Urban fantasy novelist Kelly Meding has sold a superhero novel to Pocket Books, and she tells io9 it's inspired by the New Teen Titans and other tales of "legacy" heroes. Could superhero books be the new urban fantasy?
According to Publishers Marketplace, Meding sold Warden's Trance to Pocket Books in a two-book deal. Here's how PM describes the book:
The first book in a new series in which adult children of the world's slaughtered heroes suddenly regain their lost superpowers after a mysterious, ten-year absence, only to face a fearful public, a leery government, and the villain responsible for the deaths of their parents.
We were intrigued by that description, including the references to second-generation superheroes, so we asked Meding to tell us more.
Do the grown-up children of the superheroes lose their powers in the same incident that kills their parents? Or are the two things unrelated? How do the second-generation superheroes get their powers back?
The power loss occurs during the climax of the Meta Wars - years of bloody battles between the Rangers (the heroes) and the Banes (the villains) that left major cities destroyed and hundreds dead on both sides. Hostilities culminate in Manhattan where the last of the adult Rangers are slaughtered, and twelve adolescents of varying skill are all that's left between the Banes and the rest of the world. And then their powers are stolen. Children and Banes alike are left powerless and at the mercy of the government. The latter are imprisoned, while the former are separated and sent to foster homes.
Fifteen years after the abrupt end of the Meta Wars, the country is beginning to heal and those twelve kids have scratched out very different lives apart from each other—until their lost powers abruptly return. Discovering how they lost and regained their powers is only one of the many mysteries facing these new, untrained heroes as they slowly reassemble at the site of their old headquarters in Los Angeles. They're also being stalked and picked off by a vengeful Bane intent on finishing what he started years ago in Manhattan.
What made you decide to move from paranormal/urban fantasy to superhero books?
Oddly enough, it's the other way around. I wrote WARDEN'S TRANCE a little over a year before I wrote THREE DAYS TO DEAD (my debut urban fantasy), and I queried it with very little success, so I gave urban fantasy a try. Selling WT definitely became a case of timing and of getting the right sets of eyes on the manuscript. The original version of WT is very different from the version Pocket bought, thanks to my agent and several savvy readers, as well as the things I've learned as a writer these last few years. In some ways, hearing this series sold was more thrilling than when TDTD sold, because I've had these characters in my head for half my life.
I've loved superheroes since I was a kid and believed a man could fly (Christopher Reeve will always be my Superman), and had been filling a notebook with ideas since I was in high school. I dug out the notebook one day while searching for a new novel idea and thought, "Why not?" Writing WT was great fun-developing the history of the Metas and the world they live in, working out how a team of heroes might be managed by the federal government, picking the individual abilities of the main characters. You can do so many things with superpowers that you can't necessarily do in urban fantasy (and vice versa).
And were you influenced by some of the recent comics about second-generation superheroes, like Bucky Barnes, Dick Grayson or the JSA?
Funny you should mention Dick Grayson… yes. The first comic series I became obsessed with was The New Teen Titans (Wolfman & Perez). I saw a copy of issue #9 in a box of comics and was confused because I recognized Robin on the cover. I was eleven at the time and had no idea Robin had been part of a team (although truly, most of what I knew of the character was from the "Batman" sitcom from the sixties), so I read it. I loved the characters and the idea that some of them (Wonder Girl, Kid Flash) were the junior partners of their respective heroes, just like Robin. I started buying all of the issues I could find and reading them. A minor obsession followed.
There is definitely an influence from those books - concepts of younger heroes with less experience, learning to find their place in the greater scheme of things. Existing in the shadows of their parents and mentors, trying to live up to expectations. The biggest difference (besides the world-building) is that my heroes aren't second-generation. In this world, Metas have been around for over two hundred years. But because they've killed each other to near-extinction and lost all but a single generation of Rangers, they've practically started over. For the survivors, it's less an examination of the past as it is a contemplation of their future and how they can avoid the mistakes that led their predecessors to the brink of disaster.