With The Other now in pre-publication, my attention has turned to my next project. Last year, I anticipated that that project would be The Ghost King, a fantasy exploration of the long history of liberalism. I still plan on writing The Ghost King, but I've found myself dwelling on an idea that I first had back in 2015 around the time I was finishing up Schrödinger's City. The title of that project (almost certainly novel length) is Land of the Free, and I wrote the first chapter of it two nights ago.
I have had the experience on multiple occasions now of coming up with a setting or a context for a story, but without characters or thematics, I end up simply sitting on it until I'm able to develop it further. That can end up taking a very long time. In the case of The Other, I had the idea for one of the novel's central events—a human-nanite hybrid boy showing up inside the walls of the Reclamation—shortly after finishing Alterra in 2014, but it wasn't until real world neoconservatives in 2019 displayed their attitude toward immigrants and their obsession with walls for all the world to see that I was able to form a narrative around that scene.
The same thing has happened with Land of the Free. Here is the book blurb I wrote for it in 2015:
The ancient ones called them "cities." Nowadays, we call them "monsters."
In the distant future, Seattle has become a mass of blooming transistors and liquid crystal explosions. New York's infrastructure traps its prey by reshaping itself at will. Miami burbles with a psycho-hallucinogenic gel. Chicago erupts in fountains of molten rust. Los Angeles glitters with sparkling lights and prismatic delusions. And Washington DC, though empty and devoid, can warp any human mind unfortunate enough to draw near it.
Although most people avoid these terrible places, some individuals are fearless enough to attempt entry. While the petty amongst them hope only to bring home the riches of ancient technology, a few dreamers still believe in the tall tales, those of places within the cities that are stable and safe, where life can be lived fully—the land of the free.
Fun world building for sure, but without characters and a point, there wouldn't be a story. The good news is that I have found the characters who will inhabit this horrific world, and the narrative that surrounds them has come together, too.
Now all I have to do is write it. Two thousand words down, however many thousand more words to go.