Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I, Crimsonstreak Commentary: Chapter 1

Chapter 1

The Clermont Institution for the Criminally Insane:
Serving evil-doers and those in need since 1972

Author's Notes

  • The entire book started with the simple concept of a superhero being locked away with a bunch of villains. That’s where the idea for I, Crimsonstreak began. I wanted to start the novel with a situation that defied explanation; how would a superhero end up being imprisoned as a bad guy? I tried to take it a step further by making his father responsible for his bad fortune.

  • Crimsonstreak remarks here that he’s not sure how much time has passed. In early drafts of the book, it’s implied that he was imprisoned in Clermont for as few as four months and as many as six months. Once my editor and I started digging into the worldbuilding, I realized that six months was too short a time for everything that happened while Chris was in captivity to occur. We mention the rise of the New World Common Wealth, an alien invasion, a global reorganization… that certainly could not all have happened in the span of six months. Three years is probably even stretching it, but it’s definitely easier to believe.

  • The “Clermont Institution for the Criminally Insane” is 100% fake. I suppose you could argue that it’s a stand-in for Arkham Asylum; the parallel is certainly there and I avoided using “asylum” in the name of the facility to avoid that association. Yet, Arkham is so associated with supervillain psychos that it’s nearly unavoidable to consider it a reference point, subconsciously or not.

  • The “Clermont” name itself is inspired by Clermont, Indiana. It’s a small town west of Indianapolis and home of Lucas Oil Raceway Park (formerly O’Reilly Raceway Park; formerly Indianapolis Raceway Park). I’ve only been to Clermont once during a going away party for a colleague. I’ve always liked the name, so I included it in the book.

  • The straitjacket is important for a couple of reasons. First, it’s something that constricts Chris’ movements (I will use “Chris” and “Crimsonstreak” interchangeably throughout the commentary, so my apologies for that). This is a super-speedster, actually the super-speedster, and he doesn’t enjoy being unable to use his powers. Secondly, the straitjacket serves as an (embarrassingly obvious) symbol of Chris’ imprisonment. He can’t escape his predicament until he sheds the straitjacket. Thirdly, I like the mental visual of this hero in the loony bin like a common criminal.

  • Colonel Chaos (William Fairborne) and Miss Lightspeed (Karen Fairborne) share some traits with my parents, although the characters are not based on them. For instance, my father is not a guy with genius-level engineering intellect (he’s got a genius-level head for baseball, however). Miss Lightspeed has my mother’s strength and no-nonsense attitude. Both are loving and involved in their son’s life, which reflects some Adams family history.

  • The thing I wanted to convey is that Crimsonstreak considers himself a disappointment. He hides behind a quick-witted, confident persona, but deep down, he feels he pales in comparison to his parents. Colonel Chaos and Miss Lightspeed could both fly and possessed super-strength. Chris inherited neither of those traits. He didn’t inherit his father’s insanely deep intellect, either. He has his mother’s speed (his speed actually surpasses Miss Lightspeed’s), but feels like he got the short end of the stick in the genetic pool.

  • Crimsonstreak is a slightly damaged hero, but not quite in the way someone like Batman or the Punisher is damaged. Bruce Wayne lost his parents at a young age and vowed revenge on the criminal element; the Punisher saw his family mutilated and swore to get even. Crimsonstreak was a college freshman when he watched his mother die in a very public way on television. That event cast a shadow over what is supposed to be a young man’s heyday. Instead of going to parties and figuring out life, he distanced himself from friends and watched his relationship with his father disintegrate.

  • The scene with the “accountant from The Untouchables” tells us a little about a bombing in Williamsburg, Indiana. This is, in fact, my hometown, a little barely-there dot on the map in Wayne County, Indiana, near the Indiana/Ohio State line. The closest cities are Richmond, Indiana, and Dayton, Ohio. I wanted Crimsonstreak to have a modest Midwestern background, so I stuck him in my hometown. This does not reflect my desire to wipe Williamsburg off the map.

  • I think the line “Sure am glad Dad was there to vouch for me” speaks volumes about Chris’ issues with his father.

  • The villainous Zeus Caesar was a character I always had a very clear picture of. He’s an all-powerful, god-like supervillain who’s pretty much off his rocker. I mean, who starts “conquering America” by taking over Nebraska and Iowa? I’ll have more on Caesar later.

  • Chapter 1 ends with the line “But the world needs a hero.” Chris is in a desperate situation. He’s tried to escape more than a dozen times, but is still stuck in the Clermont Institution for the Criminally Insane. Since we’re seeing this whole world through his eyes, this line reminds us that he’s not giving up just yet.