From the standpoint of the universe, The Minus Faction is my first book. It is not my first published novel — that’s Fantasmagoria — nor is it my first attempt at a novel. That wasDarksign, a science fiction foible, written circa 2001-2, about life, death, and the origin of everything. After 150 rambling pages, I abandoned it.
I did so for the same reason I stepped back from the first version of The Minus Faction, which had the working titleLove and the Zombie-Cyborg Apocalypse. In 2012, as my marriage was failing, I wrote 105,000 words — for those in the cheap seats, that’s 420 standard pages — and it still wasn’t done. Entirely too long. The story got away from me.
However much one might have a bend for it, no one is born knowing how to swim, or ride a bike, or write a novel. You have to learn.
Those close to me know that, after I abandoned the story, I stood on a mountaintop and shook my fist and vowed to earn my way back. (Or at least that’s how the Sioux shamans sing of it.)
I wrote Agony in Violet, the first in my series of short occult mysteries, in December 2012 and published it in February of 2013. It popped my publishing cherry and it is, like everyone’s first time, over too quickly. I erred in the other direction.
I then set off to write Fantasmagoria, which took the better part of a year and which was SUPPOSED to be the next step to earning my way back to novel-length work. It was SUPPOSED to be around 50,000 words, give or take. But in another magical mondo miscalculation, it ended up 76,000 words, which is roughly standard novel length. D’oh!
To be clear, I am proud of both Agony in Violet and Fantasmagoria. They aren’t for everyone — given that they feature, among other things, shit-eating and a giant vat of semen (respectively), it’s safe to say neither were intended for general consumption. But they’re fun, entertaining stories, even if they do have their flaws. It’s just like with one’s spouse: eventually you live with them for so long that even their shortcomings become endearing.
I wrote The Red Dagger — the second short in the occult mystery series — earlier this year, although to be fair, a great deal of the characters and plot were excavated during my trip to Asia last Fall. Unlike the two earlier works, The Red Dagger is the length it needs to be. However, as with Agony in Violet, Dagger is merely one star of a rising constellation. I believe the 4-5 mysteries of The Heretic Arcanum hang like the Pleiades and will only find an audience, if they ever do, once collected into a single volume. (The third mystery, tentatively called Bonewhite, is yet a blastula of notes in my mind-womb.)
That brings us to The Minus Faction, which I intend to be my new flagship work. It rises from the ashes of that earlier discarded epic. Out of 105,000 words, I recycled not a one. Characters, plot points, ideas . . . These I plucked like flowers. The rest burned like a repressed pyromaniac’s childhood home.
The core idea for the series dates back to 2011 when the buzz for 2012’s “Avengers” movie was building. It occurred to me that all of the Avengers, with the possible exception of the Hulk, were antiquated heroes dating from a bygone century. There is nothing wrong with them. Certainly I enjoy them all and own all of the movies and quite a few comics. (I highly recommend Mark Millar’s Ultimates books, which first proposed Samuel Jackson as Nick Fury and on which some parts of the first movie are based.)
But nevertheless, here we have a white male wealthy genius arms dealer (a prime mover of the military-industrial complex) and a white male super-soldier (a result of the military-industrial complex) and a white male super-scientist (the military-industrial complex eating itself) and a white male god-prince, first in line for a cosmic throne.
Again, I don’t think there is anything intrinsically wrong with these characters. The common man has been looking up to gods and princes and those possessed of secret arts for as long as there have been humans: Gilgamesh and Odysseus and Beowulf and the rest. I enjoy those stories. People are not crazy for wanting their heroes to be heroic!
Also, to be as clear as sunlight in space, I did NOT set out to redress any gender slights or slay any sociopolitical dragons. I was not trying to compensate for anything. I WAS trying to remove all barriers, to entertain no taboo.
I asked myself, if the wealthy entitled European male — starting with The Shadow and moving through Superman and Batman and down to the Avengers — is the paradigmatic hero of the 20th Century, who is it in the 21st?
It wouldn’t be an idealized, whitewashed version of the Kennedys and Rockefellers fighting aristocratic oppression on behalf of the less privileged. We no longer need cower behind top hats.
I think it would be the less privileged rising up to fight for themselves. The underdog. The outcast. The disenfranchised. The misunderstood.
But that raised another question: Who would be the villains? After all, the traditional antagonists of those Gold and Silver Age superheroes, if not the old aristocratic order (think Doctor Doom), ARE the outcast, the misunderstood, the Other.
It was important to me that the villains NOT simply be a parody of the old ruling class or the military-industrial complex. The point is not that, in a dramatic reversal, the villains have risen up and taken the city. We’re not destroying an older order. We’re embracing a new one. That means facing new challenges. Complexity. Diversity. Excess. Interconnectedness.
So from which class come the villains of today? I can’t answer that without giving part of the story away. You’ll just have to wait.
In the first three episodes, you’ll be introduced, in order, to John Regent, Xana Jace, Ian Katsuhiro Tendo, and “Wink”. In the final three episodes, the four of them will discover why things are so much easier if you have Tony Stark’s fortune and Cap’s overdeveloped ethos.
Plus, there’ll be zombie-cyborgs, at least one giant monster, a blackout with quite a bit of collateral damage, and a (hopefully) shocking twist. You’ll learn about the minus faction and the mysterious Prophet. You’ll discover the Consortium of collaborators and learn the meaning of this symbol.
(And at the end, you’ll see what the Consortium has frozen in the basement.)
But mostly you’ll get to know the characters. As the tagline says, it’s a story about extraordinary abilities and how not to use them. Not heroes as you’ve known them. Heroes redefined.
Episode One: Breakout goes on sale August 15th. Don’t worry. I’ll send out a reminder.