This interview is part of the 10,000 Dawns Finale, which you can read all of (and download!) at this link: http://www.jameswylder.com/home/10000-dawns-the-finale
James Wylder: Writer, Interview by Alex Rose
We took the time to have some words with many of the personalities shaping 10kd in the present and the future! Learn about the creation of this story, and where we go from here....
James is the author of the serial “10,000 Dawns” story, as well as the Editor of the upcoming “10,000 Dawns Anthology”. He has also written several books including the Unofficial Doctor Who Poetry Book, “An Eloquence of Time and Space”.
What is or what has been your favorite part about writing 10kd?
This is a story I've wanted to write for years now, and so just making it exist, and letting these characters live on the page as I envisioned them is a more wonderful feeling than I can describe.
Out of every chapter you’ve ever written for 10kd, which has been your absolute favorite?
“Chapter 19: A Crystal Road” was a lot of fun to write, and went in some really surprising directions. Not to mention, the reaction from fans from it was awesome. Arch and Graelyn's confrontation, brewing throughout the whole story was one of the most brutal and heartbreaking scenes for me to write, because I hadn't originally intended for it happen. But while I was writing I realized it should happen, and needed to happen. It was what the characters would do, and so I let them do it. On a totally different end of the spectrum, the scene where the Crystal Moon plows through a wall in reality ended up being a real fan favorite, and has to be up there in the most utterly bonkers things I've put into words, yet it works.
How exactly did you get the idea for writing the plot of 10kd? How did you come up with such a story?
10,000 Dawns has been a very long time coming, and answering where the story came from has more than one answer, and I can’t say any particular version of the story is more correct than any other. So many things came together to make this story its hard to mesh them into one narrative, because the strands don’t always knot together neatly.
The different strands come in the form of three RPG campaigns, a Doctor Who Poetry Book, an idea for a piece of fanfiction about fanfiction, some regular fanfiction from whole slew of different things, and like all things, my own life because I’m a terrible narcissist.
So where would I start? The story you’ll hear the most is that 10,000 Dawns started with an RPG campaign of a dead RPG based on a dead card game. It was a weird start, and a memorable one, but its not the whole story. It was the start of it all though, and the friends who I played in that game with are some of the same people helping to build this world in prose now.
This specific story came about because my good friend Dave Koon created a character named Graelyn Scythes, and I was fascinated by her. She was actually a villain for heroes to thwart, but she was such a complex and well thought out villain I couldn't help trying to figure out why she thought what she thought at every turn. Later, I came up with the idea of Archimedes: a cyborg who is so much a cyborg, other people wonder how human he is. Graelyn was notable for being considered so cold or nasty that many people considered her nearly not human, while Arch looked robotic but his actions were so filled with heart and emotion he earned a lot of admiration. Juxtaposing these two characters lept into my head, and the idea of taking both of them out of the kind of story they would live by themselves, and seeing how they would change each other's lives was just too good to pass up. I started developing the story, and even did a trial run of it in the short story in “An Eloquence of Time and Space” (which is still in continuity, mind you, so if you are desperate for more 10kd go pick it up!). I kept trying to convince myself I didn't desperately want to write this story, because it involved using so many characters my friends had made, and making alternate versions of those characters. Eventually though, I realized I needed to make this, and I wouldn't be satisfied till I did. I'm very glad I followed through on it.
What is the future for 10kd? Do you have any major plans for the story itself or the characters? Will there be a sequel?
Oh, the future is bright boys, girls, and people outside of the gender binary! 10,000 Dawns: Anthology is coming out this summer, which will delve into the stories and history of the world 10,000 Dawns is set in. There are all sorts of people, events, places, and groups that show up in 10,000 Dawns in fleeting moments with huge histories behind them. You'll get to learn about the history of Centro Systems, of Mars, of all the different peoples of the rim, and most importantly of all how the 10,000 Dawns formed in the first place! You didn't think 10,000 Universes just linked up on their own did you? Its going to be a lot of fun, and I'm bringing in lots of other creative writers who are all adding their own flair to the affair. I cannot wait for you guys to see it.
Before that though, there are still a few bonus stories left featuring the adventures of Graelyn, Arch, and Dawn and company, including the three stories from the bonus story contest! So the adventures aren't over yet.
Later this year there is a novel set in the 10,000 Dawns Universe I wrote called “Death and Doubling Cubes” being released as well, which will feature Backgammon Jenny and Chess Mistress Hex, so look out for that!
Oh, and there is already a second Anthology in the works. Shhh! I didn't tell you!
As for a full on sequel to 10,000 Dawns... I'll get back to you! Annie and I have only just finished this one, and I think we'd both like to take a nap and finish the slew of other work we have before either of us even thinks about a sequel.
When you started writing 10kd did you ever think that you’d get so attached to the characters or the story itself?
The answer here might surprise you: no. I didn't. I went into this story with the full knowledge that the characters were alternate reality versions of existing characters, and I thought they'd be fleeting. I was incredibly, and luckily, wrong.
David Bowie has been one of your personal influences since you were young, did he in any way ever influence your writing?
Oh, did he ever. I listened to the Bowie albums “Hours”, “Black Tie, White Noise”, and “The Next Day Extra” over and over while writing 10,000 Dawns, and as you've read many of the songs seeped into the story itself. “God Bless the Girl” holds a special meaning to myself and Graelyn that cannot be separated from this story now.
But his music has been influencing me long before 10kd: while writing my first full length play “Cryptos”, I listened to Bowie's “The Alabama Song EP” on repeat, with the rerecording he did of “Space Oddity” for it helping to shape the mood for the trek into the underworld in the play's second act. David Bowie is my favorite musical artist, and his notes have sunk into more of my writing than I can keep track of.
What are some struggles you’ve come across when writing 10,000 dawns?
The biggest struggle has been the time crunch of trying to get a chapter written, edited, formatted, proof read, and recorded as an audio podcast every single week. As many of you have noticed, the first thing that went out the window if there wasn't time each week was proofreading. I'm well aware the biggest complaint with the story is the number of typos there are, and I can't wait to have to chance to fix them finally when things finally calm down. I apologize that part of the story wasn't up to the quality it should have been. The weekly time schedule meant that I had to write, and had to post, and it was very unforgiving if I got sick (or if Annie got sick). We had to take two hiatuses in the end, just to keep things on track. That we completed this whole endeavor at all is a real triumph for me.
Chapter 22 really says a lot about Graelyn's childhood, and talks about how she had even tried to commit suicide. This really adds to Graelyn's character. In future chapters will we hear anymore about Graelyns past/childhood? Maybe more background about her parents?
Well, now that everyone has had the chance to read the end of the story I think its pretty clear the answer is a resounding “yes”. Graelyn's childhood was difficult to write about, and I know it rings true for many readers... One thing about the 10kd fandom I've noticed is they're very private. I get more private messages and emails than I get comments, and that's okay. When I get a message asking a question about the text, or something as simple as “You know, Graelyn's mom is like my parent was.” it reminds me how important creating fiction is, and what a duty I have as a writer to try to get this stuff right. I know 10kd isn't perfect, but I know its helped a few people, and I'm grateful it could.
As someone who has tried to commit suicide, who has friends who have tried, and friends who have succeeded... It was important for me to show Graelyn's suicide attempt, pull the cover off of it so to speak. I hope in reading Graelyn's story some people come away with what I've learned myself: life can be hell, but it can get better, and you have to be alive to see that better day. So hold in there. Dawn will rise, and the night will end.
10,000 Dawns is definitely not the only thing you’ve ever written, you've written multiple poetry books and plays, as well as released a short story book. What is your greatest accomplishment when it comes to your own writing?
I think the general consensus is that “An Eloquence of Time and Space” is my greatest achievement, and it definitely is in terms of popularity and sales. Its a really good book, and I'm very proud of it, however I think artistically the best thing I've written is my play “Paper Gods”, which is a strange fever dream of theatre that deals with characters holding a revolution against the author of the play (me). Its printed in my book “Cascade” if anyone is curious to read it.
David Bowie has come up a few times throughout the story, the first noticeable time is when Graelyn had a dance off. Due to his passing, do you plan on putting any form of tribute in any of the upcoming chapters?
There was a tribute we already put out called “And a Star Spun Dark” that wasn't planned to be a tribute, it was actually a discarded bonus story for a canceled listening party for the release of “Blackstar” where the 10kd crew was going to post in-character as different people from 10kd as if they were listening to the album together. It would have been fun... But we didn't have time. I thought “I can just reuse the idea for his next album.” Surprise, in the worst way.
We will be having a full scale tribute though, in the form of a real bonus story with art by “Eloquence” artist Olivia Hinkel, so watch for that!
All of the characters that are in this story (10,000 Dawns) have depth and most, you can really connect to. What character are you most proud of?
I know its the answer you'd expect, but its true: Graelyn. She's a very complex, real, person who I feel like I managed to delve deeper into the psyche of than any character I've written before. I felt like writing her was a danger, because in all honesty she is such an easy person to hate. She does lots of selfish and petty things, but in the end she is trying desperately to be a good person, and I believe she is one. I wasn't sure readers would feel the same. That they did makes me very happy, because it means the readers of Graelyn's story have shown her the love and understanding that her family never did. I think she'd be happy about that.
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us!
No, thank you. I appreciate you taking the time to ask these questions. And thank you to the readers, you've really made this experience wonderful.
This guest essay is part of the 10,000 Dawns Finale, which you can find all of and download at this link: http://www.jameswylder.com/home/10000-dawns-the-finale
by Amanda Irwin
Let’s start this essay with a statement, think about the female protagonist in science fiction literature. Think about it. Think about it seriously. What do you think about? Did you think about how few there are? What about female characters in general?
When I think about female characters in Sci-fi, I can’t help but think about how few and far between they are or how limited they are in character complexity. What comes to mind is Leia Organa from Star Wars or all the women that James ‘Jim’ T Kirk has had relations with. For me, I often think about how women are not valued in the science fiction genre, if they’re even there at all.
I was surprised to say the least when I started reading James Wyler’s 10,000 Dawns that the protagonist was female. But not just female, like any protagonist, Graelyn Scythes is so much more complex and intriguing .
The first thing I noticed about Graelyn is that she is not sexualized. Graelyn is described as having black hair pulled into a ponytail and wearing black glasses. That’s it. There is no mention of her body type, weight, or even skin color. It is all left up to the imagination of the reader and that on to itself is refreshing. Unlike Leia, Graelyn doesn’t wear a metal bikini nor does Graelyn get involved in a cliche romance with the “bad boy” in the story. Do I sound pretentious and bitter? Probably. In the Star Wars films, Leia’s most important quality, other than her metal bikini body, is her love story with Han Solo. What is Graelyn’s most important quality in 10,000 Dawns? Her intelligence.
Although Graelyn is emotionally cut off and appears as though she doesn’t care, she is, in fact, very human and cares for a few people. For example, she cares immensely for her cat, Mr. Sprinkles, and feels incredibly sad when she has to give him up in order to go to Atlantis. I wasn’t crying when she gave up Mr. Sprinkles, not at all. But Graelyn doesn’t just care for her cat but also for our favorite metal man, Arch. When she and Arch are thrown into a different universe and are attacked, Graelyn’s fight or flight instincts kick in and she runs only to think of Arch right afterwards. Graelyn’s thoughts keep wondering if Arch is okay and she hopes that he is alive.
Despite Graelyn’s lack of emotion and logical almost robotic thinking it reveals that she has built a shell in order to stop feeling hurt by whatever has happened in her past. It’s not just her past that she tries to hide but also her fears. Graelyn, like many people, fears failure and disappointment of not being able to leave a mark on history.
“I am very scared I will amount to nothing. I am already nine years old and
I have not made any significant scientific breakthroughs. I can already tell
I am a failure.”
-10,000 Dawns, Chapter Nine
It’s not just preventing herself from getting hurt and showing fear but Graelyn, also, doesn’t want to be pushed around. Graelyn wants nothing more than to be respected and admired for her accomplishments and if she has to be cold towards others than so be it. This only adds to her humanity and her desire to not feel emotions.
It becomes very clear that Graelyn internally struggles between expressing her emotions and gaining respect. If she shows emotion, then she’ll be seen as weak. But if she bottles up the emotions then she loses parts of her humanity. There is no win-win in this situation in Graelyn’s mind and seems to be something that she battles with constantly. Does she express emotion and be perceived as weak, or does she lose her humanity in order to gain respect?
We all desire to be respected and admired for our accomplishments. Humans will almost do anything they to gain respect. Some kill others for it, some will only hurt others. Some will become cold towards others and see weakness as failure, much like Graelyn does. In a way, a desire to be respected is a common human quality
Graelyn is a complex character and I feel as though I’ve only scratched the surface of her character. She is very logical but hiding an emotional side, she tries to be aloof but still cares for others, and, the best part, she isn’t sexualized in any way. The real question now is how can I get my Contemporary Gender Issues professor to start reading this story. Any thoughts?
Welcome back to Lil' Doctor Who! This is the second time we've featured this comic here. It was made by Annie Zhu (who does the 10,000 Dawns art, aka Cazdinal) and Saintoswald, and features tiny versions of Clara and the Doctor having adventures! You guys loved the last one, so has a compliment to the new Christmas Episode of Doctor Who (and as a Christmas treat!) Here is a sequel! I hope you guys enjoy! You can find more of Annie's awesome art at: http://cardinalcapalditumblr.com -Jim
(And to note, these comics are rather obviously parodies.)
I really want to share this wonderful comic made by my friend Annie Zhu (aka Cazdinal), and her collaborator Tumblr user Saintoswald with you guys. Annie of course does all of the wonderful art for 10,000 Dawns right on this site, and does a lot of incredible Doctor Who art, so with the finale of Doctor Who series 9 this weekend now is the perfect time. You can find more of her art at her Tumblr page: http://cardinalcapaldi.tumblr.com_. Spoilers: This comic is adorable. -Jim
(And to note, these comics are rather obviously parodies.)
Poet, Playwright, Game Designer, Writer, Freelancer for hire.