William A. Hainline: Reality Engineer

The Blog Of A Science Fiction Writer Living Just A Half-An-Hour Into The Future . . . Or Maybe, Y'Know, An Hour And Some Change. Sci-fi, politics, visual arts, music, writing, fantasy, and general weirdness. NSFW. Probably not safe for YOU, either, really. But don't let that stop you.

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How The Technowizard Guardians Began Life

It was the year 2005, or sometime around that time, when I first got the idea. I had just watched the movie The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, which I had remembered from my childhood in the 1980's — hey, the 1980's were weird, okay? — and which had made quite an impression on me in my formative years. So much so that it had stuck out in my memory, and the combined forces of nostalgia and cinematic intrigue had commanded me to go to the movie store and buy myself a copy of it. (I wasn't yet buying my movies digitally in 2005; i know, I know, I'm kinda slow on the uptake when it comes to new-fangled techno-stuff.) Having just watched the film, I found myself thinking: Damn. I wish I could create a hero that cool. Sort of maybe a cool-as-ice mad scientist who's the good guy, for a change; a science-positive hero who takes no shit and who's really wild and out there, maybe like a Willy Wonka for the twenty-first century. I then promptly went to bed for the night, and — no shit, I swear — proceeded to dream one up. First things first, she surprised me in that she was a she, and not a he. She had blue hair, which was kinda surprising as "blue" isn't a color you normally associate with hair. Kind of a punk rock sort of thing, I guessed. Okay, so far so good, I thought. Punk rock chick. In my dream, she was running around a Frankenstein's-lab like setting, throwing switches and turning dials on all sorts of arcane machinery, with electricity flying everywhere and sparks going "pop" off the various devices surrounding her. Okay. Punk rock mad scientist, cool. And there were these three whirling gimbals — like the machine from Contact — all spinning around this blurry figure in the center: A cat. Her cat. A white Persian cat, to be precise, whose name I knew was Schrödinger. 

Okay, I thought. Punk rock mad scientist chick with a thing for placing cats in danger. I woke up from the dream thinking about this character I'd dreamed up, wondering: What was her name? Who was she, really? And what was the purpose of the "experiment" I had glimpsed her performing? What did the cat have to do with it? That day, I reasoned the rest of it out: The cat was the subject of the experiment; he was a test pilot, in fact, and the machine was a teleportation device that used wormholes to open a gateway between disparate points in spacetime. The lab was on a university campus — maybe a creepy university like Miskatomik, like in the Lovecraft stories — and the lead character (I didn't yet know her name) was a scientist there, a post-doctoral student doing her thesis work. Something still didn't make sense. Where had she gotten the idea to do this experiment? What was her inspiration? Before the question was out of my mouth I had the answer.

"She got the idea from watching Star Trek," I said to myself. And thus, the seed of the idea got planted. I would write a story that wasn't just about brilliant scientists saving the world from aliens. (Which I knew, somehow, had to be the plot. I just didn't know how I would pull it off.) No, mine would be a story about fandom, as well . . . a story about a bunch of geeks and nerds who saved the world from aliens, using their mad science skills (in every sense of the words). And Dizzy — the name just sort of fell out of my brain apropos of nothing — would be their leader. But, she wouldn't be the lead character. Something felt wrong about making her the star of the show. What was it? I didn't know. All I knew was that she wasn't meant for the spotlight; she was meant to stand next to whoever held that role. No, the lead role belonged to someone else, someone I hadn't met yet. Someone who was . . . well, someone like me. An everyday guy, but a guy with serious issues and problems that needed working on, a guy with some serious baggage that needed sorting before he could do any world-saving. A guy with some stuff to sort out, a guy whose friends meant the world to him because he had so few of them . . . and to whom Dizzy would become a great ally, maybe even a love interest. But who would never ever return his feelings. Not ever. Because that's just not how she works/worked. I knew that going in — Dizzy is not a lover. She's a fighter, and a scientist. She studies things and takes them apart. She doesn't hold anyone's heart together.

So that's how I got the idea, more or less. That's how The Technowizard Guardians Of The Infinite Worlds Of Fandom began life. Back then it was called The Reality Engineers, and it was a lot simpler of a story. I wrote it all down as best I could — to the tune of about 125,000 words or so — and then promptly released it on Createspace and Smashwords. It got about 400 downloads or so, being a free eBook. It was when I decided to charge money for it that the downloads stopped after the free samples. And I couldn't figure out why. Then came the negative reviews on Amazon. At first just one. Then two. Then three. Puzzled, I wondered what I had done wrong. What could I have missed? So I decided to re-read it the book for myself, to see where I could have possibly erred. Surely, this was a misunderstood masterpiece, and I, its author, were blameless, and had truly crafted an endearing story that people just weren't getting.

Whoa boy was I wrong. "Bigly," as our current Stupidnik-in-Chief would say. It was awful. It was as if some stupid idiot had snuck into my head and caused me to write the worst novel ever written. The characters were paper thin and two dimensional. The plot was almost nonexistent. It had a beginning, a big climax, and sort of an ending, but no real middle. It had zero real development of the characters. It had no subtext. It had little if any depth to it. And it had only a cursory amount of theme or any literary merit. I did not like what I beheld from my own pen.

So, I pulled it off the market, and vowed to rewrite it. Completely. Same characters, same basic story. Different book.

That was a year and a half ago, and I'm still working on it. The book is now called The Technowizard Guardians Of The Infinite Worlds Of Fandom, and let me tell you, the new version is one hell of a lot better. If only for the fact that this time, I've employed "beta readers" — people to read the initial drafts and tell me where I'm going right, and where I'm going wrong. I've also hired an editor (the incomparable E.J. Runyon at Bridge to Story). And, I've been studying-up on story structure (the also-incomparable Larry Brooks' series on Story Engineering and Story Physics, as well as reading up on the Heroes' Journey, re-reading my Literary Criticism textbooks from school, and, trying to work on solid writing exercises each and every day to stretch my muscles in brand new writerly directions). I've also been writing on other projects, and getting feedback on those, as well, from both readers and other writers. Oh, and I've joined two writers groups, including one that meets here in town, with whom I can share my work and from whom i can receive valuable feedback, as well. In short, I launched a major talent-improvement offensive that's lasted a year and a half now, and all toward rewriting and improving The Technowizard Guardians. Which will be finished in just another few months, and hopefully going to E.J.'s desk by August, if I have my druthers about it. I'm very excited, and I think people will really like the new version. It's much longer and bigger now — a much thicker, richer, and, I think, much more satisfying book — and is going to run about 400,000 words (about the length of Stephen King's It all totaled), but it will be worth the read, I think. It's an epic science fantasy story now, featuring mad science, aliens, vampires, werewolves, time travel, elder gods, other dimensions, and all sorts of whacky hijinx and adventures. I think people will dig it. I hope they do. It's been a lot of work since 2005 came and  went, and once I'm done with it, I plan to start work on an epic fantasy project, a total shift in gears. But one I think I will welcome.

Well, that's all folks. How the project got started, and where it's going from here. Stay tuned. The journey still continues, and I'm excited to see where it goes from here! Aren't you? :-)