Stories rarely spring from some grand idea. More often they are sparked by something small, something unsuspected.
Some time ago a friend tossed me an idea “challenge” — a story about a superhero granny whose weapons were knitting needles, and a hospital orderly sidekick. It sounded terrifyingly improbable, but the gauntlet had been flung, and I sat down with the idea and stared it down. Superpowers. Knitting needles. Granny. Retirement home. Orderly.
I wrote the story. In the end, it was unexpectedly luminous. It took place in this retirement home for superheroes, and concerned a cranky old dude who could do nothing but complain after an accident rendered his cape unable to let him fly—thus making his superhero days clearly and completely over.
Except that it also concerned another resident of the home, a granny who examined the cape and realized what had gone wrong, readied her knitting needles, and asked an orderly named Eddie for red yarn to remedy the situation.
You are invited into a world with a place called Val Hall, a rest and retirement home for Superheroes, Third Class. If you’ve never heard of such a thing, you can find out all about it in two books — ‘Val Hall, The Even Years’, and ‘Val Hall, The Odd Years’. There’s even a ‘Wikipedia’ article telling you all about it. If you can’t find it on Wikipedia, it is in the books.
Discovering Eddie’s secrets
When I first wrote about Eddie, I did not know who he was.
To begin with, I Tuckerised the friend who tossed me the original story idea, giving the orderly character his name and certain attributes—but then Eddie turned out to be the glue that held the entire project together.
He wasn’t just an orderly. He was the son of an ancient God, illegitimate to be sure but still immortal, and powerful. He was a Superhero First Class (because he had Divine DNA) — but he was also a Superhero Third Class, an ordinary person who exhibits a specific extraordinary talent. For him it was making origami animals that come to life.
Here it is in a nutshell. There are Superheroes, First Class – gods or aliens who have extraordinary strength or powers and are clearly not human. There are Superheroes, Second Class – wealthy humans who compensate for their lack of real godlike superpowers by buying or inventing gadgetry to launch them into that sphere, toys and cars and weapons that lift them into the realm of being superpowered.
Neither of those will ever really need anything like Val Hall. The Gods can’t ever really “retire” and anyway they have their own realms to retire to if they want or need to do. The wealthy humans have more than enough lucre to ensure their own pleasant twilight years. Mine is a world that contains them, sure – but mine is NOT a Marvel Universe. Those Superheroes probably make headlines. But I am not telling their stories.
Everyone in these stories—people Eddie gathered lovingly into the place he called Val Hall when he (in a prior incarnation) first founded it—are ordinary human beings who lived unexceptional lives right until the moment that they discovered something special inside them, a gift that lifted them above the norm — an ability to shift time, see hidden truths simply by touching an object, calm storms, hear music as yet unwritten and inspiring those who make it come alive, help move the world to a different place by walking in a special pair of shoes, or be able to know precisely how much longer somebody had to live.
These are ordinary people, in ordinary circumstances. But something happens —something triggers them — and they become extraordinary. Such people could be devastatingly vulnerable, and very much alone.
I am writing about these people. I am writing some of the sharpest and most poignant stories about what it really means to be human at all. I have used the cloak of fantasy and given out superpowers in order to illustrate the tales – but don’t be fooled, I am writing about all of us.
Don’t be misled by that “Third Class” designation – it is not a slight, or remotely dismissive. It acknowledges the fact that there is a level of ordinariness to the extraordinariness that is being displayed. It acknowledges the fact that underneath any superpower such as I describe here lies a brilliant, vulnerable, strong, gentle, incandescently human soul.
Yes, there are other, flashier, superheroes. Let others write their tales, burnish their legends. I write of human beings who have changed worlds – their own, and other people’s. Val Hall brims with their stories.
Any one of those people could be your brother, your grandmother, your sweetheart, your friend. Any one of them could be you.
Welcome to Val Hall.
The Val Hall books are available as ebooks in the Book View Cafe shop, and both in ebook or paperback on Amazon .
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