While I’m waiting for Lime to show up — her shift at the hospital just ended and I have feeling we’ll be watching a few episodes of lost, and having a nice dinner of my own devising tonight — I thought I’d sketch out some of the ideas that have been kicking around in my head as far as back-pocket ideas for the stories I’ll be writing while at the Clarion West Workshop this summer. They’re rough ideas, and I’ll need to do some research, but here are the ones that have been bouncing around most jouncily.
- A short story that can be integrated into my long-neglected novel-draft set in Rudyard Kipling’s worst nightmare. Following the collapse of the European Empires sometime around 1850, and a war over the destruction of opium being imported into Britain, my protagonist ends up as a slave in the Northern Chinese court. The story would tell of his last days in the collapsing Qing court, and of his flight south into the pseudo-Christian Taiping Heavenly Kingdom of Peace. Research will include some southern-Chinese vocabulary, and flipping through some of my books on the real, failed, and very bloody Taiping Rebellion.
- A short story about a city-state for the young, technological elite in Northeast Asia. It’s founded as a way for young people to cut themselves off from the burden of the immense greying population, but of course they bring some of their problems with them. I think there’s a large population of second-class citizens (South and Southeast Asians, mostly). I have an image in mind from my last trip into Seoul, during one of the bad Yellow-Dust-from-the Gobi storms, and a person taking a baby out during one of these storms. There’s also a chunk from a history book a co-worker told me about, Stalin and some big inaugural meeting that launched a Socialist Realist literary movement in Russia… I really need to read more about that, but I’m thinking it could be a pack of nu-art practitioners of some kind… clipfilm artists, mashuppers, or maybe some new kind of music. Not thinking VR, though; I think their art would be moving away from simulation into real, actualy-visceral, something like that.
- A vague idea about an alien convert to Catholicism who feels he should be ordained as a priest but who is struggling to explain why he feels this is right; and the human priest who is his mentor, on a Catholic starship, struggling with the local Church’s point-blank rejection of the idea and his own discomfort with the idea which is starting to be swayed by the poor alien’s impassioned plea.
- A story about a little boy who is living in the wake of a horrific bioweapon holocaust, but who is, you know, basically okay, happy with life, and has never known anything different. This is very vague and I’m not sure it has legs, but it’s bounced around a bit and I need to think about it. It would essentially be a kind of response to Riddley Walker, though.
I have a few other ideas, such as my fractious Asian superheroes concept, and the travelogue by futuristic WTO/UN aid worker, but everything’s too vague for me to flesh it out more for now.
UPDATE: There’s another one that came up in a comment on another post, here, which triggered me having techies putting together a semi-intelligent neural network that analysed the whole of the output of the net in English (or some other specific language) on a given day… after a few months, the neural net finds only a very limited number of basic ideas are floating around, endlessly reiterated and mostly bounded by whatever’s been printed by the media congloms.
UPDATE 2: Ooh, and the floaters in the guy’s eye that finally spell out words like “Help!” and how this might happen to be. (I have no idea how, by the way.)
UPDATE 3: Thinking of having some business with chiral starch modifications in the city-state for the young, plus did some background thinking on the city-state’s location. Sort of. And a plot, and a couple of characters, and some other cool stuff.
Also read some fascinating things such as the sexual link between an African-American prostitute in Washington DC and Maxim Gorky. Their names are HG Wells and his lover Moura. The invasion will not be televised… but it might make a cameo in porno movies… this is going to be a difficult thing to write, very impressionistic and vague and suggestive, not the least in part because I haven’t got a clear idea in my head exactly what kind of alien invasion Moura’s convinced happened via Wells’ sexual escapades, or rather because I’m pretty certain she has no idea what the nature of the invasion is, and she suspects Wells knows more than he’s letting on.
Last idea: this one, inspired by a viewing of The Omen (on June 10th, the night before this update): a takeoff on the old story of the antichrist, except that his whole mission is merely to set up a safe place for secular humanism in the world. That’s it. We’ve got misguided Satanists trying to protect him and annoyed when he has absolutely no supernatural powers, Catholic clergy pushing for his ritual execution, and as for him, everywhere he goes, people get this serence sense that religion just, well, isn’t necessary anymore for them. They just push all thoughts of God and Heaven and Hell and The Other Guy (and other religious superstitions of all stripes) out of their heads and find themselves suddenly thinking so much more clearly. Definitely James Morrow territory here, but I think it’s something that could work. The trick will be making it work in a relatively short story. I’m thinking the Adoptive Dad will be the narrator, his wife seeing a therapist (but suddenly feeling she may not need to anymore), the new nanny already beginning to spook him out, and he’s tucking the kid in for the first scene.
I’ll be bringing a few books along: a history of the transatlantic slave trade, Jonathan Spence’s book on the Taiping Rebellion, and at least one book of Korean folktales, as well as (maybe) a book on alternative economics. I’ll also be bringing one or two novels by teachers of ours, which I haven’t had a chance to get to and may dig into on the plane, and in spare moments. But I’m trying not to haul too much with me.
UPDATE the Nth:
Some notes on HG Wells and his lover Moura Budberg (nee Beckendorff)/Amy Catherine Wells (d. ’27), Odette Keun was the previous lover and a hell of a show-off, got on his nerves, visit to Washington.
Moura’s old address from late 20s to autumn ’35, then 81 Cadogan Square
’32 — began to talk of marriage… she said, “Let us go on as we are…” “Why?” she is sending telegrams to Russia…
’33 telegrams to Russia and a protestation that she “won’t go now” as if resisting an implicit demand
’34: went to Bournesmouth & _________?
Kept calling her “very human”, “human, faulty, wise, silly, & I love her.” — this also picks up her suspicions
May ’36 -peculiar malaise, storms of weeping… goes alone to France, and in the news, Gorky mortally ill in Russia, she goes to him, sends a telegram to HG… she nurses Gorky through the last delerium (eh?) and then does certain obscure things with his papers that she had once promised to do.
“Nature has not bothered to produce any special consolations for her creatures, after her own vague ends have been fulfilled by them. There is no last phase with its ditinctive happiness in a man’s life. If we want that, we must make it for ourselves. I can still entertain imaginative hope. All my imagination did not die at Moura’s feet. But I doubt is there is any other woman now for me in the world. Friendship may still be mine, a little fresh love-making perhaps, but not even the delusion of possession. I am sprung. I cared for Moura too much and I cannot begin again in earnest to create another vital intimacy. At least that is how I feel now.” (autiobio notes…) pg 200…