The Early Days of a Better Nation

Thursday, March 19, 2009

What I've been doing

What I'm doing, most of the time (this is a break) is trying hard to finish my current novel, The Restoration Game, before the end of the month. For some reason this one, despite or maybe because I tried to plan it in more than usual detail in advance, has taken an unconscionable time to write. It's the novel I'd intended to write before I got the idea for The Night Sessions, and it's just as well I didn't because my initial conception was nothing like as interesting as the story has (so far) turned out. It's still what I described to a friend, Donna Scott, at Novacon a couple of years ago: 'a chick-lit technothriller', in that it's told by a young woman who is in love and it's centred on a tradecraft use of current technology imaginatively exaggerated. And there's a wedding in it, though not the heroine's. The story's set in 2008, which is shaping up (see previous post) to be a very scientifictional year, and a future locus of historical and condition-of-England novels. The story was originally going to be set in a near future, but (honestly) just as I was writing in the outline 'at this point the Russian tanks roll' last August, they did. And South Ossetia was suddenly a place everyone knew about and not one I could handwave to as an analogy for my imaginary republic, Krassnia.

Meanwhile, thanks to commitments recklessly undertaken when I thought this book would be well out of the way by now, I've written a story for the next issue of Subterranean Online edited by Gardner Dozois, and another for a forthcoming anthology of alternate-history stories, edited by Ian Whates and Ian Watson. That story contains a secret tribute to a literary pun by John Clute and a smoking break outside Newcon 2, last year, with Ian Watson and Storm Constantine.

In other news: local listings mag The Skinny has published a fine review of the Digital Evolution event which it and my fine employers the Genomics Forum sponsored last month, and I and Paul Cornell, Iain (M) Banks and Ian Watson are cited on the Beeb.

After all this, for my next novel it's back to long lives and strange deaths and spaceships on the cover, I can tell you.

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Fed up with tradecraft then? If you dust off Jon Wilde, I'll buy two copies of the hardcover. That's a promise...

I'd love to see Dave Reid in another story...

Not tired of tradecraft, Steven - I just had this sudden bright shiny idea for a book that starts near-future and goes far-future. (And has genomics in it.) As for Wilde and Reid ... I think there's a lot of danger in going back over old ground.

However, I did once or twice utter vague threats about writing a mainstream novel set in the present in which Wilde, Reid, and Myra were the central characters. (The pitch for that being that it would be, like any mainstream 'Hampstead novel', about all the complications of people's lives but with the secret skiffy in-joke that these people would, outside that text, have vastly longer and more complicated lives than they expected, or that readers who came to it without knowing about the SF context would realise. Nah, me neither.) That novel, in my mind, would kick off with Reid accidentally meeting a young woman who looks very like Myra, and who is actually a daughter of his that Myra had after they broke up, and that this meeting and subsequent revelations would drag into the daylight long rusty chains of consequence about what Myra was actually doing in Glasgow in the 70s and in the then SU in the 80s. (What that particular idea came from was the last time - in the mid-90s - I worked at Edinburgh Uni, in IT, and while working on a matriculation program I noticed that the birth-dates of students were now in the years I was at university myself.)

I actually had a go at writing that novel, and after a couple of chapters it came to feel very constraining having characters I'd used before, with an implicit future that was already diverging from reality.

But a complete rework of that idea underlies The Restoration Game, as clever critics may some day figure out and you can tell them you saw it here first.

That actually sounds like a great novel... And if it IS the inspiration for The Restoration Game, then I really am looking forward to it (I'm still looking forward to the Night Sessions, as I await it's publication in Canada).

The Stone Canal is one of my all-time favourite novels. While I know intellectually that dusting off the old characters is probably foolish, I still feel a desire to hear more about their lives and their world. It's a strange conflict.

That cover is also in use for some of John Scalzi's books: (

Were I writing an article on MacLeodian space opera, I think that the title "Long lives, strange deaths, and spaceships on the cover" would be spot on, because it reads well and combines the big picture build-up with a pay-off line that takes us back through the arch. Not all the way back, though - it admits that this is just a book, and this is just a cover, sure, but there are _spaceships_ on it.

But appropos of one of those very books, have you checked out the PRC's putative "Marx: the musical"? It had me thinking of Shakespeare's "Brezhnev".

Chris Williams

I like the novel idea too. I'm enjoying Dark Light immensely, but reading Star Fraction and Stone Canal last year literally changed the course of my life (I think I'll try turning the experience into a short story someday), so I'd be thrilled to read more of Myra, Reid and Wilde.

Chris, I haven't checked out the musical but I have heard rumours of it. I hold out more hope for the Japanese manga version.

Ilorien, I'm not sure I can handle the responsibility for changing the course of someone's life through my writing. Can you elaborate?

Don't let Amazon get ahead of you!

What are they like!? Pre-order a book that's still being written?!?

At least they've got the title. A couple of years ago they had 'Untitled Space Opera' by Charles Stross on the list. There's a title going begging.

I have to say that, while I don't believe your writing changed the course of my life, I did read The Cassini Division and The Stone Canal (in that order) during an intellectual awakening in my teen years and they, combined with my upbringing in between Qu├ębec's "two solitudes", went some distance in developing my political awareness, consciousness and conscience.

Pre-order a book that's still being written?!?

Lean production/JIT/agile development, for literature. The plot is constantly, dynamically changing in production based on every twitter of fandom. Like the gyrostabilised 30mm cannon on an Apache Longbow, following every twitch of the gunner's head. Eventually, the book is merely a representation of the data model of the author and reader.

Future e-book technology will permit every copy to be rsyncd with the current version. You will never read the same book again.

Ken, Fall Revolution was actually more of catalyst that facilitated the change. The energy of activation was sufficiently high, however, that without such a catalyst I might never have made the change. At the very least it would probably have taken me several more years, and until life extension really gets going, such excessive dalliance is to be avoided. (slightly more specific elaboration by email)

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