Guest Blogger: Andrea J. Graham
After God challenged me to write about a character I feared would be too controversial, I wrote a brief sample and showed it to several of my fellow Christian sci-fi authors. To my surprise, they all encouraged me to keep writing. That encouragement led me to decide to give Elisha his own 12,000 word novelette. It ended up needing a 7,500 word sequel that still didn’t tie up all the loose ends. Those stories were such fun, gave such a wider view of King Sander and his users’ world, I decided to do ten more short works depicting the Man-AI from his users’ perspectives, with a different one in each of those ten. (Some of them feature the AI-Girl, Sander’s sister.)
To make the users’ voices and their corners of the globe more authentically diverse, I asked some of my author friends to write stories set in Sander’s world, written from the POV of a Web Surfer user who gets to customize either Sander or Lexus on each of their Web Surfer devices via a plethora of personas.
To this project, H. A. Titus and Travis Perry each contributed one story about 5,000 words long and Cindy Koepp playing with three novelettes and another story in the “5,000 words or less” category. I wrote three stories in that category plus another novelette myself and pulled the stories and novelettes together as episodes of an in-world “reality” show. They’re part of a collection set earlier in time than the first novel, and Bear Publications has released the collection as Avatars of Web Surfer.
I chose to pull both of Elisha’s episodes from the serial after he revealed the first novel’s primary POV character had lied to me about the ending. Alex, (Sander’s human mind) had presented me with a happy ending that was really one sweet moment in the midst of a major catastrophe, and he was seconds away from facing evidence of it. He kept ignoring it, unable to handle it alone.
Like Frodo needed Samwise, my hero needed assistance from a best friend he had been humanly separated from and had also humanly forgotten. Reluctantly, I let God use Elisha to rewrite my ending. It doesn’t work to introduce a new POV character that late in a book, so Elisha’s subplot had to be woven into the novel’s second act, which had been the whole story in draft one. I also admitted the two Elisha stories that had inspired the serial weren’t stories at all. One of them was a new beginning to the first novel, and the other one was the start of the new ending. So I pulled Elisha’s two serial episodes when I revised them into the novel chapters they deserved to be.
By the time this was done, the novel had grown from like 275 manuscript pages to like 400 manuscript pages, about fifty pages (10,000 words) longer than what I considered the maximum reasonable for a first book (100,000 words). After praying for help cutting it down to size, I was able to tighten up Alexander’s plotline, taking over 12,000 words total off his scenes. Never had I before or since accomplished such a feat, and I don’t think I achieved it that time on my own.
In that practical way, Elisha increased in the first novel as Alex decreased. Seeing that helped inspire Alex’s inner journey over the course of the whole series of dying to who he thought he was and becoming more like King Sander, his real self, and becoming more like Christ.
While in the midst of it, I didn’t understand this strange call to write about a guy like Elisha. Only in looking back can I see it how it answered my prayer for help with King Sander. Elisha’s plotline includes him giving up his customized Sander to gain a relationship with the real King Sander. Alex needs to stop customizing Sander, too. When Elisha increased, so did King Sander.
God gave me an important vision of the heart such a character would have when he gave me a vision of who Sander would pick for a best friend and a foster brother. To receive the help from God that I had asked for, I had to truly be willing to surrender to God. I had to be willing to risk rejection along with a brother born for adversity who in unexpected ways joins King Sander in representing the God who was rejected and despised among men (See Isaiah 53).
Andrea J. Graham studied creative writing and religion at Ashland University. She’s the creator of the Web Surfer universe, which encompasses several novels and an anthology. She’s married to author Adam Graham and edits his novels, including Tales of the Dim Knight and Slime Incorporated. Their short story “Chosen of God” was featured in Light at the Edge of Darkness with her own short story, “Frozen Generation.” Andrea and Adam live with their cat, Joybell, in Boise, Idaho. Visit her online at: christsglory.com.