How Freefoot was written

It was while I was attending SciCon, in Virginia Beach in 1982 or ‘83, that Robert Lynn Aspirin asked me, “What are you doing Sunday morning?” I said I wasn’t doing anything, and he replied, “Wrong. You’re attending a meeting with me and Richard and Wendi Pini.”

I don’t remember everybody who was there, but they included C J Cherryh, Lynn Abbey, Nancy Springer, and some others. I was the most junior writer, but I was chosen to participate in Blood of Ten Chiefs, a projected series of six volumes of stories about the chiefs before Cutter, the eleventh chief, and the central character in the Elfquest series.

Some time later, each of us who were writing the stories got a packet of information about all ten chiefs. Each chief had a page or so of biography, a character study, some description, and so on. I was given Freefoot, and my info sheet had only his name. That’s all. Just a name.

I didn’t have much experience as a writer then — a couple books, a couple short stories, come computer articles — and I had been handed a blank slate. I had read all the comics, so I knew that much about Wolfriders, but how was I to write connected stories about someone whom even the creators of Elfquest, apparently, knew nothing?

The histories of kings and queens and other rulers are shortest for those who had short reigns — Lady Jane Gray, for example. Though there’s more about her life otherwise, the history of her nine days as queen has very little to tell. Or perhaps nothing noteworthy happened in other short histories. So, was Freefoot’s biography so brief (just his name) because his life was similarly short? Or was it short because there was nothing much happened during his time as chief? If that were the case, maybe it was a peaceful time, with no human conflicts, no trolls to fight, no high ones to deal with. A golden age, as it were. The Wolfriders had come to this part of their world, and later left it, but while they were there, they lead peaceful, ordinary lives, doing ordinary things, dealing with ordinary problems. Nothing happened that would get them into history books or legends.

That appealed to me. I could do whatever I wanted, without having to worry about the outside influences that the other writers would be burdened with. I did some research on wolves, drew a map of an area large enough to support the elf-wolf population, created a bunch of characters, and started off with some youths on their first hunt without adult supervision.

We eventually wrote stories for six volumes (not all the writers chosen for volume one had stories in all the others), but the sixth volume, though completed and paid for, was not published. We never understood why.

I had thought that my sixth story was the most important, so after what seemed like enough years, I asked Richard Pini if I could collect all my Elfquest stories into one volume. After some discussion, I was given permission. I did some minor editing to the published stories, but the one that hadn’t made it into print was a mess, almost undreadable. It was still the most important, but the writing and organization was some of my worst. In a way, I was glad it hadn’t been published. But now I had a chance to fix things, so I took the time necessary (a lot of time) to rewrite, revise, and get it right. It’s still the same story.

I arranged the stories in chronological order, not publication order. I created the cover myself, so you can’t blame anybody else, and I’ll never do that again. I designed the book, did the layout, and published it myself, but without the Ogden House imprint. Sometimes I get to autograph a copy.