Wednesday, May 13, 2009

History of ROJ - Part 3

Part 3 - Not With A Bang...

ROJ Part 6 was a strange animal. Lewis had mentioned the big plans he had for it - it was to be a turning point of sorts. When it arrived, it was only 3 pages long. Coming on the heels of the epic Part 5, this was a shock.

What I didn't know then was that Lewis' own personal life was taking its toll on him. By the time he began work on Part 6, it had pretty much overwhelmed him. He felt like it would be best just to try to work his way through it. It didn't quite pan out.

After what he had already done in ROJ, I didn't feel like we could get away with Part 6 as it was. I discussed the matter with Lewis at length. At first, he was convinced he could rework the story into something a little more elaborate. A letter dated July 9, 1997 includes a list of 17 (!) replies to suggestions I had made. Most of these have faded from my memory, but one was to call the baddies "The Chaos Coalition" - the first use of that name. I was thinking it might be useful when we restarted.

Yes, as incredible as it sounds, we considered redoing the whole thing from the ground up only two years after we began. I don't know why either. That ended up falling by the wayside quickly. Eventually, Lewis decided that he just couldn't go any farther with the series.

At this point, I apparently volunteered to PLOT the rest of the series, with Lewis writing the actual stories. It sounds good in theory, but the evidence indicates otherwise. The plot notes I wrote out - the rewrites of Parts 3 & 4 (with plenty of gratuitous ideas added on) - some of my suggestions - all of it points to the inescapable conclusion that ROJ would've gone to hell in 1997 if we had been able to make our plan work. I kid you not, I cringe when I read some of it today.

It was all academic. I stubbornly continued to work on the next issue of OWARI even though I knew I really couldn't publish it. Lewis still wanted to do ROJ, but his heart wasn't in it anymore. Eventually, the whole thing just petered out. Though neither of us ever came out and said it, I think we both knew the truth. ROJ was dead.

Or was it? By January 1999, I had abandoned the idea of ever publishing OWARI again. Naturally, a new issue came out not too long afterward.

Lewis and I had continued to correspond, but we hardly ever discussed ROJ. I clung to the notion of bringing OWARI back for a long time, but finally discarded it as unworkable. Then I was struck by a thunderbolt of inspiration ("Change the format!") and completed OWARI #4 (April 1999) in one week. OWARI #5 (July 1999) followed close on its heels.

The triumph of reviving my almost totally forgotten fanzine led me to consider the fate of ROJ. I conferred with Lewis and we hatched a cunning plan to bring it back. ROJ would return - but NOT in OWARI itself. It would instead be reprinted, completed, and expanded as a separate publication of its own (though still under the "OWARI" banner to try to avoid legal entanglements). Each story would be accompanied by brand-new spot art by Lewis. Lewis turned out two magnificent drawings in short order and I wrote a teaser that I dropped into OWARI #6 (October 1999). We were off and running!

Er, or maybe not. After a strong start, the new ROJ proposal stalled. In the time since ROJ, Lewis had established his own little fiefdom on the Internet and he was turning out material on a regular basis. I'm not sure the exact timeframe on it, but his much-storied "Seven Spheres Legend" was coming out in this period.

So, why am I telling you this? Because Lewis had volunteered to complete ROJ not because he wanted to finish it, but because he felt like he should finish it. He didn't have a clear idea of the direction he wanted and literally had started over with every new letter. I backpedaled a little in OWARI #7 (March 2000), saying that we were "working on it".

Well, as 2000 progressed, even dense ol' me sensed that something was wrong. I pressed Lewis more than once, but he always insisted everything was fine. I told him, in essence, "I don't want you to do this if it isn't something you want to do."

Inevitably, the other shoe dropped. Lewis' letter dated October 15, 2000 declared the ROJ revival "stillborn". We tossed around some publishing ideas in subsequent letters (Nov. 26, 2000, Dec. 26, 2000 & Feb. 23, 2001) involving Seven Spheres Legend, Lewis' Ronin character, the relatively new Kienan series (soon to be tagged "Gunmetal Black") and perhaps some sort of ROJ article. Nothing came of it, due largely to difficulties I had encountered on other projects.

I regretted that I wasn't able to give Lewis the publication I had promised him. However, I was relieved that we'd quit bashing our heads into walls over ROJ. Clearly, its time had passed.




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