The year was 1997. The Internet was slow, and I listened to way too much Alanis Morissette while wearing Berks with white socks. Don’t judge me. I was 19, and I knew not the ways of men.
Sorely disgusted, I shuffled out of a theater one fine day in early November. The long-awaited adaptation of Heinlein’s “Starship Troopers” had come to my local cinema. And while I found high points a-plenty (nice to meet you, Dina Meyer – thanks for being awesome, Clancy Brown and Michael Ironside) the film was almost unrecognizable from one of the science fiction books that served as a cornerstone to my young fandom. No power armor? Stupid faux propaganda commercials? I expected better from the guy who did Total Recall. Heck, after RoboCop you’d think power armor would be EASY to at least do lip service to.
I’d written my first novel earlier in the year on a succession of devices. I started out with my grandma’s old Olivetti Studio 45 manual typewriter, upgraded to a Xerox MemoryWriter electric typewriter (loaner from one of my life-long friends, Duane) and eventually, a refurbished Compaq 486DX/33 courtesy of another friend and mentor, Kent. I met Duane,Kent, and Rex when I hired on at my first full-time job after high school. They not only were tasked with training me, I somehow shanghaied them into becoming my first beta readers, and God bless them, because I’m sure it was a slog getting through the prose of a kid fresh out of high school.
My first novel is gone so far as I know. It was the proverbial ten pounds of potatoes in a five-pound sack; a four-part epic that, if I recall correctly, clocked in at just under 1,000 8.5×11 pages. There were clones, a world-wrecking meteor shower, bad guys, good guys, wasteland cannibals, and a whole bunch of other stuff I’m probably forgetting.
Cleaning out my closet a while back, I found a heavy cardboard box. When I opened it, I was shocked to see my second novel. I began writing it not all that long after my disappointing experience with Starship Troopers. Like most teenagers, the word ‘humble’ was nowhere in my lexicon, but I will give myself a little credit: I didn’t set out to better Heinlein. I was a teenage idiot, but I wasn’t that stupid. I just wanted to tell a better story than what I saw on the screen that day a few weeks before Thanksgiving, 1997.
Did I succeed? I honestly don’t remember. It’s been just shy of two decades since I’ve so much as looked at this manuscript, and I’m going to share it here, bit by bit, warts and all.
Welcome to #FreeAwfulNovel.
Without further ado, I give you the prologue and Chapter 1 of WARHAWKS. Let’s go on this journey together.