All I’m going to say is that this conversation with a juggler at the Incheon Immigration Office started it all rolling, and as I’ve begun to poke about for what to research, more and more is falling into place for that story I have in mind as taking place in the same world as “Lester Young and the Jupiter’s Moons’ Blues.”
The exciting thing is that I’ve never read anything like the kind of story that my preliminary research is beginning to shape in my mind. The scope is vast, and by vast, I mean, 1000 page novel vast. Okay, not like Neal Stephenson vast, but still… the thing is, this might be writeable as a single book, but probably would be packaged as a trilogy and it wouldn’t hurt (necessarily) to think of it that way.
The slightly imposing thing is that this is a huge project. I recall Edward Said calling the novel a “quasi-encyclopedic” form somewhere in Culture and Imperialism, and I get the feeling this novel certainly will be. To do that, I’m going to have to be responsible for (ie. to need to know) all kinds of things. I’ve kind of gone on a spree to acquire the books I’ll need to be competent on this subject, but I’m also considering carefully whether I’ll actually be able to write it this winter as I planned. Partly because it’s such a huge project, but partly because it seems like everything I read is connecting up with it now, and the more I read, the more I realize I need to know more about X, or Y, or Z. I tell you, the library on campus is pretty good — heck, they have H.G. Wells’ autobiographical account of his sex life, H.G. Wells in Love, and his Outline of History — but some of the things they don’t have are, well, the kind of thing I can’t get except by buying it. The price of the used book isn’t the problem: it’s the shipping. But I’m excited about this project, and I’ve bitten the bullet to order a shelf-full of research texts to work through for the next goodness-knows-how-long. (I’m guessing it’s a year’s worth of reading, if I intersperse a fiction book between each nonfiction book, at least,. at my usual rate of consumption. It might go a lot faster if I keep reading at the rate I’ve been going since I hurt my back…)
I think I also need to bone up on the whole “writing a gigantor book” thing, since I don’t often read books of such length — or, for that matter, trilogies. I do sometimes read longish books, say 600 pages, but I need to refresh my memory on useful approaches and structures. Part of my brain is struggling to come to terms with how to tell a story as big and sweeping as all of this.
But the tightness of the connections is astounding me. The other night I found a thread on Metafilter that sewed together a couple of things I wanted to include, but didn’t know had been connected in real history in such an intimate way. The result was three more books on the reading list.
Meanwhile, on the shorter-term horizon, getting through Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth and starting on Bradley Martin’s Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader are the remaining research for my Korean superhero novel project, which I’ll be tackling very soon. I also have one more research text, Andrei Lankov’s book on daily life in North Korea, coming soon, which will be a big help, I think, but it might be mostly helpful when it’s time for revisions.
If I don’t get around to writing my “Russian jugglers & everything else including the kitchen sink” alternate history next winter. It may not have percolated sufficiently, and if that’s the case, then I think I’ll take a quick trip to Southwest China (or maybe even Xinjiang, though I kind of doubt I’d like to go there in winter) and then work on my alternate-Nanjing/Taiping Tienguo novel. I have enough research done and ideas to make that work fine, I think. Maybe I’ll spend all of 2008 — semesters and otherwise — working on the jugglers thing, with, of course, breaks for short stories here and there to give me a short-term goal and short-term fulfillment when I finish and/or sell something.
Good grief. I think I just booked up my writing schedule to 2009.
It might change, of course. :)