Andrew Merenbach

Better living through InfoSec

Infernal questions


A favorite childhood tetralogy contributed heavily to one of Life’s Great Questions.

During our tenure as grade-school students, my cousin introduced me to several novels that forever changed my life, maybe even for the better.

The series: Doom, based upon true events inspired by the iconic computer game. My enthusiasm eventually outpaced that of my cousin. More than fifteen years on, I continue to find myself dissecting plot, motivations, and actions.

Even I cannot recall how many times I have re-examined these novels, these masterpieces of Martian-invasion sci-fi, whose mass-market tentacles sprout anew every few years with the intoxicating perfume of a thousand Odyssean sirens. Whenever this happens, worthy pursuits of greater import invariably:

  1. Starve of oxygen;
  2. Shudder convulsively;
  3. Draw one final, excruciating squelch; and
  4. Breathe no more.

Put more succinctly, the series represents pulp refined so highly as to shimmer in the icy nothing spanning here and a billion light-years away. Well, that started more succincly, anyway.

In any event, lest I alienate (pun intended) either of my one or two remaining readers, I shall continue.

One little problem haunted my waking consciousness since the moment I first completed the fourth and final novel, then flipped back some number of pages. I turned to the back cover. I read the end again. I flipped back some other number of pages.

Something seemed wrong. It didn’t end here. It couldn’t end here. Does the guy finally get the girl? Does the girl get the guy instead? Does someone save the human race once and for all? Do any humans (besides the heroes and their posse, of course) even remain to save? Did the sun just come up outside? Do I have school today? Maybe I’ll just put my head down for a minute…

(Cautious readers must note that a spoiler alert applies to the rest of this entry. You have fair warning.)

I never found out what happened at the apparent terminus of several interrelated subplots, at least until a couple months ago when a search for one of Life’s Great Answers impelled me to dash off the following to one Dafydd ab Hugh, co-author extraordinaire for the series:

Hello Mr. ab Hugh,

The four novels in the original Doom series formed an integral part of my youth and they still hold a special place in my heart. I have probably re-read them dozens of times.

And all these years I have been curious about the ending. My understanding (which I only recently grokked from Wikipedia after 15 years of wondering) is now that Albert’s consciousness was in the box with the unblinking orange light.

At the very end of Endgame, however, there’s:

I think I slept for twelve or fourteen hours. I awoke to a brave new world that had such damned peculiar creatures in it!

The End…?

I suspect that this is being deliberately ambiguous (did Flynn dream up most or all of his entire slew of adventures? was he ever even in the military? can I trust anything that he’s said?). I have a tendency to miss things, though, so I figured I’d ask on the off-chance that you might set 15 years of curiosity to rest. I suspect my wife thinks I’m bonkers.

Thank you for your time, good sir. I salute you.

Andrew Merenbach

Mr. ab Hugh wrote back shortly thereafter. Short of the day of my wedding, I can think of few times in my life that I have felt more special.

My dear Mr. Merenbach;

Alas, the solution is more prosaic: Brad Linaweaver and I expected we would write one or two more Doom novels. We had no idea book 4 was to be book last!

The sales were great, and Pocket Books wanted to continue the series. Alas, Id Software (publisher of the game and the showrunner of the novels) refused to authorize any more Doom novels until they sold a Quake novel – for which (I was given to understand) they demanded a license fee of $1,000,000.

No publisher in its right mind would pay a Brobdinagian license fee that would guarantee a huge financial loss; which meant no publisher agreed to publish a Quake novel. (To be catty, no publisher is in its right mind anyway; but the same equation applies to demented and gibbering publishers as well.)

“No Quake, no more Dooms;” that was Id’s decision, not ours! And at this remove, I haven’t the remotest idea what we were planning (if indeed we had gotten that far). As I recollect, we deliberately set up impossible cliffhangers, painting ourselves into a hole, just to challenge each other to figure out something to rescue the narrative. The timelines were such that we had about three weeks to write each book, and we had to do something to maintain that intensity!

Rest assured, we would have done something really, really cool! But what it would have been, I haven’t a sodding clue. Maybe Brad has a better memory; you can find him at DragonCon nearly every year…


Dafydd ab Hugh

I probably gaped for a few minutes when I received this response. This explains so much. Let us examine:

P.S.: Prior to publishing this, I sought permission to post from Mr. ab Hugh:

Dear Mr. ab Hugh,

I appreciate more than I can say that you took the time not only to respond to my ancient-history question, but to highlight your and Mr. Linaweaver’s writing process for these novels, as well.

Thank you for providing some closure to my lingering curiosity. I feel that other avid fans may harbor similar questions. Would you have any objection to my writing a blog post with some or all of your explanations?

All the best, Andrew

A response:

Go ahead if you want; but I think you overestimate the fan yearning for Doomic closure. More likely they’ll respond, “ab Hugh? Linaweaver? Who they?!”

Have fun,

Dafydd ab Hugh

Come to think of it, perhaps it’s once again time to pick up these underappreciated science-fiction gems!