Creative Recycling

MCMMonday, July 12, 2010

Next month, I'm going to be serializing a story called Arkady and Kain, about the world of international terrorism. This is one of my favourite stories of all, and based on the outline I have sketched out, I think you'll like it a lot. But what you may not know (and I had almost overlooked) is that this is also one of my older creations, coming back for a third lease on life.

Yeah, you read that right. Third time. The original A&K was made in 1993 (almost 20 years ago! What the hell!) as a short story series with original artwork for each instalment. It was very much like my other work at the time: heavily influenced by Douglas Adams and really, really silly. I printed out each chapter, folded and stapled the booklets, and gave them to my "fans", who generally ended up as characters in the story in one role or another...

[Side note: at Readercon, someone mentioned that when we're young, we write our friends into our stories and we always make everyone great and heroic and wonderful and perfect, so it's always boring. I didn't do it that way. My friends always ended up as halfwit lunatics who usually got blown up in some horrific way. For instance, Stargate: Universe's Martin Gero inspired the Evil Dr Martin, a flamboyant and oft-defeated villain; and Arcade Fire's Richard Reed Parry was a character named CannonFodder, who appeared every so often to say a loony line and get shot to smithereens. I can't be the only one to be cruel to my friends, right?]

The original A&K story went on for several months, after which it died out because there was very little left to do, once I'd killed everyone twice. So it sat on a shelf for three years, until I decided I wanted to make a movie. The new version of A&K was crafted as a semi-coherent screenplay, performed by the truly brilliant friends I had in high school, and presented once or twice before disappearing forever. In it, the characters from the original story got a little more depth, a little more development, and there was a definite ending to it. I'd learned more about writing, and something about life, too.

A&K went back on the shelf, but I knew I was going to pick it up again. I just needed to figure out how I'd know it was time. And then last year, it clicked. It was time. I just needed to squeeze it in.

I don't think remakes are necessarily a bad thing. Gare Marx started life fifteen years ago, Dustrunners is turning ten next year, and there are other stories you'll see in the coming months that have their roots in things I did in the past. What's interesting about remaking things — for me, anyway — is that you can see my progression as a person, as I interpret the lives of my characters in different ways. What started off as a straight comedy gets more depth (and depth in different ways) as I experience things around me.

There are things I know now that I never could have known when I was 17. Life is bigger than I thought. There's passion to it, but there's process, mundanity, agonizing absurdity. And quiet moments that stop the world and make you think it doesn't all need to be yelling and crying and oomph to be passion. Applying those lessons to make my characters breathe truer air is worth it, even if I am repeating myself from time to time.

So even if you know Arkady and Kain, you don't really. You know a version, made by a different person, long ago. Next month, you're going to get to see it in a whole new way, and I think you'll like how much it's changed.

P.S. No, you can't read the old versions or watch the movie.

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