As I’ve said before (here), Aneka was once a superhero. Once she was a character in an online game called City of Heroes. She was Annette Louise Barrington, a cybernetically enhanced gunslinger, and Aneka is a bit of a superhero now, if you look at the way she acts rather than the genre she’s classified into. Since I’m working on a novel with superheroes in, I thought I’d explore more of my history with that particular genre, explore the relationship between Aneka’s sci-fi world and the world of comics, and give a sneaky peek at some concept art for Ugly.
Somewhere back around 1984, the RPG company Chaosium was promoting a new product, Superworld. They used their in-house magazine, Different Worlds, to do so by publishing an article which adapted one of the two most popular superhero comic teams to Superworld and two other superhero RPGs, Champions and Villains and Vigilantes. I bought a copy of that issue of the magazine because the cover looked awesome and then, when I went back to university, I went into a newsagent and bought my first ever copy of The New Teen Titans, issue #40, which was called Lifeblood. Well, that was it, I was hooked. For about six years I read about the exploits of the Teen Titans and the X-Men, and various other larger-than-life, but very human, characters.
Years later, when I’d lost the comic habit, but was looking into the MMORPG habit, I discovered that two MMOs were about to start beta testing: The Matrix Online from Sony, and another called City of Heroes (the EU beta, it had been going for a year in the US). I was accepted for both, but Sony wanted a credit card to get into a beta, and then couldn’t actually take mine. Best thing that ever happened to me. (Yes, that was an exaggeration, but not too much.) I got to create my own superheroes instead of reading about the ones created by other people (and in so doing I got to meet some people I’m still friends with).
One of those was Louise, The Gunwitch, a political refugee, genius designer, and cyborg. Her story always belonged on the darker side of the superhero genre. She became a spy and assassin, she worked as a prostitute. She was very much an anti-hero in her earlier period and remained a fairly down-to-Earth hero as her abilities and resources increased. I loved writing fiction for her and, when City of Heroes finally died, I really needed to find a way of continuing to write her. The problem was that Louise was very much based around the background of the game, so I needed to change her concept.
Aneka is about the third attempt I’ve made at converting Louise into a workable character outside of CoH. Obviously, I shifted her over to a science fiction setting, because Louise was always a very science-based character with ultra-tech at her disposal. However, Aneka is still very much a heroic character in the mould of the comic books. She’s basically superhuman, obviously: she’s a robot for Vashma’s sake! Equally, she’s very human with a list of personal issues and insecurities brought on by her new circumstances. She helps people because that’s what she does; she joined the Army in her original time to make a difference, and now she helps Winter for the same reason. Aneka is a superhero.
The comic genre has always had an extensive overlap with science fiction, even if it’s on the more space opera side of sci-fi. There is often about as much pseudo-scientific justification for the advanced technology in sci-fi as there is for the powers of superheroes. Many superheroes have gained their powers through some form of failed (or successful) experiment. The comic world is more likely to accept fantasy elements, but many of them (not the major labels, but some others) will create some scientific basis for magic (such as the science behind magic in the Thaumatology setting). On the other hand, a lot of very popular sci-fi is magic disguised as science, e.g. pretty much everything in Star Trek. (Just as an example, the screenless holographic projection technology so beloved of relatively hard sci-fi, like the mapping table in Prometheus, no one knows how to do that; it’s theoretically not possible. It’s magic. In Aneka’s world, I only allow it to exist among the uber-tech people: the Xinti and Old Earth have it. They have plenty of impossible things already.)
So, I’ve done magic with a scientific basis (Thaumatology) followed by moderately hard sci-fi about a future-world superhero of sorts (Aneka), but I do still love me some superheroes, and Louise had a sister (sort of). Annette Barrington was a shy young girl with a superhero for an older brother. When he was put in a coma, Annette set out to learn to fight, even though she thought she had no powers. She did it all just so she could fight the aliens who broke her brother, becoming an exceptional sword fighter, and then the ‘Avatar of Steel.’ I need to bring her back from the grave, so to speak; she was a good character.
So I’ve turned Annette into two people, and I thought I’d let you see them. First up we have Cygnus, beautiful, strong, bulletproof, capable of flight, new to the hero game, and with something of a secret: she’s not quite the girl she appears to be.
And Cygnus will meet Twilight, the two partnering up to defeat a mob family Twilight blames for the death of her brother. Twilight is the sneaky one with the sword, but she also carries a Glock 20 and a few other gadgets.
The first book, Ugly, is going to focus a little more on Cygnus, but I’ve definitely got plans for a second book which will push Twilight’s story further. It’s going to be a few months before Ugly comes out, but I hope you’ll enjoy a story about superheroes as you’ve enjoyed Aneka’s stories so far.