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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Blast from the Past: My First Book

I found a literary coprolite of mine in the closet this week.

It's my first novel.  Click the JUMP for more.

When I was a junior in high school (GWHS - Danville, VA), we got a "Mac Lab."  It was a wondrous place that had about twenty Macintosh computers.  These were Macintosh Classic IIs, I believe, and they were about eighteen inches tall, about a foot deep and less than a foot across the front.  Some classes let us use them, otherwise, they were available to students to use before and after school.

For whatever reason, I decided to write a book.  (More on that in a moment.)  I stared staying late at school, typing away until the last teacher had left.  When I saw the janitor push that long red fuzzy dry mop by the door, I knew it was late and I should leave.  I did this for months.

At Christmas break (or maybe it was spring break, I'm not sure) of my senior year, I was surprised the afternoon before it started when the principal, Mr. Lackey, came into the Mac Lab with a padded case and strap.  He set it next to the Mac I was on and said I could take the computer home over the break.

Now, this was unprecedented.  The computers were basically new and no student was ever allowed to take them home.  I didn't know at the time, but those Classic IIs went for about $2,000 brand new.  Regardless, he saw me in there just about every day and he had spoken with my English teacher, Mrs. Breakley, and another English teacher who wasn't mine but was in the Lab daily, Mr. Kirk.  They knew I was doing something I loved so they encouraged it.

Unfortunately, the end result of that effort is an unmitigated pile of crap.

I kid, I kid.  It kindled a love of writing in me, sure, but that particular thing I spent all of those afternoons working on just plain sucks.  No, I'm serious.

(Click on any pic to enlarge.)

First off, the title pages.

The one on the left came first.  Probably made with PageMaker, I'm guessing.  The one on the right came later in 1993 after I graduated high school and got my own PC for college.  I also managed to have a color dot matrix printer (obviously) and a Star Trek fonts pack (I've been saving and porting those fonts around ever since).

If you thought my attention to detail only came with the Lords of Kobol books, you'd be wrong.  Holy crap.  I had no idea ...

That's a meticulously plotted star map of this part of our galaxy.  It is a 2D map, but made with accurate angles and distances so I could accurately determine how long it would take starships to warp around in my book.  There was a second page (missing) that had all of the angles plotted, too, along with a distance comparison.  You know, one inch on the page equals fifty light years, or whatever.

Also, it's nice to see that my handwriting has always sucked.

More pointless detail!  A handy reference list of all of the "light factors" and how fast that is in multiples of the speed of light.  A few musings on the flags and banners of the "Planetary Confederation" (with color coding).  An incomplete list of alien races from the book and their various features.

Holy crap.  More.  On the left, three pages of star systems, their distances from Earth, and their status in the Confederation.  On the right -- boy, this is esoteric -- I apparently created a system to classify lifeforms.  Humans, as best as I can determine, would be listed as "D2\(A).<ii>-|[(c)]|:II, iv, VIX, x, XIV, xv7, XVI3, xvii5, XVIII5, xix4, XX2, xxi3, XXII3, xxiii3, XXIV1, xxv1, XXVI2, xxvii (1,2), XXVIII1, xxix(1, b, ii), XXX (1,2,i)."  Which, obviously, means, "Carbon based, respirates through gases with minimal elements required, obtains moderate number of nutrients via ingestion, exists in gaseous environment with low amount of pressure required and moderate temperatures and low gravity, moderate immunity level, negative electrical resistance, high neuro/bio-chemical interaction, neutral pH level, low EM field requirements, moderate & narrow visual sense, moderate & wide audio sense, no psychic sense, moderate tactile sensitivity, low olfactory sense, low gustatory sense, dual contributive reproduction, physical movement, low longevity, moderate waste production, vocal communication, rigid skeletal support structure, highly artistic, highly emotional, moderately spiritual, high adaptability, high ingenuity, advancing civilization."

This was clearly a necessary detail for the novel.

Created in Paintbrush in 1993, here's the flag of United Earth and Colonies (essentially the UN flag with representations of the other planets around it).  The other symbol is that of the Planetary Confederation.

Various symbols and signage of the Planetary Confederation, shoulder patches, the Armed Alliance.

The starships of the Planetary Confederation.  I think you can discern the problem with my book via their designs.

More starships.

The bad guys, the Regulans.  Obviously, you can see the Klingon and Romulan influences in their shapes and names.

And that brings us to the story itself.  Of course, I put a load of effort into creating the universe but does the story stand on its own?

Well, it might.  If it didn't lean so heavily on Star Trek.

C'mon.  I named the lead character Eugene Rodney Majors.  Gene, for short.  (After Gene and Majel Barrett Roddenberry.)  Gene's parents?  Beverly Michelle (after Dr. Crusher and Uhura's actress) and James Patrick (after Kirk and Picard's actor).  It's painful.

After thumbing through it, it's just fan fiction.  Bad, unoriginal fan fiction.  Instead of a Federation, I've got a Confederation.  Regulans; not Romulans.  Light factor; not warp factor.  Plasers; not phasers.

Every chapter of the story borrows liberally from Star Trek.  Warp core breaches, nebula battles, an ascension to the rank of admiral and wishing he'd stayed a captain.  There's even an Academy story involving young Gene and some malicious recruits (TNG's "First Duty").

It's a flaming pile, no question.  But ... but ... it's the first thing I wrote.  It started me on the path to becoming an author.  I'm not a self-sufficient professional author yet, but I am still writing.  Twenty-three years later.

That's gotta mean something.

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