November 10, 2015 § Leave a comment
About a year ago, as I was working through the revisions of Axon, Inc., I got into an intense discussion with my brilliant and beautiful wife Ali about the Chronicles of Narnia. It’s a series I adored when I was younger, but when I read it again to my kids when they were very young, I began to notice some serious issues with it. Then Ali and I read Dr Michael Ward‘s excellent book Planet Narnia, about the medieval inspirations for the seven books and their symbolism, and it inspired us to read the series again together.
What we found was, frankly, kind of horrifying. It wasn’t that the books had a strong Christian message; Harry Potter also has a strong Christian message, as does the Lord of the Rings, and they’re awesome. It also wasn’t the glorification of violence, or even bullying (which is tacitly accepted in some places, even while it is explicitly denounced in others). It was the sexism. Ye gods, the sexism!
We both considered writing in-depth blog posts on the subject, but we found that other people had done much more in-depth studies. (A quick google will show you a bunch of them, as well as a taste of the huge controversy about the topic.) And in any case, what we wanted, really, was not for Narnia to be taken down, destroyed, and shamed. We wanted a Narnia that we could proudly read to our children; a Narnia that fully explored the amazing potential of a world where women could be both queens and witches, where animals could talk and be treated as citizens equal to humans, where the intersection of Christian redemption and the wild beauty of naturalistic deities was explored properly. We wanted a Narnia we could believe in again. We wanted Narnia as it should have been.
I wanted to write a special kind of fan fiction. I would leave the original seven novels untouched — there was no point in going back and trying to ‘fix’ them; that would be boring for everyone. No, I wanted a new Narnia story, a story that would (a) explain, in some way, why the original stories were ‘wrong’, and (b) redeem Narnia, make it whole. And the most natural person to perform this redemption was, of course, Susan — the lone character in the original books who is not redeemed, who rejects Narnia, and who, ironically enough, actually survives past the last chapter.
I made a start on this, but it quickly grew into a rather complex project and I decided to set it aside while I finished Axon. Now that Axon, Inc. is out for beta readers, it’s a good time for me to take a break and work on something completely different. Plus, it’s National Novel Writing Month!
Here, then, is the first paragraph of this fanfic:
Sarah Patrick was her name, although that was not how she was known to most of the world. In fact, if you told most people the basic facts of her life — aged 22, from London but spent most of her summers in the countryside during the War, lost her two brothers and sister in a tragic train accident six years ago, now graduated Oxford and engaged to be married to Mark Weybridge next month —none of this would trigger any recognition of her identity. If you mentioned that she’d spent those summers sequestered in a lonely rambling house, full of secret rooms and passages, looked after by a strange professorial man and a strict housekeeper, still, no one would know who she was. Oddly enough, though, the mention of one piece of furniture in that rambling old house — a completely ordinary piece of furniture, to be sure, although an excellent example of its type, and handcrafted from a maple that once grew on the property, used primarily for storing fluffy winter coats — one mention of this piece of furniture, and almost everyone in the world would know exactly who she was. For it was, of course, a wardrobe.
November 7, 2015 § Leave a comment
Just a quick update here:
- I finished the final revisions to the beta version at 1 AM on Nov. 4.
- First sentence: Walden hefted the SCAR to his shoulder and gently switched the safety off.
- Last sentence: The other man, unhurt, knelt beside him, crying.
- Total words: 104,730
- Total chapters: 14
- Total scenes: 58
- Pages (if the book were a paperback): 280
- Chapter Titles:
- After Lubumbashi
- The Opposite of Secret
- Honey’s Master
- Fallout from Argus
- Stay in the Tree
- Ghosts in the Machine
- My Turn to Go Mad
- Fiery Dreamer
- Ten most common words (that aren’t closed-class, or character names):
- I sent the draft out to my beta readers last night. Many thanks to them all!
- The fifth sample chapter, “Mt. Si”, is now available for preview on Wattpad.
- And here’s the cover!
October 27, 2015 § Leave a comment
I have to admit, I’m pretty excited. It’s been a little over two years since I had the initial idea for Axon, Inc., and at last, the revisions are very, very close to being finished. I have twelve scenes to review and rewrite, and I should be done with these by Halloween night. Then it’ll be ready…
Ready for my beta readers! In software, the “beta” version is the version that you release to a limited audience, to work out the final bugs. I think Axon, Inc. is ready for that. I have four people who have kindly offered to enter my strange near-future, and travel alongside Walden Reathall and Logan Byrnes as they try to surf the wave of the new technology, telepathic computing. Many thanks and gratitude to them!
If you’re curious and want to join their select number, drop me a line and let me know! In the meantime, there are now three sample chapters available on Wattpad (“Lubumbashi“, “Pwinter“, and “SIGNAL FOUND“), and a fourth (“I Won’t Let You”) coming up on Wednesday.
I’m thrilled to finally share this quixotic project with everyone. Enjoy!
February 10, 2015 § 1 Comment
This is the first of a series of posts on the status of my revisions to Axon, Inc.
It’s a puzzle: the best way to convey how much is left to write and revise. If I lay out exactly which scenes still need to be written, necessarily there will be spoilers. In theory I could give a word count — “15,000 words to delete, 5K to add, and 7K to change!” — but I obviously don’t actually know how many words it will take. This is a novel, an organic thing, not just a pile of bytes.
Instead I’m going to reference my Story Map here. The Story Map reveals the basic shape of the novel, without being specific about what actually happens. So, without further ado, this is what remains to be done for each of the main chunks of the novel:
The Call to Adventure.
- The Opening Image. I’m dissatisfied with the current opening image, and am going to completely rewrite it. I know what it’ll be, though, and it’s going to be awesome.
- Setup of Home, Work, and Play. These scenes also need to be redone, but I have a very clear idea of what needs to happen, and I’ll be able to reuse parts of the existing draft.
- Catalyst. This scene is just about perfect as it is.
Refusal of the Call.
- Debate, Break Into Two. This is awful in the current draft — it’s all existential hand-wringing. I’m going to rewrite it as a physical debate — in fact, a physical struggle. And I’m really looking forward to how it comes out.
Similar to the Home, Work, and Play scenes above, this section needs extensive revision, but I’ll be able to reuse and repurpose a lot of existing draft materials.
Crossing the First Threshold
This section just requires minor revisions.
Belly of the Whale
This section just requires minor revisions.
Road of Trials.
This is by far the longest part of the book. But it needs to be even longer, in order to beef up some of the primary themes, and explore the character relationships in more depth.
Meeting with the Goddess
This is in pretty good shape: just needs minor revisions.
Woman as Temptress
- All Is Lost. Minor revisions.
- Dark Night of the Soul. A fair bit of work is needed here — several pages of additions, but pretty straightforward ones.
Atonement with Father
This section needs minor revisions.
This section just needs some small revisions, and is combined with the Ultimate Boon in the final scene.
I don’t think it’s spoilers, if you’ve read this far, to say that the book doesn’t spend much time on the ‘Return’ section of Campbell’s story arc. After all, these are characters based on the Norse gods. They had no happily ever after… but their end was spectacular.