Puzzling

Some of you are probably wondering what is wrong with me. Wait. Don’t all put your hands up at once. Also, honestly, I’ve only had a cup of coffee, and I don’t have time to take dictation. Also, I can’t write a list that long. I haven’t found the box with the unused notebooks, yet. And besides, I have a witlow.

Okay, on the serious side: A lot of you have asked why I haven’t put the Darkship Books back up since I got the copyrights back about a year ago.

Well…. It’s complicated.

To start with what you know as Darkship Thieves is about the 5th incarnation of that book (One of them was called The Athena Uprising, because it aglutinated half of the Earth Revolution books.) Because it got rejected, and I was too stupid to realize it was JUST because it was space opera, and the idiots in publishing thought “Science fiction doesn’t sell.”

(Not to get sidetracked, because, you know, I could do an entire rant on this, and often do, but part of the problem with publishing, as with writing in general, is that it’s a craft that people keep trying to shove into the arts.

Look, I’m not saying that writing can’t be art. It can. I know it when I see it. What I’m saying is that it’s not inherently art. It’s perfectly possible to write a very successful book — or series — that is actually only “good craft.” Agatha Christie said her writing was a craft, like “embroidering a cushion” and she was not wrong.

But publishers would like to believe it’s art. Mostly because while wanting to make money (and most of the houses have divorced this from the actual rewards of the editor/publisher, because they’re mega-conglomerates) they really are in it for the perks of working in an artistic profession.

What this means is that if a genre or subgenre becomes mega successful and the glitterati are making bad comments about it, the editors feel they should disavow it and kill it, because otherwise it will drag their reputation down.

This happened with cozy mysteries, which in the early 90s were declared ‘not really mysteries’ and ‘unrealistic’ (A lot of the glitterati like blasting fiction for being unrealistic. Their beau ideal is boring novels inhabited by horrible people, or as we call it around here “Grey goo.”) And then they started getting rejected.

They came back, of course, because they actually are the part that makes money. But they came back as craft mysteries, most of which are annoyingly twee. (Possibly including the ones I wrote.) But until they came back, the word was “cozy mysteries don’t sell.” Well, of course not, because the few you put out, you give no publicity or support to, and they wither on the vine.

Science fiction did the same to space opera, declaring it “not science fiction.” And left us only with hard sf and dystopian which are either low selling (like literary fantasy, hard sf requires a certain type of reader) or go in batches (when you steal tricks from space opera, ala Hunger Games, dystopian can sell pretty well, despite not being able to carry world building in a bucket.) Baen held out on the ban on space opera longest, but mostly concentrated on mil sf, which is only a branch of it. And it still says “science fiction doesn’t sell.” (Compared to fantasy.) Because they read the trades uncritically. Here endeth the digression.)

So, I thought if I could JUST improve the book. Which means that though the very first DST was fairly similar to the published version (I removed some scenes that slowed it way down, including three in the very beginning. Don’t start a book with a doctor visit. JUST DON’T.) as I played with it over 13 years, it grew chapters, removed chapters, removed side and subplots, and …. well, the worldbuilding grew.

Which is why even though Darkship Thieves was published as a stand alone, when I first sold it to Baen, I was ready with a series, when asked to do it.

Thing is, I now have a chance to put a little bit of what I removed for the first publication back in, and frankly, I’d like to share a little more with my readers.

It’s just I haven’t had the clarity of mind — probably will be easier at lower altitude — to figure out what to put in, and whether it would actually slow/injure the flow of the book.

I made some decisions, for the published version, under the impression that it would be one-and-done.

For instance, I have Nat Remy appearing almost cartoonish, because in that story, with no view to future books, he’s a very minor (if haunting) character. The same with others. Also I removed stuff about Athena’s dad dealing with USAian rebellions. (VERY short scenes.)

And there’s some more fleshing of worldbuilding that could be done, around the edges, and that I want to do, so the book, while still a stand alone, will…. foretell the series? more fully.

It’s just really difficult to take apart the puzzle that younger-me wrote, and figure out which scenes to put back in.

So, without prejudice, and keeping in mind I might do all or none of it, because I need to block out a week and go head-down into it before I decide:

If you’ve read Darkship Thieves, what would you like to see more of? What scenes/characters would you like better fleshed out? What piece of world building could be expanded?

Keep in mind I’m talking about 10k to 15k words added, so…. long short story to short novella length, not massive.

Let me know. I eagerly wait your opinions.

43 comments

  1. Knowing that there is more to the story, and what direction that story goes, I would like to see more about the USAians and Nat in the “Director’s Cut” so to speak. But I am not a professional author (nor an amateur, pretender, or wannabe – I just read good) so take that with a grain of salt.

  2. But of course! If too many of the Unwashed like something, it loses its snob appeal.

    Snobbery is a delicate balance. If taken too far, it becomes obvious that The Great Art is nothing but fancified crap. The Unwashed laugh, instead of being suitably impressed.

    I want a good story. That’s it. Words that keep my interest, get me to care about what’s happening, feel some of what the characters feel. Economics, politics, law, environmentalism, other subjects and causes can be incorporated into the story so long as they don’t detract from the enjoyment of reading it.

    Stories made up merely as vehicles for advancing some Noble Cause rarely qualify as good stories. Usually they wind up being a dreary slog through turgid verbiage that holds no interest to anyone not already consumed by the same Cause. As was highlighted by the Sad Puppies campaign.
    ———————————
    “I warn you, Mariel, do not be overconfident. If I were married to Londo Mollari, I’d be concerned.”

    “G’Kar. If you were married to Londo Mollari, we’d all be concerned.”

  3. I hope the lower altitude helps. I know from experience with sleep apnea that not getting enough oxygen does odd things to the mind and muddles thinking. Hopefully you’re now getting enough oxygen down in the land of thicker air, and the thoughts will come easily and clearer.

  4. Have not read, so… general opinion: I’d rather have Too Much than Not Enough. I can skim past Too Much. I can’t read Not Enough at all.

    And prior experience suggests that when an author says, Oh that was too long and boring so I took it out… I’m like wait! come back! I wasn’t done reading that yet!!

    As to length… if I’m enjoying the story and the universe, why would I want to leave any sooner than I have to??

  5. I would argue that the answer, in general, is *don’t*.

    In a related statement, Han shot first.

    If you want to add a bit here or there to introduce a plot hook for continuing adventures, that’s probably fine.
    If you want to drop in a future-history reference of (character) was at (event), that’s ok in moderation.
    But don’t tweak characters! If you want us to develop a different view of a character, do it in a future book with a different viewpoint character, Rashomon style.

    I don’t recall anything in the book jumping out and bothering me.
    It works.
    If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

      1. It sounds like you want to edit the book lightly so it better setups up the sequels…kind of like JRRT did to The Hobit (had to modify finding the Ring to set up for TLoTR). Anyway, makes sense to me, and I’m interested in reading it – I was just thinking about Darkship Thieves, but it makes sense to wait until you properly re-release it.

  6. This ^^

    Save those other pieces and tell side stories, and short stories and put them in other books as flashbacks…Don’t make more work for yourself on something that works already. Now you have story seeds for lots of other things relating in the future.

  7. I recall someone complaining to either Doc Taylor or Ringo (about one of the colabs with Doc) that there was too much science in the hard SF storyline, and got grumpy when told that was the point and maybe stick to Opera.
    Speaking of which, Arjen Luccasen has a new album coming of SF inspired Star One tunes.
    with an ever growing list of mahoosive talent singing and playing.
    first tune released:

    can’t wait.

  8. Don’t. If you want to add stuff, do it as bonus short stories in the appendix on one of the releases, and use the rest of that energy to write the rest of the books.

    Heck, I’ve seen series where the author just ignored major plot points from the first book+, because they caused problems later, and the story worked just fine. Don’t write the same book over again.

    +The March Upcountry series established in the first book that implants were new and people were still figuring out security issue, but by the last book, he’d dropped it because he needed them to be the breadcrumbs in an ancient secret. The series still worked fine, even without him going back and reconning the plot hole it created.

      1. I’ll have to go re-read the series at some point, and its possible I misinterpreted part of the opening sequence. I just distinctly recall one of the security heads of the Bronze Bastards not being thrilled at everyone having implants, because they were so new and likely had security risks, but also knowing they provided to much capability for them to simply not use them, but after the ships were sabotaged it wasn’t important.

        Then four books later they turn out to be also storing key information in the imperial back up plans, which couldn’t be a thing if they were actually completely brand new tech.

        Now it’s possible that I misinterpreted an earlier comment in the first book, but ultimately, making that one thing consistent did not matter to the story being told. It was not an important detail, and even if I’m not imagining it, going back and rewriting that couple of paragraphs in the first book would not meaningful improve the series.

        (Note: the only reason I’ll even notice things like that is I read the whole series at once. In fact I ended up reading the whole last book in about one and a half sittings (Baen ebook) because my desktop had decided to stop booting reliably, and I was afraid of I turned it off I wouldn’t get to finish the book…

        1. IIRC, the implants weren’t new, but there had been security issues where bad actors with physical access to the implants were able to compromise them surreptitiously.

        2. I don’t remember that at all, just the concern about security breaches. Maybe it was a concern about the new software that “really, really, can’t possibly be hacked now.” “Toombies” were in the first book as a long running problem with implants.

          I do definitely, without any doubt, remember that the guard force for the tertiary Heir are called the “Bronze Barbarians.” Not “Bastards.” Officially, anyway….

            1. As an alternative example, then, I believe there is a beautiful moment at the very end of one series where a wooden sword hilt sprouts green and alive.

              The beginning of the series established the hilt was iron. It jarred a bit when I noticed… but I still enjoyed it.

  9. Darkship Thieves is just fine as it is.

    Step awaaaaay from the canvas, and put down the paintbrush. Slowly.

    Everything else is cool — new short stories, behind the scenes stories, sequels, prequels, whatever. But don’t mess with Darkship Thieves or any of the released novels in that universe.

    #1 — You already got awards for Darkship Thieves and it’s widely distributed. People hate it when known novels are changed.

    #2 — I’ve never seen it work very well. There’s something magic about the words “The End” and about stepping away from the keyboard, and fussing around afterwards just doesn’t work.

    If you really want an expanded edition, add new material (like short stories, deleted scenes, whatever) at the end of the book, after the words “The End.”

    1. Agree with the idea of not doing anything complicated to the previously published novel before republishing it. I have read Darkship Thieves and I had the impression that it’s the best known of your SF work. Changing a well-known, award-winning work is always dicey. I understand the impulse to plant more interconnections between books. (I once wrote significant chunks of book 3 in a series, then went back and wrote book 2, and then had to add a reference to a book 2 character to a scene in book 3 before I could bring myself to publish either of them.) But…it sounds like you have a lot going on right now, and there are possibly better places to focus your energy, if you can bring yourself to do so.

    1. I know. I just wasn’t functioning enough. EVEN if all I’m doing is light “these are things I don’t know how they got here.” (There’s always some of those.)

  10. UMMMM going back to the uncaffeinated part.
    I recommend an IV with a caffeine drip. Maybe some cream and sugar by injection into the line.

  11. I’ve started putting bonus scenes at the end of books. You might also do a collection of shorts with notes about where they fit. As others have said, it’s worn awards, it’s been out for a long time. Better to, umm, embroider around it, than change it.

      1. I’d have to reread it to make such fine distinctions between what is, and what I would like more. My vote, FWIW, is to follow Pam’s method, other than stomping on any remaining continuity problems with the following books. That works quite well for me as the reader.

    1. I’m of two minds about those bonus scenes. They usually are not that long. I can usually see why they were edited out. However, at book 2378, you know we’re die-hard fans who are going to read them, anyway. Just put/leave them in where they occur. I would definitely rather have them at the end than not have them at all!

  12. It’s been so long since I’ve read it, I don’t know what to add. I remember asking you about Goodman military equipment and doctrine, and you kinda went “uh…” 🙂 I don’t think you should add to that.

  13. I had in mind making a silly fake suggestion, but I feel it would just make things annoying unnecessarily.

  14. Hmm as I read this post I was like yeah! But (as one waiting for the new release) I think it’s always more difficult to come back to something you’ve written and get back into the mindset / who you were when you wrote the original. Which makes it more difficult and time-consuming to edit in changes after the fact.

    If anything I think something like a novellette / prequel that can act as a standalone and still explain / explore some of the things left unsaid in the original . . . might be more practical. Also in the sense of do you want to write more in the universe and maybe there’s another trilogy with new characters hiding in there 🙂

    1. I’d need someone who knows how to draw maps. No seriously. I don’t think in maps. there’s a reason my freaking books don’t have them.
      Dan did an interior plan of the Cathouse. Not that I can find it now.

  15. Concur with the people who say leave it be. You’re a different author now, and trying to add pieces in a work you’ve already finished won’t improve it much. You’ll just confuse readers with the different editions. Put the extra material in a different story with a different POV if it’s really important. An afterword might work.

  16. Bonus material. Definitely keep it separate rather than fussing it back in; minor tweaks don’t take nearly the time that pacing and recalibrating scenes do.

  17. Given a choice, I’d rather see DST kept the same, with additional material published separately. It can take a long time for me to get to rereading a revised edition (looks at redone version of Stranger in a Strange Land waiting patiently on the bookshelf), but if it’s “new” material, I’ll read it as soon as practical.

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