Saturday, May 10, 2003

Gave a workshop today on "Selling Your Nonfiction Book"--8 people, very bright and motivated, with interesting ideas. It was great fun, and as always the day went fast. But I came home too tired to write, so today's comments aren't about today's progress on the novels.

But I did want to mention something that seems to get more important to me with every new book: The significance of even the smallest details in the opening chapter. In Henderson's Diaries, I found myself mentioning all kinds of things that at first seemed minor. Now I begin to think they're going to influence the whole course of the story.

Mike Henderson's doctor friend, after diagnosing Mike's pancreatic cancer, gives him some new painkiller. Three chapters later, Mike still hasn't taken any. Maybe the drug is going to help liberate some of his subconscious selves and thereby advance the creation of the nanobots that will save his life.

The homeless squatters who live across the street from Mike's apartment building have kids who are considered cute but good pickpockets. One of them may end up picking a very useful pocket--but I have no idea whose.

Patrick, the apartment building's manager, keeps things running in part with the threat of the ball peen hammer slung in his belt...he's the "consciousness" of the building, guarding it against both outside threats and insider revolts. I keep thinking Mike himself is going to take over the job--and maybe the hammer as well.

The lack of water (in formerly wet and rainy Vancouver) is a concern in chapter 1, with signs urging conservation and everyone having to take rationed showers. This will certainly turn into something more than just another gloomy forecast of a miserable future. The bots will design some kind of water trap, solving that particular problem.

The first chapter is full of "interface" images: the doctor's stylus pressed against the flat computer taped to Mike's arm; the wall screen showing 17th-century Vancouver; the shades Mike is wearing on the Skytrain platform just before he's mugged; the digital radio programs he listens to all night. I thought these were just high-tech details, fairly conservative predictions of where the Net could go in the next 30 years.

But the human-nanobot interface is critical to Mike's success, so one of these other interface images is likely to come back as the means for communicating with nanobots once they're inside Mike's body. A virus-sized radio transmitter seems very unlikely, but something will work (rather badly) before the nanobot finally graft themselves right into his nervous system. At that point, Mike's life will get very hectic.

Well, the bots will be able to mop up the fatigue chemicals in his body before he even notices them. I wish I could say the same. Let's see what tomorrow brings...

Friday, May 09, 2003

Another couple of hundred words on Deserters tonight, and I seem to have resolved my questions about Stackley's wounding and the letter. Stackley is beginning, Jack realizes, to acquire a "modern" attitude toward war: it doesn't matter if you're brave or gutless, skilled or not--you live or die by chance, by being in the wrong spot when the shell hits. But Jack realizes that most of Stackey's comrades (and their families back home) didn't share that attitude. They still believe all the nonsense about "dulce et decorum est pro patria mori."

So Jack is going to have to deal with that widespread attitude as he tries to understand Stackley's eventual suicide: whether from post-traumatic stress, or innate depression, whatever, Stackley by 1925 felt horribly isolated because he had ceased to believe in the war and his comrades in arms still did. Maybe Ethel too...wouldn't that be hard to take, when your own wife still buys the propaganda?

Well, it's a step further toward understanding both Stackley and Jack himself.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Deserters is inching ahead--just a couple of hundred words tonight, and I'm not quite sure where the current scene is going. Jack is flashing back to a bad scene while trying to make progress with Stackley's letters. One in particular is about Stackley's first wounding, and it makes Jack think about how much more serious he and his generation were about getting wounded or killed than were Stackley's generation. But I'm not quite sure where he's going with his thoughts. Maybe by tomorrow...but tomorrow night I'm going to a retirement party for a colleague I've worked with for 27 years. Well, maybe in the morning...

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

I'm back working on Deserters, and enjoying it. Not a lot done, really just a couple of pages altogether, and much of it was adding a touch here and there. With Maddy now out of the story, it has a reassuring unity -- even though Jack is flashing back and forth in time. He's just accepted an invitation to dinner with Astrid Gardiner, Maddy's stepmother and Sid's widow. Not sure I know what she's been doing all these years, but we'll find out. She'll also have some stories to tell about the early days of Sid's womanizing, when Jack's first wife Elizabeth was one of his lovers.

Also spent some time developing a new blog at another location...just to see what the difference is. Don't know if it's that much better. I just need to learn a lot about this genre.

Otherwise, this has been just a pleasant spring day, with a trip to dog-obedience class as a reminder that the dogs understand a lot faster than their owners ever do.

Blogger appeared to have swallowed my post last night, and tonight it's simply refusing to put this post on the site. So I may have to wait until tomorrow to get this published. Something else I need to do is find a more reliable platform.

Monday, May 05, 2003

Henderson is going slowly, but it's going. In fact, I'm going to have to get back to Deserters pretty soon.

In a way, I'm doing things wrong with Henderson...I started it months ago as a kind of "periscope writing," getting into the story to see what I could find in Henderson's world. Usually I do just a thousand words or so before deciding either to lower the periscope and abandon the idea, or to get serious and start outlining the story.

But here I am, ten thousand words into this story with only the vaguest idea where it's going. I know Henderson is supposed to acquire all kinds of amazing powers and traits thanks to the nanobots' rebuilding him from the genes up. I know that's going to scare the daylights out of the repressive governments of the year 2030, and that eventually everyone in the world will become rebuilt. And I know the story will explore the idea of multiple "selves" in every subconscious, personalities that pose their own problems when the nanobots give them a way to express themselves.

But I have very little idea just how I'm going to do all this. It's still just peeking through the periscope, seeing what pops into view. Example: Tonight I described Mike going down to the apartment building's laundry and seeing that the former swimming pool, long abandoned, has been walled off by the new owners (who are also his new employers, a Korean chaebol). I had no idea what was beyond the wall, so Mike tried the door. It was locked, but a camera mounted above it recognized him and let him in.

There he found a lab consisting mostly of six "workstations" -- which are like dentist's chairs, with a few extra gadgets. One of his new colleagues is there, and shows him how these computers work...so I'm learning about future computer interfaces even as I'm typing. This is OK if my subconscious writer-self knows what he's doing, but he seems a bit surprised himself. I'll let him think about it overnight.

I've also got two new characters: Charley Kim, the colleague, and Hain--the Korean computer that's now giving him a tour of its abilities. Why Hain? Well, I gather it means "servant" in Korean. Pretty dull name for a very smart computer, but it will have to do for now.

Sunday, May 04, 2003

After a day spent doing other things, I got back to Henderson late this evening and got some work done on chapter 4. It's going well, but in short bursts: 500 words seems as much as I can manage at this point. Still, it's all adding up. I'm over ten thousand words now, and the novel will probably run to about 75,000 or so. I might write faster if a publisher expressed any interest, but I'm not even going to send out queries yet. Still need to work out a synopsis.

Also thinking about Deserters and how to fill in some of the gaps left by Maddy's overdue departure from the story. Maybe I can get some patching done tomorrow. Thinking about a couple of other publishers who might be interested, but again I prefer to wait until the manuscript is a little more presentable.

Reading a biography of Aldous Huxley with some envy: here he was, practically blind, running around Europe with a wife and child in the 1920s, conducting a busy social life, and pecking away on a typewriter producing text he could hardly see...and he was producing book after book after book. Americans like Hemingway and Fitzgerald did the same thing, plus drinking. How did they manage it in those days?

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