Where Did THAT Come From: Jetay and Khed

The two brothers at the heart of the Star Master tetralogy trilogy duology went through a pretty complicated evolution before I started writing.

My original concept for Jetay was a more roguish, Han-Solo kind of guy, who happened to be a former White Knight. This was the protagonist* of the failed “Space Sanjuro” draft that preceded Shadow Captain. He was fun to write, to a point, but it was impossible to get him to relate to the other characters in any meaningful sense. Too armored emotionally, too many skills (street-smarts, piloting skills, psychic abilities), he just didn’t need other people except as foils for his awesomeness, and that wasn’t the story I felt like telling.

For Shadow Captain, I went with a story idea (borrowed from old westerns, as told in an earlier post) about a space drifter recruited into A Cause, somewhat against his will. This called for a more insecure, conflicted character, and a climax where he resolves the conflict in his loyalties and Takes A Stand. Jetay’s psychically induced amnesia, the indenture chips his employer uses to torture him and his sibling, his potential as a Star Master equal to Samir (who had been a minor background character in the Space Sanjuro draft), the general “Hansel and Gretel” dynamic between him, his younger sibling, and their employer…all those grew out of that basic need for a more vulnerable hero with more room for growth.

My mental image of Jetay was vaguely the same physical type as most of the heroes in the Jaiya Metaseries: tall, wiry, aquiline features. Even so, I tried to imagine him as the kind of person you might see on the Mediterranean coast of Ancient Egypt, which is where the ancestors of most of the Star Master characters come from. His personality type was a convergence of several characters I’d run across over the years, who seem simple or muddled but are easy to underestimate, and have a certain inner wisdom to them. You find this sort of man in Wagner’s Parsifal, some westerns, and a fair number of Indian films. The quixotic “man from another era” vibe which emerges over the course of the story may owe something to Kevin Sorbo’s character in Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda, although he was not really at the top of my mind when I was writing.

As you may have guessed from the “sibling” and “Hansel and Gretel” references above, Jetay originally had a younger sister instead of a younger brother in my earliest concepts for Shadow Captain. She was meant to be the ship’s engineer, a chipper, “fun” character, along the lines of Kaylee from Firefly, but the brother-sister dynamic wasn’t working out right in my head, so I replaced her with Khed, a character loosely inspired by Seamus Harper from Andromeda: short, mouthy, kind of cynical, convinced that whatever the others are trying to do is probably going to blow up in their faces. I didn’t know what Khed looked like at first, until I saw the 2018 Aladdin and decided that he looked like Mena Massoud, only not as tall.

Giving Jetay a younger brother led to some changes in the supporting cast, but that is a story for another time.

*Never given an official name, only a real-world tag or nickname for dictation purposes.

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