The following is a screenshot from an email I just sent about one minute ago… Will see how it goes!
Early in 2021, I wanted to give myself a break of revising The Sacrificed, figuring that there was no need to rush things with it. I want to try writing a novel that was shorter, less structured, more informal. I had an idea of a tangential plot structure–every section follows on a tangent from the previous one without the need for any semblance of a linear time structure. I wanted to complete a draft of a manuscript without all the core pieces already planned out. The working title is Like the Aged Too Old to Stay Young. I started the draft in March, and I finished the draft today.
I have no idea if this story is even readable. It might very well be a complete mess. It’s been the focus of my writing for these last six months, and now it’s time to put it on hold. Let it take a vacation while I return to The Sacrificed. The last time I wrote a novel with so little planned in advance, it was 1998. It was the first novel I ever wrote, the manuscript of which I’ve long lost. Maybe by the new year, I’ll finally be done with The Sacrificed and can come back to look at this experiment.
Anyhow, here is the first paragraph of this unwieldy-titled draft. Usually, the first paragraphs of my drafts don’t end up being the first paragraphs of my completed manuscripts. But. Hell. Why not just post it here.
In the end, my entire life will take place in between the space of two memories. It will not matter my age, my condition, my emotions. Before my consciousness wanes and cognition whimpers, I’ll skip from one thought to just one more. Time may unfold before us in a linear path but the trail we leave behind is tangled and jumbled, knotted, frayed and darned. We take the orderly events of time that have yet to occur and scatter them in a right fucking mess in the instant of our present. That’s what we do. We take the order and sense out from reality and make a Pollock, call it a life.
I will keep the original post below, but it turns out that it’s… well… wrong. After contacting Renana Raz, her performance is actually based on a book called The Most Boring Book in the World by Nana Ariel. The Jerusalem Post article in the post below has listed my book as the inspiration. I guess the journalist didn’t quite do their homework for the article.
Anyhow, still sounds like an interesting (or boring) performance. And who would have thought that there is now another book with such a very similar title (although it appears to be a completely different take on the idea).
So, this is different.
A woman in Israel has “adapted” The Most Boring Book Ever Written into a performance piece. It ran for two days earlier in August in Tel Aviv. Only found out about it when a Google Alert was sent to my inbox about this. Crazy. How ironic–a book intended to be boring inspired someone to create art–that is also boring.
I hope to have a chance to see a recording of this.
I finished the draft for The Sacrificed just over a year ago. Since then, it’s been revised, restructured, revised and revised some more. I don’t want to rush this. I don’t see the point in haste.
So, here is the start. The first couple of pages. Maybe I will release it in the coming months. Maybe not for another year or two. I don’t know. It’s been a long time since I felt so comfortable letting something sit and wait. I guess I’m getting old.
Pri sat against a wall of rock and clay, the room a narrow rectangle, wooden joists and floorboards above exposed. If she stood tall, her head would hit the ceiling. If she stretched out her legs, her toes could reach the opposite wall. She could see nothing aside from a dull point of light, too meagre a source to illuminate any details. Her bare feet pressed against the dirt floor, moist from a trickling stream that dribbled down the opposite wall. Her right ankle and wrist still throbbed; she massaged her arm while leaving one leg outstretched. Hasan’s words were still clear in her memory, his voice assured, steady, blinding her with a flashlight mere inches from her face. If she yelled, he would cut her throat. If she tried to run, he would cut her throat. She called for Jaz with a whisper and the next moment the cool pinch of a metal blade pressed against her neck. At the time there was no deliberating the possibility that this might have been a butter knife. A piece of scrap metal. At the time, she did what he said. He then pushed her, told her to walk, reminded her to stay silent while keeping a tight grip around her arm. She was barefoot, without her coat or belongings, and remembered climbing slick steps, the frigid rain falling into her hair and shoulders as if she’d been forced into a cold shower. She did not want to whimper; she did not want Hasan to view her as meek. She recalled a perverse emotional numbness—her heart raced, her hands quivered, but she walked, she breathed, listening for other footsteps. This is happening, she thought to herself, not daring to say a word out loud. This is happening. It felt like they walked for more than twenty minutes through the Jungle, her toes stubbing uneven rocks in the roads, her heels pressing onto plastic wrappers, cables. Wafts of sewage drifted through the lingering, acrid exhaust from generators. Hasan didn’t speak and his grip never relented. He directed her with jostling tugs and she figured that he expected her to shriek. But somehow it was easy to remain calm, or at least remain quiet. He then told her to take a step and thrust her thorough a doorway. She felt plywood beneath her feet, then a rug or carpet. He let go of her arm and told her she was going to fall. Her wrist struck the opening as she tumbled, her ankle twisting upon impact. He then closed the door above her and locked it shut. She struggled to untie the blindfold—the knots multiple, tight and wet. And when she removed it, she was here, in the dark, in the mud, alone.
Since then, there had been no contact with anyone. There were footsteps above, muffled voices of men, but the trap door remained shut. All she had were the clothes on her body, still wet from her forced march through the rain, and a single blanket that she wrapped around her shoulders and thighs, the material synthetic and coarse, stinking of smoke. She assumed that someone would come down to speak with her, demand a ransom, something. Hasan kidnapped Pri in the middle of the night and now appeared content to let her remain indefinitely. Her bottle of Stasi was still in her bag. Hasan must have taken her belongings. The medication had no value to anyone else. As soon as she had a chance, she would plead for her bag, or just her medication.
Pri stood, keeping her weight on one leg, hunched over and running her fingers along the underside of the floorboards, sheets of plywood, a few small squares, mostly long rectangles. She felt the grain of the wood, some with splinters like baby hairs against her skin, others flush, perhaps coated in paint. The corner of one floorboard was soft, the wood rotten, she could scrape away fibers with her fingernails. Four joists spanned the length of the ceiling, each a different thickness. Even when hunched over, she had to mind these beams to avoid scraping her forehead. She felt the square seam of the trap door, the tips of nails clustered in pairs to secure the hinges on the other side. She brushed her fingers along the perimeter of the ceiling, where floorboards rested atop dirt, dry to the touch except for a section through which rainwater dribbled, the surrounding wall moist. A hole no wider than her index finger let through a muted circle of daylight. She could pry apart the dirt around it, pebbles clattering to the ground, rainwater clinging down into her armpit.
Someone entered the structure above, footsteps thumping along the floorboards. At least two people walked, both shuffling steps, ambling, perhaps pacing. Pri tried to follow their locations, her hands up against the ceiling, felt it sink into her fingertips as someone plodded above. She couldn’t hear any voices. One set then strode towards the trap door and Pri scuttled back against one corner, expecting it to open, pulling the blanket up around her folded knees.
The footsteps ceased. She had no reason to remain in the corner, but she had no reason to stand up. She kept the blanket around her, watched the dot of light across the room, and then closed her eyes.
It’s been 10 years, to the day, since The Adventures of Whatley Tupper was published as a Kindle ebook. So, I figured I might as well make the kindle version free for a few days here at Amazon*.
Years ago, I had plans to revisit the book in some manner, but now I feel too busy working on a new novel to divide my time with something else.
*Actually, I screwed up and couldn’t make it free until tomorrow (the 23rd). It will be free for 5 days. Download early. Download often. Continue reading
So, almost 15 years ago I went to a talk by William Rees, the man who is credited with coming up with the term “Carbon Footprint.” It was an uplifting lecture about how our civilization is in really big trouble because of carbon emissions and how the most devastating effects of this won’t really be felt until late in this century. He spoke of the inevitable mass migration brought on by climate change–the climate refugees that would unbalance any semblance of a world order. Around the same time, I heard of an informal migrant camp in France, near the Chunnel portal, referred to as “The Jungle.” I soon began toying with a narrative about a future where every city in the world is surrounded by sprawling migrant encampments brought on by a relentless migration of ecological refugees. I imagined where cities became compartmentalized, everything privatized–police, infrastructure, medicine–as a way of protecting those with means from the rest of the world. I thought of all of this, made notes, jotted ideas… even started a novel where a man, who lost his wife in an terrorist attack, sought vengeance from these migrants. But the narrative fizzled. The draft never made it past the second act. That was that.
Next, almost 10 years ago I had an idea for a more traditional science fiction story about an interstellar ark requiring several generations of passengers to make it from Earth to their new home. The story would revolve around the middle generations of these people, those who were unwittingly being sacrificed by the previous generations to do little more than have offspring that will one day produce offspring that would survive the journey. I returned to this idea several times over the last few years, in the process establishing a backstory on the creation of this spacecraft and the first generation of people who would have volunteered to begin this journey, knowing that they would die on board. As I worked out more of the details of the creation of this ark, I began to find connections to my previous idea of a world plagued by mass migrations. And I soon found a plot that satisfied me–the story of people who want to leave the Earth itself, aware that they were sacrificing not only the rest of their lives, but the lives of their descendants for the dream of being the first humans to reach a new star.
I began the draft almost a year ago, and I finished the draft this morning (and by strange coincidence, it’s my birthday; so, happy birthday, me). The last third of the book was a tough slog, as the demands of the narrative pushed me out of my comfort zone. Now, my job in revising is to try and ensure that the narrative is any but a tough slog for the reader. Fingers crossed. Here we go. The hardest part it is done. The most time consuming part remains.
It’s called The Sacrificed. It’s a standalone story, currently a little over 100 000 words in length. Hopefully it was worth time that went into it.
Will see where this takes me. This stems from an idea that I’ve been toying with for more than ten years now, but has only recently taken a more detailed form in the last year. Really, it’s a combination of two different ideas that have been sticking with me for a long time. Now it’s time to try this again. Wish me luck.
This is how the world finally ends.
Available on the October 14th, 2018
This was not his first funeral. He had flown to one with his family—mother, father, sister—when he was only seven years of age, maybe six, maybe younger. He remembered his dad gripping his mother’s hand, tears running down only one of her cheeks, as if the other eye had malfunctioned. Sara stood in front of him, her hair ruffling apart, folding over in a frigid breeze. The sun was luminous, a façade of warmth, and yet they were freezing. Caleb kept his hands clasped together between both thighs. The grass between his shoes was delicate and beige, the soil beneath a rigid, frosty base. Sara looked up to ask a question and Alex squeezed her shoulder, gently shushing. Caleb couldn’t recall who this funeral was for. He couldn’t remember where they were that afternoon, other than it was “out east” and involved airports, hotels. And as Caleb now stood, watching the canvass-wrapped corpse of Jeffery Gladstone rest on the muddy grass, he accepted that he would never know the details of these vague memories. Everyone who once possessed the answers to these questions had died years ago. Not that such details had any significance to Caleb’s life—he existed in a world where the past had been imperfectly, and yet almost entirely, erased. With so little to remain certain about, that funeral from his childhood meant nothing. A curious memory.
This, however, was real. Caleb could smell the rot from Jeffery’s body, unmistakable, unavoidable, no matter how many layers of cloth they had wrapped around the old man. He wanted to hold his hand to his nose but knew that it would be impolite. Like everyone else, he sneered from the vinegar twang of sour meat, sucked in breaths between his teeth. But he would not make a scene. Ada started coughing, teetering on gagging, and then muttered an apology. Steven was delivering the eulogy, his eyelids fluttering from the falling rain, refusing the umbrella that had been offered. He spoke of Jeffery as the founding father of Alexis Creek, someone dedicated to their small community, to the wellbeing of every person, every survivor. Caleb looked around to the others, their faces weary, tired, and impatient, waiting for Steven to finish and then skid the body into the bottom of the grimy pit, yearning to escape this putrid stench, almost gasping for fresh air. These were the same people who dared not enter Jeffery’s house for those final months. No one knew what it was that he had been dying from. No one possessed any semblance of medical training and the best they could do was draw upon anecdotal memories and then fill in the vast chasms of uncertainty with fear. Their greatest fears. What if it there was a contagion? What if it’s from radiation? What if this is just the beginning? Steven used the word “citizen” to describe the people in attendance—the citizens of Alexis Creek, the citizens of the new world—and Caleb found this a dishonest word. To him, this implied caring, responsibility, empathy. But as far as Caleb could tell, these supposed citizens let an old man die on his own, rationalizing that it was humane and just since Jeffery was “home,” in the same physical structure that he had lived in for almost half a century. He was comfortable there, they’d claim. Caleb would walk through the town at night, windows of homes flickering from candles, but in these last months, Jeffery’s were always dark, seemingly unoccupied. Caleb might sit on the front step and listen. Just the patter of rain, rustling tree tops, and then a hacking, scraping, feeble cough. He should be quarantined, people said with ashamed tones. Steven was the only person who might enter Jeffery’s home, always donning a facemask. They had gone into the nearest towns, looking through pharmacies at bottles of years’ expired medications for a cure to something they could not diagnose and would never understand. Even Steven was reluctant to stay in Jeffery’s home for more than a few minutes. He might see Caleb sitting outside, in the rain, and ask him what he was doing. Caleb would shrug and carry on, as if he had only stumbled upon Jeffery’s house in passing, by accident. In his final weeks, Jeffery never left the house. Caleb could only imagine what was happening inside. He sat on the hood of a car that had not moved in years, windows opaque, scattered with red needles. Jeffery Gladstone was the only survivor of the original Alexis Creek. Like everyone else, he endured the events of The Fourteenth of August thanks to dumb luck. The exact details did not matter. Caleb knew that Jeffery had a wife who did not make it, who was never found, but he decided to persevere. He met others and brought them to this town. They founded a new colony, what was meant to become a self-sufficient community. He was among the few that drove to Bella Coola and replied to the note. It was his handwriting. Against unimaginable odds, Jeffery Gladstone survived the near extinction of the human race only to end his life shitting in his bed, alone in the cold, the damp, and the dark, unable to move, no one coming to pay their respects until after he had perished, until after they could drag him out with gloves and masks, until after he had been sprayed down and then wrapped in thick layers of canvas that still failed to withhold the stench of his rotting carcass. This was the end that awaited Jeffery Gladstone, pioneer of this New World. And these were his “citizens,” Caleb thought, as they shoveled the first dense piles of mud on top of his body.
Ingrid gripped Caleb’s hand, squeezing his ring and index fingers together. “Are you okay?” she asked with eyes that were consoling, as if he’d been crying. He remembered when she had to look down at him, her irises a streaked hazel, like cracks in stone, he used to think. Back then, her hair dangled from either cheek, straight but erratic at the tips. Now her neck arched upwards, the bridge of her nose at the level of his lips. He wanted to ask Ingrid why all these people pretended to care so much about this one death. He knew that they were acting. How could those tears be authentic when they would not dare step foot in the dying man’s house for weeks, for months? How can this one funeral mean anything compared to what everyone had already experienced? Ingrid’s eyes were glazed; a pair of dark lines trailed down each cheek to her chin. Caleb looked into her expression and wanted to ask what was she crying about? Was it that Jeffery Gladstone died? Or for something else, something more profound: the fact that this man would have been better off should he have never survived the events of The Fourteenth. Stop crying, he wanted to tell Ingrid. But he nodded, his expression indifferent. She tugged at his arm to take him home, like he still needed to be walked, but he pulled his hand free and motioned towards the men shoveling. He helped them dig Jeffery’s grave. He would help them fill it back up. Remove any trace of his existence. “I’ll see you at home,” Ingrid said, intoned as if she sought confirmation. Caleb nodded, watching her turn and join the scattered procession of others strolling back along the street.
So, March the 14th. That’s the date that Book Two of How the World Ends will be available at Amazon.com, but you can pre-order it right now by clicking on this conveniently-hyperlinked sentence! I just got my confirmation from Kindle Scout that they will not be publishing my book, which is to be expected when considering that they didn’t publish the first, but hopefully all those people that nominated this book will take a look.
Don’t want to say too much about this book, other than it continues right after the events of Book One, but follows Hayden. The time frame is a little more elongated than before, with the plot spread out over a number of months, as opposed to a number of days. As with before, this is not meant to act as a stand-alone novel, but instead form the middle third of a complete story. However, there is a very definite ending. In fact, when I first thought of this story (which came from a dream of a movie that I was watching), the story concluded here, after this book. But what works in a dream and works in reality are fairly different, I tend to think.
Here’s the brief write-up from the Amazon page (taken from the Kindle-Scout page):
The world has already come to an end. Now Hayden and four others—who might very well be the last souls on Earth—must contend with the notion that it may not be possible to know what happened on the 14th of August, 2007. Regardless of reasons, and against astronomical odds, they survived. But can survival be a means unto itself? Because if not, the cruelest fate just might be their perseverance.