Lyon and I were talking one day back in the early 1990's about furry stories. I do not recall exactly what got us onto the topic, but I do remember Lyon saying to me very wistfully, "Nobody has ever written a story that really touches on my own fantasy."
I said, "Tell me your dream. Let's see what happens."
That was the moment that Nekobe was born. Lyon did not give me much information. He only described "a tall lion, powerful but gentle with me, who honestly loved me." And, of course, he happily described a few brief intimate scenes. It all took place in a few paragraphs, but it was enough to put the wheels in motion.
I started at work, scribbling on a yellow legal pad at my desk which gave me the appearance of being hard at work on some proper project. Here and there I would pop onto the computer or over to the library to do a bit of research: a look at a map of Kenya, a quick lesson in the Swahili tongue. Lyon himself answered a few questions I had such as how a lion smells ("like an old book"), their biology and a few of their habits. The people were people that I knew, a few of them combined together. The name itself was a combination of Swahili words that sounded much like an African name I had heard in my youth. Originally, it was "Nakobi."
It took me three days to write the story. Originally I had intended for it to end with the scene in the airport, but by the time I reached that point I had gotten myself so upset that I could not bear to let the story end that way. I wrote the epilogue very quickly and then sent it off to Lyon by email, with an admonition to save the epilogue for last.
It was about 11:00 when I sent the email. Immediately thereafter I crawled into bed, quite tired from a long night of typing.
Somewhere around 2:30 AM my phone rang. I fumbled for it and grunted something like a greeting into the receiver, and the first words I heard were an astonished, "Oh...my...god."
It was Lyon's voice. "So...you liked it, then?" I said.
He did indeed. Over the next few weeks I revised the tale here and there, fixing typos and tweaking the wording a little. We shared it with a few others. I do not think it was ever sent out over UseNet, or at least, it wasn't supposed to have been.
A few months later Lyon was able to fulfill another of his dreams. He acquired as a companion a young African lion that he intended to raise. Without hesitation he named the handsome cub "Nakobi," after the lion in the story. He raised Nakobi from cub to adult, and then transferred him to a big cat sanctuary nearby, and continues to serve as Nakobi's "person."
About a year passed, and I had enough people inquiring about the story they'd heard so much about that I asked Lyon if he would mind my posting it on the net. He was a little leery, since by that time he was using Nakobi for education and a lot of little schoolchildren had gotten to know him. He worried that one of them might search the burgeoning internet for "Nakobi" and would happen upon the story, which would not be quite appropriate. I fully agreed, but I did not want to give up the name, since it sounded so nice. We compromised by simply changing the spelling of the name and not its pronunciation. "Nakobi" became "Nekobe," and the remainder of the story was unchanged.
Nekobe was an almost instant success. I was startled by the numbers of fan letters I got praising the story and begging for more. I wrote "Nekobe's Birthday" just as a short vignette to keep people happy while I tried to think of what else to do with the character. Ideas came slowly. Nekobe really needed my best effort; to give him anything less would seem somehow improper. He deserves better.
Then something happened that almost put an end to the Nekobe stories forever. To find out what, click here...