I have some amazing people to thank. But first a bit of history. Cobalt City started as a collaborative effort, the outgrowth of a game played with friends.
I don’t really know when the fiction thing started. 2003, maybe? I had written my first Cobalt City story, my first Gato Loco story, actually. At about 8,000 words, “Masks” was the seed. It was enough to convince my wife at the time that I had a novel in me. So I wrote a novel. It wasn’t the first time I had tried. Heck…I tried writing my first novel in 7th grade and didn’t get very far. Neither did my attempt to write another novel when I was 18. Nor my third try a year or two later. I figured novels weren’t something I manage.
Then I wrote Cobalt City Blues, in part to prove that I could, and in part as tribute to the amazing friends who helped make the world come alive. The first draft was around 108,000 words, and was originally only intended to share with friends. It kind of took on a life of it’s own and remains, to this day, the longest thing I’ve ever written. And even then, I knew I barely scratched the surface. Cobalt City was too big. The characters, several of them invented by friends of mine, were too rich to be contained to one novel.
Given the rest of my life, I could never hope to write all the stories that belong in Cobalt City.
Thankfully, I continue to have amazing, creative, and freakishly talented friends. And over the years I was able to bring many of them into the sandbox with me. They helped shape the world one story at a time.
Now it’s about ten years later and I’m nearing the end of the first Cobalt City novel I’ve written in years, and I’m struck by how vibrant the city has become.
I just had to text Jeremy Zimmerman this morning to get a refresher on where Lincoln High School. I doing so, I realized his last two texts from me involved Velvet’s secret (or not secret?) identity, and what Cole “Midnight Thunder” Washington would dress up as for Halloween because he’s writing a Cobalt City novel this month as well–the sequel to his roller-coaster Kensei novel from last year. The work Jeremy has done to help formalize the cosmology of the Cobalt universe and flesh out the role of spirits as well as Karlsburg and West Key cannot be overstated. At some point I may talk him into writing the ongoing adventures of Snowflake and his cycle-riding sidekick Gato Loco. Fingers crossed. In the meantime, his Kensei adventures are outstanding. Plus, they have roller derby!
In checking my notes, I realized that the novel I’m writing takes place about two months before the events in Rosemary Jones’ Christmas story in the first anthology I ever put together. I’m told her post on how to fold napkin swans from that story remains incredibly popular. What few people realize is that I might not have put that first anthology together if it hadn’t been for Rosemary prodding me. She’s an enabler as well as ferociously talented. The Adventurer’s Club, the downtown public library, and the amazing life she’s breathed into the character Wrecker of Engines give the city a sense of place, a sense of history. I can only imagine the pulp-era Wrecker stories that remain, for now, untold.
Erik Scott de Bie has managed to capture the voice of Jaccob “Stardust” Stevens in a way I could have never hoped for. And I mean that literally as well as figuratively, as he provided the voice of Stardust in the Adventures Unlimited podcasts. He’s helped make Stardust, and his supporting cast, something much greater than the sum of it’s parts, exploring the creativity of Cobalt’s inventor hero in ways I never could have imagined. And he’s even spinning out his Lady Vengeance character into a comic book, which only feels natural.
Dawn Vogel gave the city steamwork ex-presidents as well as the first female Huntsman in the city’s history. She also took to Kara Sparx and her robot assistant Lumien in amazing fashion. A possessed Ferris wheel was involved.
Minerva Zimmerman took my concept of Thor’s avatar and spun it into a whole new approach that blew my socks off. What started as my whim to reinterpret the Thor mythology through the lens of returning Vietnam veterans and the movie Shaft turned into a nuanced story of a daughter with an ailing father, the concept of legacy, and a grasp of Norse mythology that owes more to actual myth than comic books. In the process, she further shaped the neighborhood of West Key and the generation of heroes that come after my Protectorate novels.
I’m closing in on the end of my latest Cobalt City novel, Los Muertos. The city isn’t the same city as when I started telling stories here. It’s a living place, made so much richer by all the people who have come to write there. I’m privileged. Humbled, almost beyond words. I hope the stories never stop coming. There are still so many left to tell. I almost forgot I still had some of my own tucked away.
I heartily encourage you to check out their works. Cobalt City Rookies includes Kensei and Wrecker of Engines novellas as well as a Tatterdemalion novella by Nikki Burns. It’s suitable for all ages and a great place to start. Cobalt City Double Feature has the newest incarnation of Thor and Lady Vengeance with Stardust for a high-octane thrill ride. Or, heck, check out any of the anthologies or the free short fiction on Timid Pirate or audio podcasts if you’re curious.