Warp Angel

A Less than Complete History of Warp Angel

by Stuart Hopen

Stuart Hopen, 1995

Although I loved novels, short stories, and plays, my medium of first choice as a writer was the comic book. By the '80s I was starting to enjoy some modest success in the industry. I'd already been published by D.C. I had one sale to Marvel, and a number of publishers were seriously considering Delta-Wave, an original super hero series. Eclipse had accepted a one-shot graphic novel, titled Xyr. Daemon Mask, from Amazing Comics, sold 25,000 copies.
     But my most ambitious project at the time was an epic graphic novel that had been accepted by Fantagraphics Books. Publisher Gary Groth had called it "the best thing to cross his desk in God knows how long."
     The first issue appeared in 1987 under the title The Wandering Stars. The artist, Sam Kieth, already had won recognition for his fine inking, but he had never done complete art chores on a full length book before. Later he would later achieve fame as the co-creater of Sandman, and the creator of the Maxx.

Kieth took a very long time to finish the first issue, and the results were spectacular. In a way, they were too good. Sam Kieth quit after the first issue, after laying groundwork so unique and meticulous, no one else could build upon it. The title was cancelled.
     An appropriate epitaph for the series appears in the form of an ad on Atomic Avenue's website: "Projected science-fiction series that never had the chance to reach the audience it deserved... Written by Stuart Hooper (sic) and drawn by Sam Kieth, it's a promising debut but was never finished, and on its own it can't really be considered more than a curiosity."

The cancellation of The Wandering Stars was the final culmination of a long series of frustrations with the comic book industry.
     I thought it would be easy to turn my epic into a novel. I had detailed outlines for plot, characters, themes, and world building. But by this point in my life, I also had a demanding full-time legal career and a family with three very young children. The novelization took over three years to complete. There were many nights I found myself struggling to stay awake long enough to finish a chapter or a scene, eventually nodding off, pencil and pad in hand.
     The first draft of the novel faithfully followed the plot outline for the comic book series. It weighed in at a hefty 160,000 words. Tor Books rejected that version of the book, saying, "... the book starts out like Jack Vance and turns into Dostoevsky. This is admirably ambitious, but it does make for a harder sell."
     I cut 70,000 words out of the novel, and lightened some of the Dostoevskyesque overtones. Tor accepted the shorter version.
     The Tor edition was published in hard cover in 1995. A paperback edition followed in 1996.

The reviews were good:
The Tor edition of Warp Angel Jacket art by Gary Ruddell
Jacket design by Carol Russo
  • "A non-stop ride through a faster than light funhouse." -- Eluki Bes-Shahar
  • "a swift moving imaginative debut..." -- Kirkus
  • "Combining elements of space opera, action adventure, and hard sf, this tightly crafted story of revenge and redemption is a good choice for large libraries." -- Library Journal
  • "Hopen skillfully combines elements of space opera, cleverly drawn battle scenes, and metaphysical speculations on the power of faith -- all without pausing a single step in a storyline of unrelenting action." -- Booklist
  • "...the book can be enjoyed for its philosophy or its physics, or even its great physical descriptions...." -- Locus
  • "Warp Angel is continually surprising; Hopen's imagination is staggering. This is a book most people will enjoy, and no one can ignore." -- Shariann N. Lewitt
  • "A crazy space opera with a serious core." -- Wilhelmina Baird
  • "...a tour-de-force... At every turn there are new wonders, fresh imagination and enough action to please the most pulpish reader. Hopen reveals himself to be a subtle and impressive thinker, as well as an inventive and enjoyable yarn spinner." -- The St. Louis Post-Dispatch
  • "A gonzo ride through the assorted planets of a baroque solar system... filled with well realized exotic characters and crazed cultural details... It's easy to imagine [Hopen] evolving into a major talent. It's just as easy to imagine him burning out." -- Norman Spinrad

Stuart Hopen, 2013

     The reviews for Warp Angel were good, but the sales were not. There were problems with the book's ending. I had never quite recovered from the amputation of 70,000 words, and left an ungainly tail stump. I didn't figure out how to end Warp Angel the right way until 18 years later.
     The book is unapologetically quirky, defiant of category and convention. Admirably ambitious, but it makes for a harder sell. It is also a book that looks like it will be fun, but there are many dark corners in this faster than light funhouse that are not fun at all. Vance and Dostoevsky. Lawrence Watt-Evans is right. I read too many Russian novels.
     Tor let the book go out of print after the paperback edition, and I let the property languish for years. I was preoccupied with my legal career and my family. Various writing projects filled up what passed for my spare time.
     With the reissue of Warp Angel by the Misenchanted Press, the novel has a new beginning. It also has a new ending. Perhaps in this latest incarnation, it will have a better life.