Shattering the monolith

The monolith: Pat Hayden Jones, Renegade, 220,000 words (before a couple attempts to slash & burn), a history of a character, a universe I’ve been musing about for many years. And, finally, after a massive push in 2014, ignoring kith and kin for six months, I reinvigorated it, pushed back the history, built the motivations of the protagonist and brought to life entirely new characters. But at the end of it, after some review and exposure it is clear that the book, an homage to the adventures of C.S. Forester and Robert Heinlein, did not have a fit in modern publishing. There was not enough grab in the beginning, too much worldbuilding and procedure for the modern sci-fi reader. Worse, I think the relationship-building is too sentimental and relies on conflicts which are problematic. It is extremely difficult to portray tensions between genders/roles/cultures without offending someone in today’s highly polarized world — portrayal of faults and vulnerabilities have to be very carefully done and I didn’t have the skill to pull off my chosen focus. Moreover, due to the pace it risked being ridiculed for being pedestrian and half-a-century out of fashion. Ah well, in some ways I am a relic. I love the old adventures you find in odd places, the ones in brown fabric hardback in yard sales and at library clearinghouses.

However,what this work provides is an excellent substrate, and like anyone, I’ve a bit of duality about me. I’m fascinated by the unusual, the violent, the profane. PJH, Renegade has already engendered a number of other short stories and character sketches — some of which are of not nice people. So upon this world I’ll drop grittier characters and a fast-moving plot that is darker, more fractured and modern. The original text will provide Cervantes-like documentary evidence of a character of myth and legend. In that way, the original text, and it’s dauntless protagonist, is appropriate — his goody-two-shoes portrayal is the perfect stalking horse for hagiography. I always meant the original PHJ Renegade text to show PHJ’s development, a progression from prejudice to open-mindedness, from clueless kid to deep-space Zen guru, but the linear narrative made it a long slog and his knack for surviving trouble made him too Mary-Jane-ish.

By changing the timeframe forward, when PHJ is already a legend, I can write a novel about someone discovering PHJ, man behind the the myth and use his exciting — but tame — story line to contrast with a scarier, more troubled world that came after his great adventures. I’ll have ‘found documents’ play parts in the later story, used as a way to switch up the POV and even tense. It’ll be fun. Now, I just need to find the time.

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About H.W. MacNaughton

Technologist and communicator. Into technology, jazz, Formula One, sci-fi and any good writing about real stuff.
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