The last time I gave an update on my writing, I announced that I was working on a new project called Land of the Free. I had just scratched the surface of that novel when Covid-19 rolled in full force, and I found myself scrambling to reorganize all aspects of my life instead of writing. Now that I have settled into a new routine, I find I have some time again. However, Land of the Free, while still compelling, is no longer first and foremost in my mind.
Am I compelled to capture our societal moment on the pandemic in the same way that the Trump presidency compelled me to pen The Other? Not exactly. Pandemics have been with humanity for as long as our species has existed on this planet. The sociological effects of quarantine, irksome as they may be, are not, in and of themselves, noteworthy or remarkable, at least to my mind.
What I think does merit exploration is the fact that we have constructed economic and social systems that are so astonishingly fragile when hit with an event such as this one. Covid-19 will not be the last pandemic humanity ever faces, but I would hope that by the next time around, we’ll be more prepared. And by that, I really mean, prepared at all. Perhaps we’ll also have managed to marginalize the portion of the population who wants to believe ridiculous nonsense about the pandemic, such as that it doesn’t in fact exist, as opposed to what we do now, which is have them run the country. There’s a thought.
But I digress. Literature has a role in interpreting this situation. What exactly is wrong with how we’ve constructed our society? What is it like to be an atomized observer watching enormous and complex social and economic systems falter?
These thoughts provided substance to an idea that I have been sitting on for about six years, ever since I finished my second novel, Insomnium. In Voyage Embarkation, I introduced the idea of the metaxia, a kind of quantum space that separates each parallel world from all the others. Insomnium introduced the concept of a “metaxic contortion,” a kind of twist in the metaxia resulting in the creation of a new (albeit unstable) universe. Ever since finishing Insomnium, I wanted to write a story set in an artificially created universe called “the Intersection.” The idea was that a group of people found a way to permanently stabilize a metaxic contortion. Unlike Insomnium’s contortion, which was an accidental creation, the Intersection would be an intentionally generated construct.
As I have noted before, a “neat idea” isn’t necessarily a compelling story. In order to actually write this story, I need a telos, a point. For six years, I haven’t had one. Covid-19 supplied it.
The novel I am working on now is called Intersection Thirteen, and I’m currently two chapters in. As the name implies, I have expanded the idea from a single metaxic contortion to multiple. Once its creators figured out how to stabilize a metaxic contortion, it clearly wasn’t sufficient for them to do it only once. As should be unsurprising from the theme I’ve described, the sheer scale of their quantum contortion-stabilizing infrastructure proves less than resilient to a once-in-three-hundred-year phenomenon. The protagonist, a witness to these events, is a metaxic explorer from our Earth timeline, who stumbles upon the intersections accidentally.
Another point worth mentioning is that Intersection Thirteen represents a break from the internal consistency of my novels’ timelines. Voyage and Insomnium establish a history for the 21st through 24th centuries on Earth. Alterra and The Other are set on parallel universes wholly isolated from Earth, and Schrödinger’s City is set on some completely unknown quantum plane. With Intersection Thirteen, I will explicitly break the timeline I set up in Voyage and Insomnium. I don’t feel compelled to apologize for this. Rather, I want it on record, just in case a future reader feels compelled to attempt their own contortions trying to fit all my novels onto a single coherent timeline.
As such, the projects I have going currently are, in order of priority: Intersection Thirteen, Land of the Free, and The Ghost King.
I also have a single short story I wrote last year called “Hear Ye, Hear Ye!” which I’m quite fond of. I’d love to get it into a collection, but I’d have to write many more short stories I’m fond of first. I’m wondering if perhaps I should get back into the habit of forcing myself to write a short story every week, even if I don’t have a compelling idea. Running a writing group is how I managed to produce both Lore & Logos and Transmutation of Fire and Void. Something for me to consider.