At last, the contracts are signed, the wait is over, and I can finally make the biggest announcement of my career to date. My first original novel, Only Superhuman, has been purchased by Tor Books! Not only that, but it will be my first hardcover novel as well! It hasnít been scheduled yet, but it will probably come out sometime in mid- to late 2012.
Only Superhuman is a hard science fiction take on superhero adventure, set in the early 22nd century in an Asteroid Belt civilization where transhuman enhancements are commonplace, and a small corps of superhumans called Troubleshooters strives to keep the peace in a high frontier where law and order are often hard to find. Itís the story of Emerald Blair, a brash, sexy, action-loving young Troubleshooter who joined the corps to make amends for past sins. When her estranged fatherís people, a once-heroic group whose ambitions tarnished their legacy, re-emerge seeking to bring their own brand of order to the Belt, Emerald finds herself caught between them and the Troubleshootersí new backers, whose own pursuit of order may conceal a hidden agenda. Torn between loyalties, Emerald must make peace with her own power and its past abuses before she can distinguish the true heroes from those who crave power for their own ends.
In many ways, this is an atypical tale for me. Itís more action-oriented than most of my published work (except for my two Marvel Comics-based novels), it doesnít feature aliens (though there are AIs and multiple varieties of transhuman), and itís got more sexual content and language than my Star Trek fiction. But the fact is, Iíve been working on this concept for literally more than half my life, and itís closer to me than anything else Iíve ever written.
I created Emerald Blair in the summer of 1988, and made my first try at a spec novel about her, called simply Troubleshooter, in 1993. I spent the rest of the í90s rewriting and revising it, as well as coming up with ideas for multiple sequels and even a comic-book series. In the process, I devised new characters, worldbuilding, and backstory that helped me flesh out the universe. But around 2000, I realized that my basic concepts werenít strong enough and I couldnít fix them by rewriting the book I had. So I abandoned Troubleshooter, rethought everything from the ground up, and crafted a new novel outline that distilled the best elements from all those sequel and comic-book ideas as well as the best of my new thinking. Initially, in pursuit of plausibility, Iíd downplayed the superhero aspects of the concept, but when I realized that I needed something to make this stand out from the crowd of transhumanist adventure novels, I decided to play up those superhero tropes, to justify and explore them as plausibly as I could while still embracing the fun and grandiose charm of superhero comics.
I started Only Superhuman in 2003, but then my Star Trek writing career began in earnest, so I didnít finish the first draft until í05. After a fair amount of rewriting and refining, I began shopping it to agents in í07, and though I had no success, one agent offered some constructive criticisms that let me tighten and improve it considerably. After that, I still had no luck, so I decided that maybe it was too idiosyncratic a project to serve as my introduction to agents. I submitted it for consideration by Marco Palmieri, my Star Trek editor at Pocket, and began work on a different spec novel for my agent hunt. But then Marco got laid off from Pocket before I got his answer, and I got stalled on my other spec novel. I switched gears to short fiction for a while, thinking it might be a better way to make a name for myself in original SF. But then, last year at New York Comic-Con, I learned that my fellow Trek novelist Greg Cox was acquiring books for Tor, and he said heíd be willing to take a look at what I had. I still havenít finished the other spec novel, so I sent him Only Superhuman, and the rest is history. After all the obstacles and delays I faced before, it was a delightful surprise how smoothly it went from submission to acceptance. (Shortly thereafter, as it happened, Marco Palmieri began working at Tor, so heíll probably be involved with editing this book to some extent after all. Nice how that worked out.)
Anyway, bottom line, this is the best news of my life. Over the past few months waiting for the contract, all Iíve had to do was think, ďI sold Only Superhuman!Ē and Iíd be filled with euphoric glee. Thatís faded somewhat in recent weeks, but Iím feeling it again as I write this, now that I can finally share the news with everyone. I canít remember the last time I was so happy about anything. This is the culmination of more than half a lifetimeís work, the fulfillment of one of my primary goals in life. Whatís more, I finally get to share Emerald Blair, a character whoís been close to my heart for most of my adult life, with the rest of the world. And hopefully, itís just the beginning of my original novel-writing career. Iíve definitely got ideas for sequels, and for other novels in the same broader universe (which is also the universe of my previously published stories ďAggravated Vehicular Genocide,Ē ďAmong the Wild Cybers of Cybele,Ē and ďThe Weight of Silence,Ē though none of them have any direct links to Only Superhuman). But that will depend on how well this novel sells. Iíve been moderately successful as a Star Trek novelist, but this is a whole new start, and I can only hope it does well.