My name’s David Baillie and I’m a writer. You might know me from my work for the legendary British comic 2000AD.
Last year I wrote a three-part story about robot pirates and a lost human race called The Ghostship Mathematica, which lots of people seemed to like. (It was drawn by superstar artist Inaki Miranda, which helped a lot.)
A couple of days ago my first novel went on sale – it’s called Portal 666 and it stars Valiant’s Bloodshot.
A few months ago Amazon Publishing in Seattle called and asked if I’d be interested in writing a novel for their Kindle Worlds program. If you haven’t heard of Kindle Worlds, here is how Amazon describes it:
“Kindle Worlds is a place for you to publish fan fiction inspired by popular books, shows, movies, comics, music, and games. With Kindle Worlds, you can write new stories based on featured Worlds, engage an audience of readers, and earn royalties.”
To get the ball rolling Amazon has commissioned a team of professional writers to write the first wave of Kindle World offerings – with some impressive names on the list including Robert Rodi, Stuart Moore and Jason Starr. I was really excited when they asked me to join the roster and I said yes for three reasons.
1. I’d just finished reading Duane Swierczynski, Manuel Garcia and Arturo Lozzi‘s first arc of the new Bloodshot series and absolutely, unreservedly loved it.
2. I had also just written a prose Judge Dredd story for the Megazine (2000AD’s monthly sister title) called Dead Man Talking. After it saw publication I received a couple of fan letters, but then a reader wrote to the letter’s page and described the story as fan fiction. Now, I don’t think he meant it as an insult – as far as I could tell it was just his way of describing a comic character’s non-comic adventures. Initially I was a bit annoyed – surely it can’t be fan fiction if I’m being paid for it! Then I discovered Kindle Worlds, gave it some thought and very quickly made peace with the idea of fan fiction.
3. I wanted to write a novel.
I’ve written licensed comics in the past and had a great time doing it. I cut my teeth on Future Shocks for 2000AD – stories in which the writer has to create a world, a premise and all the characters from scratch in only four or five pages. After that, being handed a universe that already works is like your boss telling you that from now on you only need to work half days. I wrote dozens of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics a few years ago and before I got started Nickelodeon sent me a 200-page bible explaining where the series was going and revealing some top secret stuff. I was kind of expecting the same thing here – an insight into what was coming up for Bloodshot, the answers to some of his biggest mysteries, a list of strict DOs and DON’Ts. But of course, that’s not what a fan fiction writer gets. So neither did I. In fact there was no guidance at all from Valiant – and that freedom was electrifying.
Bloodshot is a great character. He’s resilient, determined and ruthless but he’s also creative – he thinks outside the box at every twist and turn. He’s a great pulp protagonist. The series also has a really interesting technological premise that, as a science fiction writer, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on. Sci-fi pulp – it’s my passion.
(While writing Portal 666 a fellow writer asked me how my sci-fi Rambo book was coming along. I laughed, thought about it and corrected him. Sci-fi Rambo is close – but this is more like sci-fi Parker.)
I wanted to take all the elements of Bloodshot that work so well and throw them into a pot with my own interests and obsessions. I decided to use Portal 666 as an opportunity to drop Bloodshot into a series of worlds unlike anything he’s encountered before. Worlds that would test him both physically and mentally. I wanted to see how he’d react to finding himself in increasingly demented science-fictional settings, while also building a mystery – who is doing this to him, and why? The book very deliberately, and carefully, leaps from one SF genre to another, stopping only as long as it takes to push Bloodshot to his limits in each one. This, I thought, would be a fitting trial for such a formidable character. (It also allowed me to have him meet both Nazi robots and dinosaurs in the same story.)
It’s only now, looking back and relishing the freedom I had while writing Portal 666, that I can appreciate the attraction of writing fan fiction – something that, before this, I might have been tempted to sniff at. My first venture into the Kindle Worlds was rewarding both creatively and financially, and most of all it was a hell of a lot of fun.