It had been a while since I last edited A Collaboration of Scientists, my novella set in a universe where Darwin and other scientists gain superpowers (mostly biologists and physicists because chemistry sucks and I don’t know anything about it). I remember wanting a break from writing ultra-personal things on a shitty Tumblr and scientific stuff for work, so I had decided to go after making something ultra-pulpy. Something easy.
How does it stand up a few years later? Friends irl liked it. I trust my friends because they are mean people. Some random online even said I write like a cynical Terry Pratchett (but 🙁 3/5 stars). I guess that’s a compliment but I can never make it through TP’s writing. It’s too much. Despite the few vocal positive responses though, I can’t help but think, after re-reading it, that it’s a story without an audience.
At its core, there’s next-to-no character development, which was deliberate. I wanted to lean mostly on given stereotypes to fill out the scientists so that the story was driven more by action than anything else. There are arcs that don’t stray from what you’d see in an 1980s Uncanny X-Men or Star Wars movie. It could find a home in a teen-targeted comic book.
But it also couldn’t. Too many of the jokes are a little too adult. They also require a little too much knowledge and appreciation of science and science history. And I probably failed at handling sexually-charged passages. I wanted to show how some characters were sexist, but maybe also it seems like I am? (Maybe I am. I’m not.) So you lose the kids because of the adult stuff, but lose the adults with the simplistic plot lines. How did I write this? I am still a child probably.
Then there are the good bits. I do get some jokes in here and there that still please. There are a few reaaaally cool sci-fi ideas (e.g. in the epilogue there’s a holographic library where everyone that ever died exists as a conscious entity, ‘resurrected’ to some degree of error by back-calculating what that person would’ve been like based on historical records and genealogy). And I kind of did end up caring about Tesla and the other characters in the end. But is this because they are complete people in my head only?
Do I fix it? Is it possible to fix a creative work? Well, aside from taking it down from Amazon, it’s going to stay on here as a Google doc. I think I’ll keep it available as an electronic epitaph to my first foray into science fiction. It doesn’t represent the direction of my recent writing, which is focused on robot and alien sex, now. Still, it bleeds nostalgia.