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The Beam

From its cast of characters to the world they inhabit, The Beam represents some of the most exceptional storytelling work I’ve ever had the privilege to be a part of. 

The core series is a sprawling epic, spanning five seasons of six episodes each, delving deeper and stretching further than Sterling & Stone’s typical style for a serial. The Beam was originally conceived as mine and Johnny’s “Star Trek.” A narrative universe so fast and filled with potential that we could continue to explore it indefinitely, crafting stories without feeling pressured to rush toward a predetermined endpoint. 

But after finishing the third season, and allowing the series to lie dormant for years, Johnny and I finally decided that adding an additional two seasons to the narrative would lock our canon into place and open the world for an infinity of stories later, if either of us ever wanted more in this world. 

Of course I do. Even the end of this series felt like it could be a new beginning. 

Some true fans already know there was an earlier iteration of The Beam written before Johnny and I joined forces. Same ideas, radically different result. Known as theBeam, I had to shelve the original project because the writing at the time lacked the necessary finesse and precision to fully harness the magnitude and complexity of the story world I envisioned.

Or, as Johnny put it, the book read like a cockney argument at Radio Shack. 

I had no idea when I might return to the world after that shelved draft, I just knew it wasn’t good enough to publish. But after our work on Unicorn Western blew my mind, I offered the Beam world to Johnny, thinking we could do something better than what had been done before, but having no idea we would be making pure magic.

No one has ever handled my raw ideas better than Johnny, and this was the first series where we really got to dig in. Unicorn Western grew more serious by the end, but for the first several books we could do pretty much whatever we wanted to. The tighter restrictions of The Beam and its world made for richer, more compelling stories.

The politics were there from the start, at least with Enterprise and Directorate, but only after our early story meetings when discussing the project did we develop the idea for Shift. Same for many of the most significant elements of this world.

The questions kept coming after that first season ended. Story meetings weren’t enough, so we outlined and wrote one of my favorite projects ever, a faux nonfiction book written in the style of Malcolm Gladwell, penned by fictional author Sterling Gibson in the year 2097. Unofficially referred to as Season 1.5, Plugged: How The Beam and Hyperconnectivity Changed the Way We Think, was written by and for us, to explain the world to ourselves so that we could better articulate it to our audience.

The second and third seasons of The Beam preceded The Future of Sex, which is still Johnny’s favorite of our series to date. That story is a prequel, with ideas every bit as big as that title suggests, and representative of the scope we’ve always intended for this world. My favorite thing about this series is its looming size. That the reader can sense something bigger just out of sight. Characters can only see their thin sliver of the universe, and their perspective is confined because of it.

The Beam takes place in 2097 in the North American Union, which also happens to be the planet’s only stable nation. A dystopia erupting with new technologies and ruled by powerful, unchecked political parties. The Beam itself is an AI-built computer network that serves the average citizen’s every whim, connecting them through implants and biological add-ons. 

The network anticipates every need and has fashioned a world within the world, permeating everything, everywhere. It’s even easier to believe in this world now than it was back when the first episode was first published, in 2013. 

But as our story unfolds, we find that the NAU’s power structure is shifting. Moves are being made while old rivalries loom in the distance.

A black-market add-on dealer, a speechwriter who knows too much, an escort-assassin as lethal as she is seductive, and a shadowy group pulling the strings, an invisible hand guiding the upcoming election to where it’s always been destined to go.

The Beam was designed to feel like television at its best. It doesn’t have an overly developed plot so much as characters and a fully-realized world that’s unlike anything else our studio has ever produced. It’s deep, emotionally expensive work. The time cost to work on the series is high, as is the mental tax of accounting for the countless details in this all-too-believable near-future world.

Whitespace was the series with Dave I felt most excited and intimidated to return to. The Beam is the same with Johnny, but an order of magnitude more on both fronts. Like Yesterday’s Gone, The Beam was also nominated for an Audie, in the Best Science Fiction Book category. We lost to The Martian that year, but I didn’t care at all.  The Martian is great a ripping yarn, and The Beam one got me writing in a serious way with Johnny.

The Beam is for readers who love gritty but deeply-believable character-based sci-fi, set at the turn of the upcoming century. Equal parts social commentary, political intrigue, mystery, and unsettling prophecy, it’s the kind of story that compels you to keep turning pages, all the while wondering, Why isn’t this on TV yet?

Enjoy the “pilot” episode of The Beam. I hope you love it at least half as much as I do! 

You can get your copy free for the next week here!