This post is incredibly introspective and self-absorbed, but at least one of us is finding it interesting. I won’t say the final page of the incomplete, handwritten eighth-grade draft of The Martian Marauders ever deeply fascinated me, but in looking over its three pasted notes I realize how much my personality is reflected in them. The fact that I kept this sheet with the novel means that even though I’d abandoned the book, part of me felt I should finish it. These notes are much like other stern childhood plans I made for stories I thought I should write, though they morphed into dire checklists that actually made me not want to get started on anything.
So we have three notes glued to the last page of the handwritten 1965-66 Martian Marauders. I’ve never looked at them terribly closely, long assuming they were just vague ideas about continuing the action after I stopped writing during Chapter 11. But now I see that the lower left note represents the entire remaining plot, with an estimated final total of 145 pages–down from an originally posited 160. These notes were likely made after writing Chapter 7.
The note at the top left seems to refer to the beginning of Chapter 11, which I did get started on, and “earthquake” and “explode” might be how this chapter was to proceed.
The right note is a draft of the lower left one, which is much neater, in ink, and shows corrections from the draft. In fact it’s a checklist complete with checkboxes showing Chapters 8, 9, and 10 finished. I then began Chapter 11 and stopped at page 110.
I’d begun the novel in high energy; I recall coming home from school on Fall 1965 afternoons to churn out one fun chapter per day, feeling quite disciplined and professional. But I finally did lose interest, as exhibited by an entire page devoted to a space-wasting spaceship countdown from 100 to 0.
Thus the last page notes forecast additional boredom. No wonder I didn’t finish the book in March 1966, and have no memory of how it might have turned out other than these chapter titles and page estimates.
Here’s a mention in a letter to my friend Sabin Russell, March 5, 1966:
“The Martian Marauders” (remember that old thing) is now on page 107. I figure I can waste another 50 pages if I’m lucky. I just finished a part where a guard has just been melted by a electrified cell-door when one of the prisoners (my hero) pulls him into it. It is messy.
So the intrepid Jack Commer and his brother Joe were left to languish in a Venusian prison until I came across the loose notebook pages of the MS. twenty years later, input them into EasyWriter II as my very first word-processing endeavor, and typed out a new Part II in high-energy. I didn’t consider the three sheets of paper from 1966 as anything more than the dreary eighth-grade obligation they were, and so came up with an entirely new ending. But titles for Chapters 11 (The Escape) and 12 (Return to Venus) are echoed in the final version. Of course, the boys have to escape, don’t they? And Jack does have to return to Venus to track the evil Emperor Hergs down in his lair, right?
The 1965-66 manuscript, featuring the doomed spaceship Typhoon I, had also, pretty subtly for an eighth-grader, been setting up the as-yet-unfinished Typhoon II as the eventual replacement for the first ship. Thus the II begged to star in the 1986 conclusion.
I also note with some disgust the fragility of the hideous albeit necessary 1960s brown glue on this page. The righthand note came completely off upon my latest perusal, and I see on the reverse the name “Rod Morgan,” which so far had not been used in the book. Was he to be part of a rescue operation? Now I want to use him in a future novel!
The concept for “Siege of the Earthmen” might have been a ripoff of the Mars Attacks cards of the early ’60s, where human soldiers fly to Mars to thoroughly brain-bash and bayonet the evil ugly Martian monsters who dared screw with Earth.
In 2011, many revisions later, an adult Martian Marauders was published, becoming Book One of the Jack Commer, Supreme Commander series. But the unfinished eighth-grade version has nostalgically made its way into my history of the series, The UR Jack Commer.
copyright 2023 by Michael D. Smith