When I first wrote Red Legacy it was a villain origin story. An origin story cuz I felt like writing an origin story, and that of a villain rather than a hero because hero origin stories are played to death and boring, and villains are awesome and interesting. Back then it was called “Red Menace: Origins.” Marya’s super-villain name was going to be “Red Menace” (cuz she’s Russian. Comic books were always subtle like that :) ), and she was going to glow red (that subtlety thing again). That’s actually the primary reason that the radiophage is bioluminecent and glows red – it’s the thing that was going to give her her super-powers and her red glow.
Warning: the rest of the post contains MAJOR SPOILERS for the story! Turn back now if you plan to read it later and dislike spoilers!
Like, seriously major spoilers.
When Sheila Williams wrote me about the story she said (strongly paraphrased) “I like the story, but the ending is no good. How’s about Marya dies instead?” I was reluctant. I enjoyed the whole pulpy comic-book feel of the story. But it was an origin story for it’s own sake, I was not planning to ever write in this universe again, so I decided to go along with it. Plus – it’s mother-fucking Asimov’s, I’m not going to blow my chance to be published there!
And I discovered something crazy – the ending I had written was complete crap. It added absolutely nothing to the story, and it inserted a HUGE distance between the climax and the denouement. I had gotten married to my premise of an origin story and it had led me into ruin. I hacked it out with abandon. I cut 1000 words and replaced them with a single paragraph. And the story was SO MUCH BETTER I can’t even describe it.
That is what a good editor can do. She sees this big ugly mess, spots this tweak that can fix it, and suddenly – bam! With a simple change that no one had been able to see before it’s transformed into something… well, decent, at least! I am immensely grateful for her help. I couldn’t put a price tag on that sort of thing if I tried. So many thanks to Ms Williams, and to all the amazing editors out there.