Oh boy, this should be a fun one.
So over the weekend, I went to my parent’s house for dinner. While I was there, I remembered a red folder. A red folder I had long ago blocked from my memory. A red folder that I suddenly had a burning need to find. A little bit of digging later, I had located it. It was hidden under the bottom drawer of my childhood dresser, which I used to pull out to stash stuff I didn’t want my parents to find. (I also found a copy of Dragon magazine and $20, neither of which are germane to the story but interesting nonetheless.) Bright red although faded with age, this folder contained some of my earliest writings.
After spending the past couple months deep in editing Strange Cosmology, I decided to take the advice of Kate from All the Trinkets and read over these older works as a reminder of how far I’ve come.
Well, I’m happy to report that I have immensely improved from when I was in grade school and early high school. I would hope to God that was the case, but it was nice to have it confirmed. I also found some of the most unintentionally hilariously bad writing I’ve ever seen.
For a bit of context here – even back then, I didn’t believe in writing fanfic. There’s nothing wrong with fanfic, but I found the idea of playing in another author’s universe to be…weird. Like wearing someone else’s clean underwear – there’s nothing objectively wrong with doing it, but it made me strangely uncomfortable. Instead, what I did was take things I liked and altered them just enough that it was technically original. And then…I made words happen.
Oh, so many words.
Here are synopsis, and select quotes, from three of the best.
One of the first book series I remember falling in love with was the Animorphs series. Being a young lad looking to become a writer, it’s fitting that my first long work of fiction was a thinly veiled Animorphs rip off I called…Psynoms.
For those of you who don’t know the Animorphs, in the book series an alien ship crashes in a mall near a group of five kids. The alien – an Andalite – looks like a cross between a deer, a human, and a scorpion with eye stalks. He gives them the power to shapeshift into animals and warns them of an alien infestation by parasitic mind controlling slugs before dying.
In Psynoms, an alien ship crashes in a camping ground near a group of five boy scouts. The alien – an Gonati – looks like a cross between a frog, an octopus, a human, and a scorpion with eye stalks. He gives them the power of psionics and warns them of an alien infestation by parasitic, mind controlling sentient energy clouds before dying.
Like I said, technically original.
The kids in the story were me and my friends. I don’t mean they were thinly vieled versions of myself and my friend, I mean I directly transplanted my boyscout troop into the story. And then it was off to the races! My friends and I – sorry, the characters – mastered our psionic powers over the course of like, a night – and then we were off to fight the sentient energy clouds that were controlling people.
The sentient energy clouds, by the way, were named in homage of the Animorphs Yeerks. They were called Faarts.
…in my defense, this was the height of humor in 6th grade.
I looked down at the dying Gonati. Tears were in my eyes. “I promise, Prince Xela. We will kick the Faarts in the butt.” Prince Xela smiled at me, and then he was dead.
The somber tone to the scene is kind of runined by the phrase “We will kick the Faarts in the butt.” I’m pretty sure that was what I considered wordplay back then. I’ve gotten better, now, however. I know that fart jokes do not belong in death scenes, and that it’s always funnier to call a butt an ass. I do not know, at this point, if the Psynoms were able to defeat the Faarts, because the story ended with our ship falling into a black hole. (We got a ship at some point). I think I vaguely remember looking up what would actually happen, realizing I’d just killed the entire cast, and decided to come back to it at a later date.
Shockingly, I never did.
Allen Conner and Crown of the Dark Elves
Guess who got into Harry Potter and decided to write a thinly veiled twist on it? That’s right, this guy.
As before, I wanted to change things a bit from the original source material. In the world of Allen Conner, instead of everyone being a witch or wizard, everyone was a half breed. (Note – I did write this before the Percy Jackson books came out, so I can only assume Rick Riordian somehow stole into my room in the middle of the night, read this story, and stole the idea of half breeds. Clearly, no one else could have thought of that idea.) Everyone was half Angel, half Demon, half Fay, half Dragon, or Half Krowe, which were these death spirits I made up for the book. Your bloodline determined your “House,” which I called Clans because this work was 100% original do not steal.
The Houses and their politics, incidentally, were versions of the various debate teams that my school and others went up against.
What was the titualar Allen Conner, then? Well, he wasn’t of any one bloodline. He was all of the above.
Yeah, so Allen Conner was a thinly veiled version of myself, where I at least changed the name this time, and he was so edgy you could dice tomatoes on his face. He was mysterious and brooding and didn’t have to take any shit from bullies because he was just, like, so cool you guys. He had hellfire and black angel wings and elf eyes and ears and could also breathe fire and could master all the magic and could come back from the dead due to his Krowe half. He had to find the Crown of the Dark Elves because prophecy said he neded to, since he was the half son of Morgan Le Fay.
Note that I kept, throughout the book, referring to these all as halves. Apparently, on top of writing some of the most stereotypical crap I could, I also could not do math. One of those things is no longer true.
Honestly, reading it now, I kind of like the world I created for Allen Conner. Sure, the surface stuff is kind of bland, but the core concept of the school for differently powered people is a trope we see fairly often for a reason, and there was some stuff I did with the concepts behind the various bloodlines that I can unironically enjoy.
The problem was Allen Conner himself, who was an absolute dickhead of the highest order. The story was basically me being an agnsty teen getting revenge on everyone who picked on me, ever, and they all acknowledged how much better Allen was than they were. He always got his way, he faced no real challenge he couldn’t overcome by being awesome, and he pulled new powers out of his ass whenever I needed them. The one good teacher at the whole school was a half-Dragon version of my high school debate coach, who I mention because I know she reads this blog and is now going to know I once wrote a book with a half-Dragon version of her as the one cool teacher.
If I’m murdered this evening, I present to you exhibit A – motive.
Oh, and in the story, Allen gets a girlfriend despite lacking any redeeming qualities of his own. This girlfriend was a thinly veiled version of my High School crush.
Allen was listening to Linkin Park, and the song spoke to him on a deep level. His tail twitched in moody excitement. No one understands the pain of being from five bloodlines, but this is close, he thought.
I would like to take this chance to inform you all that I am not being held hostage. I’m posting this of my own volition, because I apparently don’t mind humiliating myself in public. Instead, I’m going to point to the fact that A) Allen had a tail, which had not been mentioned up to this point and would not be mentioned again and B) I used the phrase “moody excitement.” I wrote those words and was proud of them.
Oh, and after Allen got a girlfriend and humiliated all the bullies, the story just petered off. I lost interest in the whole “destiny” thing after I worked out my issues on the page, it seemed.
Calcon and the Destiny Star
Why did I decide writing this blog post was a good idea?
So Calcon and the Destiny Star isn’t a poorly disguised knock off of any one book, it’s a poorly disguised knock off of all the books, but more specifically Star Wars, The Wheel of Time, and StarCraft. (that last one is a video game, not a book.) Calcon is our hero, Secria is the heroine, they are facing off against an evil Space Empire headed by a Dark Lord who cannot be named. Calcon and Secria, of course, have magic powers – in this case, they can tap into the Wellspring, which is basically what happens when you merge the Force from Star Wars with the One Power from Wheel of time.
Oh, and there’s evil alien bugs that can infest you and turn you into one of them, because I was obsessed with evil alien bugs that could infest you and turn you into one of them back in the day. I’m…not going to pretend that obsession has changed, but when I eventually go back to that particular trope, I hope to handle it with more delicacy than it was with Calcon and the Destiny Star.
Of interesting note for me was that Secria was my first attempt to write a female character that wasn’t a love interest. I instead made her Calcon’s sister so I could just ignore that whole ‘romance’ angle altogether. And, since in an effort to make Calcon something other than a copy of myself I ended up just making him bland as beige, Secria was far and away the most interesting character I had written up to that point in time.
I was also a bit older when I wrote this, I think Junior year of High School, so it is actually….well, it’s still terrible, but unlike the first two I can recognize it as being written by the same author I am today.
It’s also the shortest. Around this time is when I went through some rough stuff in my real life, and since Calcon and the Destiny Star didn’t contain any wish fulfillment and wasn’t me directly working out my issues on the page, I lost interest pretty quickly into it.
“Secria, you can’t go in there,” Calcon whispered.
“Sure I can. I just have to pick this lock, jimmy this handle, add a little bit of Air from the Wellspring and hey, look at that, the door opened.”
Calcon gave her a pained looked[sic]. “I meant you shouldn’t go in there.”
“Well, you really should clarify these things before I commit felonies.”
…okay, I’ll be honest. While it would need some polish and better context to be up to my current standards, I really like this exchange.
After Calcon and the Destiny Star, I stopped writing narrative works for at least five or ten years, spending my creative energy on world building and playing dungeons and dragons. I’ve gotten a lot better since then, but damn if it isn’t fun to see how far I’ve come.
Hope you enjoyed this trip into my history. If you want to see how much better I’ve gotten, check out Weird Theology, which is not a thinly veiled rip off of anything.