Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Communication Lag

I've been fiddling around with the final-final-final draft of my science fiction opus, Solar Station A, and I have to confess it makes me more than a little sad to see the process of this particular volume come to a close.

That's because Solar Station A has gained something of a mythical status as being my "Chinese Democracy" - that ill-fated Guns N' Roses album which the band began recording in 1984 and didn't finish until a month away from the year 2009. Along that crazy-path the album took, there was much buildup, hype, fanfare, drama, and constant band lineup changes. (And of course, in the end, the album pretty much sucked and disappointed everyone.)

Solar Station A began its fermentation from the very start of the JSH Book Club. In 2011, I made a list of the pulp-fiction genres I wanted the first six books to represent - hard-boiled detective, American pioneer, western, war, science fiction, and pirate. (I have successfully ticked all these off the list except the war novel, and you may in fact be pleased to know that I currently do not have one planned.) I knew very early on what the title was - I didn't know why, I just liked the sound of it.

Soon a very rudimentary outline was formed, which was that a new scientific innovation has suddenly allowed ordinary citizens to zip around the solar system in spaceships of their own. But when they get out there, they discover that... well, let's leave it that. The lead was a mild-mannered guy who is appalled to learn that most of the people colonizing space are the same sort of rude people he'd hoped to escape by leaving Earth.

I was certain enough about the book's forward motion to include a brief synopsis of it in a "Coming Soon" section of The Moleskin Checklist, written in 2012 and published on January 1, 2013. Another book that didn't yet exist, The Bartender, was listed alongside it. That book made it to press; the other lingered, simmered, steeped.

Throughout the summer of 2013, I spoke often of the "final draft" of it being in the works, and coming "by summer's end", and then "by year's end." It never appeared. I am almost always late on deadlines, so it didn't seem too unseemly at this point. But by 2014, I had ceased talking about it entirely. And by 2015, it was becoming something of a joke, with only an occasional mention of it coming out "someday, maybe, I dunno."

Then, two things occurred that acted as catalysts: One, I made the decision to change the lead character from a man to a woman. Suddenly the writing flowed with this alteration and seemed, to me anyway, to be a major improvement of the story. Some people will inevitably say I don't know how to write a female character, and to them I will inevitably say, "go suck an egg."

The other factor was something that no one, myself included, could have foreseen in 2012: the election of Donald Trump. Since Solar Station A takes place in the very-near future, my idea of this fictional universe's history would be dramatically different than what I'd first envisioned. Giving the book a dystopian dose of Trump added some fuel to my fire to complete the damn thing and get it over with once and for all.

The curse hasn't stopped there, though. I originally announced the book would finally appear in January, then February, then March, and now it's pretty darn clear I'm gonna miss that deadline too. But we're close. Real close. Close enough to smell it. Why, I'm even tweeting teaser excerpts and everything. The coffee mugs and t-shirts can't be far behind now, right?

But will the book be any good? Oh, well....you know. It's pulp fiction, baby, short, sweet, and sassy. Wham, bam, thank you ma'am. It ain't Dostoyevsky but hey, what is? Besides Dostoyevsky, I mean. Buy it when it comes out and give it scathing reviews!

(Meanwhile, I've already turned my attention down the road to the next books: the also hanging-in-limbo publication of my dream journals, called Transmissions From Agent J, my "Great American Werewolf Novel", Undomesticated, and a peculiar little number about an 18th-century actress called Matilda Heron.)

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