Announcing ONLY SUPERHUMAN, my first original novel!
At last, the contracts are signed, the wait is over, and I can finally make the biggest announcement of my career to date. My first original novel, Only Superhuman, has been purchased by Tor Books! Not only that, but it will be my first hardcover novel as well! It hasn’t been scheduled yet, but it will probably come out sometime in mid- to late 2012.
Only Superhuman is a hard science fiction take on superhero adventure, set in the early 22nd century in an Asteroid Belt civilization where transhuman enhancements are commonplace, and a small corps of superhumans called Troubleshooters strives to keep the peace in a high frontier where law and order are often hard to find. It’s the story of Emerald Blair, a brash, sexy, action-loving young Troubleshooter who joined the corps to make amends for past sins. When her estranged father’s people, a once-heroic group whose ambitions tarnished their legacy, re-emerge seeking to bring their own brand of order to the Belt, Emerald finds herself caught between them and the Troubleshooters’ new backers, whose own pursuit of order may conceal a hidden agenda. Torn between loyalties, Emerald must make peace with her own power and its past abuses before she can distinguish the true heroes from those who crave power for their own ends.
In many ways, this is an atypical tale for me. It’s more action-oriented than most of my published work (except for my two Marvel Comics-based novels), it doesn’t feature aliens (though there are AIs and multiple varieties of transhuman), and it’s got more sexual content and language than my Star Trek fiction. But the fact is, I’ve been working on this concept for literally more than half my life, and it’s closer to me than anything else I’ve ever written.
I created Emerald Blair in the summer of 1988, and made my first try at a spec novel about her, called simply Troubleshooter, in 1993. I spent the rest of the ’90s rewriting and revising it, as well as coming up with ideas for multiple sequels and even a comic-book series. In the process, I devised new characters, worldbuilding, and backstory that helped me flesh out the universe. But around 2000, I realized that my basic concepts weren’t strong enough and I couldn’t fix them by rewriting the book I had. So I abandoned Troubleshooter, rethought everything from the ground up, and crafted a new novel outline that distilled the best elements from all those sequel and comic-book ideas as well as the best of my new thinking. Initially, in pursuit of plausibility, I’d downplayed the superhero aspects of the concept, but when I realized that I needed something to make this stand out from the crowd of transhumanist adventure novels, I decided to play up those superhero tropes, to justify and explore them as plausibly as I could while still embracing the fun and grandiose charm of superhero comics.
I started Only Superhuman in 2003, but then my Star Trek writing career began in earnest, so I didn’t finish the first draft until ’05. After a fair amount of rewriting and refining, I began shopping it to agents in ’07, and though I had no success, one agent offered some constructive criticisms that let me tighten and improve it considerably. After that, I still had no luck, so I decided that maybe it was too idiosyncratic a project to serve as my introduction to agents. I submitted it for consideration by Marco Palmieri, my Star Trek editor at Pocket, and began work on a different spec novel for my agent hunt. But then Marco got laid off from Pocket before I got his answer, and I got stalled on my other spec novel. I switched gears to short fiction for a while, thinking it might be a better way to make a name for myself in original SF. But then, last year at New York Comic-Con, I learned that my fellow Trek novelist Greg Cox was acquiring books for Tor, and he said he’d be willing to take a look at what I had. I still haven’t finished the other spec novel, so I sent him Only Superhuman, and the rest is history. After all the obstacles and delays I faced before, it was a delightful surprise how smoothly it went from submission to acceptance. (Shortly thereafter, as it happened, Marco Palmieri began working at Tor, so he’ll probably be involved with editing this book to some extent after all. Nice how that worked out.)
Anyway, bottom line, this is the best news of my life. Over the past few months waiting for the contract, all I’ve had to do was think, “I sold Only Superhuman!” and I’d be filled with euphoric glee. That’s faded somewhat in recent weeks, but I’m feeling it again as I write this, now that I can finally share the news with everyone. I can’t remember the last time I was so happy about anything. This is the culmination of more than half a lifetime’s work, the fulfillment of one of my primary goals in life. What’s more, I finally get to share Emerald Blair, a character who’s been close to my heart for most of my adult life, with the rest of the world. And hopefully, it’s just the beginning of my original novel-writing career. I’ve definitely got ideas for sequels, and for other novels in the same broader universe (which is also the universe of my previously published stories “Aggravated Vehicular Genocide,” “Among the Wild Cybers of Cybele,” and “The Weight of Silence,” though none of them have any direct links to Only Superhuman). But that will depend on how well this novel sells. I’ve been moderately successful as a Star Trek novelist, but this is a whole new start, and I can only hope it does well.