Review – A Long, Long Time Ago
A Long, Long Time Ago always had a great expectations quality to it. Since I enjoyed working on and fleshing out Richard Daniels, one of many canon Star Trek: Enterprise characters who didn’t even have a first name, I decided to give him some depth. I first brought him into my fanfiction in Temper, and I liked him so much that I decided he should really have his own series. Hence I named that series Times of the HG Wells, after his new time ship.
Origins and Originality
And at the same time, though, I already had a time travel series in draft form. However, that set of stories actually revolved around a few disparate pieces.
Yet the thrust of it was that time travel had just started, and it was messy and it had, perhaps, destroyed the universe (it was all original although I admit some difficulty in staying away from technology and other items a little too close to Trek to be coincidental). All except for a small isolated place that was outside of time. In that set of stories, time travelers were grabbed from history itself, depending on not only their skill sets but also whether they could be plucked from wherever they were without destroying the timeline (the idea of plucking people out of thin air and just dropping them somewhere shows up in The Puzzle). These stories all had interwoven lyrics from songs about time (the first one was the Rolling Stones‘ Time is on My Side).
Mining the Older Stories
The older set of stories contained some characters who end up in the HG Wells series. And the time travelers include hipster HD Avery (originally grabbed from 1966), and Sheilagh Bernstein (initially plucked from the present time; when I was writing those older stories, that was the late 1990s). I also included Marisol Castillo (she came from Moorish Spain and did not have a surname, so I added Castillo as she was from Castile) and Gregory Shaw (only mentioned briefly in the HG Wells series; he came from the 1840s). Furthermore, I added Thomas Grant (originally a Confederate soldier from the Battle of Shiloh) and Polly Porter (originally from our future). And finally, I added Alice Trent (only a few small mentions in the HG Wells series; from the 1700s) and Daniel Beauchaine (a soldier in the French and Indian War).
Background people also came from the older series, including Kevin O’Connor (the Chief Engineer; in the original set of stories he was not part-alien but he did have a deceased wife, Josie, just as that character does in the HG Wells series) and Otra (the alien who could see temporal alternatives). I also added Crystal Sherwood (the Quartermaster was originally a historian) and Levi Cavendish (in the older set of stories, he was the project lead and dating Otra. In the HG Wells series, he became a brilliant but difficult engineer with ADHD and a bunch of other neurological issues).
Milena Chelenska was always a doctor; in the first series, she was also a time traveler. In the HG Wells series, she’s Richard’s love interest. However, in both instances, she’s a concentration camp survivor, from the year 1968. Helen Walker also existed, but she was Tom’s ex; it wasn’t until the HG Wells series that she became something else.
In addition, some people from that older series never made it to the HG Wells series but who ended up elsewhere in my fan fiction – Lakeisha Warren (she was a person who worked on plucking people from history; she actually shows up in the Wesley Crusher story, Imprecision as his love interest) and Leonora Digiorno (first called Leonora with no last name, she was a plague survivor plucked from the Dark Ages and given the surname of Wilson to honor her late Uncle William).
Furthermore, I had ideas for various stories which were then made into books. The concept of a failed Italian vacation in 1960, and the shooting at Kent State in 1970, already existed in draft form. And the mission to ensure Prague Spring’s end in 1968 also existed, as did a very, very rough idea of a mission to ensure the destruction of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986.
Because so much of the bones of the series already existed, I could easily chart out the main story arcs for the series. However, I had to get it going, and I already had this story in draft form, tentatively titling it The Day the Music Lived.
And so A Long, Long Time Ago was born.
The story opens with Richard and his girlfriend, Tina April (who he meets in Temper). Things are starting to go sour and the bloom is off the rose. Rick is too secretive, and Tina wants him to get closer to her. But he just can’t tell her too much. Making matters worse for her is the fact that he is so inured to pain that he is virtually incapable of loving her or anyone else. And he likes it that way.
He gets a call to head to the Temporal Integrity Commission, which is conducting group interviews for some new positions. Rick is not a part of the interviewing. Rather, he’s called in because there’s been a hiccup in time, and he’s got to go fix it. And, as the job candidates are sent home, one of their shuttles crashes, and there’s a fatality. And we’re off to the races.
There are real people in the story. Of course, the three doomed musicians loom large. All dialogue is created by me, as is JP being a horndog. The other real people are Waylon Jennings, who played guitar on the tour, and Bob Hale, a local disc jockey who reportedly drove the three musicians to the small airfield in Clear Lake. Of course there’s no evidence of anyone going along on the ride – that part’s all me. Everyone comes across pretty well, except for JP being a bit of a lecher.
In order to get the series off with a bang, I needed to set the scene. The idea of using music is not a new one (I did it with Crackerjack, for starters). And the music evoked not only the time and place but also a lot about the people involved. The first mission is about music; it’s to February third of 1959, known as the day the music died. E. g. it’s the date that the plane carrying the Big Bopper (JP Richardson), Ritchie Valens (Ricky Ricardo Valenzuela) and Buddy Holly (Charles Holley) crashed in a field in Clear Lake, Iowa.
- Don McLean’s American Pie – the song not only fits the scenario perfectly, it also helps to kick off the series. From its first words (which are the title of this story and also evoke the significant differential in time between the event and Richard’s life in the deep future) to its lyrics about the sixties and its turmoil, there was no other way to start this series.
- Frankie Ford’s Sea Cruise – I liked the song not only for the time period but also because it would be a very real concern for artists. The song (for real) was originally recorded by Huey “Piano” Smith but was dubbed over by Ford, who had a more energetic vocal. Valens is told, during the story, to be sure to get credit and to watch the moneymen, to assure that he doesn’t lose his rights.
The Music of the Dead
- Ritchie Valens’ Donna – Whenever I spin out these stories, I also place a link to an era-appropriate song. And all three of the performers have multiple songs listed (e. g. Holly’s Rave On! and the Bopper’s Big Bopper’s Wedding also made the cut), but only Valens gets his lyrics interwoven with the story line.
- Patsy Cline’s Walkin’ After Midnight – This song is not only date-appropriate but it can also impart a country air. Furthermore, it is the kind of music that Waylon Jennings might want to play and sing along with. Cline was better known for Crazy, but I love this one, plus it’s got a good guitar accompaniment.
- Bobby Darin’s Mack the Knife – This song a little less poppy and a little more mature-sounding. Mack the Knife is a pretty odd song anyway, and it speaks of death – the same pall that hangs over the story.
Furthermore, the tastes of the time varied, and you could conceivably hear all of these songs (except for McLean’s, of course) played on AM Radio during the same hour.
- The Skyliners’ Since I Don’t Have You – for the ending, I wanted a bittersweet love song, the kind of song that people play when they’re lonely.
- A Long, Long Time Ago on Ad Astra
- and A Long, Long Time Ago on Fanfiction.net
- A Long, Long Time Ago on Wattpad
- A Long, Long Time Ago in Times of the HG Wells context
The story is rated K+.
So for a series opener in particular, I think the story works well. And I like how it kicks things off. Because this is a rather different series from In Between Days, and so not everything can be mined for more stories like that one. Still, the beginning feels auspicious to me.