Salvaging “Salvaging Life”

Here we are, at the mid-point of another month in another year. So, what has been happening this month?

Well, I can tell you for a fact that it hasn’t been much.

Work on Salvaging Life had gone quite swimmingly, though by the time that the first big monkey-wrench needed to be thrown in the works, I hit a snag. No matter how much I thought about how to twist it and make it work, that plot-twist just wouldn’t jive. The characters are good, the setting seemed right, but the story just wouldn’t budge naturally.

Thus, I revisited the old debate I had about whether to include it in the Dark Stars universe (still thinking of a better name for it). The more I think about it in the way of a story told in that setting, the more it works. The reasons for that are…

1: With a minor twist, the story that takes place in Salvaging Life could easily be a story set about thirty years before the main series’ in that universe. The reason I know this is because I have written down all the history between now and the time that the main stories take place, so I know exactly where this would fit.

2: The characters and such from the story as they are now could easily transition over with basically no alterations. Their pasts, their personalities, even their allegiances could all remain exactly as they are now. That’s actually kinda a big deal and rather nice to imagine.

3: It would help build an idea about some of the relationships and tensions that would come out in the later works, providing a source of historical context.

Now, when I break it all down like this, it seems like it would almost be a no-brainer about placing this story in the Dark Stars setting. In truth, I want to think that these reasons alone make it justifiable. There are a couple reasons I keep telling myself for why it might not be a wise move.

A: Dark Stars is more than just a sandbox, it’s a web of stories and tie-ins with itself. Series A leads into and ties in with Series B, while both have a supporting character who has their own stand-alone story with Story C, tying back into Story D, etc. As you might imagine, this takes a decent chunk of planning to connect and make work. Building these kinds of mapped out character relationships, event timelines, and other things, has been trying. At the same time, it’s already been done, so now I’ve waited on pulling the trigger because I wanted to make sure my skills were enough to pull it off well.

B: This story has historical precedence in the Dark Stars universe, but it’s not a “current” story. It takes place roughly thirty years before the first actual book, so while it is an important event, it isn’t something that a character in the main series will see as breaking news. For the readers, I question if such a jump might make it feel like this story is an overly long prologue or just horribly out of place.

C: Admittedly, this is the weakest of excuses. I keep thinking the since this story is a bit darker and serious than the Dark Stars‘s rather genre-filled tone, that it would seem out of place in the setting. The truth is, really, that the Dark Stars setting covers a number of different tones. One series covers a military campaign with a select team, another follows a couple of slightly odd mercenaries trying to make it big, while one spin-off deals with an intelligence agency, etc. So, as you might imagine, there isn’t a concrete tone for the setting, but more of different series’ of stories that explore the various facets of the universe they take place in.

So, what do I intend to do about it? Well, rather than hold some vote or sit around on my ass (like I’ve been doing (bad writer, I know)), I’m going to write a version of this story that takes place in the Dark Stars setting. After that, I’m going to compare each version to the other and see which one feels like stronger and more inspired material than the other.

Let the work decide which is better, rather than daydreaming about the what-ifs.

If the version that is independent of the Dark Stars universe stands out as a better work, it will be the next big project. If the one that is integrated into the history of that setting is the stronger piece, it will make the cut and I’ll go ahead with it despite my earlier plans.

After either version is released, I’ll move back into working on Under a Falling Sky, since that is something I really want to work on. At the same time, Salvaging Life is the largest priority for me right now, so it takes precedence.

If you guys have some thoughts on the subject, feel free to chime in. I’d like to hear your ideas on the subject. For now, however, it’s back to work.

May the best story version win!

~ James.

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