Greg Cox is Tied-In
THE MAKING OF A MEDIA TIE-IN WRITER
(AS IF I EVER HAD ANY CHOICE)
A guest-blog by Greg Cox
on sale now
How does one end up writing new stories about other people’s characters? Looking back, it seems as though I was always destined to join the illustrious ranks of the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers (whose charity anthology Turning the Tied I’m proud to be part of). As far back as I can remember I’ve entertained myself by making up all-new stories about my favorite monsters and superheroes and such. It was not enough, apparently, just to enjoy the stories that were already out there. I had to dream up my own adventures and battles and team-ups for the preexisting characters that captured my imagination. Many of these homemade sequels never got further than the inside of my head, but eventually I started scribbling them down on paper.
Among my earliest efforts, now sadly lost to history, were “Good Grief, Monsters!,” an illustrated crossover saga pitting Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang against Dracula, the Wolf Man, the Mummy, and the Frankenstein Monster. And then there was my sixth-grade opus “Frankenstein Meets the Golem,” which so impressed my grade-school teacher that he read it aloud to the entire class, much to my pride and embarrassment.
In short, even as a child, I couldn’t resist “borrowing” fictional characters.
By high school, I was filling spiral notebooks with what would now be called fan fiction. (No not that kind of fanfic, not that there’s anything wrong with that.) I don’t think I knew that term back then, but that was definitely what I was writing by hand in those notebooks, which I never shared with anyone. Most of my stories revolved around the monsters from my favorite 1970s Marvel horror comics: Man-Thing, Werewolf by Night, Morbius the Living Vampire; Lilith, Daughter of Dracula; Son of Satan, and that whole bloodthirsty crowd.
(If you’re noticing a certain ghoulish trend here . . . well, let’s just say it’s not by accident that my contribution to Turning the Tied just happens to be an epilogue of sorts to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Some obsessions never go away.)
It never occurred to me to try to get any of my stories published, let alone make a living at it, until I discovered organized science fiction fandom in college . . . and started meeting working writers and editors in the flesh. It was funny; I had always known, of course, that authors existed, that books and stories didn’t just grow on trees, but it wasn’t until I started encountering writers in person that it dawned on me that, you know, real people actually did this for a living, so maybe I could, too? So how exactly did this work again? How did one go about submitting stories for publication? What could I write that would sell?
No surprise, what worked was doing what I had always done: spinning new tales about my favorite characters – or at least the ones safely in public domain. Among my very first professional sales were a story about Prospero, the courtly wizard from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” (to AMAZING STORIES magazine) and a story in which Jack the Ripper crossed paths with Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet (to MIKE SHAYNE MYSTERY MAGAZINE). That Jack and Sweeney actually lived a century apart somehow escaped my notice back then – hey, foggy old London is foggy old London, right? – but I guess that also slipped past the magazine’s editor, who paid me the princely sum of a penny-and-a-half a word.
And thus was I hooked on the writing biz.
In the years and decades since, I’ve been lucky enough to have the opportunity to write professionally for any number of old and new favorites: Batman, Captain Kirk, Buffy, Xena, the Green Hornet, Zorro, even Frankenstein and Morbius the Living Vampire again. But my brain still works the same way it did when I was a kid. Just last night, after watching an old vampire movie on DVD, I found myself mentally filling in the blanks left open by the movie itself, wondering about the vampire’s past, his future, and the gaps in his history. I was still cogitating over these vital questions even as I brushed my teeth and got ready for bed. I couldn’t help myself.
So how does one end up a tie-in writer? Maybe we’re just born that way.