Something really grates my gills is those people who make something just like everything else and then they talk at you too long explaining that, no, but this is actually totally different! And here’s the Wikipedia spiral I wrote to explain how!
For most of my career, I have tried to never do that. I don’t believe in originality. I believe in the glorious infinity of the endless iterative expansion that is the Rashomon effect of every one of us bidding for everyone else’s attention. We find a weird or fresh or damned funny take on old things, and that is the job of having an independent consciousness from other people. Nobody has had an original thought since they decided to cook the meat first. But since then, all the color in the world has come from swooping in with a different excuse than the last guy. And that is the spice of life.
I haven’t done anything different from anybody else who’s ever worked out how to tell a story. I will never tell you I have. I will never try to tell you I have.
So here’s all the ways that my upcoming story is different than anyone else’s one.
First off, did you know I have an up-and-coming story? It’s already out in the world, but it’s still up and coming. It’s called City Song. It’s pretty good.
Anyway, here’s everything it isn’t.
It isn’t The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher.
Because they’re lame. But you have no concept of how lame they are. Butcher’s books are littered with hundreds of little victims of his misguided devotion to this “main character” idea. There are a half dozen characters in the first couple of his books alone that suffered from this insane man’s inability to recognize what he had in his hands — offhanded characters, invented and forgotten, who should have had their own books.
My book is not that.
Butcher also plays too loose with language, I think. He literally says in his first book, as an explanation for the Harry Potter-esque pseudo-Latinate jiggery-pokery that Dresden uses for incantations that it doesn’t matter what the words are, so long as those words are said with the right conviction.
Like hell it matters! Words matter. They matter so much. It matters what you say and how you say and how it’s understood by everyone around you. Accurate Latin might be less important than getting your point across, but you still need to be comprehensible on some level. Made up words are stupid magic words.
My book is also not that.
What my book is was written during a rage about everything I found disappointing in the works of Jim Butcher. It’s just possible there is some self-soothing happening in how I wrote City Song.
It isn’t urban fantasy Firefly.
But it COULD be.
Another rage, this one a crying rage, I riled myself into had to do with the second season of Firefly. Those of you in the know understand why that had me in such a rage.
In the same moment, all I could think was, “why isn’t there some fantasy Firefly? And more to the point, why isn’t it quite Buffy the Vampire Slayer?
Well, my mother, who resembled Uncle Ben in more ways than hair style, liked to tell me that if I saw a problem and I complained about it then I should either shut up or fix it.
So I’ve tried to fix it.
City Song isn’t urban fantasy Firefly. It could be, but I’m not allowed to say so. It’s like being cool. You don’t get to decide you’re cool. But you can own it if someone else tells you.
City Song could be that, but it’s up to you if it is.
It isn’t my ideal D&D campaign.
For one thing, novels based on a D&D campaign almost never work. They seem like they should, but it’s a huge trap. We all know intuitively that D&D only works, if it works at all, because of the role-playing aspect of it. Funny, right?
Remove that, and you’ve removed its conduit for emotional investment.
Besides, I couldn’t be bothered rolling all those dice.
Another rage, although this one more a state of melancholia, I had was all about how I didn’t have a D&D campaign to join. Still don’t. Not sure I ever will. No time.
That said, while I wrote City Song, I thought about all that I like about D&D. I changed all the stuff I didn’t like about D&D, then wrote the book.
That’s some of what City Song isn’t.
What City Song is, on the other hand, might be summed up in all the nostalgia I feel toward the Dire Straits album, Making Movies, and all the regret I feel for being too young to have lived through any significant development of punk rock.
These things move me, you see. Music moves me. Rock and roll moves me. Punk is the sound of my rage.
And that raging sound is the hum I tried to instill into City Song.
While I did aim to write the forgotten parts of The Dresden Files, and urban fantasy Firefly, following a D&D campaign of my bleary fever dreams, it all grew like fungus on a vibrating surface.
City Song is about punk rock. It’s about a punk rock wizard crashing into a punk rock magical world. It isn’t Harry Potter, because I grew out of Harry Potter, and while I did I wished for punk rock wizardry. So I made some.