Author Jason Fischer gives us a look at the first installment of the Books Of Before & Now series in today’s Big Idea. Come along as he tells you of the epic journey Papa Lucy & The Boneman went on before becoming a published novel.
Can a homage become its own unique work?
Papa Lucy & The Boneman is a fever dream that took a decade of my life, from beginning to publication, and it all happened because I am a mad Australian bastard who cannot back down from a challenge.
It started as a pair of short stories I published in Aurealis Magazine in the early 2000s, based around Lanyard Everett, a despicable Jesusman (a type of witch-hunting knight-itinerant) in a world that drew heavily from stories I loved. Mad Max. Stephen King’s The Dark Tower. D&D’s The Dark Sun setting. Terry Dowling’s Rynocceros series.
It was a fan-boy homage with a bullet-chewing anti-hero protagonist, and the stories were well-received, with For Want of a Jesusman getting a reprint in a Year’s Best anthology. But my favourite review of these stories (from fellow Aussie Adam Ford) came with the following phrase:
batshit insane post-apocalyptic Mad-Max-meets-Gilgamesh
That, for me, was the point where I wanted to smash my world with a fiery hammer and forge the whole thing into something deserving this brilliant praise. To go beyond a homage of all the stuff I loved and make my own thing.
Challenge accepted, I said.
I delved deep into the history of two worlds, Before and Now. Explored the sick co-dependence of Papa Lucy and the Boneman, brothers and magicians, who saved a fragment of humanity from the destruction of Before. I explored the Now, a world where low people have forgotten almost everything. A place filled by scrap hunters, water barons, echidna folk and dizzying distance, with the heat and deadliness of a place much like my own homeland. Once more, Lanyard strode forth, hated, hunted and hunting. A mean Bryan Brown bad-ass with an axe to grind, cigarette burning low as he stalked all the things that didn’t belong. I set him loose in the Now, a nasty little dustbowl of a world, ruined by Papa Lucy’s ancient scheming.
I won an arts grant to write the first draft of Papa Lucy and the Boneman. I unplugged my modem, wrote and house-husbanded, deflecting our two-year old boy with as much Pixar as parental guilt would allow.
Then, I sent this cross-genre epic far and wide. I parted ways with one literary agent, had close calls with several major publishers, but always, it was just a bit too hard of a sell, falling over at the last hurdle. One publisher accepted the book, and then went under a few months later.
Convinced the book was cursed, I trunked it. Years passed.
Then, a first reader from one of those earlier publishers hit me up. Still remembered the book, years later. Was an agent now and took me on, and championed the book till it found a great home at Outland Entertainment. One of those happy accidents in publishing, to be true, but this publication finds me a far different man to that mad-eyed optimist, a decade in my rear-mirror. The acceptance found me grizzled and gun-shy, but I still remembered that early promise. That I had pulled off something special, a little bit nuts, a whole lot of epic.
Even better, my new publisher works wonders with transmedia, and my next magic trick was to create a complete roleplaying game in the setting of Papa Lucy & the Boneman (fully compatible with the 5th edition of the world’s most popular RPG, and coming soon to a Kickstarter near you!), and the novel sequels are even now falling out of my head. I got my beautiful art. I got all the extras I could ever want.
Craziest of all, it’s even received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly who say this of Papa Lucy & The Boneman:
“Fischer mixes multiple genres in the superbly crafted dark science fantasy that launches his Books of Before & Now series…Fischer expertly weaves the intricate plot, desolate landscapes, and fierce characters into an immersive mythology. This masterful work of imagination delivers adventure and thrills to more than satisfy readers of all fantasy and science fiction genres.”
That quote was definitely worth waiting a decade for, and vindication that a homage can grow into its own thing, into a story that is worthy while still being bat-shit insane.