The Future Without Shades

First off, Happy Flight 19 Day!  If you’re not sure what that is, pick up Close Encounters of the Third Kind and watch the opening where the sun came out at night to sing.  You can also read about them here.  Just remember:  anyone can get lost on a dark and stormy night, especially us writers and post World War II fliers.

Second, if you were expecting to see another excerpt today, sorry to disappoint you.  I got home last night pretty much burned out and not feeling good, and since I had something else to work on, I got into that for more than a few hours.  By the time I got around to my writing time I couldn’t really get the scene started, and the hundred or so words I did write seemed pretty weak.  So I’ll recharge as best I can today and start on it tonight, because things are gonna get said in this scene, and a few more secrets will pop out.

"And then Kerry loses it and kills his whole family!"  "Really?"  "Do I look like I'd lie?"

“And then Kerry loses it and admits the real reason he’s going to the hospital all the time!” “Really?” “Do I look like I’d lie?”

And that last part brings up the third part here, the telling of secrets.  If you’ve been following the comment sections for the last couple of months, you’ll see I’ve been engaged in a conversation with one of my readers over this novel–in particular, there’s been a whole lot of questions about Annie’s and Kerry’s relationship.  Some of the questions have made me thing, some have made me smile, some have made me sad, and some I’ve laughed out loud after reading them.  But there seems to be one answer that I inevitably come back to almost every day:

“I can’t answer that because it hasn’t happened yet, and if I did, I’d give things away.”

That’s really one of the hardest things I have going for me in this series, because I have pretty much meta-plotted out a lot of the story for like–well, actually, decades.  It’s one of the reasons I have a time line that goes out beyond a hundred years of their lives, because I needed to know how they lived, how their friends around them lived, and eventually how they all died.  I’m like that because I’m a bit strange, right?  I mean, who knows their characters to death–and beyond?

Along the way over the last three years I’ve let slip a few things here and there.  We know Kerry will come out as a witch at the end of his B Levels.  We know that Annie and Kerry end up in the middle of Russia in the middle of the night and see an aurora–I actually had two blog posts on that.  Back in December of 2011 I first mentioned The Polar Express, a trip Kerry goes on for a weekend, and I left clues here and there that Emma is his wingmate on that flight.  All the way back in March of this year I wrote about an event where Annie and Kerry will be tested during their C Levels, and they’ll leave the school and head to the land of Walker Chow and hope they don’t end up the same way.  I’ve even mentioned, in sort of an off-hand way, that Annie and Kerry tour Europe one summer while they’re between levels.

That’s just a little of what’s a huge story–

Oh, and I mentioned I know what happens to them after they die.  Yeah, I even went there.

I’ve sometimes had to become a bit of an unreliable narrator so that I don’t give anything major away, and some of the things I have mentioned are painted in real broad strokes–I mean, okay, the kids go on a summer tour of Europe.  But what else do you know?  Not much, really.  I know it all, however, and sometimes I really want to spill it–but I can’t.

I have tons of notes and all my time lines, and a couple of months because I actually left written instructions on where all that stuff goes if something should . . . well, we know what I’m going to say.  Some lucky person gets the legacy of all this unfinished work, and what they do with it–if anything–is up to them.  They’ll get a huge first novel and then a lot of information on what could have been, and if they want they could give it all a go and write all that stuff out.

Or probably not.  I mean, I could easily have a good fifteen years ahead of me, writing full-time, getting all the story out.  Assuming it ever got published and read.

The future is there, and even though it’s bright I don’t need shades to see it.  All I gotta do is start up my computer, look over a few things, an instantly be transported to a world of my own creation.

I do wonder, sometimes, if someone else I want to show around will ever go there with me . . .

Forms Without Shape or Substance

The above title has to do with a dream I had last night, where it seemed that nothing possessed a true form or was in any way substantive.  You couldn’t lay something flat, because “flat” was a relative term:  it might look flat, but it wasn’t.  Some totally non-Euclidean shit going on, trust me, and it could very well be that my old buddy Cthulhu was paying me a visit last night, but if that were the case I’d likely be insane right now.

Or am I already?

I was in a good mood last night.  I was editing along well, maybe getting thirty pages out of the way while listening to some good music.  I even snapped a picture of myself and passed it along to a few friends, which should give you an indication of how I felt at the time, because I’m seen online as often as the Loch Ness Monster these days.

Once the editing was out of the way my mind began to wander.  I was back on the story that I’m not now working on, but in reality I was thinking ahead of the story I’m not now working on.  I was thinking of the future history, of what lay ahead for Annie and Kerry.  Since I can’t leave things alone, I started to plan, and to plot, and to work . . .

First I got out an old map I’d created a long time ago.  How long?  Maybe two and a half years at this point in time and space.  When I look at this I know what it means . . .

It meas someone took their girlfriend on a tour of Europe.  Chicks dig tours of Europe.

It means someone and their girlfriend went on a tour of Europe. Chicks dig tours of Europe.

I had an old time line of this laying about somewhere, but since I have Aeon, I decided to lay out some point in time leading up to this trip, and for a few things that happened along the way for this trip.  In my kid’s history this is an important moment for them, because it’s freedom, and not the kind that gets you drawn and quartered, probably because you were walking around a battlefield with a Plasticine dog in your arms.  (True movie buffs will know what I’m saying here.)  Needless to say I ended up with a lot of plot points on a time line, and everything seemed to fall in place a lot better–including a moment I realized yesterday that proved, beyond a doubt, that no one was ever going to keep these kids apart after a certain point in time.

Then I started thinking on another subject with my kids, and that meant I needed to head over to one of the various websites I keep bookmarked because I never know when I’m gonna need it.  What was I doing?  I was blowing up stuff in Russia.  No, really.

That's not a bomb; that's a . . . different kind of bomb, baby!

That’s not a bomb; that’s a . . . different kind of bomb, baby!

Of course what I was blowing up in Russia is my business and mine alone, and I really can’t say for sure if things really do get blown up.  It’s all part of a “What If?” that I’m working out for a future story that will likely get written one day when I’m old and gray–well, I’m already gray, so old-er.

With all this behind me, all this mind tripping said and done, it was time to get some more time lines figured out.  So on to Aeon and the building of a future that someone besides me will see one day.

See all those lines?  They mean something to me.  Maybe one day they'll mean something to you.

See all those lines? They mean something to me. Maybe one day they’ll mean something to you.

While For a Few Dollars More played in the background I figured out points in time and set them up against characters.  I set up and defined events that I’ve thought about for a long time, but I’ve never actually set down like this.  There is more to do–the bomb thing above actually takes place during their E Levels, and I haven’t worked out all the time yet–and I’ll probably get to that tonight after I put more editing under the bridge.

Even when I’m not working on my stories I’m working on my stories.  Even here, it’s more about stories yet to come than the story that’s coming.  This is why breaks from your work are good–

It’s lets you build upon your world without being distracted from the events in front of you.

 

Up the Escalator to Madness

A very quick conversation this morning opened a little window into that thing I call “My Life”, such as it is.  I wasn’t saying much, just what I did last night, and what I’ll do today.  Those things I spoke of?  Writing.  So for yesterday I blogged, wrote a couple of theme descriptions for Windows 8, edited some three thousand words, and wrote nine hundred word of an article before going to bed.  What will I do today?  Blog, edit a couple of thousand words, write a couple of Windows 8 theme descriptions, and finish my article.

Sounds like fun, no?

I made the joke, “When am I getting paid for this?” but I know that will come in time–so I hope.  I’m heading in the right direction, and eventually, maybe with this next novel I’ll get noticed, picked up, contacted, rich, buy an abandoned mansion, and become a Bond villainess, because if there’s one thing Bond needs it’s bad girls who screw him.  Got the cover coming, the editing and formatting is coming, and in a month or so the novel will be a reality.

(By the way, a friend turned me on to a rant by the same person who gets into fights with her fictional characters and loses, and said that she can’t self publish because she’s not rich.  Ummm, last time I checked you didn’t need to be rich to self-publish, you just had to be able to write, edit, work with someone who’ll give you honest criticism, maybe get a friend who’ll make you a cover for cheep, and then set up an account, format your book, then upload and wait.  But then, this person is one of those vampires who lives to suck the life out of you, so the moral of the story is laugh at these people, kiddies:  they deserve it all.)

There is the fear that I don’t have an idea ready for when all this is done.  The mind seems to have shut down with the ideas while I concentrate on getting stories ready.  I suppose that’s the way thing go; you concentrate on one thing, and the mind files everything down in the back until you need them.

There is the fear, however:  what if the new ideas never come?  What if I’m stuck writing lots of stuff I already have imagined out, and nothing else ever comes to mind.  Not that I don’t have a lot of stories to tell:  you’d have to see some of my time lines to know this.  Still, it does bother me a bit–

Which means I’m driving myself crazy with things I need not drive.  I’m on the up escalator to the crazy house, worried that I’m never gonna have a new idea in my entire life.  I already know this is bull, because my ideas have left me with a whole lot of material, and my other fear is I’ll never write it all before I shuck this mortal coil.

You think this keeps George R. R. Martin up at night?

 

Getting to the Future Without the Past

One day, sixteen hours until NaNo gets going, and people are starting to feel the pressure.  Or, I believe they are, because the comments are beginning to come fast and furious, asking things like, “What are you going to do?” or, “Do you have names for your characters?”  It’s all fun and games until you actually have to start writing, is that it?

Some people are jumping about with ideas that are coming from nowhere.  A few of these ideas are dealing with something often called “Future History”, and involve a lot of “what ifs?” that can’t be answered easily.  In particular, some of the ideas deal with things happening three thousand or more years down the line, which means you’re going to have to do some major research, and head scratching, if you want to come up with an idea that doesn’t suck sour air.

But that doesn’t stop some people.  That doesn’t stop them from taking what we have “now”, and saying something like, “Hey, what if everyone started dropping bombs on everyone?”  (Place pinkie in corner of mouth.)  “But–three thousand years from now!”  Oh, yeah:  that’s going to work.  Just take what we have now and dress everyone like an extra from “Logan’s Run”.  I mean, that’s how it’s done, right?

Wrong.

To put it bluntly, creating future history is a bitch.  I’ve done a bit with another set of stories, and I’m dreaming up one now. And while I can say that I’ve done a bit of homework so that my worlds seem realistic, I can’t say with any certainty that they’d hold up as anything but fantasy.  But I’ve at least given my world some thought, and I’ve tried to make it fit into the realm of possible.

Far too many people, however, begin pulling ideas out of their asses, and putting a different outfit on a well-worn idea won’t make it look any different.  If it’s a bad or ill-conceived idea at the start, it’s going to be a bad one in the end, and no amount of editing short of a rewrite is going to fix your story.

There is nothing wrong with this–if this is what you want to write.  Hey, some people enjoy writing things that don’t make sense.  And this is not to say that I’m completely correct.  One can take historical stories like The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, and use that for inspiration for your future world.  The Project Rho site has a very good write-up on the development of future history, and this is something one should read again and again if you’re going to try setting your space opera off in the future.

But if you have no intention of learning anything, and feel you can keep America pretty much as if after several millennia have passed, you’ll probably have your women flying about in bra brassiere space suits, too.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that, other than you’ll end up looking like a complete idiot–and people like me will come along and tell you what a doof you appear.

To put it bluntly, science fiction fans are hell.  After Larry Niven’s novel Ringworld was published, engineering students from MIT wrote papers about how his fictional creation was unstable.  Not impossible, mind you:  from an engineering standpoint, the Ringworld was nothing more than a self-supporting suspension bridge, a modified version of a Dyson Ring, which had been discussed in some circles before.  But there was instability inherent in the structure  and it was this instability that led Niven to use this as a major plot point in the sequel, The Ringworld Engineers.  Had this point not been addressed eventually, Niven–who has had a great deal of experience creating future history–would have come off looking like some hack from the 1930’s.

Creating any kind of future or alternate history involves some work.  Maybe you can get away with some basic ideas in a first story, and then expand upon those ideas in later stories.  But even then, you better have your chops down pretty pat, and be ready to defend your position, or you’ll get walked upon with heavy boots.  And not being able to defend your position does not mean running away, then asking other people the same questions, certain that they know as little as you about creating a new world, so they’ll tell you things like, “Oh, America wouldn’t attack first–it’s their policy never to start a first strike”–and you never feel a sense of shame believing this comment, because you believe that in three thousand years not one freakin’ think about the county’s first-strike policies will evar change . . .

Good luck with that story.  I’m certain your hard drive will keep it warm for years to come.

Coffee and Imagination

Let me get this out of the way:  coffee usually doesn’t wake me up.  Yes, I know, the caffeine should have me bright eyed and ready to rock, but isn’t how it work most of the time.  I’ve been up about an hour, and two cups in my eyes are still half-masting.

Don’t know the reason for this.  A few times I’ve poured on the coffee and came away shaky and sick to my stomach.  Sometimes I’ve had one cup and been ready to tear up the world.  I don’t think it’s so much the caffeine, but more how my mind is handling the situations laying before me.

I do believe that it limbers up something for me, though, because my imagination can take off once I’ve downed a couple of cups in the morning.  Notice I said I’m not thinking; no, that’s something different.  Having your cognitive abilities online and working is not the same thing as letting yourself daydream about events which exist only in your mind.

I have one major thing to do for my NaNo Novel 2012.  I need to do it today.  Yesterday was a busy day, and I didn’t get around to writing anything.  No, all the writing and editing took place over the preceding weekend, but yesterday all about thinking and dreaming.

Besides the work I need to finish today for my novel, I was off thinking about another of my characters who have nothing to do with the characters in my upcoming story.  This story would take me back into the future, take me back into space, and take me into a place that started out with a dead body on the floor of a woman’s billet.  Yeah, you had to be there.  I guess the instructor who was teaching the writing class had to be there, too, since she didn’t get it, either.

I’m such a mystery, ain’t I?

I like heading into that which is fantasy–though I don’t consider my stories about space and the future fantasy, per say.  I know there are no happy, singing elves, and dangerous dragons flying about–though in this one line of stories I have ideas for, it might be possible.

After I’ve put NaNo behind me, I believe I will move towards this new story that keeps bopping about in my brain.  It keeps pulling at me, and it lets me get out there, lets my mind expand and churn, and gives me the chance to play with things–like putting a future history together.  Which is something I need to do for my Transporting universe.  I have no future history for that place–and why not?  That’s something I usually do just because.

See?  I’m getting lazy in my old age.

The clock on the NaNo Wall says 8 Days, 14 hours, and 30 minutes until The Crazy Train leaves the station.  I’ve got my ticket; all I need right now is to finish packing.  I’m setting today aside for that.  Then all I have to do it wait around until after the witching hour on Halloween night, crank out my prologue, then head off to bed after I update my word count.  Oh, and start laughing at people who, a couple of days later, are saying, (a) “I need help!  I need a name for a town in Kansas that has 2,000 people living there (which was one of the statements I saw last year)”, or, (b) “I’ve finished; I wrote 100,000 words in the last three days,” in which case, I wanna look at that manuscript, ’cause I’m guessing most of it says, “All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy.”

Coffee is cold.  Oh, well.

At least the imagination is perking.

World Builder Pretend

Last night I was back in the groove.  Last night I was typing like it was nobody’s business.  Last night, it was like it had been a few months back, when I was cranking out fifteen hundred words a night.

Yeah, I like that feeling.

Part Thirteen, Diners at the Memory’s End, and it was world building time.  I had to start in on Meredith’s secret, why she may have done what she did, and to do that I had to slink all the way back to the end of the 21st Century–you know that one, right?–and the early days of the 22nd Century.  Sure, it meant making up a lot of stuff, but I’ve been getting myself ready for that–

See, if there’s one thing I love doing, it’s making history, particularly future history.  I love coming up with things that have yet to happen, and then building my worlds around that.  And the more history you have, the greater the result somewhere down the line.

Now, I’ll admit, I’ve been a little shaky on this one.  I’ve been in a sort of, “Damn, do I have to do this?” mood since Wednesday, and Thursday’s mad rush back to The Real Home after work did little to help.  Not to mention I was tired as hell when I reached the homestead.

So, rather than write, I read.  I had already made a couple of notes about past events in my stories, but in my case, “notes” really means, “about five thousand words on a couple of events that happened in the distant past”.  Wordy, remember?  That’s me.

I read, and got things in my head yesterday, just to get a feel for what I wanted to set up.  I try to do that, too.  I’ve actually spent a couple of weeks thinking about what I’m going to write in this section.  I know about the most important event in Meredith’s life, how it’s going to happen, and when, and sorta why, and how that may color how she feels about Albert . . . but I also know how her culture sort of got there.

Yes, it might be a little convoluted, but those are fun convolutions.

With that in mind, I started writing with some of my notes opened in a Word document.  I wrote it as a conversation, with as little interaction between Cytheria–the teller of the tale, because she is a historian–and Albert, who is somewhat happy that he didn’t have his brains melted by Cytheria.  At this point she’s telling Albert about the meltdown of the superpowers at the end of the 21st Century, how the world state came into being during said meltdown–and how, in the middle of all this, Wales became a totally independent country.

When I was finished, there were just over twelve hundred words in the Scrivener note card.  That was a pretty good start, in my opinion.  And it came pretty effortlessly; there was little sense that I was struggling to get the words out.

I haven’t felt that way in a long time, let me tell you.

So, more today.  More history.  I’ll get Meredith’s ancestors out into space, over to their new home–and then let the fun happen.  I’ll build everything up to “present day”, and then . . . more fun.  Believe me, Meredith will find herself getting new knickers before it’s all over.

Yeah, I love world building.

‘Cause without a strong world, you’re never going to have a strong foundation for your stories.