This is a strange and tragic story. My college roommate sent me a scene he had written in longhand without any explanation called Quantum Level Zero. We had never, ever talked about writing in college or in the 15 years since. In fact, we were both engineers and tended to discuss geeky stuff like Maxwell’s Equations and tensor metrics in Minkowski Space-Time.
His scene opened with: “Sax, Sax, Sax, Sax,” the crowd chanted, pounding their feet on the metal bleachers of Starview Stadium. The scene continued to total about 10 pages. I didn’t think it was a story because it really didn’t have a beginning, middle, and end, so I asked for the next part. He said there was no more. I told him it was pretty good and I filed it away.
A year later, I was moving overseas and found that scene while packing my household goods, and took it with me. Once I got settled in, I didn’t have much to do so I asked my friend if he wanted to use that scene and write a novel together. He agreed to write the odd chapters if I would write the even chapters. We kicked around some plots, themes, and tropes, and we started writing. I would add a chapter, send him the file and he would add a chapter and send it back.
We had our own characters and a figure 8 plot. Our characters started in their own plot lines, shared a chapter in the middle and then diverged again. The plan was to have them meet up and work together to save the world. However, it took longer and longer to get chapters exchanged until we had a falling out over his latest chapter idea. He told me to finish it and we’ll split the royalties. We haven’t talked much since then.
I put QLZ away for a couple of years, but I couldn’t let it die. I worked on it ten more years, through various critique groups and many rewrites. I purged much of what he did, make it my voice, and my characters. In the end, I had three chapters loosely based on his draft, including the Sax scene. In the end, I got a publisher, my friend and I agreed on a 90-10 split, and we are still not talking much.
I credit my friend, Craig Evans, for the inspiration in that first scene. If he had not sent me that hand-written scene, QLZ would not have been written.
Ted Grosch is an American science fiction the author of the novel Quantum Level Zero and other published short stories. Ted has a Ph.D. and teaches electrical engineering. He has published over 25 works of fiction and non-fiction. He lives in Georgia where he works with wood and trains dogs.
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