The conception of “Dove Without Wings,” my story in No More Heroes, actually had very little to do with me. It was the most ‘targeted’ story I’ve ever written, and by that, I mean that if I hadn’t earned a place in the anthology, there was literally nothing I could have done with the piece. I don’t normally take risks like that, but this project felt so unique and I was desperate to be part of it.
If you aren’t familiar with the concept behind No More Heroes, here’s the scoop. It exists in a world populated with an original cast of superheroes and villains. Prior to the book’s opening, a great ‘Endgame-style’ battle occurs, and the victors were… the villains! Omggg plot twist, yeah? So, the big question is: What do villains do when they have no more heroes to fight? Enter a fleet of authors (including yours truly) endeavoring to answer that question.
It’s a neat idea, and the neatness is compounded by the fact that all of the authors are essentially working with the same set of characters. When submissions opened, the editors posted a list of all characters and their personalities and superpowers, and then once they chose the stories they liked best, we were asked to edit them so that the characters showed continuity from one book to another.
So, you can see why I absolutely HAD to be part of this. It was honestly one of my more challenging projects – not just because the stakes were so high, but because I had to work with other people’s creations. I’d never done that before, or since, and it was terrifying to think that I didn’t have authority to shape them myself.
We were allowed to bring in our own original characters, as long as they weren’t part of the ‘villain club.’ So, I figured I would need someone really dynamic to properly anchor me into this story, and *cue fanfare* Zen arrived. I love working with this guy a lot. Even though he only exists in one short story, he shows up in my blog posts all the time. (Seriously, all the time! Check out some of his other posts here.)
He’s a math professor, and I definitely have an obsession with math, so that’s part of it. But also, I love his mix of ‘Everything is pointless, why bother,’ and ‘Let’s get this s*** handled.’ He’s gloomy, but perceptive. Curious, but bored. Stubborn, but resigned.
Once I had him as a main character, the story itself fell into place pretty easily. (Or at least, I had the outline. Actually drafting it was quite difficult for me. Remember, I’d never worked with borrowed characters, so it felt weird.) But after it was finished, this story represented so much of what really set my soul on fire: Villains, Math, Goodies and baddies striking a temporary truce, Little sentimental nuggets in the midst of tension, Plot twists… It was simply a delight to work on.
Even though the story can never be reprinted, and it can only exist within the context of this one specific anthology, I consider it an important part of my collection, and I’m glad I took the risk. It was worth it. If you’re interested in the anthology, you can find it here on Amazon, or I always have copies at my table if we have the good fortune to be at a convention together.