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'NetWalkers (Partners/MnM)



‘NetWalkers (Which for marketing purposes was split into two parts) is the true beginning of the core of my future history. I thought, back in the late ’80’s, that the beginning was GroundTies, but I’ve always have a problem of jumping into the deep end of the pool.  I blithely wrote my first series, knowing most of the characters’ secrets… but in the way of things, the real devils were lurking in that one or two details I didn’t know.

‘NetWalkers is the cause behind the effect that was GroundTies, et. al. At its core is the origin of the Mentor edutorial program that is alluded to, frequently, in GroundTies. Who is behind its insidious mind-bending abilities… particularly those insidious VRTanks… and why, brings a whole new meaning to Stephen… and Wesley’s… predicament.


8 comments to ‘NetWalkers (Partners/MnM)

  • Moved this from the RoC page:
    From Joekc6nix: I was reading a post on Shejidan earlier today, in the “What Have You Read Lately” forum. The poster said that they figured out why they didn’t like the first 3 Netwalker books – they hate Wesley, and I do too. After reading “Partners”, I’m inclined to be a little more open-minded about him, but I still don’t like the way he uses people like Stephen in the original books. Maybe in sequels to those books, he’ll be a better person, but for now, he’s still an ass. A smart ass, but an ass nonetheless.

    • Wow…talk about long winded. Needs editing, but no time.

      Re: Wesley’s likability… It was indeed a very serious problem for the original series’ accessibility and acceptance; a problem— and I’m saying right here and now and pointing fingers— my editor damned well should have caught and made me fix rather than just telling me to make the books shorter. I didn’t know. It was my first book. I was caught up in the complexity and details… not to mention the panic of my first sale being already in schedule. It was his JOB to bring a fresh perspective to the project and guide it into something marketable.

      And I got one line: make it shorter, because Warner wouldn’t handle a book that long from a first time author. His sole editorial input? A copy of the manuscript with the deletion of pretty much every scene that showed Stephen actually coping and Wesley being nice. The scenes that gave the reader a chance to digest all the rest.

      Not only that, he bought the three based on a rough draft of the first book that he read only a year after I started writing— Started WRITING, mind you, not just started this book. Knowing full well it wasn’t finished, he immediately put it into schedule, along with the other two at six month intervals. I’m proud of them, yes. Extremely. Do I wish I’d done a bit better by the characters…yeah. I do.

      If I’d had Pat Lobrutto as an editor for those three books, he would have said something and my career would have gone very differently. He’s the one who called me on Wesley’s overly “frat boy” feeling at the beginning of ‘NetWalkers and he was dead on. I love doing that kind of edit. I’d never resist, given the slightest hint to where the perception was going off. (Pat managed that in about three sentences…not exactly a huge time committment on the part of an editor. But it was substantive input, not complaints about length or punctuation and mindless deletions.)

      Curiously, leaving Wesley’s character/behavior that raw was a conscious decision. It’s not that I couldn’t have been talked into tempering it, it’s that my editor never tried. I never even knew it was a problem. By the time GT came out and I began getting reader feedback— which took a long time because Warner screwed up distribution so badly— it was too late to do anything about it. UpLink was already on the stands and Harmonies was in production.

      And my editor had been fired.

      I walk a thin line in my books. I don’t force characters into some preconceived mold. I let them react then figure out why they did whatever they did. It’s part of the writing puzzle I love. I’m fascinated by change and growth in characters, and that doesn’t happen if you whitewash every action. If there aren’t consequences to their behavior, they don’t learn and move on… and neither does the book.

      OTOH, the hints to Wesley’s true character are in there; I could have managed to bring them out at the time had I realized I was being too subtle. Again: my editor’s job, once he’d bought it, to point that out and help me find the balance.

      I also am very much into kaleidoscopic impressions of people, both as readers meeting character, and as the way the characters in the books form their impressions of each other. Unfortunately, that has translated into some highly ambiguous first impressions of characters…and the books. I edit, yes, massively. But I also try to trust the characters and what they do in a scene. I try to find the reasons for it out of the gestalt of what I know and that sum expands my understanding of the character and the ramifications of making a given decision. I make surprise revelations work rather than arbitrarily toss them out because they doesn’t fit some “niceness” paradigm.

      The original series suffered from the fact that I knew on a gut level what Wesley was and that there were reasons for why he did what he did. Cantrell’s final assessment of “Galahad” is dead on. It was established right from the start that ten years before he’d basically given the Alliance the finger and checked out. The Stephen’s arrival and the events of the books are what force him to finally go back and deal with what he’d started.

      Of course, when I started the book, he was supposed to write the paper, walk on, be an ass, walk off and die when Stephen used Cocheta tech to explode the Cetacean to save the Cocheta and his new-found life on HuteNamid.

      God… it was so simple back then…

      Anyway, when the Wesser stuck around and the chemistry between him and Stephen became such a factor, a lot began to come out— enough to get us all to the Galahad-scene— but the foundational details simply weren’t there. I knew there was more, thought I’d made his behavior understandable, assumed the rest of the answers would lie in HomeComing Games, but HG never happened… at least not in a timely fashion… and without that, the readers never got the perspective. What was in the original series wasn’t enough… for a lot of readers. You’re definitely not alone.

      Writing ‘NetWalkers opened a whole new understanding, because of those devilish little details. The Mimetrons, Wesley’s links to the Mentor and the ‘Tanks, Partners… I didn’t truly understand how those all worked in until I wrote ‘NetWalkers. Had I whitewashed his character/behavior with truncated background info, I’d never have been compelled to write ‘NetWalkers, and frankly, I fear it would have turned into either Forbidden Planet Revisited (Never thought of it that way, but it kinda would have been) or a thinly-veiled m/m romance, neither of which is particularly interested me.

      Which brings us to the non-romance. The attraction was never meant to be a fairy tale. Originally, it wasn’t even supposed to be. When Wesley wouldn’t keep his hands off Stephen, it presented me a serious problem. Instead of completely rethinking and focusing an already complex story on that and aiming for some happy outcome romance… I let it be a problem. I played the cards as they’d been dealt and consequently I think I came up with something pretty unique.

      I knew from the start that chemistry was the Evil Influence that screwed up what might have been a good working relationship. I thought Lu-hove was enough to explain it… but it never quite rang true. Wesley’s reactions are sooo extreme, I knew there was something more at work.

      And it took ‘NetWalkers for me to truly understand those factors. Even if he’d confessed about the DProg Partners thing, without actually writing the book, I wouldn’t have understood it wall enough to understand how it’s truly affecting his relationship with Stephen.

      Hindsight in this case is far from 20/20. Had I stopped to write ‘NetWalkers at that time, it would have trainwrecked that first novel excitement. Had I sugar-coated Wesley… honestly… I wouldn’t like him as well as I do, and yeah, now… I pretty much love him.

      The biggest problem was and always has been that NY, both Warner and DAW, bought my books then never, ever edited them, other than with arbitrary edicts. I guess they assumed CJC would do all necessary story editing. Which is nuts. By the time they went out of the house, CJC was as close to the subject matter as I was, as involved with the characters— and once you know how to read them, you understand them. Even Wesley.

      But that doesn’t make it translate to a fresh reader. I expressed many times that I was concerned with the subject matter and the impression the characters were giving and was flat brushed off. He was too busy with the DC tie-ins. And, yes, I’m through white-washing and being understanding. He bought them; he had an obligation to actually do his job.

      One of the biggest changes in the rewrites is Wesley’s VP being there from the start. He wasn’t a VP character in the first book because originally he was supposed to be minor…and as I say, he was supposed to get blown up. The initial encounter between them set the tone for all subsequent interaction and it seemed important to me at the time to preserve it and punt, to have the reader empathizing with Stephen and the shock he experiences.

      And yet…foolishly…I was in Anevai’s VP at the time.

      And I assumed I was going to be able to finish the story. It’s one of the reasons I’ve been so stubborn about not letting go of the series.

      Sheesh…talk about a serious ramble. Bottom line, yeah, I know it was a problem. I’m hoping, finally, to start setting the record straight.

  • Okay….serious ramble, but thank you for clearing that up. Okay, here I go:

    What is VP (virtual personality?) Sorry, I’m not clear on that.

    I don’t have any objection to how you write, your stories are sometimes difficult to read, not because they are convoluted or have no continuity, it’s more like I have to stop and think, “Now what did she mean by that?”

    I don’t have an objection to any romance between characters of the same sex, although I’m not a voyeur. I remember the little talk in the kitchen when other people were trying to build a Ragi dictionary in the living room, but you said that you had heard from many young readers who thanked you for letting them feel good about their “coming out”. Because I’ve lived with a gay roommate, and one of my cousins was gay, I don’t find it a problem like some people do. I was never assaulted, propositioned, etc. in the way some paranoid straight people think gays act, and because I have had plenty of gay friends from my second college, it’s a non-issue with me. So, while I might be a tad uncomfortable with Khyel and Temorii, as well as Wesley and Stephen, there is nothing wrong with the stories, it should make the reader stop and say, “Now, what did she mean by that?” If we’re uncomfortable, then you’ve done a fine job of writing.
    Please send bribe to me at my regular home address. Thanks….. :mrgreen:

  • Sorry! Viewpoint. Wesley’s viewpoint shows up in GT only in the final scene.

    sigh…Once I got going, it was hard to stop. The thing is, until ‘NetWalkers was out, I couldn’t begin to explain to people just how deep a personality Wesley is. Now…hopefully the people who read the original series are starting to read between some lines. He’s not shallowly cruel; he’s driven by some pretty extreme responsibilities. I’ll give you all this much…when he’s mauling Stephen in the Watering Hole? He’s looking for a Mimetron button. 😉 Sometimes…they really are out to get you…esp if your name is Wesley Smith! 😀

    • If I understand you correctly, it’s something like having started the story line in the middle, and then working your way back to the beginning, and finally the end of the arc. Kind of like what Lucas did with “Star Wars”? Besides, once you started GT, it was obviously not going to turn out the way you expected. As I believe CJ said a few times, the story and characters oftentimes surprise her. And you’re probably letting the story flow from your brain to your fingers to the keyboard, and yes, I see that you would find it hard to stop.

      I see Wesley in a different light now. Thank you, and I’m sure that once I get through MNM, it will be even more favorable. We shall see.

  • Reptile

    I have recently reread your three original volumes and the omnibus edition with the teasers. Your comments on editing ring very true. I have been a consumer magazine editor and writer but never worked in book publishing. Actually, the thought of working for a book publisher has always horrified me, if only because I’m too impatient to wait two years or more to see the results of my efforts in print (as an editor). The type of interaction you needed and deserved is nowhere nearly as universal as one would expect.

    I enjoyed all the novels, recognizing that they were written over a 20-year period. also the teaser chapters in the omnibus version are wonderful and greatly broaden the characterization. I look forward to reading your revisions of the three originals–I gather they are tied up in technical (legal?) limbo at the moment, though written.

    Yes, the cadence of personal growth of Wesley is a little off–he’s more mature at 21 than at 32–but I had sort of guessed that part of the reason was the writing time frame. Also, with 20-years experience you are a more controlled writer. But I really respect that you took the risks that did. and overall I think they are much more interesting books because of that, even if the reader is/was occasionally confused.

    It’s great that the internet offers you the opportunity to bring these books back to life!

    • Thank you!!!! On all counts.

      The only technical hangup now is getting my covers done! 😀 I have the ideas, now I just need to execute. I’d hoped to have them up last month, but the new marine tank kind of cut into that plan, and now we’re into the craziest month of the year: two cons, flowers (and weeds) blooming like mad, and painting carousel horses down in the Tri-Cities!

      Considering GT was my first fiction of any kind, and considering I had to cut back words willy nilly and meet a deadline without ever checking for the effect of those cuts, I’m really still pretty proud of the originals. I always knew Wesley’s apparent maturity level was a facade (I thought that came through, but rereading it myself, I realize it’s one of those things that, without his VP from the beginning, just never reconciled) but now, with his VP in there from the start, and knowing where his head is at coming out of Vandereaux, I think (hope) he comes through very differently. I’ll count on all you guys to let me know. One of the best things about the internet is, if it REALLY doesn’t work, I can fix it! My first Beta Reader gave it a thumbs up, however, so I’m hoping.

      I was on the best panel at MisCon…it was on writing snarky characters, and Wesley is definitely a snark by that time. He’s got so much bitterness built up, that when Stephen arrives, seeming bait from all he despises, the snark turns mean. It’s probably one of the hardest kinds of characters to make likable in a serious novel (works well in humor) but that’s what he is and it’s my job to make him work and for everyone to understand what a fundamentally honorable guy he is. But he’s as much on the brink of sanity as Stephen…more precarious in some ways, because he’s not really aware of it…until Stephen arrives and sets all these elements in motion.

      Anyway…no more teasers! Gotta get the books out!!!!

      Thanks again.

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