Yesterday I concluded "Who Killed Iron Joe?" and The Assassination at Magnumtown, two halves of the same story, part of the tapestry that is the Space Corps saga, a project I've worked on for two decades.
Space Corps began life as a bad knockoff of Star Trek and evolved from there, sometimes kicking and screaming, always assimilating other influences and interests, until 1998, when I first envisioned Seven Thunders, which became a story that would pivot around the framework of the often-overlooked War of 1812. If you're asking right now why anyone would bother to care about the War of 1812, or how it could possibly inspire a story worth your time, then you, too, have fallen victim to the notion that American military history falls either under the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, WWII, the Vietnam War, or the War on Terror, or otherwise it's vaguely irrelevant.
This being 2012, and you haven't heard anyone loudly commemorating the War of 1812 like they were last year for the Civil War's 150th anniversary, you might better understand the lack of respect and general awareness of what exactly the War of 1812 meant. Simply put, it's my contention that without this conflict, America as we know it today wouldn't exist. It was a generation removed from the Revolution, and everyone was wondering if there was enough inspiration to impart a new generation with the ideals of the Founding Fathers. The War of 1812, in case you didn't know, was also fought against the British. "The Star-Spangled Banner" was written during this war, the White House burned during this war, and, and the legend of Old Ironsides came from this war, too.
The politics of the war, which arguably sprang from the politics of every president after Washington, led to the conflicts of ideology that made the Civil War inevitable throughout the century, because no one was interested in addressing the issues that would have prevented it.
Anyway, so I shaped Seven Thunders around the framework of this conflict, and lived with it for many years. I shaped many other Space Corps stories in the meantime, and shaped a great deal of history, and most of the time, I lost sight of the fact that the central Space Corps story still revolved around the same conflict I'd envisioned in Seven Thunders, but only sometimes understood, the conflict between humans and the Danab (there's a vicious twist to this conflict involving the nature of the Danab that will make for a really good moment in Seven Thunders, so I'm reluctant to spoil it here).
So I started to circle back around to it, and when I finally decided that I was going to finally write Seven Thunders, and had a whole blog dedicated to stories, that it wouldn't be such a bad idea to write a little preview of the bad blood that rests at the heart of this conflict. It's like Native Americans, the state of Israel, and JFK all rolled into one, is what "Who Killed Iron Joe?" could be summarized as (again, to be found most conveniently on this page).
It's also something of The Iliad, which is a story I've read a great deal about in the past few months (visit Hub City for more details), and came to greatly admire its offbeat structure. There is not much actual resolution in "Who Killed Iron Joe?" but a lot of emotional resonance. I tend to write that way a lot, but the story was also meant to be something of a mystery, which was something I was interested in doing after the A-to-Z challenge, when one of the bloggers brought it up. I don't write a lot of mystery, once with a Star Trek story and again with Yoshimi, at least in its basic structure (Yoshimi is my forthcoming book, and you can read a bit more about it here, which will also give you a better idea of what kind of writer I am), so it's always interesting to try something out of the ordinary.
(And anyway, I wrote The Assassination at Magnumtown to serve the same function as all those tales that explain the rest of The Iliad, like how Achilles died and the war actually ended.)
"Who Killed Iron Joe" was a twelve-part, daily challenge for me, and I'll be doing it again with "Back from the Dead," which involves superheroes. Now, I write a lot about superheroes at Comics Reader, but perhaps more notably still, my existing (self-)published work also concerns superheroes.
I don't do a lot of publicity for The Cloak of Shrouded Men, partly because it was published in 2007, partly because that edition features typos I'd like to forget, and partly because it's hard to market superhero fiction that doesn't have pictures with it. And yet it remains one of my proudest accomplishments.
It is also agonizingly cerebral, as is most of my fiction. I determined at some point that cerebral fiction isn't exactly everyone's cup of tea (which is why Yoshimi is the least cerebral I've managed to make any of my novels), yet I am proud of what I did with it, beyond a shadow of a doubt. It's the kind of superhero story that every comic book writer tries to do, but instead of the kind of extended run most writers only hope to get, making a statement about the career of the characters they get to handle for a few years, I did it in one story, the epic highs and equal lows of a vigilante who tries to undermine the ineffectual system that has stifled him for years, sometimes at his own consent. He's Batman if Batman weren't written as an NFL quarterback, with Superman being his best wide receiver. The Eidolon's wide receiver is Godsend (how has no one used that name yet?), and they have the kind of relationship that explains everything that happens to him, and why he goes off the deep end. Literally. He loses his mind, develops split personalities, and causes a Trojan War. Anyone who's familiar with Watchmen will understand a lot of what happens in this book, but then, where Alan Moore is interested in sensation, I dive deeply beyond the surface to examine motivations, failures, triumphs, and moral ambiguity of the kind Ozymandias could only dream. Imagine if Rorschach was in charge of how everything turned out.
Anyway, so yeah, I've been trying for years to write comic books, and that's half the reason why I wrote The Cloak of Shrouded Men, and why I'm now writing "Back from the Dead" (start reading it here), about an equally complicated world of superheroes which should hopefully be compelling to read. That's what I'm always going for, something to stop and make you think. My writing style tends to be peppered with a lot of thoughts anyway, but they're designed to open a conversation.
Got any thoughts?