(Quickly: Entered a contest by outlining a prequel novel to The Dark Crystal and drafting the first seven chapters. Didn’t win. You can download/read my submission for free: The Dark Crystal – Ruin of Innocents.)
Last year the Jim Henson company invited authors of any ilk to draft a bit of what might become a novelized prequel to The Dark Crystal. The big wigs at the company promised to read through the pile and hire their favorite contestant to spool their pitch into an honest-to-god Dark Crystal novel, publishing contract and all. If you’re anything like me, there are few things you enjoy more than writing and The Dark Crystal, and a shot at building on and contributing to a work that was so deeply formative to me seemed both incredible and intimidating. I wanted to give it a try.
I learned yesterday that either the big wigs in question didn’t care for my submission, or they just cared for some other folks’ much more. Seems like a waste to draw the curtain of forfeit around the weeks I spent researching, outlining, drafting and finalizing my seven chapter sample, so I thought I’d offer it to anyone tempted to give it a peek.
Believe it or not, the 30 plus pages of Ruin of Innocents I cooked up may have been the most difficult project I’ve taken on. Juggling someone else’s characters, mythology, lore, timeline, and universe is no simple undertaking. Even in the most grandiose mythos of my own design—the Cannibals trilogy—the rules are all up to me. They bend to my whimsy. Not so for a work of fiction (elaborated on in a comic series held to be canon) older than myself, whose fans nurture decades of obsessive affection for every detail. I know. I’m one of them.
Not to mention that, other than an unpopular movie adaptation, there are no Dark Crystal novels one might look to as a guidepost. This will be the first. The beauty of The Dark Crystal lies in its richly conceived otherworldliness and unsuspected darkness. Even now, the movie is pretty dang creepy, involves a horrific genocide, and comes from the creative mastermind who was, around the same time putting the finishing touches on The Great Muppet Caper. Who knew?
The upcoming novel—whoever ends up writing it—looks to be marketed at The Hunger Games crowd: fans of juvenile fiction. “Young adult readers.” A high school book. My inspiration was the biblical account of the hunted firstborns, often the subject of horrific paintings uniformly titled Slaughter of the Innocents. My inspirations were holocaust survival stories. I’m not suggesting my entry was rejected based on content, I just mean that, as someone who was impacted by that encroaching dread I felt watching The Dark Crystal as a child, it was tough scaling back on the dark. It’s all pretty dire sounding. If you’ve read An Edict of Worms, this probably makes sense.
I took the loss pretty hard. I don’t often experience rejection in my work because of the DIY nature of it all. Sure, people don’t like my books from time to time, but who cares? I like them. That’s all that matters to me. This whole debacle was another animal entirely: handling someone else’s work, the responsibility, the potential at stake… Whoever wins that thing will get to contribute to a world created by Jim Henson. That’s big. Good for them (seriously).
At any rate, I outlined the entire novel, but my pitch included only what would have been the first seven chapters. For anyone interested, here is a work never to be finished, and my first and last foray into what has ultimately amounted to… fan fiction.
Download/read my submission: The Dark Crystal – Ruin of Innocents
P.S. I still have my own books coming out this year.