Dee Sinclair did everything alone; it was how she walked, how she drove, how she sat on the subway, looking to be in her own empty pocket, as far as possible from everyone else.
She didn’t like people. They were selfish and greedy, yes, everyone like that, which was why the world would have to come to a bad end. In the end, she knew that there was little more than approximations of anything she hoped to find.
As I mentioned, I am in the midst of the tenth draft of Anori.
Which means that I go back and forth between feeling like a writer – at the exact center of a marvelously spinning wheel with moments and experiences flashing out in wonder – and a monosyllabic imbecile who blathers on about nothing. Or both at the same time, the wheel spinning out blather.
Well, at least I wrote this. It feels like something, even if it isn’t.
Two more scenes have been aborted – still legal in the writing world – from my speculative novel, Anori. My aim for both scenes was to give context, both historical and geographical, for the narrative, but seemed redundant in the end.
Scene One:Dee looked out at the Temple of Poseidon across the bay and thought about how it had been built, the exhaustive excavation of the site, mining the stone and carving of so many columns, dragging them through the brush, and imagined all the people who died to build it.
All of that labor and pain for that, something that was supposed to be permanent. That was the idea, that they just had to level out the ground and pile up stones to prove that their existence mattered. It was odd how important all of this once had been, this civilization with its government, rights and citizenship. And now all of that was gone, the temple now a tourist attraction atop a barren, thorny place.
Scene Two:The ship carried on to Karachi and then Sri Lanka, Dee cataloguing everything all of the shrews, jerboas, sun bears and dholes. The deliveries were at night, trucks waiting, the tailgates toward the edge of the docks, militiamen always there, black SUVs, cranes towering above in a metallic sky.
It was a routine, sleeping much of the day, watching the shore. The Repaks were the hardest, at the end of each month-long segment. What should have been satisfying, an accomplishment, was wrong, the animals taken back to Greenland. The feeling wouldn’t leave her, nor in Aden or Marka, not anywhere on her seven months at sea.
As I mentioned yesterday, I don’t engage well with fiction that verges on therapy, where the voice is exhaustingly self-centered. Even if the work conveys immediacy or suggests raw documentation, this too often comes across as tedious, much like the bastardized fictions that are sprouting on TikTok and Insta, the faux confessional of the “look-at-me” generation.
I’m much more intrigued in the crafting of narrative, where the story moves forward and characters express. “You must remember to paint the walls”, my workshop leader reminded me. “Linger in the moment. Allow your reader to look around.”
I was actually stunned by her comments. How wasn’t I doing that? As my work tends toward the cinematic – dialogue and visuals – I thought I was already doing this. However my perspective does tend to race from start to finish. Linger? No, I didn’t really do that. Explore the interiority of Dee Sinclair. That was the thing. Picture and paint, so that I can draw the reader in to believe in going to another planet.
I have been struggling with the shade of blue for the Infinity Corporation logo for years now. There are many shades of blue: baby, sky, cobalt. And then I realized that the right shade of blue would have to be the darkest one of all, hedging toward black, the color of the deep ocean, the only color that might appear in the void of space. And that is Midnight Blue.
Also of note in today’s writing was the naming of the Lunar colony (New Phoenix), the ship (Umiariak) and their news channel (Mina).
I like the bathroom for its clean lines and tight confines. I like closets and storerooms too. I think about staying in there for days and days, the rest of my life in this safe little place, the opposite of claustrophobia.
That’s where I leave the orphans from my book, alone in their room where they must stay:
They watched the ranger and two of the others amble toward the dead moose, the other one vanish from view, and then moments later, a pickup truck come careening through the grass.
“These boys are up to this tomfoolery? The ranger boy included.”
“I don’t like this, Tommy.”
“None of it is good, my love.” They moved quickly down the path, across the beach and were just getting to his camper truck when the pickup appeared behind them on the road.
“We’ll just keep walking, Deirdre. Same pace and that. We know nothing of them.”
“You’re the one who has to keep his cool, right?”
“As the Bay of Fundy.”
The truck pulled alongside them, the ranger in the passenger’s seat. “Glad to see he’s back on the leash.”
“Just like you said,” Tommy replied quickly.
“What the hell is that?” A high-pitched voice called from inside the truck. “A goddamn leopard?”
Dee walked just ahead of Tommy, her eyes on the ground; they were almost at the camper.
“Seriously.” The truck stopped and the man got out. He wore dark sunglasses and had close-cropped hair. “What is that?”
Dee looked at him briefly. “A serval.”
“A what? Never heard of that. What is he like? African? Looks a hell of a lot like a leopard. Or maybe a puma-like. Can I pet him?”
Dee pulled Apollo close to her legs as Tommy unlocked the back of the camper. “He doesn’t do well with strangers.”
“You come here from Newfoundland?” Another had got out and stood by the first. He was taller with a thick head of hair and beard. “Quite the place, I hear. Hell of a lot of moose up there, right?”
Tommy opened the door, and Apollo jumped inside.
“You two on a trip?” The first one moved closer, rifle in hand. “Driving up the coast?”
“What’s your hurry, huh?” The second man leaned toward Dee. “Have a beer with us before you head on.”
“We would like that,” she replied. “But we’re supposed to be somewhere.”
“My name’s Steve, all right?” He turned to the man beside him. “This is my buddy, Dale. And that’s Carter driving. You already met Alex. He’s the big ranger.”
“Nice to meet you fellas.” Tommy nodded back.
“You see ourmoose?” Dale waved to the back of the pickup where the hind legs and antlers were visible above the brim. “Nine hundred pounds easy.”
“Have a beer with us.” Steve turned back to Dee. “We’ll carve you up a steak.”
“We have to go.” Dee pursed her lips. “Like we said.”
“Who breaks camp at the end of the day?” He leaned on the camper. “We can chill and then you can split.”
Dee went down the side of the camper and climbed in the passenger seat.
“Hey, you can be polite, right?” Steve had followed her down; his face got hard, stupidly so. “Aren’t you Canadians supposed to be friendly?”
“I’m from Pittsburgh,” Dee replied.
“You all right?” Alex, the ranger, held onto the driver’s door of the camper as Tommy climbed in. “You seem upset about something.”
Tommy stopped, one leg in. “No.”
“We just have to get going,” Dee added.
“There’s nothing going on here,” Alex replied.
Tommy tried to close the door but Alex held on. “I’m not getting your meaning.”
Alex sighed. “Maybe I should impound the cat.”
“Why would you do that?” Dee demanded. “We’re leaving.”
Tommy started the engine.
“I’m sorry.” Alex leaned toward the keys in the ignition.
“Listen, b’y.” Tommy elbowed Alex’s hand off the door and put the truck into the gear, gunning it down the rutted road, his teeth clenched, getting the door closed as he glanced in the side mirrors. “Is he coming? You see anything?”
Dee turned back, waiting to see a cloud of dust. “I can’t see anything.”
“Fucking hell.” Tommy laughed angrily. “Fucking hell, those boys. Up to no good, that’s what they were. No good.”
It took me ten weeks to process Tennessee’s notes, but at long last I have begun my eighth (ninth?) draft of Anori. Tennessee (my editor) made excellent suggestions related to killing characters – a terse goodbye to Valerie and Robi – as well as complete restructuring, which means sideways, headache-inducing thinking and no more scenes in Newfoundland like this precious little one:
Flagstones, newly dug, and boards bent into the red earth, led down a narrow path, following the base of a rocky ledge to a meadow. Fitz walked ahead, his windbreaker too small, pants heavy and large. The archeological site was deserted, a wheel barrow with shovels and picks lined up at its side, standing by a row of tents, the one at the far end with its front entrance unzipped and flapping in the wind.
“A bit of sloppiness that.” Fitz bent down to the tent, head-first into a man, middle-aged, as he backed out. “Watch your—Unh!”
“That’s the irony,” Eileen whispered behind Dee.
“You all right there?” The man zipped the tent shut before standing up.
“Looking about for Tommy Baines.”
The man adjusted his glasses. “He must have gone with the others, an hour or so ago.”
“Off to the pub, that it?”
“Don’t know about that.”
“We’ll just show the girl around before he makes his way back.”
“You’ll need Tommy to take you through for that.”
“We’ve been around the heath, seen the pit, the chunks of slag,” Fitz replied. “We know where not to put our feet.”
“That a leopard you got there?”
“He’s a serval. His name’s Apollo.” Dee smiled at him. “He won’t bite.”
“Aim to keep my hands intact, thanks.” He gave them a wide berth as he headed up the path. “Evening to you.”
“That’s his spot.” Eileen pointed out the yellow and blue flagging tape in the distance. “They’re saying it was an iron ore camp, set up to make their nails for the ships.”
“A lot of theories about the Vikings could be gutted with a place like this,” Fitz added. “They’ll be looking up and down the coast and across to Nova Scotia next. See what they can find.”
Dee watched the wind churn the distant water into a wash of whitecaps, each chasing after the thick grey clouds low in the early evening sky.
The final book of The Cx Trilogy is centered on Po, a being-non-being borne of a catastrophic deceleration from close-to-light speed to gain orbit. Po has human sensibilities of the temporal – desperation, uncertainty – yet remains indifferent, aware of the immensity of the whole.
Po’s story – and of the humans on the planet Mina with it – is diametrically opposed to the space operas centered on the ceremony of civilization. It is instead of irrelevance, accepting and dissolving into that, an antithesis to humanity and its childish aspirations
I do my research and read the tweets and bios of the agents who specifically request speculative fiction. And I make my pitch. “No” is all I hear.
The biggest clunker came from an agent asking exactly for what I am writing – a generational ship off to a distant planet – and I got this form-letter response.
My Cx Trilogy pitch must be more of a scream. They need to know that the book is the future of the speculative genre. It is real. It is direct and clear. It has the voice of terror as we go straight off the cliff. In other words, it’s now or never. Now. Or never.