Tuesday, December 04, 2007
My novels #8: Bad Moon Rising
JUDGE DREDD: Bad Moon Rising (Black Flame, 2004)
It's Friday the 13th and a bad moon rises over Mega-City One. With weather control off-line in Sector 87, the heat is rising along with tension and the crazies are out in force. In the midst of this madness Judge Dredd is drafted in to enforce the law during the busy graveyard shift.
But, when human xenophobes strike against an alien ghetto in Sector 87, things get a whole lot worse and the tension spills onto the streets! With the City-Def squads turning vigilante and sliens with psi-powers running around, Dredd must stop the riot before it engulfs the whole sector!
You know what? I'm not sure I'd ever bothered to read the back cover copy for this novel until just now, when I had to re-type it for this blog posting. Yikes, that's not good writing. Normally for a novel I write a version of what I envisage as the back cover copy during the pitchng process. It's a wonderfully succinct way of demonstrating to commissioning editors how the book could be sold to potential readers and buyers. I'm sure I did that for Bad Moon Rising, but I sure as hell didn't write what ended up on the back cover of the book.
Anyway, on to the novel itself. In 2003 Games Workshop had built a growing publishing empire based upon its Warhammer and Warhammer 40K fantasy and sci-fi gaming brands. The company decided to get into licensed franchise fiction, and negotiated with US film studio New Line the rights to publish original novels and novelisations based on New Line movies. They also struck a deal with computer games developer Rebellion to publish original novels based on characters published in the iconic British science fiction comic 2000 AD [which Rebellion owns]. Games Workshop even set up a special imprint to house these two lines of books, called Black Flame.
I can't remember the details of how I got involved with Black Flame - being a hungry freelancer, it's likely I approached the new imprint for work. I've always wanted to write a movie novelisation, having read so many of them while growing up. Black Flame already had authors lined up for its initial batch of New Line tomes, but needed authors who could write for the 2000 AD line. Since I've got previous in that area [three Dredd novels for Virgin Books in the early 1990s], I was a good fit.
In truth, I had no urge to write another Dredd novel. I'd done that ten years earlier and didn't want to retread old ground. But I got the feeling returning to the Big Meg for one last visit would win me favour with the commissioning editor, and it had been a while - maybe I had one last Dredd novel left in me? The result was Bad Moon Rising, not a bad little yarn. I was hooked on the TV series 24 at the time, so I adopted a version of that storytelling format, with the events of each chapter taking place over the course of an hour. It gave the story momentum and forced me to structure my plot with care and attention.
I haven't read the book since I wrote it, but my memories of Bad Moon Rising are positive, so I guess it's probably alright. What I really want to do was spread my wings and tackle other characters, something that might stretch me more as a writer. I'd put in a proposal for A Nightmare on Elm Street novel, but that was stuck on a desk at New Line, awaiting approval. I was also interested in writing Nikolai Dante novels, having helped develop the character when it was first launched in 2000 AD. But that would have to wait until the imprint got on its feet.
Here's a fact that struck a nerve on Bad Moon Rising. Ten years earlier I'd written my first novel, a Dredd story called The Savage Amusement. Virgin paid me £3000 for the book, including an all-rights buy-out, so I got no royalties. for subsequent books I renegotiated my deal to take a smaller advance but with the added incentive of royalties.
The Black Flame deal was simple: £3000, no royalties, and an extra 5000 words required for the manuscript. Ten years after my first novel, I was back writing Judge Dredd and getting the same money for more work. It felt like I wasn't making much progress as a writer, either creatively or financially. Despite that, Bad Moon Rising wasn't a bad book. Wish I could say the same of my next novel.