You loaded it, you might as well read it

July 24, 2001

I did some writing last weekend for Out of Space so I figured I’d update the projects page. (It makes me feel good when the updates aren’t several months apart.) Anyway, I took a moment to glance around the library and mentally note, again, that it could use some updating. (Like, it refers to 1997 as “recent”.)

That’s when I noticed the date given for the start of Starcruiser Anonymous: 24-Jul-1996. I thought to myself, “Man, it’s been five years since I started that.” Then I noticed the date and thought, “Exactly five years! The fifth anniversary is today!”

I was slightly panicked, because I had completely forgotten that this particular milestone was approaching. (You’d think the recent fifth anniversary of ZedneWeb would have jogged my memory.) What to do? I didn’t feel right letting the moment pass without some observation. Sure, there would be another anniversary next year, but five has a sense of significance to it. It’s half of ten, for instance, and it’s a common denomination of currency. Also, there’s that whole Superguy pentad thing.

Hence the rushed observance you’re reading now. I have to praise random chance here; were it not for some stubbornness prompting me to stay up and get the update out, I might have missed the date entirely.

Starcruiser Anonymous was my first extended work written for an audience of strangers. My prior stuff either stayed with friends and family, like Star Trek: The Last Generation, or was fairly short, like “High Tide” (which I wrote for my high school’s literary magazine because my sister needed submissions). SA, in contrast, was an ambitious work (for me), distributed to an audience made primarily of people I didn’t know, and archived for posterity in multiple locations. With it, I joined the vast, uncounted ranks of amateur, internet-distributed fiction writers.

Superguy still had an active group of reviewers at the time, and the reaction to my efforts was positive, for which I’m grateful. Most on-line writers receive little or no feedback, and at times the silence can be disheartening. I at least had my early positive reviews, comments from my friends, and the rare unsolicited praise to keep me going. (Thanks, guys.) It wasn’t always a fast process, but I was determined not to let my first series sit incomplete in the archives.

I’m not kidding when I say not a fast process. The final episode came three years and a week after the first.

I think I learned a lot while writing SA. I think if you compare the prologue to the epilogue, you’ll find a discernable improvement in style. The episodes get considerably longer towards the end, but that’s because I’ve slowed down. When I started, I would casually jump between five separate plot threads in the same episode. By the end, I preferred to keep such intra-episode jumps rare so that my readers could follow the plot. (With Out of Space, I’m now writing entire episodes from a single character’s viewpoint.)

After I finished writing, I set the series aside with the intention of re-reading it after a few years so I can see it with (mostly) fresh eyes. I haven’t done this yet—and I certainly don’t have time to do it tonight—so I can’t yet comment from that perspective. But I do remember the overall sweep of the story, and I can say that I’m impressed by the sheer scope of it. For instance, most of the action on Arorua before episode 9 is there so that the Zakavians will send a fleet over, thereby letting me do a Voltron spoof with Blue Squadron.

Now, a novel that sets up events ten chapters in advance is unremarkable, but SA was written as a serial and I posted each episode pretty much as it was completed. There is a ton of action in the first half of the series, and it all proceeds logically from what came before and towards the eventual destination. I’m not sure if I could duplicate that today. (I mean, I hope so, but I haven’t tried.)

Well, it’s getting late and I have work tomorrow, but I figure a moment like this deserves some goodies. Since DVDs have made it fashionable to release material considered not good enough for the original movie, I figured why not scrape something off the cutting room floor myself?

Starting with episode 19, I made backup copies whenever I deleted or replaced a large segment of text. This was mostly so I could cannibalize any good lines later on, but also partially to create a record of the text. (I was very impressed by the way Christopher Tolkein was able to reconstruct older versions of his father’s work by going through his notebooks. You don’t get that kind of history with a word processor unless you make some effort when you’re writing it.)

Anyway, there was a 2000-word sequence in episode 20 that took me months to write, and I eventually decided that the reason it took me so long was that I didn’t really like it. Plus, it was actually longer than episode 7 but didn’t advance the plot at all. Eventually, I chose to cut it and managed to pump out the rest of the episode (despite the cut, it’s over 8500 words long and the only episode I ever posted to Superguy in two parts).

Here, then, is that cut sequence from episode 20. To set the scene: Scientist Beth Gaelen has been abducted by a group of activists on the Anonymous who oppose Captain Harrison, and the Green and Black squadrons have stormed off into the vast, uncharted areas of the ship in order to rescue her. It’s a huge area to search, and they don’t really have any idea of where to look, so patience is beginning to run thin.

As I said, I wasn’t entirely happy with this sequence, but there was also material I was sad to lose. These days, though, I find it greatly ironic that I once had to cut material because I had too much of it.