The Home Front: Homecoming Part Three

A bit late, but here’s the third part of “Homecoming,” here in The Home Front. This particular file got corrupted, so I didn’t have any choice but to rewrite about half of it, which put things off a bit. And here we are!

Of course, it occurs to me that Greg Fishbone, my former editor, children’s author, and man about town, might well have a copy of the file sitting on a zip disk somewhere. On the other hand, I think he has better ways to spend his time than coming up with my old crap for these purposes.

Anyway, here then is the third chapter in our story. I hope you like it. And yeah, I know full well there’ll be theories on what the All American Lad could have done differently. Just keep it to 1946 technology, if you will. ;)

Continue reading →

The Home Front: Homecoming Part Two

I’m about halfway through part eleven of “Interviewing Leather.” It seemed wise not to push to get it done and possibly compromise what may be one of the more engaging bits (or not be, depending on how well it goes, of course). On the other hand, it certainly can go up on Thursday without any difficulty, and that means that “Homecoming” gets a second run on Tuesday this week.

I like “Homecoming.” I like it in part because it examines heroism, and in part because it examines transition, and in part because it shows a very heroic person having very unheroic thoughts. In a way, if a lot of Justice Wing is informed by DC Comics, then “Homecoming” is informed by Marvel. Human beings with human frailties doing the best they can to overcome their flaws and do the right thing.

This part also makes the ‘historical record’ nature explicit, which I think fits The Home Front, as I’ve mentioned before.

I hope you enjoy!

Continue reading →

The Home Front: Homecoming Part One

Leather, sadly, will have to wait until Thursday, or even to next week. There was just no writing time…well, at all since last Thursday. None. Not a jot. Which isn’t normal for me, but it’s start of school. And you know… start of school.

So, we move on to the last of the Home Front stories instead — but not the last Home Front post.

This was actually the only serial in The Home Front. And it was also the only one of these that was written entirely for Mythic Heroes, with no Superguy antecedent. It had been tentatively picked up by Greg, though the magazine had suspended production even before it was scheduled, if I recall correctly.

It’s not as downbeat as the last one. And it has actual story and conflict. So, you know. We’ll see what you think.

And now, I pass out and, with luck, die. But before I do, I thought you might like to see one other thing. See, to get the serial sold to Greg, I had to send him a pitch document. And this is the first paragraph from that pitch document. And it may be as good a statement about The Home Front that I could make.

At the end of any play is a cast party. Generally, the set is struck by the cast and crew working together, symbolically returning the stage to a neutral state. There is a liberal amount of alcohol consumed. Someone has ill-advised sex with someone else. Two good friends will get into a loud fight that might involve actually hitting each other. A videotape of the performance will be watched, to the great embarrassment of all who are involved.

And, inevitably, there is the last person at the party. He listens to the music by himself. He seizes upon any passer-by, regardless of any connection to the play, and talks incessantly about it. He walks the stage by himself, listening to the hollow echo of the naked boards, staring out into the auditorium, and swearing he can still see the audience, accept their accolades, hear their laughter and feel their tears. He goes through “post-theatric depression” for weeks, the connection he feels to the play refusing to die along with that play. And, if he’s not involved with the next production, he inevitably resents it and compares it unfavorably to “his” play, regardless of its merits.

The year is 1946. The age of the Mystery Man — for better or worse — is over. The Age of the Super Hero has begun.

This is the story of the last person at the party.

Continue reading →

The Home Front: Diamond in the Rough

One of my favorite story drivers, bar none, is The Big Change.

The Big Change is exactly what it sounds like. Something happens to change the world, change society, change the way things have always been done, and then everyone has to deal with it. Theftworld and Trigger Man both deal with the same Big Change despite being set several hundred years apart — stardrive technology, always limited to third stage transitions, could now do fifth which makes new travel routes possible — and there is a third (sadly lost) story that dealt with that change a third time: this time from the point of view of economics.

The Home Front is on one level a homage to the pulp heroes I love. On another, it’s a homage to the golden age of superhero comic books. But on a third it’s a Big Change setting. The common theme is twofold: World War II hits, and actual super powered beings appear in its wake, making the unpowered Mystery Man obsolete. (As, indeed, he was in ‘our’ history too. In fact, the superheroic version of the Mystery Man himself was a bridge between the age of the pulp hero like the Shadow and Superman or the Sub-Mariner. Even the more prominent of the bridge characters like Batman had to embrace the superheroic side of his personality to endure.)

As people have noticed, a lot of Big Change stories are melancholy or even downright depressing. That’s because not everyone makes it through the Big Change equally, and there’s always at least some nostalgia or wistfulness.

This is not a wistful story today. And while it deals with the heart of the Big Change for the Mystery Men — embodied by their withdrawal from their urban battlefields and the reformation into the traveling Liberty Brigade show, drumming up support for war bonds and scrap metal drives — it also deals with the Big Change that America underwent in the war. It’s by far the ugliest of the Home Front stories, and it deals with mature themes.

This one was bought by Greg at Mythic Heroes as well, and was privileged to have been given the magazine’s cover (a dramatic cover piece I dearly wish I had an electronic copy of). Unfortunately, while the issue was solicited through Diamond, it hit the end of the Mythic Heroes ride during the Comics bust, and the issue never saw the comics shops or the newsstands. I actually shopped the story around to the magazines afterward, but mostly got form letters back (and a very nice letter from Gordon Van Gelder, the then new editor at The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, that explained that he couldn’t use the piece, but expressing what seemed like sincere regret over the demise of Mythic Heroes.)

I hope you like it. And I promise the last story — scheduled for next Thursday, as it’s a multiple part serial instead of a short story — is nowhere near as depressing.

But then, it hardly could be.

Continue reading →

The Home Front: Spycracker and Torpedo

This is the second Home Front story, though it was the first I wrote. I hadn’t submitted it to Greg at Mythic Heroes yet, mind, though I was going to eventually.

The Home Front got its start, more directly than almost anything else I’m putting on here, in Superguy. Superguy, for those of you unfamiliar with it, is a mailing list devoted to superhero fiction. Its heydey was the late eighties through the mid nineties. I wrote in the neighborhood of a million words for it over a period of about seven years.

It was Superguy writers who formed the core of Mythic Heroes. We’d known each other for years, and written together on more than one occasion. And I was happy to adapt a few stories taken far out of ‘continuity,’ for lack of a better term for the new medium. A fellow named Rob Furr had started a “Historical Superguy” project, taking his love of history and applying it to our somewhat goofy superhero list. I wrote about mystery men for it. This story was adapted from the first post I did on the project. Last week’s — “My White Plume” — had been the second Historical Superguy story I wrote, but the first Mythic Heroes story I’d adapted.

Next week’s installment, “Diamond in the Rough,” had also been a Superguy story first but had been heavily edited and changed to fit the new format. And a serial that followed — “Homecoming” — was (mostly) written exclusively for Mythic Heroes, but never had a chance to be published.

One last note: each of the Home Front stories is meant to be told in archival format of some sort. Last week’s was a letter. This week’s is a radio documentary edited from an old interview. The idea is simple enough: all of these are from history. We are supposed to be reading them from some other form.

Just, you know, for the record.


Continue reading →

The Home Front: My White Plume

This is a story that occupies a special place in my heart: it was my first full on professional publication. The magazine was called Mythic Heroes: The Serialized Superhero Prose Alternative, and in a lot of ways it was the first attempt of the Superguy authors to try and make a (very) small amount of coin doing what they did. This included some of the better writers — Gary Olson had a serial in it, and so did Christopher Angelini. Ben Brown had a cool story about super powered couriers. And there were lots and lots of other stories that were pretty cool and I wish they’d had more of a chance.

I wrote for it, and I was an assistant editor. The editor in chief and publisher was Greg Fishbone, an intellectual property lawyer and cool person who put the money up for the magazine. I should digress and mention Greg has a book coming out in a couple of months, and you should all own a copy.

The magazine didn’t last long. While the concept was sound — comic book sized magazines with some black and white art but mostly devoted to prose stories, sold in comic book shops alongside the comics — it launched right at the big comic bust and never had much of a chance. Though some issues (not all of them, but some) are still available at second hand shops if you’re lucky.

I launched with two serials — one an actual serial called Daybreak in Dark City which I’ll get around to putting on here one of these weeks, and the other a series of collected short stories called The Home Front. These were the stories of the mystery men of the twenties and thirties, gathered together by President Roosevelt into one grand force of heroes who… traveled around the country putting on a show to convince people to buy war bonds. See, there were these actual superhumans who were taking the war to Hitler and the Pacific, or breaking up spy rings and the like. The guys and girls who were just putting on costumes and fighting crime? Not so much.

Is this my best writing? Not really. I’ve learned a few things since 1996. But for all intents and purposes, this is the first story I was ever paid for. It’s fitting, perhaps, that this was the story of the first of the mystery men in this setting. It’s called “My White Plume,” and if it’s not the best thing I’ve written, it’s also not the worst and I’m fond of it.


Continue reading →