An “Afterword” for TITAN

New edition features an “Afterword” not included in the first edition.

The great thing about self-publishing your work is it’s in your control. You make the editorial decisions. You help design the art and make final decisions on its direction. And you go at your own pace (although laziness can intrude from time to time).

The not-so-great part about self-publishing is, at least at the outset, not knowing what the hell you are doing. I use Amazon publishing, which is a great service. But you can lose some important details. For instance, as those of you who bought the first edition of TITAN know, the book just starts. There are no title or copyright pages. I assumed that information would get layered into my book by Amazon’s service. I was wrong.

That said, I love my book and I’m proud of it. I’m more interested in the story anyway. However, in addition to missing some “niceties” that other books have, it’s a thick brick tome. I’m pretty sure you could knock someone out with that book with a good hit to the dome (that is not an endorsement of doing so, mind you…). Therefore, I reformatted the story down from 499 pages to 308 pages, including a new “afterword,” and added a new matte cover that looks and feels great.

But because I’m not a George Lucasinian shill, I will not make you buy a new edition of the same book just to see the new bells and whistles and read my new afterword. Nope, you can read it right here for free. Suffice it to say, if you haven’t read TITAN, I wouldn’t recommend reading the afterword until you do as there are some spoilers.

Here you go:

Let me tell you a secret.

Writers have egos.

There. Now you know. Mull that for a moment. And since writers have egos they also have agendas. The work has to mean something, even if it’s a novel about a superhero. Hell, especially if it’s about a superhero—how else could you relate to someone with super strength and metal in his bones that fights monsters?

Connecting the hero’s story with her personal journey is why Buffy the Vampire Slayer was so good. Joss Whedon wanted to deconstruct the stereotypical blonde female victim, so he made her the thing that monsters would fear instead. Moreover, the threats and villains she faced were usually representative of the personal turmoil that she was having in any given episode.

I have a few agendas with Titan, but one stands above the others. Eric Steele’s sister, Sarah, is based upon my real sister. Sarah was very real. She was handicapped, just like the Sarah in the story. The real Sarah also passed away. She left a mark on all of us. But when I think about my sister, as a person, I dwell on her unfulfilled promise. I think about the life she might have led if things had gone differently. It was a waste of a beautiful person.

In the world I created, I needed to give Sarah a purpose and meaning the real one didn’t get to have. She was supposed to be a superhero. Sarah became the motivation driving Eric Steele like Batman’s murdered parents or Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben. Beyond that, the suffering she endured wasn’t without meaning; she fought to survive so she could give her brother the ancient power that she couldn’t use. Sarah is the critical link throughout the story. By the end, Eric realizes that he must commit to Titan because Sarah can’t.

We all have particular family dynamics, but I don’t think I’m the only person whose older sibling loomed large. I inherited a chip on my shoulder to succeed and do all of the things Sarah could not. When I was a younger man, I resented that. But it was short-sighted. If it had not been for the real Sarah I might not be a writer.

Sarah’s condition was such that we were often homebound, so I learned to play by myself and developed a big imagination. I invented worlds and characters in my mind and acted out detailed scenarios. I used to build the bridge of the Enterprise, from Star Trek, in my bedroom out of dining room chairs and TV trays. Broken tree branches and sticks became exotic alien weaponry or guns. The interior of my house was a giant spacecraft (think: Death Star) from which the Millennium Falcon needed to destroy and escape. Sarah was sometimes an alien life form the Enterprise needed to research (and usually blow up).

So often, superheroes are driven by the death of a parent or parental figure, but I thought there was more value in showing how a family copes with the loss of a child and a sister. Eric Steele’s parents’ roles in this are just as valid as his. Similar to my own experiences, Sarah’s death reverberated through each family member. The circumstances around her death and what disabled her for life forced everyone in the family to make certain decisions that continue to affect them in the present like the mystery around how Tim Steele lost his powers. Some of this was revealed and there’s more to come.

My other agendas are petty by comparison. As much as I had a great idea for a superhero with a badass name with liquid metal in his bones that can forge armor, weapons, and objects through sheer will, what I really wanted to do was name his mild-mannered alter ego “Eric.” And he’s a superhero so he either needed alliteration in his name, à la Peter Parker or Clark Kent, or he needed one of those names that was *wink* *wink* some statement about his hero identity. I went with the latter because alliteration is harder with “e” and because “Eric Steele” just sounds cool.

I’m telling you this because my name is also “Eric.” Of course, the decision to name my main character with the same first name invites criticism. But I gladly accept it because my reasons for doing so go beyond ego. Nomenclature of fictional characters is due for a shake-up. For one, I like my name. I don’t meet enough Erics. It’s a good, solid name. Two, and most important, I’m tired of “John Hero.” How many people are named “John” anyway? Going just off of action movies, everyone’s name is John.

I want to be clear about this because I don’t want people confusing my fictional character’s thoughts, feelings, family and friends, or events in his life as though they are my own. Like any writer, my characters are all drawn out of my characteristics and a combination of various people I know. Writers really do write what they know. And sure, I think it would be cool to have the kind of superpowers that Eric Steele has, but I certainly wouldn’t want to get them the same way or go through what he does. Really, though, Erics draw the short straw in fiction. They’re either villains, bullies, jerks, or weirdoes, wimps, or just some peripheral character with no lines. Eric Cartman, from South Park, while hilarious, is pure evil; Eric Foreman, from That 70s Show, is a wimp; and Erik Lehnsherr or Magneto, as he is more commonly known in X-Men, is a villain often trying to murder the human race. Those are just three examples. There are a couple of exceptions to this: Prince Eric from The Little Mermaid and Coach Eric Taylor from Friday Night Lights. Now there’s another: Eric Steele.

On another track, Eric Steele and Titan are also shorter than average at 5 feet, 5 inches. So am I. In fact, I gave Titan an extra inch on me—I’m only 5’4. As much as I wanted to fight the good fight on behalf of Erics, I also wanted to stand up for the little guy (pardon the pun). Why can’t a superhero be “short?” In fact, the Wolverine of the comics is only 5’3, but he’s portrayed in the X-Men films (to date) by Hugh Jackman who is 6’2. Why couldn’t, say, Charlie Day (of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia fame) be Wolverine? He’s still taller at 5’7, but it would be closer. Well, in my story Titan is 5’5 and that’s OK; he still has an iron-fisted punch.

Another peccadillo of mine in the superhero genre has to do with the learning curve that its heroes endure (or don’t). I enjoy jumping into superhero fights and romance and intrigue as much as the next person, but it would seem to me that if someone all of a sudden possessed the powers of a spider, for example, it would take more than a 2 minute montage to become proficient in their use. I aspired to show how Titan’s character and powers grew iteratively. By the end of the book, Titan has accepted who he is, but he has not mastered Titan’s power. Committing to his superhero persona and conquering his first challenge were the first steps. Now he must learn what being Titan really means, where he fits in the world, and how to hone his abilities to be an effective hero.

A good artist should let his work stand on its own without explanation (…he said after explaining several things). He should write for himself above all else. But I felt that I should justify some of my creative decisions—not apologize for them, mind you—and clarify important influences on the work. Most importantly, I want my readers to know that Titan is like an iceberg; the book is just the tip above the water, but there is an extensive mass beneath the surface supporting the story.

…and the stories to come…

I hope you enjoyed it.