The body changers

Many years ago I was fascinated by Clifford Simak’s ‘THE WEREWOLF PRINCIPLE’ ( A great idea, that I want to revisit) and of course, Roger Zelazny – who used changing of bodies in a different way in LORD OF LIGHT. I rolled my vehicle responding to an Ambulance callout (for a roll-over – our roads are shockingly badly maintained), and while some kind people (not those, oddly, getting my services, free) have donated generously, so I’m what I have to try and get the vehicle back on the road. What I have is a limited amount of funds, a good friend with somewhat more experience than I do, and another non-going vehicle of the same model – but manual (mine was an automatic) and a year different in manufacture. The chassis and engine of mine appear in reasonable repair. The bodywork is isn’t.

Suggestions of changing the engine over where supplanted by ‘take the bodywork, retain the chassis and engine. Given the whole manual to automatic issue and the fact it would then have to be re-registered, we went with the latter. Look, this is the usual major undertaking by someone who would really rather do it otherwise, but those are my choices, nothing or try, so we take on hell with a fire-bucket. Story of my life, really. I fit the ‘Aussie battler’ image too well for my own liking, and not by choice. (a ‘battler’ is term of approval, it means, basically a little guy who struggles his way up, gets knocked down by circumstances way beyond his control, gets up, dusts himself off and tries again, till he either succeeds or dies trying – the latter being more likely.) Admirable to look at, but not much fun being, really.

Which — and this rather the point of this story in a writing blog post — was for rank amateurs going not all badly. We got both bodies off intact and the next step seemed to try and put the mechanical bits together. Unfortunately… while the body does match the chassis, the electrics… do not, including the computer. So now we’re trying to move the dashboard across, along with the wiring looms. It’s been three days of unrelenting work, so far.

This is not a job for the faint of heart or ignorant. Or maybe it is a job for the ignorant. No-one well-informed wants to venture there. But… needs must.

Now maybe you remember what I said about revisiting the idea of THE WEREWOLF PRINCIPLE. Revisiting the ideas and concepts of other authors in your books is very much a similar sort of body-changing exercise – taking their underlying structure, popping a better/different body on… and hey! presto! there is a whole new book. Easy!… uh…

Plenty of people do this. If they’re close enough, they work reasonably well. There are whole romance catalogues where you just shouldn’t read the books too close together. Then, of course, there are the efforts which… um, don’t work that well but still work, sort of. They are poor clones of a far superior original, even if the original had flaws.

Then of course there is the situation where the writer finds themselves in similar hot water to that which I find myself in. Some proceed, willy-nilly. The book usually resembles a train-smash. Making it work basically means adapting a lot more either of their original ‘wiring’ (which makes the book very similar to the model) or re-creating your own internal structure, and that leaves you with perhaps some of the original underlying story, but something which is unique. It is also so hard to make fit that underlying story itself is substantively adapted.

You may find yourself wondering why you started down this course… as I do with the body-change.

24 comments

  1. Sometimes you can ‘taste’ where a story that did get rebuilt came from, too. My kids read a series of dragon books that are definitely nothing like how to train your dragon, but I’d be startled if they didn’t start out as a fan-fic of that (movie) series, from the perspective of the dragons, and then just kept refining everything until it started actually making sense for a serious series.

  2. Scraping off the serial number is an art that improves with practice. Unlike putting together cars from old cars, it works better the more you change.

    I note it works particularly well when you think the original had a glaring flaw so you have to change it.

    1. “This could have been such a great story, except . . .” And take what made it “such a great story,” remove the “except” and see what can be done.

      1. I “had” a story-universe “based” on what I saw as problems with the Star Trek exploration methods.

        Why send down a small landing-party to check out a planet with only what they could carry?

        Why keep a space-ship carrying hundreds of people in orbit while the small team checked out the planet?

        My solution was a smaller space-ship that was able to take the team back to the main exploration base (if something happened to the larger space-ship).

        It carried plenty of gear that the team might need and could ferry the team to other places on the planet.

        The main space-ship could then leave the star-system to check out near-by star-systems.

        Sadly, I lost all my notes on this story-universe (written before I had a computer).

        1. I still have The Making of Star Trek. They did not do anything like what you suggest because of budget issues. That show was heckin low budget throughout its run. And now you know.

          1. Perhaps.

            But then there was the “interesting” fact that an exploration ship (The Enterprise) kept being put into situations much closer to (or inside) Federation territory.

            Such as patrolling the Federation side of the “Neutral Zone”. 😉

            1. Which, if you look at space as space, isn’t surprising. Thousands of planets that had never been explored inside a huge territory, and from what we saw of the Federation, the idea of leaving it to private enterprise 😎 never crossed their minds.

              1. But there’s the theme of “bolding going where no man has gone before”. 😉

                More seriously, why would you put a bunch of scientist types on a spaceship and then have the spaceship patrol the border between your “star-nation” and a hostile “star-nation”?

                It’s one thing to arm your exploration space-ship as there may be hostile species out there, but another thing to use your exploration space-ship in a border-patrol situation.

                Of course, while it was never shown, there was mention that even the Original Series Enterprise carried the families of the crew & scientists on-board. Why should the families be on board a ship that could be acting as a war-ship not an exploration space-ship?

      2. “They TOTALLY wasted that idea!” is even better.

        One flaw can be done, but when you want to throw away most of it is a lot easier.

      3. > “This could have been such a great story, except . . .”

        Michael Moorcock’s “The Wrecks of Time.” The book – little more than a novella – is chock full of awesome. It not only couldda been a contenda, it could have been one of the classics. But the bits of awesome are mired in a sewer of New Wave, and it comes to an abrupt and irrelevant end. Moorcock didn’t have the horsepower to make it what it should have been.

        Sometimes an author comes up with a *thing*, and never manages to assemble much of a story around it. Larry Niven’s “Ringworld” is probably the most famous example of that. Walter Jon Williams’ “Aristoi” isn’t nearly as well-known, and almost nobody knows Moorcock’s “Wrecks of Time.”

  3. I did something like that with John Wyndham’s ‘The Chrysalids’. A great story, right up until the last two chapters, in which he has a helicopter fly a 20,000 mile round trip on one tank of gas.

    So, I’m writing a Fan Fiction alternate ending with a more plausible aircraft. Been sort of struggling with chapter 8 for a while, but I’m still picking at it.

  4. Best of luck with the cars. When the whomping willow fell on our lone car, we had a choice of scrapping it (it was too old for the insurance company to be cooperative even though it ran fine), spending $10,000 to make it new, or getting a salvage title (a paperwork ordeal) and spending $500 to bang out the dents and use duct-tape to keep the side panels from rattling.

    We were encouraged onto this path by the price of a new car and experiencing the rental car’s completely alien and overloaded dashboard. We didn’t know what half of that stuff was.

    So far, so good and we pass inspection!
    Good luck to you and fewer bureaucratic hassles.

    1. If I could strip half the electronic froo-froo out of my pickup, I would do it in a heartbeat. 95% of that stuff is just a driver distractor. Or a passenger pacifier – they can poke away at things without causing problems.

      1. It distracts me! I have enough trouble driving as it is. I don’t need my car to be smarter than I am.

      2. There are many reasons why I drive a 1980 car. Mostly because I sold my 1968 truck during an attack of the stupids.

        1. I loved my 2011 Tacoma. It was totaled by a [censored censored censored] who was yakking on her phone and blew through a red-light. And then gave a false name to the police. Yes, I still miss that truck.

  5. Project Binky was fun to watch, from a safe distance, but I expect it was somewhat less fun to do.

    And they enjoyed making brackets. Or at least one of them did.

  6. I swapped out transmissions on an old piece of crap BMW once. But I grabbed a hydraulic assist transmission from the junkyard to put in place of the not hydraulic assist transmission. So the guy at the MWR hobby garage helped me tap a line off the clutch to the brakes so there would be fluid to the clutch. Which is fine unless you blow a brake line because then you lose your brakes and your clutch. But we left Germany and that crap car within a year anyway.

  7. > There are whole romance catalogues where you just shouldn’t read the books too close together.

    JD Robb’s “Eve Dallas” series. They’re so alike, you really only need to read one or two; they’re probably 50% carried-over boilerplate and most of the rest is to the same formula anyway.

    They’re a pretty good example of the publishing industry’s “the same, but different” strategy.

  8. If you were going to do a full body-swap you could have dropped a Camaro on there. ~:D

    In all seriousness, good luck with the swap Dave. I have a similar, if less daunting task ahead of me, gutting the big lawnmower and fabricating a subframe for it. The existing one is broken in three places. But, happily, I can do this. I have all the crap to git ‘er dun, I just need to get ripped into it.

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