A few years ago, I wrote a couple of books with Frank Martin called the Predestiny series. It was an attempt to do a Young Adult science series that would hopefully break into new markets. It was also a cyberpunk series and something that was inspired by events in recent decades about corporate overreach, activism, and other events which had informed my burgeoning political consciousness. It was also inspired by Terminator, Dune, Continuum, and a bunch of other time travel stories.
The premise of Predestiny was Robbie Stone was a high schooler in a near-future dystopia where Butterly International has more or less bought America. A friend of mine described the company as “Applezon” and I’d say that’s accurate, except it also owned Blackwater. Rob just wants to do the Occupy Wallstreet thing and is then almost killed. He only survives thanks to the timely intervention of a white haired girl named Jane (no, not Doe). Jane explains that Rob has a destiny! HE IS GOING TO DESTROY THE WORLD!
Yes, Robbie Stone is the Hitler in the “would you go back in time and kill Hitler as a baby”, except he’s closer to Paul Atreides in that he led the revolution ended up destroying the megacorps after they take over the world but ended up killing billions in the process. Some cyborged up super soldiers have decided to avert that by killing him. Jane has decided, for her own reasons, to protect him but this obviously throws Rob’s life for a complete loop. His only advantage is the people in the future don’t know his exact identity.
It was a complete disaster.
At least sales wise.
The short version is that not everyone can write every genre and while there was a fantastic story there, it didn’t really work out because I dialed back a lot on the implications of the book to stick to the Young Adult market. Frank did an amazing job with the material but I kept cutting myself off from going as hard in the material (that deserved to be R). I also didn’t develop the characters quite as much as I should (or as in other books).
Marketing-wise, I didn’t know quite how to market the story and leaned rather hard into the YA element that I think pushed away readers who might have otherwise given the story a chance. The cover also had Jane on it rather than Robbie, which I think confused readers who bought it with the intention that they would have a female protagonist. I have a great fanbase but they’re primarily adults and of a cynical edge that probably this was not for them. So, instead of attracting a new audience, I just alienated my preexisting one.
The sequel, Lost Future, was released but it had an even more YA looking cover that was misleading and poorly chosen. It was, if you can believe, even more incorrect for the marketing because the story got darker and darker. Robbie (now going by Rob) has to deal with killing someone for the first time and making horrible moral choices. By the end of the book, it’s 100% clear that this shouldn’t have been a YA series as the world has become far too dark and gritty for the story. There’s plenty of YA dystopias but I could have pressed the issue further if I wasn’t trying to write with one hand tied behind my back. The fact I attempted to do the books around 60K also inhibited world building. This wasn’t the series for it.
The bad luck unfortunately continued with an initial bit of good luck with the audiobook release being done for free by my good friend, Thomas Manchin. He’s a audiobook narrator of some great comedy books and quite a lot of fun. Mind you, Predestiny had the least amount of comedy in my books save, possibly, Lucifer’s Star or Wraith Knight. I think what jokes in that version of the book were done by Frank rather than me. Another sign that I was writing outside of my comfort zone in the desire to expand without realizing if you’re good at something, you should play to your strengths.
So what happened there? Well, poor Thomas, ran into a spot of health trouble and couldn’t do the sequel. It would be almost a year’s delay before we discovered that he wouldn’t be able to able to do it despite how much he wanted to. Whoops.
Now, if any of you know me then you should know I never know when to leave well enough alone. Just about everyone who writes over one book in their career knows there’s one or two that don’t do well. You just accept it and move on. Except, well, I was not going to do that. I owed Frank and my readers better, especially as there was a fantastic book here but I just needed to rework it to be all that it could be. In the end, of course, it was Cyberpunk: Edgerunners that made me realize what I had been doing wrong. That story with its ultra-violent dark and fascinating tale of David Martinez was enough to make me realize what kind of story I wanted to write.
Frank was a little nonplussed at my desire to rewrite the entirety of the book we’d already worked together on and add about 20K to 30K of new content. To move Rob to being slightly older, increasing the humor, increasing the sarcasm, and making it clear just how tragic as well as traumatizing the events are. I also increased the action as well as the world-building, getting very strongly into the 2060s and how they plausibly completely went to shit from “our” world. Frank gave me some great insights into the book as he had always wanted it to be and the results were a far superior work (at least in my opinion). Oh and we decided to replace the covers.
Re-writing Dark Destiny obviously meant re-writing Lost Future. The changes were even more extensive as the fundamental story was Rob coping with the moral question of whether it was possible to destroy the megacorporations without violence. Also, whether using violence when he knew it might eventually destroy the world was justified. The setting had gotten considerably darker from the original manuscript. The humor was certainly larger as well but there was now a much darker cast to it as some of the funniest characters were also vicious psychopaths. It was fun-fun and I even commissioned a new cover for it from the same artist. I also decided to change the names of both when I released them because they really were completely different books.
Did it work? Yes and no. I’m not sure that much of the existing market or fanbase is willing to give it a shot but it was certainly an artistic success. I felt much prouder of the books and feel like they’ve reached their full potential as both action stories as well as social satire. Plus, they more authentic. If you’re going to write cyberpunk you should write cyberPUNK. That means when someone is shooting at you, you’re going to drop some f-bombs and shits. I actually realized how much of a book it was to be proud of because not only did I get my co-author’s praise but cyberpunk fans reading it gave me compliments on its edge (as well as never suspecting they were more Hunger Games once than Neuromancer).
It was an experiment that required quite a bit of time, money, and effort but I’m glad I did it. It’s not the first time I’ve rewritten an existing book (I added casts of characters, glossaries, and new chapters to both Cthulhu Armageddon as well as Wraith Knight) but it was definitely the most extensive. I also feel like this is something that more authors should be willing to do. Stephen King rewrote the stand and Ed Greenwood rewrote the Spellfire trilogy. Sometimes you ned the benefit of experience and polish to reach your top game. Other times you need to write a world of flying cars, guns, and punks on the street to critique the man.
Will these books get re-releaded on audiobook? Eventually, but first I have to see about getting it the audience it deserves.