The Story Behind The Staff of Rahgorra by Mark Oetjens

Where do story ideas come from? In the case of The Staff of Rahgorra the initial spark came from an episode of the TV series Amazing Stories. Ever since my parents took me to see the original Star Wars when I was six I’ve been a science fiction junkie—a sci fi movie and TV junkie, that is. (As a child I hated reading.) Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, if it was science fiction, especially sci fi that explored aliens and other worlds, I watched it.

In the late 1980s as I walked home from high school on a chilly and overcast fall afternoon I considered taking the premise of this particular episode of Amazing Stories to the next level. Over the next few months I developed a story around this premise. Before I knew it the story had taken over and the premise that started the whole process was somehow disregarded. Now, I’m not going to reveal exactly which episode of Amazing Stories I’m referring to, or the premise, because one day I might like to return to it. That being said, I thought that the story I had developed would make a good movie. The thought of writing a book never even entered my mind.

My first year of college I picked up a book on screenplay writing at the campus bookstore. It didn’t take me long to realize that my would-be screenplay had no third act. So I set about developing one. That third act turned out to be the last two-thirds of The Staff of Rahgorra.

It was about the same time that it hit me that the chances of actually selling my screenplay and then actually having it made into a movie were somewhere between slim and not a snowball’s chance in hell. Still I debated for a long time on which avenue to pursue, screenplay or novel. Obviously, novel won out. Now all I had to do was write it, or so I thought.

I was in grad school, bored one night and perusing the local bookstore when I came across a copy of Shogun. The book inspired me. I developed new characters, a new sub-plot and an ending that I didn’t know I was looking for. Finally, I had the complete story. But it would take another ten years and a brain tumor to write The Staff of Rahgorra.

Mark Oetjens was born in 1971. He grew up in suburban Chicago. As a child he was diagnosed with Dystonia, a debilitating neuromuscular disorder. Though there is no cure for Dystonia, surgeries and rehabilitation allowed him to walk with only a slight limp by the time he started high school. He received a B.A. in English and an M.A. in Anthropology, both from Northern Illinois University. As an adult a brain tumor, completely unrelated to his Dystonia, threatened to disable him a second time. Thanks to radiation therapy the tumor has disappeared.  Mark currently lives in Phoenix, AZ.

Mark’s latest book is the science fiction novel, The Staff of Rahgorra.

You can visit his website at


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