Status update and idea dump

Ah, I’ve been caught up writing the NaNoWriMo-novel, and forgotten to put anything in here.

The novel’s at 17 700 words of 50 000 after Sunday’s writing, that is after 6 of the 30 days allocated for it. 35.4% done after 20% of the time; a credit to the non-agglutinative nature of English. Writing words is much more difficult in Finnish: for example, in Finnish you’d say

alussa Jumala loi taivaan ja maan (6 words)

but in English

in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (10 words);

these are not actual quotes from my novel.

The plot there? Eh, I’m not telling anything. Even telling the genre, well, it started in one, is now in another, but it’s really in a third.

Now, to clear my head for the seventh day of writing (because I don’t rest), I think I’ll list some of the novels I’m not writing — but someday will.

Maybe.

* * *

A fantasy novel: the sort of portal fantasy where a couple of resourceful young people are thrown into a Fantasy World — except here there seems to be no destiny for them, no Dark Lord to conquer — and they decide they will do something about the divine right of kings, the misogyny, the lack of democracy, the barbaric excuse of a justice system, and the other delightful medieval features of the Fantasy World.

For this they are, naturally, labelled as Dark Lords.

A war ensues; also tedious blather about whether it’s right to force improvement on those that don’t want it. (Also growing uneasiness that gol dang it, everyone will read this as commentary on colonialism and Finland never even had colonies, gosh darn it to double-hockey-sticks.)

* * *

Historical fiction: It would be nice to write historical fiction, but I’d probably go all Inglourious Basterds and (spoiler ahead) go and do a sharp swerve after the first one hundred pages; something on the level of, “whoops! We killed Hitler!”

For some reason I like alternate history more than straight historical fiction. Maybe it’s because alt-hist can be so playful with its references to the real one; hist-fic tends to become a hidden history (“I was Shakespeare’s Girlfriend! Also Wrote The Plays!”), which doesn’t excite me as much.

But straight-up historical fiction, well, Apollonius of Tyana (1st-century Neopythagorean philosopher/miracleworker, often touted as a parallel to you-know-who) or Alexander of Abonutichus (2nd-century, of the hand-puppet god Glycon) would be nice subjects; I’d just need to read a few books on the times to not get things too laughably wrong. (Note: Not commentary-on-Jesus novels; more like “amoral rogues run wild in the Roman Empire!” novels.)

* * *

Alternate history novel: What if there were ghosts? Or other supernatural beasties?

This is alt-hist because, God damn it, the world would be different if there were ghosts and ghouls and unicorns in it. Those things are out there on the periphery because they’re imaginary; they would have an impact on world history if they were real.

(I’m thinking of Troll: A Love Story, a novel by the Finnish weird fiction writer Johanna Sinisalo (a she), which as I recall (a) was a fine good book, and (b) had this diminutive troll lifeform worked into Finnish history, not as a hidden thing, but as just another part of that alternate history of the world; just another endangered “animal”.)

* * *

An alternate history / sci-fi novel: “What if Däniken was right?”

Supposition: Erich von Däniken, the prototypical ancient astronauts guy, was right. The gods of Egypt — of Incas — of the Easter Island — of Israel and Judea — were aliens, old extraterrestrial visitors to this late and lamented planet Earth. They were here; they are responsible for much of human civilization; they’re gone now.

This is a heavy alternate history, because Däniken’s claims are a bit silly in the real world; this alt-history would start showing signs of divergence from the 1950s at the very least, when Biblical archaeology and the Easter Island, Inca etc. excavations and discoveries started showing not figures kinda-sorta-maybe wearing space helmets, but actual skyscraper ruins, broken starships and screams of radioactivity at the ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah!

Of all this, the chief expositor would be an amateur archaeologist referred to as “D(censored)”; because it wouldn’t be all that polite to make him into such a different character.

The plot would go like this:

1) These finds are made; they are sufficient to be accepted by the archaeological and scientific establishment; and to scare the hell out of the public and the political establishment.

2) Though they don’t ruin all of religion, they have horrible side effects because even the good and human parts are seen as “alien intrigue”. In the 1980s, a Pope is assassinated as an “alien collaborator” by a lone gunman nut, though there’s no sign the aliens have been on Earth for millennia. The very latest hint of them is Jesus; this means that of world religions Islam is least affected — until an intrepid adventurer finds out what’s inside the Kaaba. Shortly after, D(censored) is assassinated.

3) It becomes accepted, through further plot developments, that the Gods that were here were not nice guys; they pretty much enslaved humanity, became kings and queens and royal whatevers; and humankind don’t want its morals dictated to it by an alien invader, thank you very much. Thus a campaign begins to get into space, using the recovered alien relics and all human ingenuity, before the Gods return.

4) And in 2012, they do.

I’m kind of thinking points 1-3 would be the back story, and point 4 the actual novel.

Alternate title: “The Attack of God from Outer Space!”

* * *

No satire; I’m not good with talking of one thing while writing about another.

No comedies of manners, or other high society hijinx; I’m not proficient, and I’m not interested. I can think of little anything more mundanely horrifying that strutting around in a suit, exchanging polite nothings.

No Hollywood or New York adventures among the super rich and the fabulously beautiful; don’t know anything and don’t care to know. Similarly no car racing, no sports; though I could make up some bogus competition and chronicle it and the horrible people involved in it. (Not as a spoof of sports, though: you need more than visceral dislike and willful ignorance to inspire a story about something.)

Inspirational or spiritual literature… really, there aren’t enough Satanic Bibles already without me writing one? Sheesh, I’ll write a book of good advice sooner or later, but it will awful. I just won’t make it a novel.

No romance either; I’m inexperienced.

Erotic fiction… well no; smut, maybe. I like smut. I have horrible ideas; you do not want to hear them. (As for their level, look at the examples cited in this Jen McCreight post about a film festival in Seattle; it made me wish I’d been there. I don’t think either of us wants me to elaborate on this, or my fine collection of… Japanese fiction.)

* * *

A shinigami story: that is, a story like the manga/anime Bleach and Rin-ne. (Well, more Bleach than Rin-ne.)

That’d be a novel of an afterlife: not the depressing, tightly controlled Christian Heaven-Hell thing, but the Afterlife as just another place: you die here, and you are, maybe, in some fashion, dropped to the other world.

The shinigami (Japanese “death gods”) analogues would be the ones somehow employed as working between these two worlds, their employers not a God, but some much lesser authority of the other world (or partly of this one?); think something between Bleach’s Soul Society and the Catholic Church. (There’s an idea; a new Pope is elected, and the chief camerlengo takes him to a dark room and plays him a little film on How The World Really Works…)

The job of the “shinigami” would be maybe as “choosers of the slain”, or as “guides”, or as ones fighting some horrible “soul thief” or an organization of them.

Drama would ensue; war, anguish, worry over those that died or were likely to soon die; it could all begin the day the main character dies.

In other words, a peppy adventure combat story of DEATH. Me being me, including examples not suitable for children. (“Oh no! I need to die right now to get to help them! Quick, give me a hammer!”)

* * *

A mecha story: that is, a novel with giant human-piloted humanoid robots in it. Think Neon Genesis Evangelion, or Balatack, or the Gundam series.

Why?

Because it’s difficult to think of anything more prone to melodrama than 900-foot robots piloted by teenagers. And if I like emoting, I like over-emoting more.

(Why are you looking at me like that? It’s traditional the pilots are kids. Otherwise it turns into military fiction, which I’m not interested in.)

* * *

A sci-fi novel: “Holy Mass”.

A long time to the future, humanity is out there in space. Unfortunately they don’t have quicker-than-light propulsion, or any useful engines better than the old “throw stuff behind you to go forward” rockets. The novel (or a cycle of stories) follows the Mass Inspector of a big spaceship on a thousands-of-years drive from one star system to another.

Those in the ship are humans, sort of: more immortal cyborgs whose main human feature is a sort-of brain. Some are Traditionals whose bodies are imitations of the original human form (rubber masks and mechanical units with “clothes” over them — the Navigator looks human but has nothing but a spine at his belly, using the open space as pockets), some are sort-of Traditionals (the Mass Inspector is a brain in a jar, but the jar is on a bipedal body with two hands, and mounts for two more), and some are Neones (just “neo-ones”; the Captain is just a featureless cylinder with clusters of arms, thrusters, sensory pods and the like attached).

Because these “humans” live until an accident or will does otherwise, and because they’ve all agreed to endure the relative deprivations of the trip for the millennia it will take, they’re deferring having children until arrival.

And “children” would be “new brains, out of a machine womb and into training bodies, because human bodies are useless”, obviously. You don’t want a child to be trapped inside a person; that makes it so difficult to monitor and treat if a need arises, to say nothing of the inconvenience to the mother. Or the father. Or whoever the brain growth sac would be attached to… oh, you mean biological pregnancy? Eww! Horrible! Icky! No!

(If a human being is the mind, and the mind is the brain, then the rest of the body is dross if something else works just as well. If a human body will be “improved” by artificial parts, then it might be best to never have a body in the first place. Just generate the mind, and give it to the parents to raise.)

The “moral reason” for not having children mid-trip is a child would not have agreed to the (relative) deprivations of the trip, and it would be cruel to bring it into a deprived state it had not agreed to; after all, the trip takes millennia, and growing up is quick. You wouldn’t get pregnant in a prison, if the child had to grow up there, right? (There’d be a need to somehow write these people as a lot beyond even the most bleeding-heart person you know.)

Those “deprivations” are mostly that the ship has a certain fixed amount of mass which can’t be replenished out there, between the stars. (Here “mass” is treated as a lump thing that can be used either to personal pursuits, or then as rocket fuel. Probably not your Saturn rockets, these.) They have a generator or several that give more than sufficient energy for most personal fancies; but if they fritter and throw away their precious, holy mass, they will run into trouble if they need to steer; worse still, if they really run out of mass they can’t decelerate at the end of the trip! Everything is recycled, of course; but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a job for the Mass Inspector, because people can be loopy.

This could a cycle of “Hercule Poirot in Outer Space!”, come to think of it, the Mass Inspector being a sort of ersatz policeman/woman/creature, and the crimes being mass waste or general mystery anomaly as often as murder. Or then a sudden alien encounter!

* * *

Fantasy: Your average Old Wizard Meets Farmboy of Destiny story.

Except this time the Old Wizard is a crook, wanting to rule a kingdom from behind the throne, and the farmboy is just a farmboy.

It falls to the clear-eyed, sharp-tongued, be-mustachioed Sinister Duke to foil this evil plan; unfortunately, the people are in a glorious uproar over the Return of the King, there’s a war in the making against the Ancestral Enemy, the Old Wizard has magic, and did I mention the Old Wizard has magic? — and hiring the Sorceress Queen is, while possible, a potentially disastrous PR move.

* * *

Science fiction, sort of: A future history. Some sort of narrative of the future of humankind, like Olaf Stapledon’s Last and First Men. Charting the evolution and expanse of the human species and its descendants.

Because, as you can see from the outlines above, I’m not exactly a “here’s a great character that inspires the work!” guy. I’m the guy that mewls, “yeah great romance bla bla bla, now would you tell me how this city is governed? Oh and a list of rulers for the previous century please!”

It would be fun to write an immediate future history, the first two centuries or so, just throwing kings and empires around as fancy hit me. (Not “by 2100, religion was extinct! Also these people are totally bad/good” — but “And guess what, still new follies and glories!”) Then there would obviously be starflight, and whatever would be found out in space, and what would happen to poor old Earth.

I could even randomize it; decide that a one on a twenty-sided die was “asteroid impact!” and roll it for every decade. (And two would be nuclear war?) And write decade by decade and deal with a world-changing catastrophe when it hit.

Come to think of it, you could generate a lot of the randomness of history this way: have dice that said, say, “SUDDEN DEATH”, “NOT REALLY”, “IT’S WAR!”, “CUNNING INVENTION”, “IMPOSSIBLE GOOD LUCK” and “IT GOT WORSE”, and then roll them now and then as you wrote. Or make an Excel/OpenOffice/whatever spreadsheet that used random numbers to plot the finances, populations and fortunes of your major players, and make up the story from those.

If not that, wars at least could be randomized. “State A is bigger, so let’s say 1 to 4 means they win a battle, and 5 or 6 mean State B wins. There are three sectors to the war, the first to get three wins in one means that sector goes to the victor. When two sectors are won, the war ends on a final roll of dice, and the victor keeps his spoils. Add narrative to make this make sense!”

(Mind you, randomizing wars like this would better fit a past history. Who knows how horrible future wars would be?)

* * *

And those are my “In English” ideas, off the top of my head.

My “In Finnish” ideas are mostly tomfoolery around the university: flesh-eating professors and prehistories of the place and something at the physics department gone terribly and hilariously wrong; and beyond that the (mis)adventures of students or student-like creatures in a world of surreal bad fortune. (Those were what my previous NaNoWriMo novels were.)

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