If you follow me on Facebook, you’ve probably heard the news. Dr. Obadiah Jackson and the super-secret government (and shady) agency EnIGMA are returning! But maybe not in the way you might expect.
For those who might not be familiar with the series, The EnIGMA Directive was a series that followed the adventures of world-renowned cryptozoologist Dr. Obadiah Jackson. Because he hated his given name, he insisted that people call him ‘Jack’, which was short for his last name. In the first book, PRIMAL THIRST, Jack and his team are hired by a powerful senator to rescue his daughter, who was a missionary in Malaysia being terrorized by a group of genetically modified monsters. This senator was also the political clout behind a top secret government agency founded by President Nixon to catalog cryptids (the term used for unidentified species of animals (i.e. monsters) and to determine if there were any militaristic uses for such creatures.
The agency is called EnIGMA, which stands for ‘Entity Identification and Global Management Agency’. In the end of the first book, Jack and his team are coerced into working with this agency, while hoping to change things from within to get rid of the more insidious projects they are carrying out.
In the end, there were three books in this series: Primal Thirst, Sirens’ Song, and Devil’s Child. The third book, unfortunately, ended on quite the cliffhanger I’m sorry to say, with Jack’s best friend being kidnapped by an old enemy that pitted humans against cryptids in a ‘Most Dangerous Game’-type competition and Jack left EnIGMA to search for him. No one found out what happened next. Neither did I (though I have some ideas).
The series was light-hearted fair. Lots of humor (some would say ‘too much’ humor). The action was non-stop and the violence was ‘cartoonish’ at best, in the same way the 80s TV show The A-Team used violence. And like most of my books, they were all family friendly.
The series was hugely popular and I consider it a great success…especially considering Primal Thirst and Sirens’ Song were the first two books I’d ever written and published. I was one of thousands of nameless aspiring authors when I released Primal Thirst back in 2008. I had no platform. No fan base. And no author friends to help guide me through the process (of both writing the book and publishing it). Needless to say, like so many other newbies, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing on either front. And, I believe, it showed. While fans of the series argue with me about this now that I’ve improved in my craft, I’ve grown rather embarrassed by the series. By the writing itself, more than anything. The stories were fun and I like them. But the actual writing and the art of storytelling in them are not what I want my legacy to be. This is why I stopped writing them after Devil’s Child. I just sort of saw them as a lost cause and I had too many story ideas to pursue to continue with a series I wasn’t enjoying.
But that’s the dilemma. I loved the series. Loved the characters. Loved the stories and the monsters. Loved the adventure and mystery of it all. I didn’t want to just chunk the whole idea into the garbage and wipe my hands of it. I wanted to keep writing them. But I wanted to make the series better. I wanted to fix the mistakes of the past and make the series what it should have been to begin with.
See, here’s the deal. When I first wrote Primal Thirst, I had no idea what kind of writer I wanted to be. Was I a Christian author writing Christian fiction? Was I an adventure writer who writes stuff with Christian themes? Was I an adventure writer who just wrote fun adventures? Was I a mystery writer who juggled adventure into the mix? All these questions are pretty evident when you read Primal Thirst and they’re all unanswered questions until I started writing the Dark Hollows/Ezekiel Crane books. By then, it was too late, in my mind to salvage what I had already done with EnIGMA.
Before I go on to discuss my plans for the reboot, let me take a few moments to highlight some of the issues I personally have with the original series.
- Jack’s name. His name is Dr. Obadiah Jackson. But because he hates the name his parents gave him, he insists people shorten his last name and call him ‘Jack’. So, it’s essentially Jack Jackson. Once again, maybe I’m being super critical of my own writing, but that’s always bugged me. In Sirens’ Song, an ex-girlfriend is introduced who calls him ‘Obi’. I liked that one much better, but by then it was too late. But I grew to dislike his name a great deal, though I can’t quite explain why.
- Jack was inspired by three real-life people: Josh Gates (from TV’s Destination Truth fame), Bruce Campbell (everyone’s favorite wisecracking Deadite-smashing B-List actor), and Nathan Fillion. I was going for the ‘Everyman’ hero, which I prefer in my stories…but Jack’s ‘Everyman’ became almost a caricature. Sure, he got out of a lot of jams with some quick thinking and wits, but he also got out of trouble just as often through dumb-stinking luck. As a few reviews noted, for a guy with a Ph.D., he was rather dull-witted. Dumb, even. And so, that kind of started bothering me.
- While I enjoyed the lighthearted escapism these stories provided, they read a little too much like an old pulp story. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. I love pulp. Love the style of it. Wish we had more of it today. But I always felt the EnIGMA Directive series read a little too much like comic books too. As I said, the action and violence can only be described as ‘cartoonish’. Indiana Jones ripoff cartoonish. That’s not to say they weren’t fun as all get out, but I want my books to appeal to a much larger audience, which means they need to follow a more mainstream path to attain the thrills I’m hoping to impart in these stories.
Those are just a few of the issues I had with the original series, which convinced me to lay it to bed. Fortunately, I’m not finished with Obadiah Jackson. There’s still plenty of stories to tell about his adventures. But this time, I’m determined to tell them right. Reboots are common things in movies and TVs. But to my knowledge, I’ve never seen a literary series do a reboot. But reboots happen for a simple reason…to use tried and true characters to tell new, fresh stories in exciting new ways where continuity from the past won’t hinder the storytelling experience. That’s why I think a reboot for the series is a perfect way for me to resurrect EnIGMA and why I hope you’ll be just as excited as I am about it.
So what can you expect from the EnIGMA Directive reboot? Well, let me share a few things with you:
- A new style of storytelling. The new series will be a little darker and more serious than the original. Now we all know that humor was a huge part of the original. Don’t worry. Obadiah Jackson wouldn’t be Obadiah Jackson without wisecracks and quips. But the mood of the overall story will be a little darker. They’ll also focus heavily on mystery than action. The mystery of the monsters. The mystery behind human villains and plots. Suspense will play a heavier role than in the past. In many ways, this series will share a similar reading experience as to its cousin series, the Ezekiel Crane mysteries.
- Speaking of Ezekiel Crane, I’ve established that Ezekiel and Obadiah are first cousins in both series (though neither have met one another in their individual series). However, Jackson is discuss a great deal more in the Ezekiel Crane stories than vice versa. That’s going to change. Much of Obadiah’s rural upbringing in Boone Creek (and the wise teachings of his grandmother Esther Crane) will guide him in his monster hunts where folklore and mythology are essential to understanding the origins of these monsters.
- Obadiah’s name. No, he’ll no longer be called ‘Jack’. He won’t be called ‘Obi’ either (except maybe by his closest friends). For the most part, he’ll simply be referred to as ‘Doc’ by those he associates with.
- There’s a reason for that ‘Doc’ nickname. See, Jackson’s occupation is changing too. ‘What?” You might be asking. “He’s not a professional cryptozoologist now?” To which, I’ll reply, “Of course not. No one is a professional cryptozoologist. There’s no such thing.” Even in the original series, Jack wasn’t a cryptozoologist. He was a professor of zoology, who specialized in the crypto branch of the field. But even that was a stretch. No, it just seemed far too unrealistic to me. So now, Jackson is a veterinarian specializing in livestock and wildlife rehabilitation. He also runs a wildlife rescue preserve near Cedar Key, Florida.
- EnIGMA has always been shady in the original series. In the reboot, they’ve taken to a whole other level. And while some who work for the agency might not be ‘bad people’, Jackson isn’t particularly fond of them. In the reboot, he wont’ be joining them. He’ll begin a crusade to be a major thorn in their side throughout the series.
Okay, so I don’t want to give too many spoilers for this reboot, but I did want to share with you a little about my plans for the future of everyone’s favorite monster hunter. I hope you’re as excited as I am about it and hope, if you’re a die-hard fan of the original series, you’ll keep an open mind and trust that I’m going to strive to not George Lucas this thing. I don’t think that last sentence needs any explanation, but if it does, I simply mean, somethings, a creator should just leave alone or risk ruining it forever. It’s truly my intention to make this series what it should have been from day one and I’ll do everything in my power to honor the spirit of the series at its very core.
The first book in the new series, THE LOOMING, should be released later this year! And just so we’re clear about the reboot, if you’ve haven’t read the first three books, no problem at all. They no longer exist in the canon of our hero. 🙂