It Was Twenty Years Ago Today…

first-page-030997
The original first page of ‘The Phoenix Effect’, (c) 1997 Jon Chaisson.

…that I sat down in the food court at Solomon Pond Mall and wrote the first pages of The Phoenix Effect.  The timestamp (something I do when writing longhand) shows 10:30, which I recall was later that evening — the original first pages were full of scratch-outs and mistakes, but the prose is the same.  This was the start of a new project that would take me through multiple Day Jobs, multiple years, and multiple apartments.

You might notice a few things here:

–Nehalé Usarai was named Halley Brown here, a holdover from True Faith.  [The name itself was inspired by the play between rocker Bill Haley and Halley’s Comet.  I morphed the name to its present form when I started on the revision that became A Division of Souls.]

–This version starts just like ADoS does, with Nehalé/Halley on the side of the Mirades Tower.  The Tower hadn’t been given a name yet…it was just known as ‘The Tower’ for now.  The original version also had him at the 92nd floor, which was kept almost up until the last minute, when I felt he needed to be even higher up and changed it sometime in 2015 to the 142nd floor.  There are a few failed attempts that were written not that long before this, but they never got past a few pages as I was unhappy with them.  One failed version opens not with Nehalé but two alien characters (who would morph into Ashyntoya and Akaina Shalei a short time later) witnessing explosions at a nullport terminal.

–“High up.”  That was the opening sentence for years until I chose to cut it sometime in 2012 or so, replacing it instead with Nehalé using innerspeak to say ‘dehndarra Né hra nyhndah.’

–I originally had Nehalé armed, but I decided soon after that I didn’t want guns to be a part of this story…not when they had psionic powers they could use instead.  (I also have very limited knowledge of automatic weapons, something I never had an interest in.)  The name of his pistol (Shrieve) was named after Michael Shrieve, a drummer that was briefly in a group with Sammy Hagar called HSAS.  That gun name originally popped up in True Faith.

–The geography of the Bridgetown Sprawl in The Phoenix Effect is exactly the same as what we see in the three finished books, complete with the names.  [Although I changed ‘The Docks’ to ‘the Waterfront Sector’ soon after.]  Pullock Street Heights was inspired by Sandra Bullock, with the name slightly changed.  I-90 was named after I-90 in Massachusetts, aka The Mass Pike, which was just down the road from the mall.

–It’s not on this page, but Halley will mention the name ‘Mihari’ a page or so later.  This was the original name for the Mendaihu, and taken from the Japanese word for ‘guard’.  The Shenaihu’s original name was ‘Misuteru’, which is Japanese for ‘abandon’.  These were in use for years until I chose to use names of my own making instead, maybe around 2013 or so.  ‘Mihari’ was the original name in this universe back in the winter 1993 attempts, and was of course inspired by all the anime I’d started watching about that time.

–A much darker, more cynical approach to the prose.  I’ll admit, I was going for the William Gibson cyberpunk feel.   I phased that out early on, realizing that mimicking someone else’s style rarely ever works out well for me.  And instead of Nehalé’s intense Awakening Ritual, he’d started a chain reaction of explosions around the city (climactic scene of V for Vendetta, anyone?), which basically did the same thing as the present version only with a hell of a lot more violence and destruction.

–Ah yes…the chapter titles.  I’d given each chapter the title of a song (oh so creative and typical of me…eesh) that tied in with the plot of the chapter.  ‘Ring of Fire’ refers to the Johnny Cash song as well as the ring of explosions that causes the mass Awakening.  I dropped those when I was working on ADoS in 2000.  The NEW chapter names are a relatively recent addition, added when I was finalizing the initial post-production for the e-book.

*

It’s kind of fun looking at this early version, which is still in its original spiral bound notebook.  After a year or so of not really getting anywhere with True Faith or any of my other writing, it felt absolutely great to dive into something that I felt strongly about, something that I knew I could expand into something big.  It was when I got serious with my writing habits.  When I’d decided that my Day Jobs would be my paychecks, but my writing would be my lifelong career.  When I knew I was going to be in it for the long haul.

And in a superb bit of serendipity, I’ll be reading the first chapter of A Division of Souls tomorrow at FOGCon.  Exactly twenty years and one day after I’d written the above first page.

Suffice it to say, it’s been a hell of an interesting ride from then to now, but it was worth it every step of the way.

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