Categorizing this novel is a bit tough for me, but of all the stories I've written, I think this one is closet to my heart - not because I've lived through anything like what Scott survived, but because it allowed me to explore some things I've wanted to explore, and meet some challenges. It's a dark story, but it's not a tragedy by any means - quite the opposite. Some might want to characterize it as 'hurt-comfort,' yet in my experience, hurt-comfort is typically romance where trama of some sort becomes the means to bring two characters together. Sometimes it's well-used, sometimes it's very poorly used, but Special isn't a romance. It's a coming-of-age story about fathers and sons, a story of healing. Scott's trauma isn't a means to anything; it IS the story. And while yes, Jean's in it, and yes, Scott and Jean do wind up together, that's just part of the larger healing process, and Jean takes a backseat in this tale to Charles Xavier - who's the real secondary protagonist. Special is far more a story about Scott and Xavier than Scott and Jean. But most of all, it's a story about Scott.
The Scott of Special emerged of a piece. Sometimes there's not a clear linear direction for how you reach a characterization. In retrospect, it was a collection of observations that suddenly GELLED. In the film, Marsden played Cyclops with a certain . . . cockiness, an edge of 'flip' that I'm not sure even he realizes. I once had the chance to ask him how he saw Cyclops, what his perceptions of the character were, and from his answer, it seemed clear that he thinks of Cyke as the boy-scout who toes the line, so I suspect that cockiness is more Marsden leaking through than an intentional choice. Nonetheless, it's one of the more interesting aspects of the film character, contributing complexity to what would otherwise be an unbearably 2D tertiary character. Add to that the way Scott dressed in the film - a choice of the wardrobe department, I realize, but in the 'reality' of the film world, it was curious. He was always covered up, even when other characters weren't and one might have expected him to be hot in all those clothes. It was as if he didn't want to show his body, and the choice of staid clothing style was notable, as well (and in X2, it's even worse). The way he moved combined ease and discomfort, as if he weren't entirely sure of his body. He switched back and forth between a fluidity that was almost sauntering, then a brittleness that seemed doll-like. Again, I think this is more of Marsden the person leaking into a character with which he's not yet entirely comfortable, but as a writer, I could USE that - and did. The whole package is of someone who wants to appear to be something he isn't . . . his movements and demeanor don't quite match up. In Accidental I took that in one direction, as the popular boy who grew into someone else. But in Special, I used his comic background to create something quite different.
Scott's personality in the comics has all the hallmarks of an abused child, and I wanted to explore that. Simplifying hugely, there are two basic ways for such kids to develop. One is to believe they really are 'bad' and become the 'problem' child (did you know that, in Florida at least, 98% of inmates arrested for violent crimes were abused children?). But the other way these kids develop is to try to prove they're NOT bad by struggling to become 'good enough.' There's a constant need to please, measure up, shoulder responsibility, tow the line . . . sound familiar? And under it all, a sense of insecurity. I've always been struck by the dual nature of Scott's personality. There's Cyclops, and then there's Scott Summers, and they're rather different people. Cyclops is a natural leader, but Scott is very insecure. In the comics, Scott's origin has varied from no time on the street to being used by Jack Winters (Jack O'Diamonds) for cons and theft. [Like many of the older comic characters, after 40 years and multiple writers, the canon is sometimes mutually contradictory.] None of it was as dark as what I gave him, but the comics did have to abide by the comic code. The closest background to Special was a mini released in the late '90s called "Children of the Atom," but even that could only skirt reality, and it wasn't a particularly good series anyway. Yet there is this recurring theme that Scott's foster years weren't a pretty picture, and combined with his comics personality, I thought it all pointed to some real trauma.
For Scott's situation in Special, I wanted to blend his time since the plane accident with a basically healthy childhood from before. So while he may be deeply wounded, the core of his personality, formed in his earliest years, is stable. This is important, because it means he did learn both trust and self-sufficiency at the right points in his developmental process. If those had been interrupted, then his healing process would have become much more complex. I wanted to give him something inside to reach for. My Live Journal contains an entry with a more complete discussion of the use (and abuse) of trauma in fanfic. I can't post a link here (FF-net won't accept external links in uploaded stories/files), but you can find it in my FF-net profile, along with the (very kind) review by Eric Burns of WebSnark.
So that's my basic thought process for the Scott of Special. In addition to the themes of hope and recovery and rebirth, I'm also playing with themes of 'actual' and 'apparent,' the self one is versus the self others expect, and the tension between individual personality and social class. None of the characters in Special are quite what one would expect, even while they're shaped by their environments.
Special: the Genesis of Cyclops provides the background-origin used for the characters in my post-X2 novel, Grail (just as An Accidental Interception of Fate provided it for Climb the Wind). So if you liked Special and want to know 'what happened next' (more or less), then I'd direct you to Grail, which also - somewhat ironically - rescued me mentally from the Big Pile of Fail that was X3. I suppose you can call it my version of X3. For the curious, were Special to be rendered into print, it would yield a novel of roughly 400 pages.
A number of folks have helped me out during the writing of Special, each acknowledged in the individual notes for each story. But here at the end, as always, I'd like to thank Naomi for her patience at editing. I'd also like to thank Lesani, who read and commented on probably 2/3rds of these entries before they ever saw the light of day. Although I do, myself, have a clinical background, and although I'd read plenty of books on healing from sexual abuse (both before this and in preparing for writing this), my own area of clinical training and experience is in bereavement counseling. Yet every area of counseling develops its own unique quirks, insights, rhythms and recognitions, so I turned to Lesani for additional advice and critique, since her area of study and clinical experience is in the field of sexual abuse therapy. These stories would have been far less without her generous assistance (including several emails and even a few telephone conversations).