Friday, February 14, 2014

Story Notes: When Mister Carrol Came By

Notes to: When Mister Carroll Came By and other stories.

Yay fanfiction. But it wasn't always this way, no.

It did begin with Harry Potter, though, Harry Potter and a thousand stories like it. The "magical school" genre, I guess. I noticed that they were always about the kids and sure, that could work and all, but dang it, was that all that there could ever be?

I wanted some stories about the teachers, stories that weren't fanfiction, and I knew that I was unlikely to get that unless I did it myself. And in the process, maybe I could build a world that made a little more sense to me than what Rowling handed to us.

That's how it began. Mister Carroll was the first story that I wrote in that universe, a test drive like Bubblegum Peculiarity. It also carried the seeds of what I began to think might be the conflict of the series, a sort of Dumbledore and Voldemort thing, albeit with a Voldemort who would be more difficult to argue with, even seen by some readers to be the good guy in the end. By the time that I had gotten from worldbuilding to storywriting I had already abandoned, at least for the time being, a series that focused on more mundane concerns.

So it went. Later on, I came up with the India War to add flavor to a Harry Potter RP forum that I was part of, something to fill in a few blank spots in the canon and, because there was a significant time skip involved in the RP, make it not feel so much as though several generations of Nothing Important, Really had happened. When the forum fell apart, I took the India War and several other concepts of mine and blended them with Mister Carrol's world. They'd never be more than a light reference here or there, things happening in other countries across an entire ocean, but they'd be there. Touches to fill up the world.

In the meantime the series that I envisioned changed once again. It was about the kids again, but it wasn't about no stinking dark lords. At least not directly. It was about what came after (and no, not what came after when he came back). Senator Pozzel had started a civil war but lost it, and a little more than a generation later his country was still recovering. It wasn't a story about the war, but about the scars that it had left, the factional divides, the stigmas. The closest that it would come to present warfare would be a little bit of terrorism at one point (albeit terrorism connected to the old war, so you've got me there). It was also a story about culture shock, in a way that many of these stories don't explore the subject.

I explored this world for awhile. I learned about David Joyce, the young man who would enter this alien world, and I learned about each and every child who would be starting Wollstonecraft that same year. I learned about his teachers, and everyone's families, and the towns that they lived in, apart from the Others, as they referred to unmagical folk. But no matter how fully I explored it, there was one thing that kept staring back at me: No matter what I did, no matter how I presented it, this was a story about a kid who learned that there was such a thing as magic and went to a school to study it. Didn't matter what themes I explored, or how the world was different as soon as you got past the initial premise, it was going to be compared to Harry Potter and not favorably.

Which I decided to be feel okay about in the end. See, thing is, I'm not hurting for story ideas. I could never touch this world and I still wouldn't have enough time for all of the universe and stories in my head. But I still wanted to tell David's story, despite how much flak I might get for it, and that meant making a compromise or three. There are some stories that start out as fanfiction and get the serial numbers filed off so that they can be published as original works. This is kind of the reverse, an original series that I'm working on translating into the Harry Potter universe. It will be decently AU from the canon setting, but I'm alright with that. David's story will still be told, and there will be a lot less stress from all corners.

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