(The estimated reading time for this is 5 minutes)
“Going Rogue” © 2014 by Greg F. Gifune. All Rights Reserved.
Not all novels have a relevant backstory. Rogue does. The novel is loosely based on a short story I wrote several years ago. Entitled “Runaway,” the story was originally published in 1999 in Issue #3 of Deadbolt, a terrific horror fiction magazine out at that time published by Jim Lay. Jim was one of the first champions of my work early in my career when I was exclusively writing short stories (I had not yet begun to write novels), and for that, I will always be grateful to him. When the story was published, it was well received, but even then I believed that conceptually, it could one day make an even better novel. Some concepts lend themselves better to short fiction, some to longer, and every now and then one works in both areas. The latter was the case with what would become Rogue, so years later, when I had the chance to do it, I finally took the plunge and turned the concept of “Runaway” into the novel Rogue.
The concept began with a simple idea. At its core, the story is about isolation, truth and self, good and evil, and how rebellion can lead to a better understanding of all five. Being very rebellious in my youth (and although it’s been tempered by age and time, even today somewhat), I was intimately familiar with rebellion in its many forms and uses, as it had impacted my life tremendously over the years in ways both good and bad. And while rebellion is often depicted as a negative thing, experience has taught me that it has a good side as well, a productive side that not only has the power to change one’s life, but to help one develop critical thinking skills, define who one is, what one believes in and what one is willing to do to be true to those constructs. Rebellion, while often considered selfish and arrogant (and it can be those things when used in a narcissistic way), is, at its best and when implemented in its purest form, the epitome of sacrifice, self-reflection, and enlightenment. It is a means to finding truth, even when those truths may be inconvenient, unpleasant or even counterproductive to one’s own experience. Rebellion gives no passes and lets no one off easily, including the host. This is at the core of Rogue, the idea that one can find their true self and meaning through being something other than what society or fate insists they have to be, and in some cases, what we’ve led ourselves to believe we are or must be. A bit deeper in, it also examines the nature of good and evil, and how often, those concepts can be purely subjective.
But as with all things, if there’s no depth or anything behind it then it’s essentially weightless and pointless. In the 1953 film The Wild One, Marlon Brando’s character Johnny Strabler is asked at one point, “Hey Johnny, what are you rebelling against?” his answer is, “Whadda you got?” Now, to any rebel, this is the ultimate answer, because the answer in itself is rebellion, but in Rogue it’s not quite that simple for our lead character Cameron Horne. The reason for this can only be explained if I include spoilers, which I don’t want to do, but suffice to say, Cameron’s rebellion, which may or may not originate with him and which he may or may not be in total control of, leads him to a kind of enlightenment and the realization that he may not be who or what he thought he was, and that things are not what they appear to be. When those truths are slowly revealed to him (and the reader), it hopefully becomes clear that life and death and everything in between is not quite as simple or straightforward as we like to convince ourselves they are. Maybe there is something deeper, something behind the veil, as it were, that hides reality. Or maybe, “reality” is part of the veil, just a cog in a bigger machine that manipulates us all.
In the animal kingdom, a Rogue is a lone or solitary animal that separates from the herd. In its worst form, the animal is of a particularly vicious nature or develops social habits that are unacceptable or contrary to the herd and its societal rules and traditions. This was the perfect metaphor for what Cameron is going through because even he has no idea what’s happening to him or why, and just like the original character in the short story “Runaway,” it is all ultimately beyond his control, not because of who he is and the world he lives in, but because he has been mistaken about the truth behind both of those things.
One of the challenges of short stories is that the writer is confined to a limited amount of space. Because of this, each scene, each word even, must be wholly necessary. Some of the same things apply to a novel, in that there shouldn’t be waste or unnecessary padding, but the longer form does allow you to explore deeper themes and concepts within the original idea. That’s exactly what expanding “Runaway” into Rogue allowed me to do. I was able to take the concept and pull that curtain back a little bit more. Okay, a lot more. And in doing so, it allowed me to give Cameron’s story a more universal feel because I was able to explain not only what was happening to him, but why. In the end, isolation and rebellion go hand-in-hand, and what could be more rebellious or lonelier than separating from one’s herd?
But if it leads to enlightenment and, ultimately, peace, then maybe it’s all worth it. And just maybe, what you thought was your herd, isn’t yours at all.
Or is it? That’s for you to decide, but you won’t know for sure until you take Cameron Horne’s hand, and go Rogue.
—Greg F. Gifune
April 18, 2014
New England. Night.
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