In September, I was working on my punk rock fable A Winter Lullaby and taking my time with it because I want to do this one right. It’s the novel I’m taking seriously in the same way I pursued Ink Calls to Ink. But I set it aside to knock out a quick Cobalt City novel in November for NaNoWriMo because it’s something I like to do. And make no mistake, I was EXCITED for this year’s Cobalt City book. It was a political thriller, and it was full of intrigue and ultimately, hope.
And then the election happened and I felt my knees metaphorically taken out from under me. I spent the first day careening between states of shock, abject depression, and incoherent anger. It was not the best creative head space. In the week that followed, I wrote, at best 200 words. It didn’t feel important anymore. Not necessarily that it was a waste of time, because creating art is never a waste of time.
I was angry. That was the new normal, the new default that I came to settle in. Stubbornly, righteously angry. Those who have known me through my long life might share stories about my stubbornness and long-standing problems with authority. Honestly, if the past week is any indication, they haven’t seen anything yet.
But I needed to write. It’s how I exorcise demons. It’s how I process terror and rage. Writing is my sword, and in times of strife, we use the swords we know. But nothing I was currently working on fit what I needed. And time was ticking because I had a writing retreat this weekend. I couldn’t spend those days sequestered with my peers just spinning my wheels. It would make me crazy.
So I started knocking things around, and in that process I came across an old notebook heretofore known as the “International Fraternal Corps of Bears in Ill-Fitting Hats” notebook. In it, I found a breakdown of the heroes of the Protectorate and what their status was in the post-Protectorate era. I remembered that Cobalt City had a conservative talk show host named Lyle Prather who was more than he appeared–a hate-spewing demagogue if ever there was one.
And I recalled this dream project I wanted to do with some of the other Cobalt City authors, a big invasion story where there were several independent stories featuring groups of heroes fighting on different fronts of a big, intergalactic invasion. Each author was going to take a group and tell that group’s story and I’d link them all together into a larger narrative. Like one of those stupid comic book crossover events, but as a novel. Crazy and ambitious, and since everyone has such full writing schedules, impossible to coordinate.
But I have time. I have the fire. And goddamn but my sword is feeling particularly sharp right now.
I outlined the project and started writing yesterday. Seven story arcs that intertwine into four story arcs by the end of the novel, maybe eight or so little vignette chapters interspersed throughout the overall structure. All about a deep, interconnected community of superheroes (and villains and sorcerers and anti-heroes) in a world where an unqualified and narcissistic demagogue becomes president.
A quick preview of planned arcs:
- Archon and Gallows go to D. C. where Archon is being tempted with a consulting job that threatens to derail their once sound partnership.
- Kara Sparks and Lumien are on tour with the Madjack, facing the mood in the heartland and barreling towards a show that could spark a revolution.
- Louis Malenfant and Emil al Aswan seek to dethrone Prather from the City Behind the Moon only to find out the new president is more than he appears.
- The young hacker Wrecker of Engines coordinates Gato Loco and his team facing down a Nazi bike gang outside of Las Vegas with young heroes Ghost House and Kraken who are trying to rescue Kraken’s father from an internment camp in Arizona.
- Pressured to remain neutral, Stardust and Huntsman find themselves at odds with Libertine in Cobalt City as prolonged protests threaten to bring an authoritarian crackdown on the city.
The currently titled Cobalt City: Resistance is going to be the most ambitious story I’ve told in the city since Cobalt City Blues. I’ve jokingly referred to it as a stand-alone Game of Thrones with capes. And for all I know, it could be a horrible failure. I might stumble and fail and never finish it.
But I can’t abide what is happening in our country, the rise of comfortable fascism that I’m seeing normalized in the press. I can’t accept it. I won’t. And neither will the heroes of Cobalt City (though some will find themselves disturbingly relaxed about it).
And at the end of the day, we fight with the swords we know.
2 thoughts on “Shifting Gears & Sharpening Swords”
Even if you never finish it, I hope that there will be enough for some parts of the story to see the light of day. In these dark days, I can only imagine that many others like you – writers and artists and musicians – will create with a new passion and a higher calling. These are dark times, but those among us who have been blessed with creative skills have always produced the most powerful pieces in such times. I only hope to have a chance to share in the results.