Origin stories… or stories’ origins, at least.

While looking through old computer files on Monday, Paul discovered five unpublished short stories about Hrothgar Tebrey: stuff he wrote for fun, back when we were both hanging out with a writers’ group in a city back east. I’m pretty sure the “black hole story” is in there, and the one about a raid on some science lab; the latter may have been integrated, in a somewhat altered form (how appropriate!) into one of the published novels. I’m not certain, but Ripper may be a character in at least one of these stories. (If you’ve read the novels in Paul’s The Awakening series, you’ll understand the significance of that and where it places the story in the timeline.)

As I said, none of these stories has been published, nor shared yet with anyone outside that writers’ group. There is a chance that Paul may rework some of them to include in Boot Camp Letters (we often end up not keeping a book’s working title, but this one may actually stick), which is intended to be a collection of short stories anyway. Or he may expand them to novella length and publish them individually.

So, yeah, writers should never throw away any of their old writing, because it could be useful someday, as the seed for a different story, a bit of background for a character, or whatever. And even if not directly useful (publishable), it could be valuable someday anyway, when the author has become so famous that everyone wants to see their earliest works. (*mutters something about rocks and space aliens and eleven-year-olds*)

In a box somewhere in our garage, I have a print copy of the original version of “that novel.” Well, okay, the real original version of at least the first few chapters was written by hand in a spiral-bound notebook. In green ink, because why not? It’s not as if anyone was ever going to read it, right? Sunlight, cold and remote at eight AU from the home of humankind… So much has changed about the story, but that line remains. (I like it, it works for the story, and I refuse to give in to idjits who completely misinterpreted my reason for writing humankind instead of mankind.) It’s been moved a lot further into the story, but then, the original beginning of Paul’s stories about Hrothgar Tebrey is now halfway through the second book in the series. And the original first line for “Finder’s Fee” ended up much further down the first page.

I like to know where stories come from, and I like to know how they evolve from the earliest inspirations and fragments of idea into the final, finished version. This means I keep track, to the best of my ability, of the inspirations and original versions of our stories, too. Sometimes that comes back to bite me, metaphorically, such as the specifics of where Drake died (seriously, if you’re not gonna read the books, I’m not gonna bother to avoid “spoilers” — and besides, he died before he showed up in the story), and how that echoed a character death from a very early version of a story about the Aurorans… And then the character who was the inspiration for that one dies in a location that looks rather like the place in my story, and… Well, let me just say I’m more grateful than ever that we found a way to avoid it. Gonna make helping my clone-sibling (*wonders if the term, however jokingly used, is inappropriate here*) write the next novel in the series a bit uncomfortable, but then, it was always going to be uncomfortable, because there’s nothing like standing next to someone on a battlefield where you once stood against them… And I know this place where the battle will happen, and so do Ryan and Morgen. (The almost-happened was before Leander’s and Brennen’s time — no matter what the official version says, by the way, Brennen actually joined the Auroran Circle before Morgen did — so they wouldn’t have been there anyway. Okay, so there was one version of the story in which Brennen and Tebrey went to that place — “the mongoose scenario,” we called it — but that was back when we were just playing around with what-ifs and had  no intention of ever sharing these stories with other people.)

I like to know where stories come from, and I like to know where they go afterward; I like to know about stories that were inspired by stories I have already read and loved. One blogger I follow once talked about books’ “parents,” which is much the same as what I think of as books’ lineages: John Steakley’s novel Armor is descended from Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, which is descended from E. E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensmen series. And if an author who likes all of these earlier stories happens to go full circle and create his own twist on certain thematic elements (iridium, perhaps? 🙂 ), that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Sometimes the inspired-by goes amiss, mind you: I liked Charles Stross’ The Atrocity Archives, so when I read somewhere that he’d written a novel titled The Family Trade, which was inspired by a certain fantasy series written by a certain author with the initials RZ…  Oh, yeah, I had to read Stross’ new novel. And when I did, I was so bored with it that I stopped reading after perhaps twenty percent of the book. Then again, I would never have pushed through repeated bouts of PTSD to watch Doctor Who (long story, and also none of your business) if I hadn’t known that Barbara Hambly’s character Angryg Windrose was strongly inspired by Tom Baker’s portrayal of the Doctor, but I like the Windrose Chronicles, so of course I had to see where Angryg came from… (Seriously, the “plum-colored frock coat” and everything. The iconic scarf got reinvented as Aunt Min’s shawl, but that was just so it wouldn’t be too obvious, right?)

(*types and then deletes long blather about green columns* I had a precognition — how appropriate! — about this picture once. I don’t know if it really has any connection to the sci-fi novel that made me think of it — the green columns in the background could just be coincidence — but when has that ever made a difference? The picture did come after the sci-fi novel; that, I’m certain of. And I feel the need to say here that I think it’s weird for someone who was once a guest character in a Marvel title to ever dress, even as a disguise, like someone who is, technically, from the DC Universe. I blame the drummer, honestly. Just like I blame the drummer for the “superpower” of the villain at the end of the Shadow Unit series. What the hell, Steve? *shakes head*)

Okay, this post ended up going places I didn’t intend when I started it. (That’s sooooo unlike me, right?) Maybe it’s a good time to just stop, before I type something that causes a reader’s brain to explode or whatever. The tl;dr version (a bit too late for that, isn’t it?): Paul has new/old short stories about Hrothgar Tebrey. Weaver enjoys tracking works of fiction to their lairs, and also, he talks too much.

That about covers it, right?





About Thomas Weaver

For several years, I’ve been putting my uncanny knack for grammar and punctuation, along with an eclectic mental collection of facts, to good use as a Wielder of the Red Pen of Doom (editor). I'm physically disabled, and I currently live with my smugly good-looking twin Paul, who writes military science fiction and refuses to talk about his military service because he can’t. Sometimes Paul and I collaborate on stories, and sometimes I just edit whatever he writes. It's worked out rather well so far. My list of non-writing-related jobs from the past includes librarian, art model, high school teacher, science lab gofer… Although I have no spouse or offspring to tell you about, I do have eight cats. I currently spend my time blogging, reading, editing, and fending off cats who like my desk better than my twin’s.
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1 Response to Origin stories… or stories’ origins, at least.

  1. Thanks for sharing. I enjoy learning about the inceptions. Nancy Kress also counseled to never throw anything away. File it away for later efforts. She’s pulled files from her later collection and often realized she had the wrong POV, pacing, or whatever problems, and it paid off with more publication success. Cheers

    Liked by 1 person

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