I was listening to last week’s Dead Robots Society, an interview with Scott Sigler. For the three of you who don’t know who Sigler is, he was one of the founders of podcast fiction. Sigler has parlayed giving his stuff away for free into a small press contract, a 5-book deal with Crown (owned by Random House) and starting his own publishing company. An unknown when he started releasing Earthcore in 2004, he now makes a living from his fiction.
Sigler always wants to give his readers the best possible product, and as such, he tends to rewrite with every new release of his books. The small press version of Earthcore was different than the podcast version, and the version he’s writing for Crown will be different still. By the time he gets to write it, eight years will have passed since the original podcast. He’s going to have to update everything to incorporate new developments in mining technology and new discoveries in biology. His editor at Crown has a stable of scientific advisors to help Sigler make the new version as accurate as possible.
And therein lies the problem. At conventions and signings, Sigler is asked more than for anything else when the sequel to Earthcore is coming out. After all, it’s been four years since the podcast, how long are people expected to wait? But as Sigler pointed out on DRS, he can’t write the sequel, Mount Fitzroy, until he rewrites Earthcore for Crown and knows, based on the new requirements for the story, which characters live and die.
What does all this have to do with little old me? Glad you asked.
When I made the only-one-week-to-go-before-the-madness decision to push Sins of the Mothers off until next summer and do Revelation for NaNoWriMo, I got a fair amount of grousing. Some of the folks in my writer’s group were looking forward to something new, rather than a reboot of a 13 year old story. But you see, my hands were tied the same way Sigler’s are. (At least metaphorically. I don’t want to know how Sigler’s hands are tied literally.)
Even though to the best of my knowledge, Sins of the Mothers would only contain a few of the characters from the other Unification Chronicles books, I don’t know that for sure. Going into it last month, I didn’t really know much about the Nemesis War itself (book 5 of the series). I didn’t really know what the other two major races, the Dalindo and Vertrusk, were like, and how they might have influenced the male Sendeni soldiers. I didn’t know how Sophie encountered the Nemesis, which awakened the telepathy in her. Other than Chalyl, I didn’t even know what other Sendeni officers would appear in the book. And the more I thought about it, the more I came to the same conclusion Sigler did about the sequel to Earthcore. I have to write the books in a series in chronological order, because otherwise I won’t know how they fit together.
I can see how right I was already, only three days into NaNoWriMo. While Revelation starts off at roughly the same place as Between Heaven and Hell did with Daniel Cho helping out at the scene of a car crash, only shifted to 2010, just over 6,000 words in it’s already veered dramatically away from the plot of the original, with Daniel escaping from a police station and marked as a fugative, possibly a terrorist wanted under the PATRIOT act. The new Susan Richardson is a conservative Christian blogger rather than a plucky reporter, the new Jeff Frankel is a Viet Nam vet instead of Korea and a whole lot kookier and Jack Harris plays a key role that didn’t even exist in the original as the FBI agent tracking Daniel. While 80,000-100,000 words from now I’ll still end up at the same place as the end of the 33,000 word novella, with the angels and demons revealed to the world as scientific fact, I have a very different way to get there, and that course will define the events that follow. I can already see the ripples propogating down the timeline (Daniel will work for Jack in Crusade, rather than the other way around, and Jihad will be very different), meaning that Mistaken Identity will have a very different history to build on than it did when I first wrote it in 2002. That will lead to different assumptions about the Nemesis War, which again, brings us to what, by the time I get to writing it in June, will likely be a very different take on Sins of the Mothers than what I originally had in mind. A richer, more vibrant and fully realized take, and I’d be a schmuck not to take advantage of that.
Which means, unfortunately for my writer’s group, that they’re going to see the reboot of Between Heaven and Hell before they get the new space opera stuff. But somehow, once they see how different what I’m doing now really is, I don’t think they’re going to mind.