My Unwritten Classics

open book, blank pages

MY Great American Novel

Here’s to the intrepid souls engaged in National Novel Writing Month — I’m not doing that.

No, I will not be writing a 50,000 rough draft novel in the 30 days of November. I did that once, although I actually wrote my draft novel (South by So What? “an ancient Austin adventure”) in April, another 30-day month. I started another project one November, but abandoned that one before I even made it halfway through.

Instead, let me offer you these three story ideas that have been dancing through my imagination for, well, let’s just say a l-o-n-g time — from the late 70s and early 80s for these “unwritten classics.”


“Write about us,” my dear, dead friend, Duane, suggested.

I originally envisioned this piece, which I had already started by the time Duane suggested, as a semi-autobiographical fiction, drawing heavily from anecdotes from my own life.. All along, I saw the story unfolding in 3 distinct segments:

Chasing the Rainbow — Full of joy and the promise of youth, this section centers on my college  days with scenes culled from the Thistle Eternity House for Run-Amucks, Nothing Strikes Back and the Saturday Morning Fun Club — specifically the audience sing-along to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” that time we got the first  — and only the first! — reel of the Wizard of Oz. My first round of post-college meanderings came next, including my summer in Aspen, side-journey to Banff, and seeing the Who & the Dead together. The anecdotes will be mostly true with some details changed to protect the innocence of the story. Here, it’s all fun & games — until someone dies.

Racing the Sunset — A harsh new awareness of mortality leads frantic efforts to both enjoy life immensely and settle down, two goals inherently at odds with each other. After another quick round of travels to see far-fling friends, I got a job, fell in love, and settled down in Austin. A year later, I lost the job, I lost the girl, and I lost direction, wandering away from Austin again, mostly just around Texas, still looking to settle down somewhere. About the time I seem to have settled down, another sudden death shakes my world.

Dancing on the Other Side — So now I am deep into dealing with death, again and again, whether it is a friend’s, an older family member or a beloved child. Amidst the depths of the pain, I somehow found the acceptance that frees me to enjoy life fully aware of our mortality. Not too many details on this one, as I am still living it out before trying to write it up.

Does this one sound heavy? It’s actually intended to be chock full of hilarious anecdotes and stories, rudely interrupted repeatedly by tragedy. The times I have tried to write this one, it always starts with real-life anecdotes. I may yet return to this one day, but I will more likely re-write the 3 phases as fantasy, looking to remove individuals that currently inhabit many of the tales. Anybody up for becoming an amalgam?


A sci-fi thriller about an early commercial mining expedition to an asteroid. As small problems snowball into a series of sinister disasters, echoes of a legendary earthbound exploration effort similarly plagued by mysterious deaths arise.

A small crew heads for an asteroid identified as promising large amounts of rare elements in high demand back on earth. The risks on this expedition are high but the potential rewards much higher. By now, lunar mining has become standard practice but dealing with an asteroid requires much greater technical skill and advanced rocketry technology.

The crew is a motley mix, from the pilot/commander to the chief scientist to the roughnecks responsible for the most dangerous elements of the task ahead.

A death occurs, then another. In a small crew of a dozen, this causes immediate problems — and raises suspicions. It also raises specters of a legendary, globe-spanning exploratory line run ‘round the globe, the so-called “Demon Line,” that was likewise plagued by mysterious deaths. While many of those deaths were eventually traced to an elite set of ecological warriors assassinating the crews, there were dozens of other incidents confounding the whole project that could not be so easily dismissed.

“I tell you,” one of the space rough necks says, “We found another haunted ‘Demon Line’ and we’ll be lucky if any of us make it home alive.”


A historical extrapolation, taking known historical characters and events and weaving them together into an alternate branch of history.

The year is 1859. Along the Rio Grande, the international border between Mexico and the United Sates, tensions involving Anglo oppression of Mexicans living or trading in the U.S. boil over with the Sept. 28 invasion and occupation of Brownsville, Texas by “Cheno” Cortina. He leads an armed band of angry Mexicans seeking vengeance against a short list of oppressors, starting starts the Cortina Wars, a series of small battles and skirmishes fought between Cortina’s soldiers and local Anglo forces and eventually, the Texas Rangers.

That much is history. The extrapolation comes from another established event: the border troubles triggered an attempt by Sam Houston to recruit Robert E. Lee (still in the U.S. Army and stationed in San Antonio) to invade Mexico and establish a U.S. protectorate. By this means, Houston intended to unite the country behind a new military victory and national expansion, heal the sectional division engendered by slavery, and gain enough personal fame to propel him to the one office he still desired but had never held, the Presidency of United States of America.

This, too, is established fact. Houston wrote the letter. Lee turned down the request. Houston never invaded.

But what if he had?

This story was to take another angle in retelling these events as a fanciful fiction of invasion and reconciliation, along with a romance in there as well. The Big Characters — Houston, Cortina, and Lee — would mostly be seen as off-screen influences and presences. I still toy with the idea of turning this fantasy into a story. Not so far, though. Maybe later.

Which one of these 3 stories would you want to read first?

About bullersbackporch

I am a native Austinite, a high-tech Luddite, lover of music, movies and stories and a born trainer-explainer.
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