Tyler Spang originated outside of my fantasy work. I created him to fill the role of main protagonist/ narrator in an erotic project. As I have written before, the erotic project existed to prevent my primary work from being too heavily gay porn. Gradually, Tyler gravitated towards my primary work and supplanted Webster Cypress as the gay protagonist of my major fantasy project.
The thing about Tyler is that he doesn’t have magical powers. He isn’t a wizard. Even though Black Magic is all about magic (and this project will have a heavy amount of magic itself), I just don’t see Tyler being an insider when it comes to magic. He just doesn’t fit. I’ve tried.
I don’t know if this is me gravitating away from magic to some degree or exploring the possibilities of heroes without magic. It could also have something to do with the fact that his original project was realistic.
As the superhero Redwind, Tyler did have superpowers. But I look at superpowers as different from magic (though I do like magic when they act sort of like superpowers). Superpowers just are. All that is needed is training. Magic requires knowledge. A vast amount of knowledge at that.
Tyler is, despite now being the star of a fantasy novel with unknown amounts of epic, still very the star of my erotic project.
But who is Tyler Spang?
He is a city boy, in contrast to Jett’s small town roots. He thrives in the hustle and bustle. He is mildly ruthless when it comes to achieving his goals. His passions lay in history and world affairs. He wants to know, to experience. But he recognizes that his knowledge, in many areas, will only ever be surface. He will never have the deep knowledge that comes with a lifetime of living it. He is cautious. I would describe Tyler as being akin to a scorpion in personality.
I have parts of his character arc mapped out (depending if I use one world or many).
Though he originated separately, he has inherited much of the planned stories of his predecessors.
I could blather on about Tyler Spang. But I have work to do.
I originally created Jett Drake’s antecedent character for a very self conscious reason. I was not sure I could build a successful series centered around a gay man as sole protagonist. At best, my work would be pigeonholed in the LGBTQ section of the bookstore. While I am a gay man, I want to be seen as a sf writer who happens to be gay. I am fortunate that Jett has gradually developed into a character who is as essential to the story as Tyler.
Jett Drake is Tyler Spang’s opposite. And they are (or become) the best of friends, despite their differences.
Early on, Jett Drake was, for lack of a better term, the muggle to Tyler Spang’s (now Webster Cypress) cambion wizard. The first book of the series would have depicted their first meeting in which Tyler defended Jett’s sister from an incubus and Jett saved Tyler from a mugging. These events cemented a strong bond between the two as they adventured forth to achieve their dreams.
But this is Jett Drake from a past project, even if much of that project will be revisited in the present portal fantasy. So, who is the new Jett?
He is nineteen. He is a college student. He is looking for a place off campus after the summer break. He is a poet. He plans to be a teacher. He plays sports. He is a romantic in the most modern sense of that word. He is an activist with a strong drive to right wrongs, even if he doesn’t really understand the issues he’s fighting for/ against.
He is, in short, my conception of a traditional hero.
This quality he shares with the original Jett Drake. However, their backgrounds have drifted.
The original Jett Drake was born and raised in the slums of the city that would become the city-state of Delphin. The present Jett Drake (even when he was a superhero) originated from a small town in Texas. I intend for Jett to reflect the positive values that are inherent in such a condition. (Even if it has taken me far too long to recognize that there might be positives to growing up in small towns.)
In my planning for this project (and the precursors of the current project), I have often neglected Jett’s story for that of Tyler. I finally have an approach and plan for him that I think will work very well once I get down to actually outlining this project
What that story is, is best told in another format.
Next time, Tyler Spang.
The idea of a portal fantasy has been with me for years. During that time, the idea mutated with my moods, concerns, and obsessions.
The original portal fantasy idea was definitely sword and sorcery. It featured a group of high school students on a field trip getting sucked into a reality at an earlier stage of development. The first book focused on the struggle to return home and the sacrifice one of the protagonists made to ensure his friends got home. The rest of the series followed his adventures in his new homeworld.
The idea strongly attracted me. But I could never quite make myself believe that the majority of the characters would survive and make it home. Plus, I had only an inkling of the richness of ancient history.
Gradually, this idea gave way to a world heavily inspired by China Mieville’s Bas-Lag. I loved working on that idea. But I ran into my biggest problem as a writer of fantasy- I suck at making up names that don’t sound ridiculous.
That is not to say that I have really abandoned that idea. It still exists.
Somewhere along the line, the idea struck me that maybe I could bring a fantasy world to Earth. Thus came Two Cities. I like this idea on an intellectual level.
But, Two Cities is too similar to several of my other ideas. (That said, I am strongly tempted to buck everything and just focus on Earth centric fantasies. It would save me agonizing hours on world building and languages. But it would also make these posts worthless because I’ll have to redo everything, again. Changing my mind is another major problem I have.)
I finally settled on what I have here. The present project is very much a merging of my first portal fantasy idea and the immersive fantasy inspired by Mieville with other elements. I am still not sure whether I want to make the project reality hopping. I’ve still got a few days to decide that. I am leaning towards it, though. Would save me headaches on figuring out how the celestial bodies work.
Anyway, the next two posts look more closely at our heroes: Jett Drake and Tyler Spang.
I know I was scheduled to write a reaction to the Watchmen style planetary romance posts from Black Gate tonight. But, to be honest, I really should not have added that topic to my “Just Another Portal Fantasy” series. While it tangentially fits in with what I’m doing, it really bears no relation to what I’m writing (except, maybe, in what I don’t want to do).
Plus, tonight has been rather rough. And I just realized that I have a huge sun problem in regards to my world building.
The first thing I need to determine for this project is the number of possible worlds Tyler and Jett will have to traverse in order to find their way home. At the moment, I am set on a single world. The reason why is that a lone novel, no mater how large it ultimately is, can only support a single world setting. A series can easily accommodate numerous world settings. In a way, I find the possibility of transiting dimensions or realities to be a very uncertain endeavor. With the countless dimensions/ realities possible, is it really likely that people journeying from one reality to another will find their way back home so easily at the end of the story? In fact, I think it more likely that any number of realities will have to be traversed. Unless, of course, our trekkers decide to settle down on a nice world, even if it isn’t their original homeworld.
I do believe I’m talking myself into a series. Crap?
Anyway, let me sketch out what I envision for the one world I’m set on at the moment.
The world is flat. In fact, the world is the universe. The shining lake of liquid light at the heart of the island at the center of the world is the oldest part of the universe. The youngest parts of the universe lie at the constantly expanding outer edges, where new oceans and lands are eternally in the process of creation.
The world is, therefore, impossibly gigantic (though not equal to the size of our own universe).
The world houses both magic and fantastical science. The are civilizations possessing high levels of advancement, and there are civilizations just getting off the ground. And, of course, there are civilizations in between and fallen.
The world is, in a sense, always in a state of chaos.
There are humans. The majority of civilizations are human. But there are other sentient species populating the world as well. There are crocodile people. There are scorpion people. There are dolphin people. So on and so forth.
My creation is the culmination of all of my influences. It marries sword and sorcery to planetary romance. It is weird and fractured. It might even be a little punk.
Hell, I could make a series out of just this setting alone. Double crap?
I’m not going to go into much detail about the world just yet. I’ll do that when I publish the damn book.
I am a firm believer in the concept that childhood and teenage reading/ viewing/ hearing/ etc. habits indicate what a future writer’s work will look like. With that said, what are my influences and how do they reveal what my own writing is like?
The biggest influence for me is sword and sorcery. I grew up on classic (and cult) sword and sorcery films. I remember watching Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer religiously. I remember gobbling up Beastmaster. I remember adoring Masters of the Universe. And I worshiped Ray Harryhausen.
I came later to reading the Conan pastiches and even later to Robert E. Howard and the other legends of written sword and sorcery. But I naturally gravitate towards this particular genre of fantasy.
Along with sword and sorcery film, I gorged myself on science fantasy cartoon shows. He-Man and She-Ra loom large in my childhood. And I will always have a soft spot for Thundarr.
I watched other movies. I read other books. I remember reading some of the Little House books and loving them. I remember Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. There are so many.
But, ultimately, it is the sword and sorcery and science fantasy that I consumed as a child that has driven what I want to write.
My later readings have, largely, confirmed my earlier inclinations although other strands have emerged as well. I gorged myself on Agatha Christie for years. And I have a deep love of James Bond. How they will affect my writing remains to be seen.
While I am a strong sword and sorcery fan, I’m not a typical fan. I don’t have the same type of love for the standard heroic fantasy hero that a lot of other fans do. Where they (I suspect) wish to be that hero in real life, I want to go to bed with that hero (which is, probably, true of James Bond, as well).
However, as I explained to a degree in my “Black Magic” posts, I also have a strong affinity for the sorcery side of things. In a way, I think this is fueled by my fascination with villains.
So much of what a writer writes is informed by the culture experienced in youth.There is a rich mine of memory that is exploited unconsciously(and occasionally consciously).Hell, I’m probably not even aware of the vast majority of my influences.
Next time, world building.
I have always wanted to write a portal fantasy. The reason why, I believe, is that I want to write about the experiences of a contemporary character trapped/ touring/ adventuring in another world. Indeed, this project has, in several forms, been gnawing at me for years. It is finally time I get off my ass and write the damn thing.
But am I writing just another portal fantasy? In that this novel is an adventure novel, maybe. However, I strongly believe that the approach I’m going to be taking is atypical of most portal fantasies.
What do I mean by portal fantasy? A portal fantasy is any fantasy in which a character from “our” world is thrust into a clearly fantasy world. The fantasy world can be both a separate world/ dimension or the hidden places of our own world. I am also going to include planetary romances like the Barsoom series for good measure.
The fantasy world that I will be utilizing is a separate dimension from our own. The world I am imagining is, frankly, impossible according to the laws of physics that we know. That said, I will be including some typically science fictional elements because I love science fantasy.
To be honest, I am psyched to finally get to work on this project. And I’m excited to write about it on this blog.
My next post will explore my influences. The second post will sketch the world. The third will be a response to a series of posts on Black Gate dealing with planetary romances. The fourth post will explore some of my past ideas. The fifth post will discuss the problem of Jett Drake. The sixth post will deal with Tyler Spang and his libido. The seventh and final post will deal with whether this project will be a novel or a series.
I know I want to write novels. I don’t know if I want to write series. I get that the series is the dominant mode of delivery for written fantasy (and science fiction). However, I have issues with the concept of the series.
Let me be clear, there are two kinds of series: the standalone adventures and the super novel. The James Bond series is a collection of adventures that, though later novels reference earlier novels, can stand alone. A Song of Ice and Fire is a super novel. The Harry Potter series is, honestly, somewhere in the middle.
I love series and yet I don’t. I enjoy immersing myself in fictional worlds with multiple plots and levels of complexity. But I feel that so many series become bloated over time, if not outright lost in the wilderness (I’m looking at you. . . Naruto [what, you were expecting me to say A Song of Ice and Fire?]).
As a writer, I would love to explore a lone universe and all the myriad protagonists I choose to follow. But, I recognize that I don’t have the best attention span. I am easily bored and would find writing a series of seven novels finally torturous, if not dehumanizing. The money from a successful series is enticing, but I don’t want to sacrifice myself.
Ultimately, the decision of a project’s length should be determined by the project itself. Black Magic is a novel, even if there is enough material to produce a never ending series. I just don’t see the project going beyond the one book, no matter how successful it is.
However, will I change my tune when it comes to the portal fantasy?
If this novel is slightly autobiographical, why is the protagonist Honor Gale?
Black Magic (I really need to settle on a title) is the merging of several different projects. The most prominent of those projects is the realistic occult novel. Another project is a proposed series featuring the adventures of a wizard. The final project is a contemporary fantasy that featured a young woman returning to her hometown to report on the discovery of a colony of satyrs living in the nearby forests.
Honor Gale is the protagonist of the last of those projects. But, on closer inspection, the Satyr Project did not work well at all. So, Honor is out as a protagonist.
The thing is, I really don’t like getting rid of projects or characters. So, Honor needs a home.
Black Magic is the perfect fit for Honor Gale because I don’t see her as the typical fantasy heroine, certainly not the typical urban fantasy heroine. And, the more I thought about it, the less I wanted Black Magic to be a traditional contemporary or urban fantasy novel.
In the end, the realistic fantasy wins out.
And Honor Gale is, of all my creations, most suited to a more realistic fantasy.I hope to show what I mean in the pages of Black Magic/ A Witch’s Life/ Goetia/ Honor Gale/ whatever the hell title this work finally gets.
So far, I’ve only conceptualized this project as a novel. The question of novel vs. series will be the subject of my next post.
Why do I want to write a contemporary fantasy novel focusing on real world magic?
It started in eighth grade. I suffered from depression caused by being the shy kid at a new school. I was miserable.
Then came buying some book published by Dover. What book, I cannot remember. But I remember writing for several catalogs of books they publish. Among the books I bought were: a book on the ferns of New York, a book on spiders, a book on parasites, a book on birds, a book on modern Algebra, an omnibus of three novels by H. Rider Haggard, and a few others.
It was in the general catalog that I first read about actual books of magic. Among them was The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage. I was intrigued. I wanted that book.
Eventually, I moved back to the town I lived most of my life in. But I was still interested in magic. I bought books on magic from both Dover and my local Barnes and Noble. I amassed a small, but interesting collection.
My interest never went far beyond collecting the books. Trust me, the actual practice of many of these magical traditions is a pain in the ass. It takes a lot of commitment and knowledge of many obscure subjects.
I grew out of my fascination with magic in my freshmen year of college. Then, in an episode similar to one a year before, I threw my magic collection in the dumpster.
Have I come to regret that decision? No. Though it does make research into the subject more difficult because I have to interlibrary loan many of those books (or read them on my computer).
While I no longer have an active interest in the occult, my fascination for it has never quite gone away. The history is a rich mine for a writer. The French magical feud, the rise and fall of the Order of the Golden Dawn, Aleister Crowley, Dion Fortune, etc. are all very interesting subjects, whether one believes in magic or not.
I’ve focused exclusively on Western Ceremonial Magic. Why? I don’t know. I did toy with Wicca at the same time that I plowed into WCM. However, Wicca never appealed to me in the way that WCM did.
In a way, I suspect my desire to write a novel featuring real magic (or at least the magical systems present in the real world) is an attempt on my part to come to grips with my teenage flirtation with the occult. Only this time, I’m wondering what would have happened if I had taken things further?
Honor Gale is my expy. The reason why is the subject of my next post.