Home > Newsletter > Hellhole: There’s No Place Like Home

Hellhole: There’s No Place Like Home

By Kevin J. Anderson

Hellhole: the place to go when there’s nowhere else to go.

Who says the galaxy has to be a pleasant place to settle down?  I grew up reading space opera stories set on strange alien planets filled with lush flora and exotic creatures, steamy dinosaur-filled jungles on Venus, bleak but poignant lost civilizations on Mars.

Of all the planets in habitable zones around stars, a great many may fit in the broad category of “fit for human life,” but that doesn’t mean they’re comfortable for human life.  In the classic Dune, Frank Herbert was one of the first authors to show sufficiently motivated people using their ingenuity to live reasonably normal lives in a truly inhospitable place.

After writing eleven books in Frank Herbert’s Dune universe, Brian Herbert and I had stretched our collaborative muscles and practiced building complicated epics.  We felt it was time to craft a large science fiction story of our own making.  Hellhole.  But it didn’t have to be a pleasant place.

I’ve traveled extensively in the desert southwest, hiked and explored in the red rock canyonlands of Utah, in now-abandoned potash and uranium mining towns, in Death Valley, in Arizona and New Mexico.  Because of the arid climate, much of the history remains intact, petrified dreams and rusted detritus.  People came out to these places, staked their claims, fought the elements, and tried to make lives for themselves.  I remember vividly one hike out to a crusty dry lake bed in Death Valley, the ruins of a large borax mining operation where hundreds of Chinese immigrants had slaved under 120°F heat, choking on air filled with alkaline dust, boiling chemicals out of the ground to make cakes for soap…and they did it willingly because these conditions were better than what they had left at home.

How much worse might it be on a planet that had been hammered by an extinction-event asteroid impact centuries earlier?  In a broad galactic empire, filled with malcontents, misfits, exiles, criminals, and people on the run, there would be volunteers to settle even in a place like this…Hellhole.

Our novel is their story, but it’s more than just a pioneer tale, also filled with galactic politics, treachery, and buried secrets.  And human fortitude to make a home…wherever it might be.


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  1. Tony
    March 1, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    I seem to recall Harry Harrison’s Deathworld and many others prior to Dune.

  2. March 1, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    Thanks, Kevin.

    On a couple of podcasts, you’ve mentioned that you do your thinking and dictating time while hiking. Have you ever had an “aha” moment while hiking, inspired by that landscape you are traveling through, that has made it into the book you were working on at the time?

  3. KJA
    March 2, 2011 at 11:53 pm

    Hi Jvstin — yes, I’ve had lots of epiphanies while out hiking. Just being surrounded by so much sensory input, and given hours and hours (and miles and miles) of uninterrupted concentration gives me the chance for Eureka! moments that would never happen in the bustle of my regular office


  4. sandy davis-swain
    March 3, 2011 at 8:59 pm

    This is fantastic! emailed to me by my son, we are avid fans! Awesome site all round.

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  5. March 3, 2011 at 12:05 am

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