I have some exciting news (though if you follow me on twitter this probably won’t come as a surprise) – I’ve been signed up to write an interactive online story for Fiction Express. This is something I can’t wait to get my teeth into – it’s choose your own adventure meets the internet.
Here’s how it works: each chapter I post will have two possible endings, and the readers will decide which path the story takes. So, there’ll be much thinking on my feet required. There’s something exciting (and terrifying) about writing a story whose ending I don’t know. (I usually plan that sort of thing early on.) I do have a number of possible end-points in mind as I write. But, nothing’s certain until the votes have been counted. I can’t wait to start.
Which brings me to the story itself: The School for Supervillains. It’s about a girl called Mandrake DeVille, daughter of two of the most successful – and evil, though perhaps success as a supervillain already implies that superlative – supervillains of all time. She’s currently in training to become a villain in her own right. The story begins with her arriving at St Luthor’s, a school for the supervillains of the future.
The purpose of the school is to wipe out amateurish behavior in supervillains and to learn from the mistakes of supervillains past, in order to turn out the evillest, most world-dominating villains the world has ever had the misfortune to be dominated by. In a bid to increase professionalism in supervillainy, reading this list is an essential part of the curriculum.
But the education is also about making your heart blacker than Blackbeard’s black beard. At St Luthor’s, a single act of kindness will land you in the detention pit, while bullying, lying, cheating, stealing and other acts of villainy are all heartily encouraged. Lessons range from building killer robots, to evil psychology and tactics – how to come up with an evil plan but also how to control your urge to tell the superhero you’ve captured your evil plan before killing him (inevitably followed by his escape and defeat of you).
On paper, Mandrake is the ideal St Luthor’s student. She’s clever, she’s telekinetic, and her parents have worked hard to scar her psychologically so she’ll grow up bitter, angry and with something to prove – a key ingredient in many supervillain origin stories. But, she has one fatal flaw in her supervillain armour – she’s not actually evil. In fact she secretly wants to be a superhero, and to save the world from people like her parents.
So, her struggle will be a) to survive at Supervillain School (pupil deaths are not unheard of, and the class bullies can do more than steal your lunch money – some, for example, can shoot fire out of their eyes) but then also, and more importantly, b) fight her evil destiny and make herself a new, heroic one.
If I could make a plea for help in spreading the word… do tell your teacher friends – initially, the story will only be available to schools who sign up (though ebook rights will be available once it’s finished). So, if you know of any junior schools, or year seven classes who you think would enjoy creating a story with me… do let me know, and I’ll put them in touch with Fiction Express who can explain the ins and outs a bit better.
Here’s the FAQ too: http://schools.fictionexpress.co.uk/en/faq
Right, selling over. Now I want to ramble about supervillains for a bit, and why I wanted to write about them. Though I think this picture says it well:
I’ve always loved superhero comics. DC was my universe as a kid – Superman, Batman… but also The Joker, Catwoman, Lex Luthor. A superhero is nothing without his or her nemesis – the supervillain IS the story, they bring the conflict and the excitement.
But, I also find myself feeling a lot of sympathy for them – perhaps because I grew up in the 80s, when many comics were exploring the dark sides of superheroes… which made me think a lot, too, about the light sides of supervillains. On TV, Smallville’s Lex Luthor, is a great example of a supervillain with a heart of gold (well, some redeeming features). In an otherwise terrible show Lex Luthor, and his relationship with his Joseph Kennedy-like father, draw all the sympathy of the viewer. We also see various moments when he could have chosen to be good instead of evil.
(Side note: on Smallville, this often seems to be the fault of Clarke Kent being cruel to him, which does reflect the original, but lame, idea in the comics that Lex Luthor became evil because Superman… blew all his hair off when they were young.)
I’ve often wondered, at what point in a supervillain’s journey could they have been saved? This is where Mandrake and her fellow pupils at the School for Supervillains come in. If a supervillain knows her destiny as a young person, can she fight it? And, can a school for supervillains teach the good out of someone like Mandrake? Look forward to finding out…