Our Writers’ Journey from Popcorn Space Opera to Twilight Zone
As I mentioned in concluding Part 1 of this series, Evan and I were confronted with several narrative challenges to completing The Tinker and The Fold trilogy due mainly to the evolution of his sci-fi interests between ages nine and fifteen. Of course, this is natural, and to be expected, as what is considered interesting and important to a pre-teen is quite different from that which engages a teen.
The younger we are, the more black and white the world appears to be. There are good guys and bad guys and everyone else in the story falls neatly beneath these opposite extremes. The protagonist has his or her team stacked squarely against the forces of the antagonist and its gang of evil doers. Yet, as adults, we come to understand that the world is far more nuanced, and it isn’t always clear who the good and bad guys are. As Evan matured, he began questioning the motivations of The Fold and created a counterpoint to their stated mission in the meddlesome Traveler.
For fans of the series, The Fold is introduced as a force of good charged with keeping peace in our galaxy and beyond, yet the ambiguous finale of The Problem with Solaris 3 (spoiler alert!) leaves the reader questioning this assumption. Initially, this ambiguity was vaguely explored in the first edition of the sequel, which was written during Evan’s Marvel/DC Comics phase, but never fully examined. Rather, our emphasis in Part 2 was on action and quick story pacing which resulted in a loose narrative where Jett, the protagonist, is granted a set of “powers” through an unfortunate accident where he spends an extended period of time in Quantum Entanglement. He then uses those ‘superpowers’ to complete a quest and further grow as a character, blah, blah, blah.
Upon revisiting The Rise of The Boe in light of the work we had completed on The Javelin Divide, it became abundantly clear that we had lost our way and fallen into the traps of multiple clichés that might very well end with our protagonist waking up in Kansas and wondering if it was ‘all just a dream’.
Popcorn space operas and superhero movies will get you only so far and engage your readers only so much, and, we must admit, are way overdone. While good and evil are very much alive and well in both fiction and reality, most of the universe we live in is overwhelmingly gray, muddy, and complex. As a freshly minted teen, Evan had come to realize this, and wanted to delve deeper into these vast murky gray regions – enter The Traveler.
The Traveler happened quite by accident. His appearance, in keeping with the genesis of the Tinkerverse, was inspired by Rogue One. Evan, on his own, began work in earnest on a book (yet to be completed) that he simply called ‘Two and a Half’. He wanted to answer the question of what happened to Jett after (spoiler alert) he and Hazbog disappeared into the bloodmist at the end of part 2.
Evan saw ‘Two and a Half’ as a prequel to the yet to be completed Part 3 since he was having a difficult time reconciling the storyline in his own mind. The result, as you will discover in Part 3 of this series, The Javelin Divide, is a meshing of his interceding narrative and the influence of Black Mirror, the culmination of which resulted in a dramatic departure from the early Star Wars space western plot devices that we had come to depend on early in the series.
OUR WRITERS’ JOURNEY FROM POPCORN SPACE OPERA TO TWILIGHT ZONE
When my son Evan and I began writing what would become The Tinker and The Fold series, we could have never anticipated the gradual but dramatic metamorphosis of our collective writing style over our seven plus year writing journey.
If you are unfamiliar with our story, perhaps a little background is in order. The Tinkerverse was conceived accidentally as a way for a busy corporate executive (aka, me) to carve out creative playtime on the weekends with my then nine-year-old son. It was born of Lego spaceships and crayon sketches of faraway worlds that were inspired by Star Wars and its ilk. This is the primary reason there are over three dozen Star Wars anagrams hidden through the series (BTW, very few readers have found them all! One that has is my nephew Benjamin. Of course, he can also solve a Rubik’s Cube in under 60 seconds!).
As Evan turned from nine to ten to eleven years old, his taste in science fiction naturally evolved and entirely new fictions and franchises opened up before us and enraptured him. Star Wars turned to Doctor Who and Firefly and the original Star Trek series. During this phase, we attended local comic cons as family cosplayers. Evan as the 12th Doctor, my daughter Alyssa as the fez wearing 11th, and me as Tom Baker’s 4th Doctor.
While attending these regional events, we discovered an entirely new universe of extremely talented writers and illustrators marketing their own ingenious works. The Tinkerverse, which loomed so very large in our own minds, suddenly seemed very small, lost in an endless sea of creative talent, but we took inspiration from their good works and continued our exploration, making it a point to buy a few ‘independent’ comics and novels anytime we attended a Con.
Because of classic Doctor Who serials, Evan was introduced to Douglas Adams and it was around this time he read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and the iconic number 42 began working its way into our narrative. This would soon be followed by the darker influences of 1984 and Black Mirror which would be woven into our writing following deep discussions concerning the risk/reward scenarios of technology run amok.
While it was fantastically exciting to be bobbing around on an endless sea of inspiration, oft competing narratives added significant complexity to our ever-evolving story arc and we began running into headwinds halfway through the story outline for The Javelin Divide.
In retrospect, book 2 – The Rise of the Boe, now seemed too Marvel superheroey, popcorney, and formulaic compared to the much darker aspects of The Javelin Divide and suddenly the whole trilogy arc felt disjointed and saccharin. We agreed that the best avenue available to us was to revisit the entire series and conduct a heavy rewrite, starting with The Problem with Solaris 3.
We knew that pursuing this option would delay, possibly significantly, the completion of The Javelin Divide, but that seemed to us a minor sacrifice worthy of getting the narrative right, so we went back to the drawing board, this time with a professional editor in tow.
Revisiting the first two installments of the series in preparation for completing the third, opened up a whole new realm of possibility and took the whole story in an entirely new direction as a new character, dreamed up after Rise of the Boe, known only as The Traveler, snatched the role of antagonist from the clutches of Hazbog and introduced the possibility of what would become a truly Black Mirror finish.
More on that in Part 2.