Author's Introduction: It's rare that I find myself inspired enough by another online story on the Net to want to actually try to improve on it. That happened to me awhile back when I read Roman Genesis' intriguing novel, On Earth As It Is in Heaven (available from http://www.iuniverse.com, ISBN #0-595-19103-7). Roman's story was a relatively straightforward one, where a high school football player falls head-over-heels in love with a smaller boy at school, only to discover that the kid has psychological problems so profound, it plunges the story to a fairly shocking conclusion.
It's not so much that I felt like the story didn't do what the author wanted — far from it. But for me, the concept didn't go far enough, nor did it explore every potential aspect of this kind of situation.
So I started thinking about a new story that used a similar basic situation as a springboard, but with several major twists: What kind of pressures affect high school athletes today? What if a high school athlete got into a relationship that threatens to unravel his entire life? How far would a popular teenager go to hold on to his reputation — with his parents, his friends, and his school — to retain a straight-appearing identity? I added many other radical changes, but I'll hold off until the end to let them reveal themselves to the reader as the story progresses.
I also wanted to acknowledge up-front three other influences: Stephen King's "Apt Pupil" (one of several novellas from his fine 1982 collection Different Seasons), which also deals with the difficult problem of a high school student who becomes a murderer; Maxwell Anderson & William March's shocking novel (also a hit Broadway play and a classic 1956 film) The Bad Seed, which presents the idea of an apparently-innocent 10 year-old girl who just so happens to be a budding serial killer; and Mark Roeder's book Someone Is Watching (iUniverse.com; ISBN: 158348616X), which also sparked the idea of a gay high-school athlete who's being blackmailed. While this story has elements of all three, believe me, Jagged Angel is a drastically different tale, with enough twists and surprises that I hope will keep everyone entertained.
Special thanks to Keith Mystery, JFinn, and Luz Rojo and for behind-the-scenes consulting and input. I recommend all of their stories (on Nifty and ASSGM) very highly: Keith's And the Other Friends and JFinn's Human Condition are particularly good, as is Luz' Teen Baby. Keith and Luz were particularly instrumental in helping me solve innumerable plot- and character-related problems. Thanks also to Sean M. of the GWG and also to Rob O., who both helped with some editorial decisions, to Phil for legal and psychiatric background information, to Brian J. and Walte for background football details, and to Mark Roeder for providing input when it was needed. Rick B., Ehmann Penn, Mac, Richard L., and Nick Archer also helped shape the manuscript during its early gestation, and CW helped the story make the transition to HTML. And my devotion as always to Roddy, without whom I probably couldn't make it through the day.
Finally, my thanks go to the many hundreds of online readers who were kind enough to send in positive feedback on my first piece of fiction, Groovy Kind of Love (on the Archerland.net website, as well as Nifty.com, ASSGM.com, and GWG.org). Like that story, this one also deals with a gay teenage romantic theme with occasional melodramatic and sexual situations. The usual restrictions apply: please read no further if this type of story isn't to your tastes, or if you're under legal age. The entire contents are ©2003 by John Francis; all rights reserved. Other copyrights can be found immediately following the final chapter. This story may not be reprinted anywhere without my express written consent. And by all means, please send along your comments to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
26 January 2003