The next couple of weeks, like the last one, are likely to be slow for me — the end of the year is always a busy time, what with family commitments and such. Hence my silence for the last several days. But a few things did surface for examination.
First is a kind of self-assay. I recently finished and published a novel (Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned) and am now neck-deep in the planning phase for the next one, so such an interregnum gives me space to muse not just about what to write but why to write it that way.
The next book — title still pending — has a setting that is kind of a pastiche. It's the flavor of the time between the two World Wars, plus a kind of superhero/comic-book/steampunk (as much as I detest that term) overlay. But the idea wasn't to just present a flavor and use that as an excuse for the whole effort, because god knows how many other stories have done just that. Rather, my aim is to look at the mood or the tenor of the times suggested by some combination of those flavors, and tell their story.
Think of it this way: Within the last ten years there came and went a calamity so total that not a single part of the face of the civilized world was left untouched by it. It simply became impossible to live as one did before, knowing what one does now about what men are capable of — and not just collectively, but individually. Out of that comes a widespread, low-level (at first) hunger for heroes, for saviors, for Great Men to come along and solve our problems for us from the top down. It remains to be seen if we can learn the proper lesson, which is that no one and no world is ever saved from the top down but only from the inside out and the bottom up.
For the longest time I believed that Something New could be found by way of science fiction or fantasy, and I still do. Not through SF&F taken uncritically as a whole, but by way of things that could only be found there. Everything I've been putting out so far has been my attempt to produce something that could lay claim to that new direction. I don't think I'm anywhere near where I could be with such a project; in the words of Keith Jarrett, I've courted the fire and sparks have flown, but the language of the flame itself has yet to be spoken. All the more reason to keep slugging. On to the next slug.