When editor Lou Anders first approached me about the possibility of contributing a short story to his upcoming superhero-themed anthology, I was admittedly leery. Having spent my entire career scripting for television, the prospect of producing my first work of short fiction was – well – daunting. I considered Lou’s offer, went back and forth countless times, and ultimately agreed to participate. Sort of. I told Lou that I would be happy to write a short story for the collection – however if, for any reason, it failed to meet his expectations, we would both write it off as a terrific learning experience and I would just go ahead and serialize the story on my blog.
I had a story in mind. Actually, two stories. No, actually, one scene and an arena involving a former supervillain gone straight who must, as a condition of his early parole, assist the FBI in solving superhero-related crime. I took a few days to think about it and, eventually, it took form. I had what I thought was a great opening, an engaging protagonist, and a fun little ending. Now, all I had to do was write the damn thing.
Easier said than done. On average, it takes me about a month to write a script, from pitch to finished draft. This short story took me about ten times as long as I wrote and endlessly rewrote what I had (and at approximately forty pages, I had a lot!). Yes, only ten months to write a short story. I say “only” because, if Lou hadn’t needed it for publication purposes, I’d no doubt still be rewriting it. And, please understand, it didn’t take that long because I consider it a masterpiece that needed perfecting. It took that long because writing prose fiction is damn hard, at times – dare I say it – even more agonizing than scriptwriting. Yet, unlike writing for film and television, you’re more or less going it alone. Aside from your trusty editor who is there to backstop you, offer words of encouragement, deliver constructive criticism, and inevitably talk you off that ledge, you’re flying solo. Once the story has been completed – or the deadline looms and you have to stop obsessing over it and just deliver the damn thing – it’s all on you. There’s no blaming the actor for not holding the prop high enough or the director for failing to get the shot of the platypus’s feet or the steadycam operator for having hiccups on the day or the Director of Photography for forgetting to take his sunglasses off while on set and lighting the scene as bright as the Rockefeller Center Christmas display. If the story crashes and burns, you’re the only one who’s going down with it.
Fortunately, when Lou eventually got back to me, he was very positive about “Downfall”, and I was able to breathe a huge sigh of relief. And have continued to do so as the reviews for the anthology have slowly started to come out. A few have even had nice things to say about my contribution. One of the most interesting things about the Masked reviews I’ve read to date is the different stories that have been highlighted as favorites in the various write-ups.
It’s a fairly diverse collection from some very impressive talent – and, over the next few weeks, I’d like to introduce you to some of the great company I keep in the anthology. Yes, Masked is our September book of the month club selection but, in the lead up to the discussion, I’d like to whet your appetite with a peek at its fabulous stories and their amazing authors. So, in the very near future, you can look forward to visits from the likes of Marjorie M. Liu (Dark Wolverine, Black Widow, the Dirk & Steele Series, Hunter Kiss series), Paul Cornell (Dr. Who, Dr. Britain and MI13, Dark X-Men), Daryl Gregory (Pandemonium, The Devil’s Alphabet, Dracula: The Company of Monsters), Matthew Sturges (Jack of Fables, House of Mystery, Midwinter), and Mark Chadbourn (The Age of Misrule series, The Dark Age series, BBC’s Doctors) for starters. And I’ll also see if I can convince our esteemed editor, Lou Anders, to drop by for a pre-BOTMC chat.
In his article, Jason Henninger writes: “Many of the stories in Masked remind me of Astro City, a series that investigates the daily lives of superheroes. Astro City takes archetypal heroes and shows how being super-powered affects them personally, or looks at how living among the super-powered changes the lives of bystanders. If Masked can be said to have a central concern, it would be “What does it mean to be a superhero or villain?” The characters’ powers are integral to the stories but displaying this or that neato power isn’t the main thrust.”
And that’s why I highly recommend this collection, not only to comic book fans and fans of superheroes in general, but to discerning readers who enjoy engaging, character-driven stories.
Hey, speaking of our Book of the Month Club and fellow Masked contributor Daryl Gregory – you all have two weeks to finish off The Devil’s Alphabet because discussion begins the week of August 16th with author Daryl Gregory.
In addition to the aforementioned, I’ve got some goodies in the works. With the premiere of Stargate: Universe’s second season less than a couple of months away, I thought I’d start offering up some subtle little teasers for year two. Specifically, every so often, I’m going to post a pic from the show’s first season that, while seemingly random or incomprehensible at first glance, will actually prove to be a hint of things to come. Sort of like this –
And, of course, this blog will continue to offer an eclectic mix of coverage spanning everything from adorable dogs –
So welcome, one and all – from regulars to first-timers to those who, for form’s sake, publicly insist they don’t read this blog but secretly do anyway. Welcome!