So, in the last Blog Post (click here if you missed it!) I talked a little about my journey to the inspiration for THE SCORCHED SKY.
This week, I’m going to go a little into the creative process behind going from fan fiction, to proper book series.
So, I first started writing these stories back in 2006, about a year after I started playing the game. You can see how long ago it was by looking at the screenies below…
The piccy on the left (if you click it) you can see the old titles of the books. Some of these have and will change. The dates are all recent because I’ve been messing in there. The piccy on the right, however, shows you the listing of some of the files. The one highlighted is an Excel spreadsheet which was where I planned the 4th book in the series, THE TANGLED WEB. As you can see, it’s back in 2006.
So, yeah… these stories are almost 16 years in the making at this point.
But I was determined to do the rewrites and get them fit for public consumption, which meant I needed to start addressing all the shit that was likely trademarked and copyrighted. And one of the MAJOR points of change would need to be the location…
As mentioned in the previous post, City of Heroes was set within the fictional location of Paragon City.
There were some key components to the city that needed to be replicated in order for the stories to translate properly.
Due to the limitations of old PC tech back in the day, the whole city couldn’t be roamed as one huge freely playable area, like for example the likes of Grand Theft Auto and its ilk. The city was instead split into zones, as you can see it his old game map…
This zone structure was pretty key to the narrative of the story I was telling, so I needed to find a way to put the same structure into my new location.
As you can also see from the map, the city was on a coastline, and while that wasn’t necessarily important to the storylines, the fact that the city has a port was.
The in-game lore had a reason to explain away the zones (the pale boxes around the parts of the city in the map above). The reason was that the city had been the sight of an alien invasion, and had since fallen into all kinds of lawlessness. The resultant ‘War Walls’ (or the forcefields that kept the zones separated) were a way to keep the alien threat contained.
Again, these were key to my story if I was going to easily translate it…
I decided to base my new location on somewhere I’ve been and have a passing familiarity with.
Chicago was a pretty easy sell for me.
Wifey and I began our Route 66 trip there, and we LOVED it. It’s a pretty city. Walking along the lakefront is truly beautiful, and the views are spectacular. It had water, and land, and some pretty distinctive buildings that I could use in the story.
Alas, in order to create my city of New Chicago, I would have to tear down most of the old city first, and I was planning to do it Independence Day style! Yes, I needed an alien invasion, just like the original game. but that gave me another rather big problem.
One of the KEY parts of my books hinged upon the alien race that was inherent to the City of Heroes game.
The Rikti were ever present in the game. They even had their own zone – The Rikti War Zone – and featured in multiple high level arcs and zone events like the Rikti Dropship Raids.
For my books to work, I needed two things.
I needed a location (which I now had!), and I needed a replacement for the Rikti.
I LOVE alien invasion movies.
Independence Day, Skyline, Battle: Los Angeles, A Quiet Place, The Tomorrow War, Edge of Tomorrow…
If aliens are attacking the Earth, Jon is happy bunny.
(Note: If aliens ACTUALLY attack the Earth, I will NOT be a happy bunny. This sentiment is only applicable to fictional works and is not transferable to real life!)
But I needed aliens. So, I went to my cover artist, Marlena (@LenamoArt) and gave her an offer she couldn’t refuse!
Me: Hey, Marlena. Would you like to be the HR Giger to my Ridley Scott?
Marlena: Hell, yeah!
I may be paraphrasing, but that was kinda how it went.
Anyway, she did NOT disappoint…
We decided to go with an insect-like theme for the invaders. It was important to me, that although they are standing in for the Rikti, they were different. As you can tell from above, I’m a HUGE fan of the Alien franchise, especially the first two films. I love Alien, but I prefer Aliens.
Because it’s one of those rare sequels that doesn’t tread the same old ground as the first movie. Instead it charts its own course and brings something new to the party. While the original movie was all about the subtle terror of being an under-prepared crew all alone on a huge ship with an alien they didn’t understand stalking them, James Cameron’s sequel was a different beast. This time the humans were prepared, armed to the teeth and ready to rock…but it didn’t matter. The Alien went from stalker in the dark, to an unstoppable horde.
Okay, so here’s an opportunity to include my FAVE scene from the movie…which I think was only in the extended edition… The sentry gun scene.
I love this scene because it so brilliantly shows the moment the tough guy marines truly realize how hopeless their fight it. Yes they’d had defeats prior to this point, but there was still such a firm belief that their firepower would win the day. This is the moment that final thread of hope evaporates.
Anyway, I digress.
Aliens showed the xenomorphs as a horde, born from a queen. It was a masterstroke, as it didn’t give too much away about the creatures, but gave you just a little bit of an added dimension.
While my book may be similar in tone to Independence Day, I wanted to place my aliens squarely in Alien territory. However, I also need these creatures to be an ongoing feature of the series. I need them to be able to communicate and have relations with the humans in the story moving forward.
Insects was the answer.
They give me both the swarm mentality for fighting, but I can also have different castes/breed for different roles. From the lowly worker drone, to the soldiers who use weapons (blades and guns), to the *spoiler* high-functioning diplomats (who we’ll see in future books!). It also gives something interesting for Marlena to get her teeth into, as you can see from the sketches she did for me.
So, I have my alien race.
Now all I need next, is some heroes to fight them.
You’ll meet THOSE in part 3 next week!
Love and Books