When I came up short of stories for Adventuresses, I decided to try filing off some fanfic. The original piece is called Sources of Power and originally appeared in the Star Wars slash zine Sanctuary Moon. I considered redoing Hunter in the Shadows, but it is too closely tied to the universe.
And now, you've read both and you're sitting there asking me, “How can a story where the line--“Whoa, kid. She’s going to make a spectacle of torturing you to death in the public square, you’re gonna come up with the method, and you’re counting on Darth Vader to rescue you? Have you gone crazy or am I dreamin’ this in the tank? It sure ain’t making sense.” -- is a major plot point be LESS tied to the universe than a vampire piece?
Let's watch and see.
This is the opening to “Recovery” in Adventuresses
“Of all the beings in all the worlds, I am probably the only one talking to a rock.” Zora kept her eyes on the wind-scoured sandstone five centimeters in front of her nose. She clung to the shallow handholds and toeholds that held her to the cliff face. “Probably. Then again, it's a big galaxy.”
She didn't dare look up at the endless expanse of blue sky, clear of clouds, that soared above her for kloms in every direction. It had made her a little lightheaded to realize how vast it was. Looking down would be even worse. She'd climbed about two hundred meters up the cliffs.
She cleared her mind and thought of Talla. Pretty Talla, all pointed ears and furry tail, a Felina. The humanoid cats came in a variety of colors, but Talla was a rare tri-color, mostly white, with black and orange spots. Ordinarily tri-colors were more a patchwork of black and orange with white markings. The spotted ones were much rarer and considered quite lucky among her people.
The climb had begun easily enough. There was a path, steep but smooth, and she had followed it. It
narrowed and became more treacherous as it went until it ended a hundred meters up. The next phase offered handholds and footholds, carved into the rock, obviously by the Xingas family. These would likely peter out, leaving her grasping for a fingerhold on the rock.
She took a deep breath, imagined Talla under the mediwebbing, her pointed ears twitching even in sleep, her whiskers quivering at every change in air movement, and her silky tail held immobile to mend. The image started her climbing again.
The early part took little more exertion than climbing a ladder. Zora had scaled the furniture, trees
and walls of her house with her favorite stunt since she was a toddler: climbing the hallway like a lizard and dropping from the ceiling, much to her da's dismay. She and Talla had climbed most of the local rock formations, growing up together, each daring the other to climb even higher this time. Talla's Felina tail gave her the balance advantage, but Zora's primate hands were more flexible for gripping. Talla's people had only evolved opposable thumbs a few millennia ago. The climbing skills returned quickly and without thought.
The handholds and footholds did become shallower about two hundred meters up. Zora rested on the last solid ones and caught her breath. She was halfway to the cave.
The winds were stronger up here. She pressed to the rock face, leaving no place for an errant gust to get
under her and pluck her from the cliff.
This is one of the sections I lifted whole-cloth and embellished.
From “Sources of Power”
The climb began easily enough. There was a path, steep, but smooth, and he followed it. It narrowed and became more treacherous as it went until it ended a hundred meters up. The next phase offered handholds and footholds, carved into the rock, obviously by the Tagges. These would likely peter out, leaving him grasping for a fingerhold on the rock. He touched the collar once more, imagined Han in the bacta tank, and started off.
This part took little more exertion than climbing a ladder. Luke had scaled the walls of his home on Tatooine, much to his aunt’s dismay, from the time he was a toddler. He and Biggs had climbed most of the local rock formations, and even tried a stretch up the walls of Beggar’s Canyon. The skills returned quickly and without thought.
The handholds and footholds did become shallower about two hundred meters up. Luke rested on the last solid ones and caught his breath. He was halfway to the cave. The winds were stronger up here. He pressed to the rockface, leaving no place for an errant gust to get under him and pluck him from the cliff.
Many basic action beats can be lifted. You see where the character names have been replaced. And you see where embellishment has been added. My fanzine readers all knew what Han looked like and what a bacta tank was. My original fiction readers needed some description of Talla and what mediwebbing did.
I also rearranged this story some. The fanfic opens with the freighter crash. That doesn't appear until the flashback in chapter two for our girls. The dialogue remains much the same, although Talla, a catgirl, calls her lover “Kitten” instead Han's usual flip “Kid.”
The crash, the capture by their arch-enemies, and the trek to the cliff to retrieve the scrolls of power all translated nicely. This is classic action-adventure stuff and would fit into any universe. I even gave Eska Xingas the same grudge Domina Tagge had in the comic book series and left the name of the planet the same.
However, I had to change the end, which was very much tied up in the Star Wars universe. (See above, the line about Darth Vader to the rescue)
So, I brought in Rafe Fioved, yes the same one from the recent Cliff Cody Story, here the leader of a rebel group fighting the Xingas crime syndicate. He intercepts the ship, rescues his gun-runners sees them safely back to work. He serves the same Deus Ex Machina role that Chewbacca does in the original. Although, if you have a running distress beacon, is it really Deus Ex?
When you are doing this, the basic cookbook method is this.
Chart out the action in the plot. In “Sources of Power” it went like this:
-waiting for rescue
-taken by enemies
-bad bargain for medical treatment
-harrowing journey to get object
-return to homeworld
-death by torture, as bait
-arrival of the big fish
-escape in the confusion
Identify the elements that are too tied to the universe to translate
-The character names
-The tech names (most of it comes from Brian Daley's Han Solo novels)
-the Force blocking collar
Remove those elements and see what is left. This is your base story/
Don't be afraid to alter the story. I had to removed the last half the story and make things a straight-up rescue.
Add more description to your characters. Everyone knows what Luke and Han look like. But they've never met Zora and Talla.
All we know of Zora is that she's human female. Talla however, is a Felina. She's white, with tri color spots. The orange one on her head is her favorite skritching place. She has a tail and pointed ears as well. She has opposable thumbs and walks upright, but can travel on all fours as well.
I made the same mistake in “Recovery” as I did in “Sources of Power.” I didn't describe the antagonists at all. Domina Tagge was a minor character in the comics. I should have described her and her brother Silas. And I failed to describe Eska Xingas and her brother Byct in the same way.
Check yourself for that.
Have people both in and out of the fandom read it. This will be your test. If the fandom folk say “Dang, since when are the boys lesbians?” you didn't do enough filing. If the non-fandom folk say, “Hmm, reads like something out of this fannish universe,” you blew it. If they like it, don't identify it and generally think it's original, you've done it right.