This summer, a couple of potential writing projects fell on my plate. One was the newly-launched Dark Crystal website, and they were looking for authors for an upcoming prequel novel. The second was a writer “casting call” for an anthology collection called Midian Unmade: Tales of Clive Barker’s Nightbreed. I just about shit a writer’s block.
The Dark Crystal was one of the most influential movies of my childhood - up there with The Neverending Story and Krull. Clive Barker’s Nightbreed remains - to this day - my all-time favorite horror movie. (Only Cabin in the Woods comes close to tying with it.) Both of these opportunities presenting themselves seemed much more than a coincidence. And the fact that their respective deadlines were within a day of each other was far too perfect.
It was fate.
Or so I thought…
As a writer, there was one avenue I never went down. I’d never written fanfiction. Okay, both of these assignments weren’t exactly fanfiction in the strictest sense, but it was writing in some other creator’s universe. A feat I’d never attempted. There were times when I was tempted, but a sticky thing called “pride” got in the way. That and I was unsure as to whether or not I could write in someone else’s world. I’m kinda glad I didn’t. For the sake of full disclosure, I’ll air out the literary laundry.
Fanfic Idea #1.
Honorblade: A Star Trek Novel
It was no secret that Powers That Be behind the Star Trek franchise were open to new blood. Untested screenwriters were brought in all the time for the TV show(s), and new authors were given opportunities to pitch non-canonical novels. My idea, however…
I didn’t want to deal with the Federation at all, or space for that matter. My idea went back…way back. No human characters, either. Instead, I chose to focus on the Klingons.
In Star Trek: The Next Generation, it was established the Klingon “messiah” figure - Kahless - showed up roughly 1,500 years before the 24th century - when the show took place. So, about the 9th century to humans. In Deep Space Nine, Worf mentioned in passing that his race “killed their gods over a thousand years ago”. In another DS9 episode, it was established that the Klingon homeworld was invaded by a race known as the Hur’q (”outsider” in the Klingon tongue). That also occurred over a thousand years ago.
There was a story in there somewhere.
Five hundred years after the death of Kahless the Unforgettable, and the forging of the unified Klingon Empire, Kronos - their homeworld - was invaded. Having never seen an alien race before, the superstitious Klingons believed their gods were descending upon them on the backs of metal dragons. (In reality, starships that looked curiously like bird-of-prey.)
The invading race used their superstition against them, fashioning themselves as rulers of the Klingon people. A few stood against them, however. Yivar, Son of Tarn - a young thief - was one of them. After witnessing an execution, he flees the Klingon capitol.
In his travels, he encounters a wanderer named Bul’roth. The stoic Klingon hailed from the line of Morath, Kahless’s dishonored brother. The two form an unlikely friendship and set about sowing the seeds of revolution against these so-called “gods”.
Why I Never Started It:
In 1997, author Michael Jan Friedman released a TNG novel simply titled Kahless, which…completely ripped apart the Kahless mythos. In so doing, my story was also rendered moot. Sure, even if I did want to publish it, Star Trek novels weren’t considered canon. More than one novel could contradict each other. Still, it was enough to dissuade me from even fanfic-ing the damn thing.
Fanfic Idea #2.
Serenity: From Operative to Shepherd
Like a lot of geeks in the early 2000s, I was completely enamored with a little show called Firefly. It didn’t last very long. (FOX canceled it after a few episodes.) But the DVD box set sold well, justifying the need for a movie outing to wrap up any loose plot threads. Serenity came out on the week of my birthday, and I chose to see it for my birthday party.
In short, it was amazing. Sure, it tanked at the box office, but I could think of no better send-off for that little ship that could. There was one unanswered question, though: What was the deal with Shepherd Book?
Throughout the show and movie, the mysterious preacher spoke cryptically about his past. A few moments occurred that revealed he had ties with the dreaded Alliance, but it was never established in what capacity. I had a guess, though.
The primary antagonist in the movie was a character simply known as The Operative. No name, no history - he was a ghost. And a monster. I theorized that Shepherd had been one as well.
Taking place during the time of the Alliance slaughter of Shepherd’s home colony of Haven, The Operative arrived to oversee the final culling. He witnessed a lone man with braided hair singlehandedly felling an Alliance troop deployer.
Shepherd and The Operative faced off. Both were evenly matched. As they parried attacks, they also parlayed words. It turned out that The Operative used to be Shepherd’s protégé. Eventually, The Operative succeeded in killing him…but with regret.
Why I Never Started It:
In 2010, Joss Whedon’s brother, Zack Whedon, and artist Chris Samnee penned a comic dubbed Serenity: A Shepherd’s Tale. It finally revealed Book’s true origins. Unfortunately, he wasn’t an Operative.
Besides…who am I to compete with a Whedon?
As I write this, the deadline for Midian Unbound has already passed. I never even put fingers to keyboard. There was an idea kicking around about a night auditor who was really a member of the Breed. It involved a priest stuck on the crapper, a secret about the Knights Templar, and a Baphomet statue. But I never thought it was any good.
The Dark Crystal “author quest“ is still alive and well. They’re still accepting submissions until December. I have some semblance of an outline that is equal-parts Dark Crystal and The Seven Samurai. At one point, a McGuffin called a “Conjunction Cannon” shows up. I’m still not sure this novel is a good idea.
Perhaps it’s sheer laziness or stubbornness that are keeping me from playing in someone else’s sandbox. Or maybe I’m just second-guessing myself. Chances are, though - paid or not - a subconscious kernel in the back of my mind would be constantly berating me about writing fanfiction.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
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