Kirvin on Writing

The journey of a reluctant writer

Friday, June 23, 2006

Reimaginings

I just started working on the complete rewrite of Between Heaven and Hell yesterday, and already I'm rethinking just how closely I'm going to stick to the original book.

Certain things have to remain the same, of course. This is still the prelude to The Unification Chronicles, after all, and stuff like the Angelic Jihad and Demonic Crusade still has to happen. The core of the story will remain the same, but a lot of the stuff I thought I'd keep (like the chapter structure and titles) is already falling by the wayside and I'm still less than 2,000 words into the thing (got a lot done this morning though, I think I've found a good time to write).

Reimaginings of previous material are all the rage these days. Not only has the new Battlestar Galactica already run longer than the original, but comics movies like last year's "Batman Begins" and this summer's "Superman Returns" (not to mention at least the first few seasons of Smallville) have been offering us new takes on old friends that manage to freshen the material while remaining true to the original sources. Recently Bryce Zabel (Dark Skies) even released a treatment he and J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5) had done for a complete reboot of Star Trek, far more ambitious than what we'll get in the new movie from J.J. Abrams (Lost, Alias).

Everything old is new again. But how new?

One of the things I like about the new Galactica and liked about the ideas Zabel and Straczynski had for Trek is the idea that in a rewrite, you can change almost anything. You can make Starbuck (or Scottie) a female character. You can make the Cylons look human. And in the case of Between Heaven and Hell, I can make the story fit better with The Unification Chronicles and make it resonate more to current audiences.

When I started writing the original book, I had no intention of it being at all related to The Unification Chronicles. In fact, I started writing Between Heaven and Hell because I had hit a writer's block on my big space opera and wanted a complete change of pace, so I decided to write a contemporary horror novel. This shows in the first few chapters when we see demons do things that humans clearly can't do, but as the book progressed I backed off and they just became immortal. By the time I was halfway into it and introduced the angels, I realized I was still working on the Unification universe and was really telling the story of how the Terran Republic came to be. I knew what the angels and demons really were, where they came from and what made them immortal, and in turn what that said about humans in general. And that core truth will not change. Where the immortals come from won't change, because that's an important story question and revelation later in Unification. But I have the opportunity to write them that way from the very beginning.

I'm also interested in how much some of the internal politics will change. When I wrote the book in the late 90s, the world becoming a totalitarian theocracy seemed much more unbelievable than it does today. The rise of the Christian Right had not yet bloomed and there weren't as many politicians cynically calling themselves "evangelicals" to pander to the devout. In retrospect, Texas Senator Timothy Phillips is probably a lot closer to Dubya than I'd like to think about, and even though I got there first, I'll probably change this character quite a bit in the rewrite. A holier than thou politician from Texas will play a little differently today than in 1997. But even so, there's fertile ground to explore here. I've been thinking a lot recently about administration mouthpieces like Bill O'Reilly and Laura Ingram and wondering what makes them so ready to defend those in power. Think about how much the Christian "evangelical" right already supports politicians with a decidedly fascist leaning and then consider how they'd react to an authoritarian government actually led by the Archangel Michael.

And people thought The DaVinci Code was blasphemous…

So the more I think about it, the more excited I am to rewrite—reimagine—this book. I've not only changed a lot as a writer in the past decade, but I have the opportunity to improve the story dramatically by making it a more mature tale, with more depth.

6 Comments:

  • At 2:58 PM, Anonymous Rico-San said…

    Read the original e-book of BHH (on my old Palm Zire71), and absolutely loved it! I'm looking forward to this rewrite and perhaps a hard copy of it :-). Good luck with everything, and keep it up!

     
  • At 1:32 PM, Blogger Josh said…

    There seems to be some kind of sickness. Since Jeff and I realized how horribly we were handling SerialFiction I've start reimaginings of two of my older projects. One a game design from a decade ago, the other Atlantis Rising. They've both given me a lot of creative energy. Hell I even revived both RavingMedia.info and Tibbarerew.com. Of course with the last two I just have to find time to add content...

    As for BHH, I definitly think the reimagining is the way to go. Like I said when I read your new version of the first scene, you've grown a lot as a writer since you first wrote it and it really shows. More importantly you're willing to change things where they need to be changed, which is always important.

     
  • At 8:46 AM, Anonymous Alan Grassia said…

    All of these projects sounds very interesting and I'm looking forward to reading them.

    The hardest part about all of this stuff is finding the time to commit to the projects. I know that I fight that battle every week.

     
  • At 6:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Jeff,

    While I like the fact that you are writing again, and between heaven and hell is one of my favorite books, but I think you should be writing new fiction. I want new stories. Perhaps connecting BHH and Unification.

     
  • At 3:30 PM, Blogger Razor_goto said…

    Hey, are you still updating this blog?
    You're one of my fav bloggers.


    I *was* a long time reader of your blog. A few years back, I went cold turkey and cut the DSL in my house entirely.

    I just got a cable modem again and straightaway picking up old habits. But it seems one of my fav blogs is now gone...

     
  • At 10:36 PM, Blogger bobo said…

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