|The Early Days of a Better Nation|
Monday, January 24, 2011
On the other hand, it has worked. The book's more interesting than what I'd have devised if I'd planned it, and a lot more interesting than my vague imagining of how it was going to go. I never expected that barbarian to walk across a hallway and through the wall. I'm sure my then editor didn't either, when we brainstormed my next book last year. 'All we want you to do, Ken,' he explained, 'is write the next Brave New World or Nineteen Eighty-Four or Fahrenheit 451.' Oh fine, I said. Why didn't I think of that? I had all kinds of ideas, none of which he liked, until I said: 'What if genetic engineering became so common that not having it was like not having vaccinations?' As soon as he said 'Yes!' I thought oh no what have I done?
And then I thought and scribbled and talked with my agent and came up with an outline for a novel about just that, with vast geopolitical conspiracies involving selective viral weaponry, and was told that this wasn't what they wanted at all. Then my agent suggested I read Children of Men, and focus on the woman and the child. So I read that book and didn't like it, but it gave me a sense of what mainstream authors writing SF can get away with.
The book I've ended up writing is not at all like any of the books I've mentioned, and not very like anything I've written before. No date is given. The technological advances in synthetic biology are perhaps faster than the developments shown in other areas. There's no big political change in it. No new ideology, no new system. There have been geopolitical shifts. If the society shown is a dystopia, it's a democratic dystopia. It's what we have, a decade or three down the line.
At the moment it seems like the best thing I've ever written. I'm enjoying the feeling while it lasts. By the time I've been through the revision, the copy-edit, and the proofs, it'll seem the worst thing I've ever read, let alone written. But for the moment, I'm happy with it. The rest is up to the readers, some time in the not too distant future.