Monday, July 23, 2012

"Rift Jump" Commentary (Part Two)

Read Part One of our exclusive commentary right shere!

Continuing my commentary on Rift Jump, I--once again--warn you of spoilers below. Read at thine own risk!


"Second Chances" was the first Rift Jump story I wrote back when I was 15 or so. It is based on the fabled dream that started this entire series and is, really, beat-for-beat exactly like that dream. The original version of "Second Chances" featured in Appendix B is literally what I dreamed that night so long ago, with very little tampering by my young, teenaged self.

But, in this updated and "official" version of "Second Chances", I made a few changes. To see all the major differences, you can read the Appendix B and compare it to the final product, but here are some key differences:

1. Michael slipping into the "In-Between". The concept of the In-Between didn't occur in the original homespun Rift Jump tales until much, much later. When I decided to adapt this "for realsies", I knew that the In-Between would have to be a major mythology foundation. Johnny Frawl's whole explanation about the brick wall and how that represents the multiverse was one of the first additions I made to this section, and it totally jazzed me up. I thought it was a super-neat idea and I had so much fun writing it.

Obviously the Beast in the Void is very Lovecraftian. It's a monster outside of our perception of reality. But, what it is NOT, is Satan.

A little known fact about my books--though they're ultimately about good versus evil, they are NOT about God versus the devil. Even in The Coming Evil, with the Strange Man being a demon--he's a demon with his own agenda. He doesn't represent Satan. He's on his own. I think in most of my works, Satan isn't really a factor at all. Sure he exists, but I've always believed that we give way too much credit to the devil. If our car breaks down, we blame the devil. If an impure thought enters our mind, we blame the devil. I'm sure he's behind many evil things, but he's still just one fallen angel. He can't be everywhere at once. He's not all powerful.

He is not God's equal.

The greater struggle in my work is actually God versus Sin. Sin is what caused the devil to fall in the first place, right? Sin corrupted angelic beings. Sin ruined the world. Sin is what drives Man to commit atrocities. Sin is the real enemy. The devil is only a product of sin. Plus, from a literary standpoint, the war against Sin is something that humans can engage in.

Nothing kills a story like trying to have a bunch of humans tackle the devil in the flesh. I mean, angels are more powerful than people. It's a stacked fight--even if you had the trappings of Christian iconography that's in most horror fiction. But Sin is something we all struggle with. We all battle our own evil impulses. And that's a battle we can WIN--if we choose to turn to God's Light for salvation. It's a battle that every one of us participates in. It's something we all relate to. We can't all relate to characters fighting demonic beings.

Even in The Coming Evil Trilogy, the real battle that my heroes are waging is against sin, not the demons in their town.

2. Michael and the steak knife. This was added VERY late in the game. And it's really a credit to my editor Keven Newsome (who posted a killer YouTube playlist of my soundtrack for Rift Jump). I glossed over a lot of important scenes in the book, trying to plow on through to the next mythological beat. But it was Keven that made me pause and rethink that. I needed to slow things down and show Michael telling Sara what he was. I needed that to be a big moment. But, how do you convince someone that you're an invincible warrior for God from another dimension?

Why, you stab yourself with a steak knife, of course.

3. Mall world explanation. I'm telling you, in my original dream, Michael just shows up in a "mall world". It's absolutely ridiculous, but in my dream it made perfect sense. So, for the book, I really wanted to legitimize it. Why is this world only a mall? I started getting the idea of this being a world with toxic air so everyone is enclosed in cities. Then, each city has its own insular culture. I really didn't go into it a lot--I just wanted some sort of explanation. Which brings me to a fear I have:

I fear that some people will come into Rift Jump expecting some real academic expose on these parallel worlds. They're gonna want to know every detail about culture, about politics, about how these different worlds function. Unfortunately, Michael and Sara don't stick around that long to discover those things. We cover nearly ten worlds in this one book, I think, so we're moving fast. And, to me, the point has never been about the worlds themselves, but about Michael and Sara's personal journey. That through-line is always my focus. The alternate realities are just window dressing.

However, if someone were to come along and write a Rift Jump story that really explores some alien culture, that'd be great. But I liken this book to a DVD "mythology" collection of a TV series. There are many standalone Rift Jump stories between each of these parts, but I'm trying to hit the important "game-changing" episodes.

Behind-the-scenes nuggets:

--My original dream featured parallel dimensions. As soon as I started writing "Second Chances", I wanted to know how other authors had handled the subject. My first (and last) stop was Michael Moorcock's Elric books. I read a couple of those--didn't understand a word of them (:p), but got a taste for the whole "dark fantasy multiverse" thing. Also, Quantum Leap was a huge inspiration to me. I still think that Sam Beckett (as magnificently portrayed by Scott Bakula) is a shining example of what a real man is all about.

--I saw Sara in my dream as well. Ginger hair, parted down the middle, tucked behind her ears. But, when I woke, her face began to fade from my mind's eye. About that time the amazing My So-Called Life was on the air and I latched on to Claire Danes' look (and angst), and used her for an early model of Sara when I needed a quick visual. I mean, look at her! '90s teen misery at its finest!

Ironically enough, later Claire Danes would star in Romeo & Juliet, which I openly admit I cried while watching in the theater. I liken Michael and Sara to Romeo & Juliet. They even have a balcony scene!

Read Part 3 of our commentary where we discuss the taboo--cursing in Christian Fiction!

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