December 31, 2015
Thunderbird has taken some criticism because not everyone is happy with Chairman Walker's climactic decision. It might be of interest to those readers to know that the original draft of the novel went in a different direction. In short, Walker chose another route. And before anyone gets annoyed with me, I should point out that the call was the chairman's, not mine. And I know how that sounds. But the reality is that, while the author is usually in charge of events in a narrative, the characters decide how they will react. And if you think I'm kidding, ask yourself how you would respond if, say, Hutch abandoned someone in trouble, or Alex Benedict declined to follow up on an investigation because he'd be playing polo that weekend.
In The Hercules Text, as originally written in 1985, Harry Carmichael comes into information gleaned from an extraterrestrial intercept. The information can lead to major medical advances, but is also applicable to high-tech weaponry. He responds by burying it in an altar in an abandoned church. It was my first novel, and I recall Harry arguing with me, telling me he would never react in that manner. That it was out of character for him. I explained that I needed him to do it, and that I was running the show. But fifteen years later, when I was prepping the novel for another appearance (along with A Talent for War) in Hello Out There, I realized Harry had been right, and I rewrote much of the second half.
In Deepsix, named after a world that was about to crash into a gas giant, I didn't want Priscilla going down to the surface because I knew what was going to happen. Earthquake coming, Hutch. It'll take out the lander and leave you stranded. You'll still be there when the place goes down in two weeks. But she insisted. "You've found ruins from an alien civilization, and you want me to stay up here in orbit? I'm not doing it. I'm headed for the surface. Or get somebody else."
I threatened to use Chase Kolpath, and she laughed. "Don't worry, you'll figure out something." She went, and left me stranded. I had several ideas for managing a rescue, but they were all dumb and would have ended unhappily. Eventually, Walt Cuirle, a friendly physicist, came up with something. For which I've always been grateful. Some people are upset with Chairman Walker. I wonder how things would have gone had Hutch been dropped into that gas giant.
There've been other problems. I wanted Chase to forgive the guy she'd met in Coming Home for what she perceived as a betrayal. "Makes for a happier ending," I told her.
"Absolutely not," she said. "No way."
In Starhawk, I went round and round with Jake Loomis. "There's a better way to do this," I kept telling him, trying to talk him out of using his ship to collide with an incoming bomb.
"So what is it?"
"I can fix the numbers. Set up a fuel deficiency, maybe."
"Not much drama there, Jack. Look, let me handle it. I'll be off the ship in time, and out of the way."
Well, we know how that turned out.
In the end Chairman Walker also refused to back off. So I hope that anyone who has gotten upset knows who to blame.
I'm just finishing Charles Gannon's Raising Caine, the third outing for the hands-on diplomat and intelligence agent. Chuck's novels keep getting better. He's mastered the military SF genre.
Mike Resnick's The Prison in Antares provides another solid entry in the field. The Dead Enders are on the job again.
Not a bad way to start the new year.