For the first time, I’m going to participate in NaNoWriMo. All I need to decide now is which project I’m going to be writing.
Over the course of this month, I have focused the majority of my posts on four projects. Will I write any of them?
Redwind is problematic. I want to write an epic fantasy set on Earth. I think using superheroes makes for one of the best possible approaches. However, there is also an unquestionable glut of superheroes on the market. I am, therefore, disinclined to write superheroes, even if a part of me still wants to write tales of costumed adventurers.
Black Magic is not problematic. I will write this book. It will be a lone novel with no sequels. It might be my first book.
I do really want The Journey (the portal fantasy) to be my first book(s).As much as I want this, I recognize that I have a number of problems with this text. I need to work on world building. I need to get over my fear of making up words. I need to figure out what I want. And I need to be mindful of the politics. All of that point to this series being pushed back.
Hobbes County, then, is likely going to be my second book. Like Black Magic, I will write this book. It will be another lone novel with no sequels.
I will say this, though, these four projects are not the only ones I have a mind to write. And, in the end, I may very well change my mind on all of these.
I’m going to write a series. I just don’t know if it will be composed of novels. I’d rather write a comic book series. To be honest, I prefer comics, manga, and television series over novel series. Especially when it comes to fantasy.
Fantasy novel series tend to be big, fat books (unless they can standalone). Take Brandon Sanderson’s latest super series, The Stormlight Archive. The first two books (The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance) are individually over a thousand pages each. If that trend continues over ten novels, there will be over ten thousand pages. And how much will not be bloat?
That is my big problem with gigantic fantasy novels. A good proportion of the novels do not advance the plot. Rather, the novels meander or worse, stand still over the course of thousands of pages. I detest this kind of fantasy.
Which makes me wonder, if I detest the dominant form of fantasy, do I really dislike fantasy? Sometimes, I do have to wonder if I’m not just wasting my time. But, I must remember, I am a harsh critic who rarely likes anything I read. That is certainly true of most contemporary fantasy fiction.
Perhaps the answer is more straightforward. Unless I gorge myself on a series, I spend an hour of my time on any one television series at a time. For comics and manga, I can read a volume in less than an hour. When it comes to those big, meandering novels, it can take me weeks. I have to devote a large amount of my time for something I might hate.
That is why, honestly, If I am going to write a series, I’d rather it be a comic book.
That said, it might be tempting to challenge myself into writing the kind of novel series that I want to read.
Hobbes County (the name of my Texas Gothic project) is a fantasy novel. There is no question about that. What is at issue is how autobiographical the work is going to be.
Hobbes County, a fictional county in Texas, bears resemblance to McLennan County in Central Texas, Cushing in East Texas, and Santa Fe on the Texas coast. All three communities influenced Hobbes one way or another.
McLennan County is the primary influence on Hobbes. I grew up in McGregor, Texas. And my conflicted feelings about the place drive the interior conflict of the narrator. Also, it helps that McLennan County is rich in folklore and urban legends.
My grandparents used to live in Cushing, Texas when I was a child in elementary school. Their small farm layed outside the small town by some miles. Indeed, rural is a good way to describe it. What I remember most about my grandparents’ old farmstead is the rickety old bridge that, to my child’s eyes, spanned a chasm impossibly deep with a sickly green river meandering on its way. I also remember me and my myriad cousins trooping over to the cemetery next door. All in all, my grandparent’s old place (which was sold off years ago) was something else.
For about a year, my family moved to Santa Fe, Texas to be closer to the rest of the family (my grandparents had moved back to Santa Fe by then). The move was an unmitigated disaster. Indeed, once we moved back to McGregor, it would be another decade before we visited them again. I hated Santa Fe with a passion. But, in hindsight, I can’t help but wonder what would have been.
What of my past will be included in Hobbes County? That rickety old bridge for sure. Definitely that old farm. And maybe speculating on what might have happened if I were bolder.
I must now conclude my Texas Gothic series. For the next three days, I think I’ll play around with topics. Until then. . .
Long ago, the editor of the local paper of my small town declared small town living to be the best place to grow up. I didn’t believe her at the time. I don’t quite believe her now.
I get what she was trying to say. Small towns provide a stronger sense of community than large cities. Small towns are, by and large, inherently safe.
But from my perspective, I never truly felt that sense of community. I was the outsider condemned, as much by choice as anything else, to never really belong. I experienced the small town I lived in as a pit of loneliness. There were bright spots, but never enough to scare away the darkness.
Small town living, before the internet changed everything, can only be described as boring. Especially when one’s interests do not acclimate well to those of one’s neighbors.
I did not truly find a sense of happiness until I moved to Austin for college. I just felt at home there. That was, and remains, a place I belong. The same is true of San Francisco and the too brief weekend I spent in Portland, Oregon. I yearn to return to those places, permanently.
It is, I think, my conflicted feelings for the town I grew up in that inspires me to spend so much of my time interrogating the concept of small towns. It could also be the fact that I adore Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple stories.
Whatever the true reason, maybe my Texas Gothic will exorcise the memories of the places I grew up, or out of.
At one time, I dreamed of being an English professor. (The bitterness of losing that dream plagues me still). I had many academic interests. Of special relevance to the project at hand is Southern Literature, and Southern Gothic in particular.
My interests in the literature of the American South is partially explained by my background. Though I am a native to central Texas, my mother’s family comes from east Texas. (Eastern Texas is clearly Southern while there is debate about central Texas). A part of me is genuinely interested exploring and understanding what it means to have a southern heritage.
At the same time, I am apathetic, if not outright hostile, to that same heritage. It is inescapably a part of me. But, much like my relationship to the small town where I grew up, I want to deny it as much as I can.
The internal strife will make for writing gold, I think.
Now, I am not planning for a lot of entries into this series. I’ll have a post on small towns, and I’ll have a post on autobiographical elements in science fiction and fantasy.
Out of all my proposed work, the portal fantasy is the inheritor of the lineage of projects that can most easily be extended to a series. Indeed, I think the series potential is great. The only problem is my reluctance to work with series, despite my love for the form.
The main drive of the portal fantasy is the quest to return home from one hell of a fantastic journey (not necessarily a positive journey). The quest could last one book or be extended to several books depending on how difficult returning home will be.
Turning this project into a series compliments my temptation to utilize world hopping into the plot. Like I said, travelling to other dimensions/ realms/ realities should not be so easy. It should be fraught with danger and uncertainty. But there should also be the possibility of constant wonder and joy, as well.
Okay. I see that making this project into a series makes a hell of a lot of sense. I honestly don’t see a novel being able to carry several worlds.
However, I am unsure of writing a series. Will I get bored of the project before I finish? Will I end up losing track of major details? Can I create new worlds with each book? I don’t know. It will be a fun challenge.
Yes. I’ll make a series out of this.
This finishes up my posts on the portal fantasy. Next time, I’ve got a Texas gothic fantasy to tell you.
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.