About a month ago, I was asked to co-write the Shadow Unit series finale with Elizabeth Bear and Emma Bull. My mouth said yes before my brain had finished explaining that, in fact, I couldn’t possibly do that on account of I’m not good enough. Stupid mouth.
Anyway, I went ahead and did it, and it’s done except for post-production, and I’m caught up in an amazing tangle of emotions, or, as the SU fans say, an Emotionally Complex Response (I believe the emoticon is ::D:: or something like that).
First of all, for those of you who aren’t familiar with Shadow Unit, here is a link. In brief, the project is fanfiction for a TV show that doesn’t exist. It can be enjoyed on several levels and in several different ways: you can interact with some of the characters on Livejournal, you can do fanfic or fanart, or in other ways. I sometimes like to tweet about who the guest star was this week, or with some detail of dialog, because it amuses me. But the guts of it involve fiction by some of my favorite writers.
My own feelings about SU were ambiguous from the beginning of the project. I started out with a sort of instinctive loyalty to the idea because it was created by friends, combined with a burning hatred of the premise simply because the protagonists were FBI agents, and I hate the FBI with ever fiber of my being. Eventually, over the course of about two years, the writing won me over, and I began to follow it seriously, if not faithfully, just sort of telling myself that “FBI” stood for Fine Batch of Individuals or something and had nothing to do with US law enforcement. Denial is alive and well in my head, thank you very much.
So then I got asked to contribute. To the series finale, fer chrissakes. It took me, quite literally, two weeks to build up the courage to even try to think about doing anything. I studied what was there*, making sure I was caught up until getting caught up became an excuse, then dived in. Emma and Bear had the the solid bones of a story already; once I realized that, I relaxed just a little bit. But I was still living in the, “What if I suck?” world that we writers know so well.
And then there was this one scene that needed to be written that sort of said, “Yo, Steve. This is your kinda thing.” See, it was a part where [blackout]REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED[/blackout] and hits [blackout]REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED[/blackout], which is obviously perfect for me. So I wrote it, and immediately got the kind of reinforcement I desperately needed but couldn’t bring myself to ask for. And then I wrote another, and then I introduced a bit of business into another scene, and then–
–Before I knew it, I was caught up fully in the story, and in the fun of bouncing off the other writers, and in the world, and I just sort of didn’t have time to be intimidated any more. I mean, I’ve said before, “It isn’t about YOU, it’s about the work.” But this was one of the clearest, sharpest examples of it. The more I dived into the process, the less it was about my feelings, and, therefore, the more fun it was.
It is, as I said, more or less done now, and I’m having an ECR. I’m proud of what we’ve done with this story, I’m sorry it’s done, I’m delighted to have been part of it, and, above all, I simply cannot imagine what it is like for the creators who are seeing five solid years of this coming to an end.
Some final thoughts: Collaboration is magic. Working with those you admire is just absurd amounts of fun. Finishing something you’re proud of is deliciously bittersweet. I am feeling proud, humble, and above all, grateful.
The story is called “Something’s Gotta Eat T. Rexes,” and will be released at the beginning of July. I hope those of you who read it like it.
*In the process, I accidentally discovered a new and very cool connection between the SU ‘verse and the Incrementalists ‘verse; SU fans should figure on Chaz making a cameo sooner or later.