Greetings, Loyal Readers!
It was in the fall of 1987 that I began writing in earnest what would become my first book, Jason Cosmo. I finished the manuscript in early 1988 and mailed it off to an editor at NAL. I’ll tell more of that story next year. For today, I want to share some nuggets about the early drafts of Jason Cosmo.
SPOILER ALERT: Well, mild spoiler alert. If you haven’t read the first chapter of Jason Cosmo, or its later revision as Hero Wanted, this post will spoil Chapter 1. You’ve been warned!
Fall of 1987 was not the origin of Jason Cosmo as a character, but it was the beginning of the version of Jason known to readers of the books. The original Jason Cosmo was the hero of several hundred short handwritten episodes – most of them consisting of two or three pages of lined notebook paper – that I wrote through middle school and high school and passed around to my friends. Literally, hand-crafted artisanal fiction. Few have ever read those tales of Jason Cosmo the wandering mercenary – and few ever will.
Fall of 1987 was also not my first attempt at writing a Jason Cosmo novel. Earlier in that year, I wrote several versions of chapter one of a different incarnation of Jason Cosmo as a former captain of the royal guard called back into service for an important mission to save the kingdom. He was something of a Sam Spade with a sword. But I couldn’t quite make it work and filed all those pages away to start over.
That brings us to the Jason Cosmo known to Loyal Reader today. Or at least to a few rough starts. Yesterday I dug out of the Story Vault three early drafts of the first chapters of Jason Cosmo.
As Loyal Readers will recall, in chapter one we meet humble woodcutter Jason Cosmo, who is enjoying a night out at the Festering Wart Tavern with his neighbors in the village of Lower Hicksnittle. The bounty hunter Lombardo of Calador arrives and accuses Jason of being a wanted man with a ten million crown price on his head. Jason overcomes Lombardo and his man Guido, only to be run out of town by the suspicious Hicksnittlers.
The first draft unfolds pretty much the same. Except the local tavern is the Jolly Ox. The price on Jason’s head is a mere five million crowns. He is only able to defeat his two foes with a timely assist from Brion the scullion, who emerges from the kitchen to whack Lombardo over the head, stunning him long enough for Jason to get the upper hand. Lombardo then apologizes for the misunderstanding and Jason sets out on the road to solve the mystery of the price on his head and spare his neighbors from further intrusions by bounty hunters.
It was fun to revisit my first draft. I had forgotten most of these details. This is why we revise! I think Festering Wart is much more evocative than Jolly Ox, and sneering Lombardo a better character than apologetic Lombardo. Doubling the bounty was a good move too.
And poor Brion. He obviously looked up to Jason and only wanted to help. Yet for his efforts he got written out of the story. An epic hero must win his own battles, alas! Jason went on to glory, while Brion was forgotten in a folder in a box somewhere in the back of a closet. But now that I remember Brion, maybe I’ll find a part for him in a future Jason Cosmo epic!