Archbishop and author team up to tackle cosmos.
'Space Vulture' is a tale of galactic battle.
NEWARK, NJ - How's this for an eclectic résumé? John J. Myers: Archbishop of Newark and co-author of "Space Vulture."
Myers, the 65-year-old conservative spiritual leader of 1.3 million Roman Catholics, achieved every aspiring author's dream by landing a book contract. He co-wrote a science-fiction novel with longtime friend and author Gary K. Wolf, creator of the "Roger Rabbit" cartoon character.
Wolf, who has five prior science-fiction novels to his name, said the book is a fast-paced galactic tale about a heroic marshal and a con man who team up with a widow and her two children to fight Space Vulture, the "most villainous marauder in the cosmos."
The book is scheduled to be published by Tom Doherty Associates in March 2008 said Moshe Feder, the book's editor.
Myers, an avid fan of "Star Trek: Next Generation" and the "Dune" novels by Frank Herbert, began working on the book with Wolf about three years ago.
Its genesis, both men said, was a conversation they had in middle school a half-century ago about a science-fiction book Myers had just read. The book was "Space Hawk."
"I brought 'Space Hawk' to Gary and said, 'Gary, you have to read this, it's like a Western, only it's in outer space,'" Myers said. "He read it. He enjoyed it, and we started reading science fiction."
The men, who grew up in Earlville, Ill., stayed close while their careers took different directions. Myers became a priest and then a bishop, and Wolf worked as an author. His first "Roger Rabbit" book was adapted in 1988 into the wildly popular Disney movie, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit," which famously combined live characters and animation.
Then, a few years ago, Wolf called Myers to tell him he had just located a copy of "Space Hawk." He found a second copy and sent it to Myers.
Myers recounted, "I read it over and called him, and I said I read it. He said, 'What did you think?' I said, 'I think it's awful. I can't imagine why we ever liked it.' He said, 'That's what I felt too. Why don't both of us work together and do it right?' So that's kind of how it started."
Myers said he would work on the book at night when he didn't have appointments or at his summer residence in Pittstown, in Hunterdon County. The two would tease out themes and devise plots over the phone, and would edit text via e-mail. Myers tried, he said, to weave moral themes through the text. "This is not written from specifically a Christian point or view, or a Catholic point of view," he said. "But it's written from the point of view of a believer. There are things in this book that you wouldn't find in most science fiction writing, like prayer. Some of the characters, when they're in a tough scrape, pray, which is an act of faith."
There's also a conversion of sorts, for one of the characters, a tough-as-nails con man. "He was someone who has a conversion through the course of the story from being a selfish man on the take, to wanting to protect a couple of young boys who come into his custody," Myers said.
Still, Wolf said the book is not heavy on religious themes. "If you didn't know it was written by an archbishop, it doesn't beat you over the head. It's just a good moral tale where right faces up against wrong."
Feder, the editor, said he's looking forward to promoting a book with a famous writer and a leader of the Catholic Church in the United States. "It puts together an unusual pairing," he said. "It just tickles me, the idea of a science-fiction writer and his pal, the archbishop."
--Jeff Diamant, Newark Star-Ledger