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Eric Nylund Interview, April, 2010

Eric Nylund The Halo Waypoint team sat down with Eric Nylund in April 2010 to discuss the Dr. Halsey Journal that will be available in the Limited and Legendary Editions of Halo: Reach. They were kind enough to give us a chance to host it a bit early. Enjoy!

Well-loved author and Halo fiction contributor, Eric Nylund, was recently tasked with writing the bulk of the Halo: Reach Limited and Legendary Edition's exclusive fictional artifact, the journal of Dr. Catherine Halsey, mastermind behind the SPARTAN-II project and citizen of Reach. We had a chance to ask Eric a few questions about the journal and about the long and arduous process involved in bringing it to life. Here's what he had to say:

Eric, we understand that you wrote and helped create much of the Halsey journal which makes a lot of sense because of the groundwork you've already laid for her character in Halo: The Fall of Reach, Halo: First Strike and Halo: Ghosts of Onyx. How did the idea for the journal as an artifact for a Halo prequel first come about?

ERIC: First, before we go any further, let me point out that creating this journal was a task of Herculean proportions and without the following people putting in some very long hours and sweating a few ammo crates of bullets, it would have never seen the light of day:

From Bungie: Lorraine McLees, Robt McLees, Jim McQuillan, and Eric Osborne
From Microsoft Game Studios: Jeannie Voirin-Gerde, Shane Hartley, Doug Startzel, and Mike Vaillancourt
From 343 Industries: Alex Cutting, Frank O'Connor, Jeremy Patenaude, and Jacob Benton

And SUPER EXTRA special thanks to the editors on this project (seriously, you DON'T want to know what they had to go through): Kevin Grace (343) and Brent Metcalfe (MGS).

(Apologies for anyone I missed)

Okay...what was your question again? Oh yeah....

Initially there was an idea to have a journal from the perspective of someone on REACH during the fall of the planet. This quickly changed to the journal of Dr. Halsey during that time period because she's arguably the most interesting and well-informed person on REACH...and then that evolved into her secret journal covering not only the time period leading up to and during the fall of REACH, but rather a time period spanning much of the most interesting historical era of the UNSC.
Halsey's Journal

Without giving away any secrets, can you give us an idea about what types of things fans should expect from the Halsey journal?

ERIC: Everything. (okay—well, almost everything )

Many of the juiciest secret fans want to know about Dr. Halsey's work: details of the SPARTAN program, MJOLNIR armor, the evolution of A.I. technologies...and more personal stuff as well.

All of it meticulously illustrated.

And, of course, all new mysteries for the fans to ponder!

What is it about Dr. Halsey that you think people find fascinating? Why her journal and not another character?

ERIC: She's a dazzling, 200 IQ, complicated character. Who wouldn't want to write about Dr. Halsey?!

She's cobbled many disparate technological elements into the final SPARTAN effort that culminates in the Master Chief.

She's at the heart of everything, and is the keeper of secrets in the HALO universe.

These first images of the journal look really impressive. How much work was done in an effort to make this particular piece so authentic?

ERIC: Nothing was left to chance on this piece.

The goal was to create an artifact from REACH in the 26th century. I just got back from holding one of the advanced copies that has been sent our way, and it's a thing of beauty. It feels like a bit of future history in your hands.

The design team went through hundreds of permutation of custom papers, colors, and compositions to get it just right. Even what kind of stitching is on the cover and used in the binding...all painstakingly selected to make it feel like it's been handcrafted by the immigrant craftsmen on REACH during that time period.

It's NOT your standard strategy guide or "Art of" book you find in most Limited Editions.

This piece has been finessed and loved into existence and is truly worthy to be in Bungie's biggest HALO game!

Halsey's introduction to fans was in 2001, alongside the first Halo game and the bestselling novel Halo: The Fall of Reach. That's almost a decade ago. How easy was it for you to return to the same fictional stomping grounds of ten years earlier?

ERIC: Pretty easy.

For good or ill, the way I think and the way Dr. Halsey thinks are darn close. I'm not sure what that says about me...

The scope of this character's journal seems like it would be incredibly daunting. Did you find yourself having to go back to research your own past work in preparation for this?

ERIC: Yes. Me and a TEAM of people had to go back and constantly check everything in the HALO universe. (Note to self—why did we make this so complicated?!) Dr. Halsey touched so many things in HALO history that this was a critical part of the process.

You worked on the "Halo Wars: Genesis" graphic novel which shipped alongside Halo Wars, but this journal in comparison seems like a completely different beast. Can you give us an idea of just how different of a process it was?

ERIC: The Dr. Halsey journal is worlds different. The HALO WARS LCE graphic novel tackled only a tiny slice of HALO history (basically how the main characters in that game got to that point in time and space).

The purpose of this journal is to shed light on a huge and highly secret history spanning from 2510-2552.

It has to explain everything about the UNSC events surrounding every HALO game and piece of fiction...past, present, and future. As you can imagine, working hand in hand with Bungie and 343 was a must on this.

Looking at some of the images of the Limited and Legendary Editions it appears as though there are sketches throughout the book. How much interaction did you have the artist and how did the ideas for the sketches come about?

[a point of clarification: the Dr. Halsey journal comes in both the Limited Edition and The Legendary Edition.]

ERIC: Many of the ideas for the sketches were generated as we outlined what entries were going to be in the journal—and as such are integral to the storytelling process, not just tacked on.

Lorraine McLees served at Art Director on the project, so HALO fans can rest assured they are getting the real Bungie-approved deal here!

Mike Vaillancourt was the illustrator and he finessed and went through dozens of permutations to get everything just right—from technical illustrations—to sketches of the SPARTAN recruits...it's ALL there.

You've obviously worked closely with Bungie in the past on the Halo novels—how was something like this journal, which ships right alongside a game, different than an average Halo book?

ERIC: Like I said, it had to fit in with everything that went before...but most especially the HALO: REACH game.

Such a big process with so many different components like art, game cohesion, style and fiction probably involved a larger number of hands in the pot than a typical Halo novel—how did that process feel compared to the relatively smaller creative group involved in writing a Halo novel?

ERIC: Well, as you can see from the list of people I thank at the start, it sure was a lot different than writing HALO: THE Fall of Reach when I only had to interact with two people. On the other hand, if felt very much like writing HALO: THE FALL OF REACH because so many of the events that happened therein are being recorded and reflected upon by Dr. Halsey in this journal.

Also, the people at 343 and Bungie trusted me enough to let me loose and write what I wanted...and that very much like that first effort, too.

When you were penning the journal, did you find yourself treading new ground or filling in the gaps of compelling story threads which had already been seeded in earlier works?

ERIC: There are some important keystone issues/events in Halsey's life that had to be covered (and if you're a fan of HALO fiction you KNOW what those are), but there were many blanks that got filled as well, and new questions, answers...and "other things" that came up the life of Dr. Halsey got fleshed out.

How did you think fans will react to this content in this book? What do you hope they take away from the journal?

ERIC: I think they'll love it.

I know I do.

For me, it feels like my crowning fiction achievement for the Bungie-HALO universe. I hope the fans take away a feeling of being let in on the most important secrets, getting a glimpse into the mind of Dr. Halsey, and sneaking a peek at some new mysteries to come.

Plus there's a ton of other stuff I haven't even touched on about the journal, right? I mean should I mention                      ,                                  the                                                       Or is someone at 343 just going to redact all that?

[Ed: No, that's ONI's job.]

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us Eric and we can't wait to crack open our own Legendary Editions to dive right into this amazing piece!

ERIC: My pleasure. Thanks for letting me do this. It was great fun. And as always, fans and readers can reach me through my website.

Thanks to Eric for the great interview - and for the Waypoint crew for the opportunity to host this!