one with the Kodiak. That’s on the cover of Fox Tales and is about them taking a job that they got lied to on a few different levels, at the beginning, and at the end, and their group is just not capable of taking a Kodiak. So when they turn that corner into that glade and there’s a Kodiak standing there, like, it’s scary for the reader, it’s scary for them. 

And I’m really a sucker for found family narratives and for underdogs and people that are too poor in situations where they need to have more money. The Fox Patrol just sort of scratches all those itches. It felt like the opposite of all the stuff I was doing with Clan Jade Falcons, so it was refreshing for me to be able to work on it. 

Katie's Kit Fox

I feel like everything I’m writing in BattleTech—when I take on a different unit, or I take on a different faction—that they all feel distinctly different from the others. And Fox Patrol was a reaction for like, what’s the exact polar opposite of what I could do from Malvina’s Jade Falcons.

Sean: Something wholesome. 

Bryan: Yeah, exactly. And it was something I just didn’t feel like BattleTech had enough of. It feels like that instinct has paid off. Like, when I go to cons, I have people come up to me and say like, “This was the story I finally got my spouse to read, to get into BattleTech.” Or, “This is what I got my kids into.” I had a guy at AdeptiCon come up to me and introduce me to his 11-year-old son, and they were like, “We read Fox Patrol as bedtime stories and now we’re playing the RPG and the tabletop game and they’re playing as the Fox Patrol.”

I read my eight-year-old the Fox Patrol stories, not because I was trying to force my stories on my eight-year-old, but because they asked because they were interested to see what I did for work. And as soon as I read them The Secret Fox and that first Fox Patrol story, that’s what got them into playing on the tabletop. They were just like, “I want to play and I want a Kit Fox.” 

That was a challenge to create a battle that I could play where they could be a Kit Fox—because they wanted to be Katie—and not just destroy them in one hit. 

Sean: Yeah, that’s another question I was going to ask. How hard is it to write convincing battles where the main character is in such a fragile ‘Mech? I mean, I love the Kit Fox as well, but it’s not fast enough to dodge, it has virtually no armor, and while it hits hard for its class, it’s not enough to take on a Kodiak as you mentioned earlier. How hard is it to keep Katie alive?

Bryan: Pretty hard, actually. The more I get into it, the more I realize how absurd it is. You’ll notice that Katie has had situations where she she gets shot down in her—I mean, in BattleTech, there tends to be this idea that, if you core a ‘Mech you’ve killed the pilot, and that’s not always the case. There have definitely been situations—like in their fifth story where they’re fighting those pirates—
where Katie spends half the battle in the dark because her ‘Mech gets taken out. 

Katie Ferraro in BattleTech Legends 2

You’ll see her hanging out at the back more, commanding more, or scouting more and trying to stay out of the fray. Not because she doesn’t want to be in the fray, but because her ‘Mech is exactly as you said, it’s fragile. And when she gets into the battle, it’s a very dire situation. My writing today was her perspective during the Battle of Sudeten, and so much of it was just her trying to pick places where she’s not going to be noticed as much because there are so many ‘Mechs on the battlefield.

And the other thing is, if you look at the engagements they’re in, they’re very small stakes, right? Her very first fight was like two ‘Mechs that weren’t even working. Her second fight was like two ‘Mechs that were literally just shells and dummies and like two other ‘Mechs they had to fight against.

The Fox Patrol lends itself to having a Kit Fox as their command ‘Mech because the stakes of the battles that they’re in are not terribly high, and they’re not fighting huge, overwhelming opponents. This is why their being in the Battle of Sudeten, or fighting in the Alyina Mercantile League in Lone Wolf and Fox, is so problematic for them. Especially for Evan and the Locust, too.

Sean: At least the Locust can sort of dodge and run around, but I can understand why it would be equally problematic. They’re usually the first ‘Mechs to go in a fight. 

Bryan: Yeah. One of the things I like is the creative challenge of going like, these are ‘Mechs that I thought were cool and kind of fit thematically. Mercenary units at that small scale are gonna be taking the ‘Mechs that they can salvage and scrap, right? They’re not going to be optimized for that tabletop combat. They’re going to be optimized for what we have on hand and how we pick jobs that lean into that.

That’s an interesting creative challenge for me, but I think it’s also an interesting in-universe challenge where there are plenty of merc units who just don’t get those choices. This is the ‘Mech that I got handed down, or it’s the ‘Mech I managed to steal, and so that’s the mech I gotta have.

Sean: Well, with that question, how did you go about choosing the ‘Mechs, besides Katie and her Kit Fox?

Shrapnel 16 Cover

Bryan: So, Evan and Arkee with the Locust and the Quickdraw was, I didn’t want to make Arkee’s ‘Mech too big or too powerful, and it was something that I thought thematically, Arkee would be a quick shot, so a Quickdraw just drew that line for me. But also it drew a contrast between Evan and Arkee in their relationship, where Evan is much smaller and more diminutive, and Arkee’s a much bigger guy, so Arkee’s piloting the bigger ‘Mech, and Evan is piloting the smaller ‘Mech. So it matches their personalities a little bit. 

When Rhiannon, Ramirez, and Dexter Nicks got added to the mix, Dexter was in a Griffin just because I thought griffins are cool and I was playing with the Beginner Box with my kid a lot. And then Rhiannon was just because the Marauder‘s my favorite, and she’s very no-nonsense, and so it reflects her personality, where she’s very powerful and stalwart. But the Griffin‘s an old workhorse, too, right? And so that’s where Dexter comes in. It was really me trying to match their characters a little bit—tell stories with the ‘Mechs that reflect who they are as people.

Sean: So what’s next for the Fox Patrol? We’ve just had them in sort of as a cameo in Without Question with the Lone Wolves, and where are they going from here? 

Bryan: You noticed their cameo in Without Question, right now the story I’m working on is their version of that, and then they’re going to remain with the Lone Wolves as the Lone Wolves take off to their next location. The Fox Patrol is getting a full-length novel. Not a huge one—it’s probably gonna be 50,000 words tops, and they’re going to end up in Almotacen, which is the hiring hall one jump away from Sudeten. They’re going to have some adventures there that I’m really excited about in the midst of all the Hinterlands action.

“VoidBreaker is done and is coming out early next year.”

VoidBreaker is done and is coming out early next year. I turned in VoidBreaker last year. It had originally been scheduled to come out this year, but the schedule shifted around because of stuff going on with the Kickstarter and Trial of Birthright and ilKhan’s Eyes Only, so it’s coming out early next year, and it’s going to answer the questions about the last time we caught up with Tucker HarwellHe had mysteriously vanished outside of Devlin Stone‘s hospital room at the end of Hour of the Wolf. He’s the one person who could potentially fix the HPG network, and we know that the Sea Foxes are getting it up, so it’s very much a spy thriller.

I patterned it after Ian Fleming’s James Bond books—a little bit influenced by the movies cause I’m a big nerd for those. It’s going to be a little bit of a different flavor of BattleTech, but that’s not to say it’s not going to have ‘Mech battles—it is definitely having ‘Mech battles—but it takes a look at the Watch apparatus in a way I don’t think we have before, especially not from the Sea Foxes.

I really enjoyed that book. I enjoyed writing it and it should come out early next year.

Sean: I’m very much looking forward to that one. I love it when BattleTech gets a little more hardcore sci-fi, and it doesn’t get much more sci-fi than dealing with barely understood cosmic forces and a mad genius. Plus we get to see more of Clan Sea Fox, a Clan we don’t hear much about other than they’re intergalactic arms dealers these days.

What were you able to maybe give to Clan Sea Fox to bring out a little bit of their flavor in VoidBreaker? If you’re allowed to give any hints on that. 

Bryan: There’s some zero-g combat. And there is definitely a view of their relationships with other Clans and their place in the Inner Sphere where they’re positioning themselves in the future and how different their Watch apparatus might look than other Clans. 

Sean: Would you say it’s more expansive and effective? 

Do I do what’s good for the profits of Clan Sea Fox or what’s good for the Inner Sphere, or do I get to make that choice, even?

Bryan: I don’t know about that. I mean, there’s a reliance on subterfuge and actual, old-fashioned espionage in a way that I think some of the other Watches might not get into. The Sea Foxes are a little bit more morally flexible on what Clans find acceptable, but that’s really because the merchant caste took over Clan Diamond Shark. We’re Sea Foxes again, but we’re merchants and we’re doing things different. 

Sean: Now there’s a Clan that understands the power of rebranding. Not that I particularly care for their super-capitalist streak, but nobody’s perfect.

Bryan: Yeah, who does? The main character kind of grapples with that a little bit where it’s like, “Do I do what’s good for the profits of Clan Sea Fox or what’s good for the Inner Sphere, or do I get to make that choice, even?” 

Sean: Or maybe what’s good for Clan Sea Fox is good for the Inner Sphere.

Bryan: Yeah, I think that definitely enters into things, too. 

Sean: And we also have the Pride-zine out this month! 

Bryan: Yeah, yeah, yeah. The Pride-zine, I’m really excited about it. I love active fandom communities in BattleTech that are doing their best to make the hobby and the universe seem more welcoming to invite more people in. I’ve heard from so many people that said that their entry into BattleTech was last year’s Pride-zine which Mike Stackpole and I provided a forward for. 

This one they asked me to contribute a story for,  and I was really hesitant. I sort of went back to my editor and asked, am I allowed to do this? And the answer was like, “You’re a contractor, as long as it’s on your time, do what you want, we’re fine with that.” So I wrote a story specifically for this that I’m really, really happy with. 

BattleTech Pride Anthology 2024

I’m just really excited that there’s a group of fans who care enough to do stuff like this. I would love to see Catalyst do something like this officially, but right now they’re still just drowning in Kickstarter.

Sean: Yeah, fair. And to be honest, I’m impressed with how the fans have been able to produce this kind of publication. I know it’s only once a year, but it still seems very professional. The first one they did last year was extremely good and this year I’m expecting great things.

Bryan: Yeah, it’ll be fun. I haven’t seen the cover or anything, but I know that they hired a professional BattleTech artist to do a cover which I’m excited to see. 

Sean: Those are all my real questions, but this means we get to the fun questions. So my first of the fun questions is, how many Kit Fox minifigures do you own? And do you have any extras?

Bryan: I’ve got three. They were hard for me to find too. When I did Masters and Minions first, they were like, “What ‘Mechs do you want? Any ‘Mech you want, we’ll paint it up how you want it.” And I was like, I need a Quickdraw and a Kit Fox that are Fox Patrol.

It wasn’t even a problem for them. So they painted them up for me, and those were my first two Fox Patrol ‘Mechs. One of them is the one my kid uses, and then the third one I have was a very, very gracious gift from Robin Briceño, who’s a Shrapnel contributor, and was on the demo team and does a lot of the painting for Masters and Minions and stuff.

She’s just an incredible painter, and when she got the picture of Katie’s Kit Fox in Legends 2, she painted it up with all the decals exactly like that. It appeared as a very, very gracious gift to me. So that’s the third one I have. So I don’t have any extras, they’re all very sentimental.

Sean: Damn. That’s fair. It’s just really hard to find any Clan ‘Mechs in the 20 to 30-point range.

Bryan: I’m hoping that the Fox Patrol ForcePack that they teased at KerenskyCon comes out sooner than later. But I do know it’s on the list somewhere, and it’s been written, and I think it’s in Fact Check, but we did a Spotlight On Fox Patrol that should be coming out at some point, and it’s got all the Alpha Strike stuff for their unique versions of these ‘Mechs. Hopefully, between that and a ForcePack It’ll make it a lot easier for folks to play the Fox Patrol.

My take on Bryan Youngs’ Fox Patrol
byu/rashktah inbattletech

But a month doesn’t go by in the last two years where I don’t have somebody tagging me in photos of their Fox Patrol that they’ve made it up. It’s really humbling and it blows me away that people responded well enough to something I contributed to BattleTech enough to paint it up. Like, I hang out with Mike Stackpole a lot, and it’s all old hat for him, like, everybody paints up Kell Hounds, but why would you spend your time with the Fox Patrol? That makes me really happy and it makes me feel like I did something right in this universe, at least that.

Sean: I have another question about Without Question. As seen in the book, Alexis describes Clan cooking as generally bland. Then she goes to another planet and masquerades as a civilian where she eats a pastry, and she describes it as the best thing she’s ever tasted. What do you think Clan cuisine entails? And, which Clan do you think would have the best cooking? 

Bryan: My guess is the Ghost Bears would have the best cooking because they are integrated with civilian society more than the others. I think the See Foxes probably have the worst because they’re just like, “We’re in space, give me that nutrient paste.”

Sean: Yeah, gross.  

Bryan: I think a lot of what Alexis was contrasting though is that it seems like MechWarriors might have to spend days at a time in their ‘Mechs and just eating that nutrient paste. But I think the Ghost Bears probably have the most culinary stuff. Well, maybe Snow Ravens, ‘cause who knows what’s going on with those guys? 

I imagine Clan Wolf just boils potatoes like the Irish. I don’t know. Well, part of it is just because I really associate Clan Wolf and the Kell Hounds with really Irish descendants because Mike wrote them, and Mike is very Irish. So I’m just like, they’re boiling stuff, and they’re eating corned beef or something. 

So yeah, I think Ghost Bears probably have the best of it, but the fact that Alexis is just like, this random pastry is amazing, just shows that all of it’s kind of universally bad because the Clans are very against waste, they’re not about extravagance, and they’re all about utilitarianism, so it’s just gonna be like, “Here’s your protein supplements. Go drink your protein shake for breakfast or whatever and here’s your nutrient paste in your ‘Mech.” So none of it’s gonna be very great. 

“I love Jar Jar.”

Sean: I was reading your website written a lot for other geek fandoms most notably multiple essays defending Jar Jar Binks. 

Bryan: I love Jar Jar.

Sean: He gets a lot of hate, but I don’t think he deserves it either 

Bryan: Yeah. 

Sean: Do you think BattleTech could benefit from a Jar Jar-style character? 

Bryan: I think everybody could benefit from a Jar Jar-style character. The thing about Jar Jar that I really respond to is it’s twofold.

One is that George Lucas is very intimately inspired by other movements in film. The history of cinema is told across the moving images of George Lucas’s Star Wars entries, and it’s also told through all the others because part of what makes Star Wars so special is those mashups.

Jar Jar is very much a core character in that he represents the silent era of film. If you go look shot for shot, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd bits get translated into Star Wars through Jar Jar. And I think that we responded so well to them because they were down-on-their-luck sort of tramps who were just trying to make it by, especially in a time when the country—the U.S. specifically—was heading into a depression. And so Jar Jar represents that sort of down-on-their-luck scamp. 

Lone Wolves Blackjack Argument

But also, the thing about Jar Jar that I respond really well to is that he’s the bullied outcast, who is loyal to a fault. And I think that part of the reason I responded to Jar Jar so much is because I saw myself in that clumsy outcast when I was in high school. Like, I was not cool. I was an awkward nerd who was really clumsy, right? So, Jar Jar felt like an attainable sort of character archetype I could hit, but I also felt like Jar Jar’s primary thing was that if people just trusted him and got to know him and looked into his heart, they would find a loyal friend and ally that would follow them to the ends of the Earth and do anything that they could for them.

I think that characters like that, those down-on-their-luck outcasts who are bullied and mistreated, who have those hearts of gold, have a place in every franchise, and I would love to see something more like that in BattleTech. And now I’ve got ideas for stories now. Now I’m like, how can I make that work?

Sean: Well, I’m looking forward to seeing BattleTech‘s Jar Jar and the many angry emails accusing me of having inspired a monster. All right, that’s everything I had. Was there anything else you wanted to discuss? 

Bryan: I think we covered all the bases. I’m just really excited for the direction BattleTech is heading and I’m really grateful for Sarna, for the work the community does to keep that resource there. I have to have a window open on my browser to Sarna when I’m writing pretty much always, and it’s so helpful. It’s a great resource, and it’s helped me fall down rabbit holes in the canon and the lore that I’m not sure I would have fallen down otherwise.

It’s just really valuable, and I know the rest of the BattleTech team of writers rely on it in really interesting ways too. 

Sean: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me It was a pleasure getting to know you and learning more about Fox Patrol and just your general background with BattleTech. I really appreciate it. 

Bryan: Oh, no, thank you. Like I said, I appreciate what you guys do and your news coverage on Sarna is terrific.

Sean: Thanks! I look forward to reading the Pride-zine and VoidBreaker when it comes out. 

Without Question is available now wherever fine books are sold. You can learn more about Bryan Young and his body of works on his personal website (and also his many presences on social media).

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

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41 thoughts on “Answering Questions – An Interview with Author Bryan Young

  1. Jeremy Ward

    I’d love a series of novels on the Jihad. It’s one of the most vital eras in Battletech and it has so little fiction written about, especially in comparison to earlier and later eras. After Victor and the Superfriends saga, anything would be better.

  2. Butte Hold

    Can we focus on writers who actually write material that fits in the setting? I don’t care about boring mercenaries written like children. If I did, the Camacho’s Caballeros already have books. I especially don’t want or need to see clanner sex workers in the series, it’s bad enough that Sarna and CGL are publicizing poorly written fanfiction with that kind of thing. Keep it in your pants and write military fiction, not wank material.

    1. Steel Shanks

      2nd Times a Charm I guess… 1st Time must have been “verboten”.
      Yes, agree completely.
      Also, people keep saying “We love the direction BattleTech is going”… What direction? LOL… Please, be specific. Writers, CGL People, “Fans”, have all said this tired line… What specifically IS the direction? I’d really love too know. If it is writing like this… Well… I don’t think the fans are going to stay on very long. Pretty Mid to be honest. I don’t care about Fox Patrol at all, and the Jade Falcon books… Man… There is really no reason to stay under the Falcon name really… Let’s be honest, the Falcons are dead. Nova Cats are too, but We have the Spirit Cats, which actually work out. Maybe Jiyi can be the “Ghost Falcons”, because keeping the Jade Falcon name is completely idiotic.

      1. Kereminde

        Obviously Mike Stackpole, and if they can get William Keith back in… but we need the real big gun back.

        We need Peter Rice to write Far Country II.

        1. Steel Shanks

          Yes, Far Country II needs to happen… What are our favorite Bird-people doing? Maybe they have tons of Egg Mechs now?

    1. Kereminde

      (He’s just kind of a goofball sometimes. You should see his interviews with Big Red where it really goes off the rails. Bonus points for the one where Mike Stackpole was sitting in and doing “yes, and…” to it all.)

  3. Star Colonel Ward

    So Bryan Young is taking credit for why the dawn of the ilClan era has dragged on slower than molasses in January, with nothing from Terra, Alaric Ward, and the new ilClan for the past 3 or so years(since the ilClan sourcebook and Hour of the Wolf)? And he wants to pollute the universe further with a Clan Sea Fox led sex trafficking racket? In a Caste driven society, at that? Without Question was already a horrible piece of canine produced literary lawn fudge. But I am not surprised, with Bryan Young wanting sex to saturate everywhere he writes.

    1. Sean Post author

      Alright kids, calm down. Bryan was riffing off a fun remark from the interviewer, intended as a joke that perhaps doesn’t translate well to writing. Nobody’s suggesting we make it a plot point in BattleTech. Sex work exists, now and in the the year 3152. Let’s be adult about it.

      Second of all, Bryan made it clear he was advised by BattleTech’s line developers that he wasn’t allowed to progress the timeline, just write a few fun stories in the Hinterlands. Let’s also be accurate.

      If you’re just here to be negative, I’m just going to start filtering comments.

    2. Steel Shanks

      “Canine produced literary lawn fudge”… Is the greatest Line I’ve seen all week… You win the Internet Sir. Congrats.

    3. Raven

      Yeah what he said. I am so glad that the lore will be pushed forward through Sourcebooks rather than novels.

    4. huskwindlass

      Your reading comprehension isn’t very good.

      Young is a terrific writer and doing great things in BT, I bet you’re just butt-hurt that he’s the new superstar writer and you’re not.

  4. Kereminde

    “Cool. Shadowrun‘s full. How about BattleTech?”

    … you mean there’s another branch of reality out there where we could have had Bryan writing about a shadowrunning Fox Patrol? I feel slightly robbed.

      1. Kereminde

        I recall this comment being “Russell Zimmerman” before, but I’m more hoping Stackpole gets a chance to go back to Shadowrun for a couple stories.

  5. Mawsab Tullerson

    His writing bad. Bad as this. Mopey clan warriors, jade falcon fan fiction, hells horses the most inept military in any universe, fictional or not. You can preach whatever you want, but if it’s this poorly done not going to finish this guys books. They are going into the give away with all haste pile. Do better.

  6. Nopesauce

    Of course there’s people that would focus on 3 lines of a 10,000 word interview, but hey. I’m looking forward to VoidBreaker, and enjoy the evolution of the Jade Falcons. Bryan’s work hasn’t gone unnoticed by the majority of the fandom, and I hope he keeps writing.

  7. HouseMasterPoDing

    Thank you for this sit down interview with Bryan. He comes off as really approachable, and I’m glad that we get to see a little bit of what is going on behind the scenes. Great interview, Sarna!

  8. Eric Salzman

    BattleTech technically does have a Jar Jar, in the sense of a designated screw up character – Zephan Surat.

  9. SohmBee

    thank you for the interview. I’m really looking forward to further publications! Bryan Young played a key role in making me really like the new Ilclan era

    1. huskwindlass

      Same! The precious few who seem to think Young is bad don’t seem to understand how the lore has changed or the universe has evolved over a hundred years since they cared about it.

      Young is knocking it out of the park.

      1. BrianDavion

        A lotta the anti Young people I think are the fanbase of a certain former Battletech writer whose been detirmined to burn his bridges I know said writer has been enchouraging people to post negative reviews about Young

  10. Mr. Popo

    Took the time to look up the IPA pronunciation for Gyrfalcon. Turns out the G is soft like in “giant”, the yr is the same vowel sound as in “nurse” or “blurry”. So “jur falcon”.


    The writing in Battletech has never been particularly good, but I’ve got to say that the ilClan writing so far has been some of the worst I’ve read.

    “Hour Of The Wolf” was absolute drivel with some of the most egregious plot armor since Morgan Kell’s phantom mech and an uncomfortable percentage of the dialogue and internal monologue in “A Question Of Survival” is written like a Redditor composing an essay on whatever the hot-button culture war issue is, except it’s about a fictional setting where people make stupid decisions as a pretext to blow each other up with giant robots because stories about peacetime military equipment are boring.

    At least the new art and plastic we’ve been getting is fantastic, but I’m not optimistic about the future of Battletech fiction.

  12. WestRider

    “…but I thought that book was more interesting casting the Ghost Bears and the Jade Falcons as protagonists who happened to be opposed to each other rather than one of them painted as the villains and one of them as the heroes.”

    This right here is one of the biggest things I’ve always loved about BattleTech. I’m a big fan of stories without heroes and villains, just people who have incompatible needs and desires. It’s part of what keeps the whole thing feeling so grounded. Definitely gonna have to check out some of Young’s stories. Thank you!

  13. Moo Jii

    Oof. Pedestrian writing combined with transparent political views. This guy is no Mike Stackpole, let alone a new Blaine Lee Pardoe.


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