THE NEXT BIG THING (Somewhither)

John Moeller has tagged me for the THE NEXT BIG THING, which is basically writers indulging in self-promotion crossed with a chain letter. For this edition, I will discuss a book still in the writing stage, which has not yet been sold to an editor.

What is the working title of your book?


Where did the idea for the book come from?

It came from a collision of three or four ideas.

First, it came from a jest. As a flippant remark, and in an excess of awesomesauce high-pulp imagination, I joked I would write about a prayer-powered mecha which was protected by ninja-nuns or something of the sort. Well, the ideas I had tossed off as a joke grew on me, and so I decided to write up an opening scene, about a mad scientists’ beautiful daughter being abducted. The tale grew in the telling.

But, second, I had also been toying with the idea of writing an Anti-Dan Brown novel, one where the Roman Catholic Church, through the Knights Templar, had indeed been engaged in a two-millennium-old secret war against Harvard Symbolists and other servants of Satan to save the world from vampires and werewolves and mummies and giants and astrologers. I envisioned the Church as secretly funding and organizing the Knights Templar like the special ops vampire hunters in VAN HELSING starring Kate Beckinsale.

The two ideas came together when I struck on the happy thought of having the millennium-old secret known to the Church, but not to the world, to be the existence of parallel timelines, where biblical history had gone differently.

By “Biblical history” I mean that the secret history of the world is what is written in the Bible, and in the parallel timelines history went differently: the giants come from a world where the Flood of Noah never happened, so they were not wiped out; vampires come from a world where Christ was never crucified; evil astrologers rule a world where the Tower of Babel was never smitten with the confusion of tongues; mummies rule the world where Moses never freed the Hebrews from Egyptian bondage; werewolves rule a world where Nebuchadnezzar never repented of his lycanthropy, but instead spread the affliction; immortals come from a world where Fallen Eve stole the fruit from the tree of life; and so on.

I also wanted to write a novel where the witchcraft is bad for a change. Compare the way witchcraft is treated in the characters, for example, of Willow Rosenberg from BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and Serafina Pekkala from THE GOLDEN COMPASS and the Halliwell Sisters from CHARMED on the one hand versus the way witchcraft is treated in Samantha Stevens from BEWITCHED and Gillian Holroyd from BELL BOOK AND CANDLE and  Eglantine Price from BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS on the other…  Ditto for vampires and werewolves. I wanted to write a book where the monsters were, you now, bad. And one where the Christians were good. This is not because I am bigoted against monsters or particularly fond of Christians (all the ones I know are sinners), but just because I am weary of the stereotypes.

What genre does this fall under?

I have no idea.

A Biblical literalist would take it to be alternate history. It has enough real science in it, including high particle physics, multiple world theory, linguistics, and genetics, to be classed as science fiction, but there is clearly magic both white and black in the book, as well as inter-dimensional portals.

My main character is a Templar-trained deathless teen with a samurai sword with the power of regeneration, sort of a cross between a ‘Highlander’ and an X-Man. His love interest is a busty mermaid siren sorceress with a bad temper and a talking falcon too old for him (the siren, not the falcon). Their sidekicks include a Babylonian girl in a mask who can speak all languages, an irate prophet who can levitate, a Norse Boy Scout who can turn invisible, and a headless man-eater from Kush, who happens to be an inter-dimensional train station engineer. Their foes consist of all the freaks and abominations described by Pliny and Strabo as living in the antipodes.

I would say the book is in the genre of ‘New Weird’ except that I do not know what the genre contains, or what the name means.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie version?

I cannot think of an actor young, muscular and homely enough to play Ilya, my buck-toothed hero. Picture Richard Kiel when he was sixteen. Verity Anthrope should be played by Kim Novak or Joi Lansing. I don’t know the names of any twelve-year old Persian child stars who could play Pagutu, my Babylonian spy-girl. I don’t keep up with Persian cinema. The prophet Ossifrage should be played by Chuck Heston. “Nack” the headless giant should be played by the same special effect that played Tars Tarkas in Disney’s faithless adaptation of A PRINCESS OF MARS. The weary Dark Lord Enmeduranki should be played by Christopher Lee. And if you don’t recognize these actors and actresses, keep in mind my favorite movies date from about the same year you were born.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of the book?

“After my boss, Professor Anthrope, Harvard Symbologist, escaped from the insane asylum, he send me a secret message revealing that his beautiful daughter, Verity, had broken into the basement of the Haunted Museum and found the Moebius Coil he had constructed there from plans transmitted to Earth from across the Sea of Uncreation during the CERN disaster, and he begged me to find her and stop her, before the Dark Tower of the Ur race cast its twilight shadow across our helpless globe; and so, borrowing my father the Templar exorcist’s switchblade crucifix relict and my grandfather’s antique Japanese sword, not to mention my squirrel gun, I rushed in to save the girl but managed to get myself yanked headfirst into this interdimensional bathtub drain; and then things started getting weird…”

That is almost one sentence.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

It is in the hands of my publisher right now, but they are waiting until I complete my current trilogy to look at it, so I do not know its fate.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About eight months.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Uh …. Which genre were we talking about again? Christian parallel time-travel ninja mutant detective adventure farce? I would say DRAGON BALL Z. There are a lot of fight scenes in this novel. A lot.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My ambition to see how over-the-top I could be with pulp-hero style antics involving immortals, vampires, werewolves, and the Tower of Babel. As I said above, I was disgusted with Dan Brown Pope-bashing bull-poop and amused to find a work where I would unleash a fifty-story tall suit of walking armor powered by sacramental energy.

What else about your book might pique the interest of readers?

My goal was to have one violent fight, one disaster, or one eruption of bizarre magic, once each fifteen pages or so, and I felt free to cram in every monster, villain, horror, superpower, and sheer weirdness I could. This is not one of those books where the protagonists just sit around and talk.




  1. Comment by Malcolm Smith:

    Please, Mr Wright, don’t just talk about it. Write the blessed book! It’s one of those things I’d really like to read.

  2. Comment by WyldCard4:

    I’d think you were joking if you hadn’t written a book where King Arthur was reincarnated as Batman.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      An outrageous slander, sir! King Arthur was reincarnated as The Shadow. The difference is that The Shadow uses guns.

      The Shadow Knows!

      • Comment by Sean Michael:

        Dear Mr. Wright:

        Do you think you could work in Charlemagne and the SONG OF ROLAND? (Smiles)

        Merry Christmas! Sean M. Brooks

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          No, because I have to fit in the heroes of the Shahnanmah of Fardausi, and I don’t want to overextend myself. My readers might accuse me of an absurd kitchen sink approach.

          I will have my wife throw Charlemagne and the Paladins into her next book.

          • Comment by Sean Michael:

            Dear Mr. Wright:

            Ha! I could have suggested something even more outlandish, such as working in Nicholas van Rijn! Hope your wife takes up that idea about Charlemagne and his Paladins.

            Merry Christmas! Sean M. Brooks

          • Comment by deiseach:

            Yes, it were well not to over-burden our powers of suspending disbelief :-)

            That request made me think was there anything in the legends and mythology of my own country that I could suggest, and um…not really… unless you’re looking for pure non-Christian worldviews or maybe a villain(ess) or two.

            I was reading an online translation of a text having to do with the legendary wanderings of my forebears (between the 4th-8th centuries, a particular tribe was driven southwards from Tara and seized and settled the lands hereabout) and this snippet stood out for me:

            “8. Meld, the daughter of Ernbrand, the wife of Crimthand, bore sons to Crimthand and then died, whereupon Cumin, the daughter of Ernbrand, was married to him.

            Cumin bore him a daughter, even Ethne the Dread. In the night when Ethne was born Bri, the druid, son of Bairchid was in the stronghold. ‘The maiden that has been born to-night,’ said Bri, ‘all the men of Ireland shall know her, and on account of this maiden her mother’s kindred will seize the land on which they shall dwell.’ When they heard the truth of that story from the druid, that it was through the power of the maiden that they would obtain inheritance, they reared her on the flesh of little boys that she might grow quickly. Hence Ethne the Dread was her name, for the little boys dreaded her.”

            So if you should ever happen to need as a character in a forthcoming book a warrior chieftainess who eats little boys, please remember my ancestors!

            • Comment by Suburbanbanshee:

              That’s the finest thing I’ve read in Irish legendry since that whole parallel fight with the poet and his sidekick the professional farter.

              Ethne the Dread. Deirdre of the Sorrows. You know, those Druidic birthday prophecies didn’t really do a lot of good for girls, did they?

              • Comment by Stephen J.:

                I don’t think they did a lot of good for anybody, really.

                But then the Irish always have been a people prone to laughing and drinking so they wouldn’t weep. (I’m half-Irish myself, so I can make that crack.)

              • Comment by deiseach:

                The great thing is (1) there is another version of the events, without the child-eating but with bonus incest. Both versions keep the “girl gets her druidic dad drunk so he’ll reveal the secret to winning the battle and keeping the land”:

                “18. The nobles of the Dessi, and Ethne the Dread with them, went to Lugaid Cosc and said to him: ‘Help us! Thou shalt have land with us for it without rent, without seizure, without levy of host or food, nor shall we ever trespass against thy descendants.’ The truth of Oengus and of Ethne and of the princes of the Dessi is pledged for this. ‘Call your druids to me,’ said Lugaid Cosc, ‘even Droch and Cecht.’ They were called to him, and they gave them two jars full of wine, which had been brought to them from the lands of Gaul, together with food of Gaul; for he who would eat and drink it would be intoxicated and sober (at the same time). ‘Take this gift to your tutor and say to him that ye repent of fighting against him. And he will instruct his daughter after he has drunk the wine.’”

                So even pagan (incestuous) cannibals knew that French wine goes with French food :-)

                (2) All this was going on when we were supposedly Christian – if it’s the legendary account of 4th-8th century migration (actually, more ‘getting our backsides kicked by neighbouring tribes so we have to keep moving’ rather than ‘migration’) – though if we take the start date as the 4th century, and the conversion of the Déisi to be down to St. Declan who was a 5th century saint, that spares our blushes somewhat – this all started before we saw the light.

          • Comment by The OFloinn:

            Now I have in my head an image of a remake of the Magnificent Seven featuring Big Chuck, Rollie, Ollie, Holger, Ganelon, Huon, Bishop Turpin, and a barbarian to be named later.

  3. Comment by SFAN:

    “I would say DRAGON BALL Z.” So it wasn’t just me… 8)

  4. Comment by Stephen J.:

    The inspirational process for Somewhither is disquietingly close to that of the novel I’m working on, in that I too conceived it to be an “anti-Dan Brown novel” where the Church were the good guys and the hermetic magic-users were the bad guys.

    Mine isn’t as nearly gonzo over-the-top as Somewhither is, thankfully, and falls much more into the straightforward religi0-historical-conspiracy-thriller genre; I wanted far more to have an excuse to talk about Church history, Catholic theology and philosophy, and my own thoughts on the morality of power and why miracleworking is so de-emphasized as a charism these days. So I think there’s room enough, should mine ever see the light of print, for both stories in the market.

    • Comment by Stephen J.:

      Addendum: By “thankfully” above I do not mean I have any dislike for over-the-top gonzoety (the forgotten branch of the ancient art of goety!); merely that I’m thankful the stories sound different enough not to present the appearance of idea-theft. I would buy Somewhither in a heartbeat (and you can tell your agent that).

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      My experience is that story telling is the one thing in an economy where the laws of economics do not seem to apply. The more competition I have the better it is for me, because more SF writers means more readers are more eager for SF, which increases the demand for my work rather than driving it down. Or so it seems to me.

  5. Comment by Darrell:

    This sounds like a book that I will buy!

  6. Comment by Zach Frey:

    That does, indeed, sound completely over-the-top gonzo.

    I must read it.

    Do I detect a C. S. Lewis allusion in your Dark Tower?


    • Comment by John C Wright:

      I am not making a reference to the unfinished parallel time travel story allegedly written by CS Lewis. I am making a reference to that hideous strength (or, as we would say, that hideous stronghold) of the Tower of Babel, not to overlook more obvious allusions to Tolkien or Robert Browning.

  7. Comment by The Next-to-Last Samurai:

    How would you estimate your chances of selling a book where the Christians aren’t the bad guys?

  8. Comment by The Next-to-Last Samurai:

    Hey, wait! Stop typing! I just noticed you forgot the zombies! Thank God I caught you in time.

  9. Comment by Robby Charters:

    I just went back and read your 2013 post which was the working first chapter. I can’t wait to read the rest

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