You can never be sure that your writing is up to the mark. Early on I experimented with plot structure — you know the sort of thing, parallel threads, multiple points of view, written on different levels… all in one project. After three years it had reached a logical end; I decided to bring it to a close.
The result: A Guide to First Contact, is a literary experiment. It deconstructs narratives from the future, present and past. These, although seemingly unrelated, drip feed the larger design that links them together. Gradually a grand mosaic is built up revealing the links between the protagonist and the various other entities populating this work. The machinations of human and alien take shape. Although there are clues, the protagonist remains an enigma.
Fact and fiction are blurred in this epic of a post apocalypse America. Triste is a mercenary. The ruins of New York are shunned with good reason; it’s the haunt of perdokhi, sub-human brutes. They breed fast and they are mutating, and New York is a hotspot for new and dangerous breeds – which is handy for, say, a covert alien base, and Redmann. Redmann live unmolested amongst the perdokhi, but how? Shoe is a Redmann but wants to escape. It will be risky – she’s not like normal humans but she has a plan. Triste is tracking down a long lost gene lab. She falls in with him. He uses drugs to stay alive, soon he’ll return to civilisation – but he doesn’t know who or what she is A relationship develops. They find records that tie into events before the collapse of the West. Shoe isn’t as defenceless as she seems. Time is running out.
That took me to 2012. In well worn fashion I branched out, starting several novels within self-imposed constraints. The key constraint is there has to be an interesting idea. Others I made up – at the time this equated to: each piece must entertain and at the very least, least give nods in the direction of educate and inform. I don’t always stick to this rule. Who does? Along the way I accumulated a growing number of Unfinished Tales. At some point I will self-publish them – there are well over one hundred (of which about half are actually complete). Getting back to the point, some of these pieces were begun as preludes to larger works of which three are an excuse to explore Americana through Detective / Noir fiction (or is it the other way about?) Whatever, I ended up with opening chapters for:
• Alibi — an OpEd leaves the Big Apple on a mission of mercy to Oklahoma.
• Harjazes — the search for a missing husband is stymied by new sightings of a crazy Indian legend, the ridge-runner.
• Without Question — a gangster who’s been left for dead falls into the hands of law enforcement. No good guys in this.
Some aspects of Historical fiction interest me, in particular the Roman Empire and the time of the Crusades / Golden Age of Islam / Mongols. From this I have opening chapters for two works of historical fiction.
• Winter in Alexandria — takes place just as three Roman legions are slaughtered in Teutoburger Wald
• The Central Sea — (which is of course the Mediterranean) is a tale of the corsairs, set in Malta, Norman Sicily
I work primarily in Science Fiction and Fantasy. My purpose became to develop narratives that do away with the sugar coated conventions common to each. Each New World is different (here’s hoping this meets the approval of Mr. Moorcock).
Lucky is a literary experiment. It takes a conventional SF narrative and interposes it on the well known, day to day, existential issues faced by those who live at the bottom of life’s heap. I’m talking here sink estates in the UK. The resulting piece is taken to a landing stage; i.e. to a point where the shape of the story starts to become clear, but doesn’t conclude. It is a sketch. Food for thought to publishers and agents.
Long, long ago, there was war in the heart of the galaxy. The core stars were ripped apart by the fury of that conflict. Lucky is a survivor from it; she is lucky to even exist. Her people, the flowing people, were destroyed by the measuring people. War separates the victors from the losers. The victors survive and the losers are crushed from existence and from memory. To go home would have been death, so Lucky fled. She programmed her ship, the Expedient, to take her away from the galactic core, away from the planets where her people once lived and into the skeins of stars that make up the spiral arms of the galaxy. That was a long time ago. Few of the places she once knew can now support life. She has been a refugee since, drifting from star to star, in a half-life of suspended animation, known as slowtime. The Expedient charts a careful course, ploughing its lonely furrow between the stars, always away from what she once knew. She’d stop running but it’s now all she knows.
Brant, another sketch, examines epic fantasy and high fantasy tropes in the context of those long ago banes of civilisation: plundering nomadic hordes and mercenary companies – over which a thin veneer of chivalry is cast.
As a youth Brant flees his homeland which has been conquered by the augeruch. He now travels as a hired hand, vowing to one day return, and free those he knows. That is some way off. Brant becomes a hired hand learning the trade of a mercenary with trader caravans. He’s travelled the northland steppes, the far off Khaif empire and even to the fabled city of Hrim The realm of Tyrikhon has fallen on hard times. Princess Aralie is to be bartered by her uncle, who rules in place of her assassinated father. She is kept prisoner in the town of Orby. Not far away bands of mercenaries gather, waiting for an opportunity. Things are looking bleak. Through the nearby forest a lone wanderer approaches….
To write, self-edit, format and print individual copies for free evaluation isn’t free, takes a good deal of time and can be a thankless task. Any who don’t have a literary background will understand just how frustrating it can be. It took nearly three years to get meaningful feedback. The results were pleasing. My experimentation was not only to my taste but also to the taste of my intended audience – intelligent readers who might not normally venture beyond general fiction / detectives / thrillers.
For this and other reasons I recently wrote The Tau Device. The first 25% of this closely follows Lory Gato: Interstellar Gourmet, a light-hearted sketch.
Lory Gato is a commissioning agent for CEAD, Core-Earth Azimuth Developments. What that involves is a stressful life, hopping from star to star seeking out ever more piquant tastes. Why? because the teeming billions of Earth can’t afford the fare to the exotic pleasure palaces of the galaxy. His mission? to boldly seek out places where no human tongue has tasted or nose has sniffed before. No matter how repulsive or quixotic those alien luxuries might be, he’s got to test them and send some back home. Yep, not what your average Joe does, but it has to be done. Genial, fun-loving star-traveller Lory comes to T’negi 36. Does he bite off more than he can chew when he meets lovely xeno-archaeologist, jih Liasse?
So where does The Tau Device go? One of my authorial objectives was to take the reader to the point where the contours of a dark and ominous universe begins to take form.
All the above are from my to novelise list. It would be nice to explore each idea but ruthlessness is called for. Being ruthless means many pieces don’t reach the landing stage. I like to think that the following works-in-progress could also become novels.
• Asimov 3 — examination of robots (and those laws)
• The Xenophids — we finally find intelligent life in outer space. It’s big, bad and hostile, which means that humanity are next up on the extinction list
• Empire — dark matter galaxy, the British Empire reformed, trans-dimensional nasties, what more could you ask?
• The Bareqqua — mediaeval fantasy (modelled on the Carmargue, SE France)
• Erisse of the Illyany — present day dark fantasy + alternate timeline Earth, Dzungaria
Availability of works mentioned
• A Guide to First Contact is on Kindle and Lulu
• Lucky is on Kindle and Lulu
• Brant is on Lulu:
• Lory Gato, interstellar Gourmet is on Lulu:
• Real Fiction features extracts from Alibi / Without Question, Harjazes, The Central Sea / Winter in Alexandria
• The Tau Device should be ready for Kindle / Lulu around February 2016.