A Trillion Worlds

I, Cunningham Published!

It's finally out!

I am very excited today!

My first novel, “I, Cunningham” is finally out!

I’m not (yet) a full-time author, so this had to be done an hour or two at a time since November 2019. I had to figure out the tools, figure out the annoyances of KDP and KWL, contact an artist to create the cover, and so on and so forth...

But of course, the main thing was to write the book, and edit it. I’ve done four editing passes. The last one was very harrowing because I was this close to hit the Publish button a couple of weeks ago, and then I saw a leftover type and decided I had to go through the whole thing again.

I hope the amount of effort is reflected in the quality, and that you, the reader, will enjoy it.

How this book came to be

In 2018, with the help of a colleague from France, I was working on a translation of Sega’s obscure RPG masterpiece, Phantasy Star IV. We translated the whole thing in French. There were a lot of programming challenges, but also, a lot of work from the literary point of view. We had decided that it would be a “nicer” translation than the original English translation. Neither of us read Japanese, but we cleaned up the language and plumbed the lore of the Phantasy Star series to improve the translation.

While we did that, I decided to read the full script of Phantasy Star II. That entry has a brilliant story, but the game mechanics make it very tedious to complete. Hence, I “cheated” and read the script. In the end, I was fascinated at how deep the world-building was in that universe. The main script doesn’t reflect it all that much, but a lot is actually told through the events the player goes through, with NPC interactions and the like.

I found myself thinking that such a system with three habitable planets would be a great setting for a science-fiction story without needing to involve any sort of FTL. I also thought it would be nice to take Phantasy Star II's evil Mother Brain and turn it into a benevolent force.

Thus, I entered NaNoWriMo 2018 with the idea of hammering out that idea.

The end result is, frankly, not very good IMO. First, it’s too derivative; it is not by any stretch of imagination a fan-fiction, but there are many similarities to the Phantasy Star background. Second, I planned it out almost like a LitRPG though it does not show stats of any sort, and then realized I didn’t like writing that way. Unfortunately, the overall structure of the story was already set, and, well, in NaNoWriMo you don’t really have time to review stuff like that.

Maybe someday I’ll revisit that story. I think the basic ideas aren’t too bad, it’s just the story structure that’s contrived and needs a rewrite.

Still, the seed had been planted. I liked some parts of the story, and felt that a no-FTL background could give rise to one that would be more original, more personal.

In an effort not to self-insert myself, I decided to create a protagonist who was based on the personality of one of my friends. I also had that idea to structure the whole thing like some sort of buddy movie. Thus, Gordon Cunningham and Norman Sixth were born, and I entered NaNoWriMo 2019 and successfully completed it. I then spent the time between January 2020 and now to polish it.

The rest, you will have to read in my book :) But overal, although I will not claim that “I, Cunningham” is a Great Literary Work, I believe the story is properly structured, not (too) derivative (there are, after all, some ideas you will find in other works) and has let me find my own voice.

What’s next?

We shall see. But I do not think Gordon Cunningham’s story has to end with that book. I have some ideas for another installment.

Should that fail to jell, I have an idea for a very different type of book, much more off-the-wall and quirky, which would involve somebody saving the world using a mechanical keyboard (don’t ask how... yet!).

In any case, my objective is to write more or less a book each year. Even though revision is tedious, I really enjoyed the whole process, and I feel I have more to say.

See you among the trillion worlds!