Blog No. 298
This week’s post is basically going to be a behind the writing for The Thinking Machine, but officially it’s part of the blog tour. I’m not sure yet how that will differ from a regular behind the writing post, maybe I’ll add in all my info stuff at the end so that if the other participating authors share this post, folks new to the blog will have all that goodness at their finger tips. Maybe I’ll just fake it like I do every time and we’ll both be surprised with how things turn out in the end. There will be some things about The Thinking Machine that I know and you may be finding out for the first time, though. No spoilers (I think) but if you haven’t read it, you totally should. Especially if you are reading this.
The Thinking Machine started life as a short story written back in the early days of Adventure Worlds, when a group of us where still posting stories to the website. (AdventureWorldsPress.com there are a bunch of old stories on there for free). Christian Laforet had his book, The Space Between Houses, out for some time and I was eager to have a book too. We decided to do a short story collection that ended up being just the two of us and became No Light Tomorrow. The story that would become The Thinking Machine was written with that collection in mind. I was writing everything in a notebook longhand back then. I hadn’t gotten used to typing out a story and it helped me get over the hurdle of finishing stories (by first biggest obstacle). I had no idea how long the story would be, but I knew it was the longest thing I had written at the time and I was excited for it to be in a book. With all the growing pains that come along with making a book, many of the stories intended for the collection didn’t get through the editing process in time and/or didn’t make the cut. In order to speed along the release, we cut the intended content in half and The Thinking Machine was left out with much too much editing left to do.
It sat in the notebook for a few years as Adventure Worlds Press released No Light Tomorrow and started work on All These Crooked Street. I spent a year writing the first draft of Pilot (a novel I hope to finish in the future) working on those books, and concentrating on sales. I was itching to have my own book (not part of a collaboration) and I had an vague idea for a novella series that brought back pocket books. I didn’t know what stories would be in the series, but I had a feeling that it could be something special. A lot of people bought No Light Tomorrow just to support me and told me that they really enjoyed it. The general consensus was that they wished they read more and the length of the collection helped them get started. Once they read the first couple stories, they couldn’t wait to finish. The novella pocket book was made with that in mind. The Haunting Machine (the original title) was about thirteen-hundred words and could be easily expanded into a novella. In order to speed up the release, I rewrote and extended it into The Thinking Machine.
The name change came about because of how I’m perceived in the local writing community. Since I work with Christian so much and since he had his horror book out first, I always get lumped into “one of those horror guys” whenever I go to an event. I wouldn’t mind, but not only have I never written any horror, I’m not very good at writing scary stuff. The last thing I needed was a name that has haunting in it. I do think it would have been stronger, but I wanted to establish myself as a science fiction author. The process of turning the short story into the novella was pretty uneventful. I did it as a full rewrite, using the story as a resource. I took a few things I really liked, and changed most of everything else.
*Potential Spoilers Ahead*
Belle remained basically unchanged. She is (in my opinion) the linchpin of the story. Protagonist Zed didn’t change much. He grew a bit, but that’s because he went through more things and I spend a lot more time with him. The Antagonist Zed didn’t change at all. Essentially he is the shark from Jaws (more a force of nature than a villain). The city grew, but not as much as I would have liked. It was difficult to get a man on foot to very many diverse places and keeping the story tight meant he only experiences a small section of a huge world. I hope the scope of the city came across, though. The Wall was really developed more than I had originally, but that came from it being part of the next book in the series.
*I think that’s all of the spoilers*
The design of the book (to me as important as the story) came from the smallest size available at the printer and because Sean Meraw (of Radiant Maiden Tattoos) did the cover for me for free. I waffled on the cover image for a while, but by the time he started working on it, I settled on the basic idea. I knew I wanted a simple colour scheme and red had been decided (after seeing a cool Godzilla Poster). Sean really developed it into what it is now, but the font (and the lines around it) are all me. It was important to me to establish a design philosophy since I wanted to continue the series. Things like the black spine and the little rainbow like mark with the number 1 on it were chosen for that. Part of the series idea came from doing a bunch of events across the province. When No Light first came out, they sold well and I was really encouraged. By the second year at a lot of the same events with no new book, things were more grim. Since I was able to write the story for All These Crooked Streets in a month (first draft at least) I figured I should be able to do a novella every year and still have plenty of time to work on a novel. That way, I can shop the novel around (hopefully getting a good deal with a large publisher) and still have a book out for those events and the locals who read my stuff. I have yet to make any of that happen, but with The Neon Heart (book two) under way for next year and a novel waiting to be written, there is no reason why that can’t work.
This post is too long now, so I’ll end it.
Official Stuff for Ben
Ben Van Dongen grew up in Windsor Ontario. He likes to think that if he tried harder he could have been an Astronaut, but he is happier writing science fiction anyway. He co-authored the books No Light Tomorrow and All These Crooked Streets, and is one half of the founding team of Adventure Worlds Press. His newest book, The Thinking Machine, a cyberpunk novella, is out now. You can read more of his crazy notions on his website: BenVanDongen.com