Dancing to Dirges

Depressing and happy things Tim says, sometimes while drunk

Monday, August 18, 2008

Something I'll probably never write

What a waste of a day. I wish I could write at work, but it never seems to work out. Naturally.

When George Mann of Solaris asked me to write a story for the Solaris Book of New SF 3, I kind of panicked. Everything I'd been doing for the last two years was fantasy of one sort or another. At least, by my definitions. So I started into something different. I ended up scrapping the project and going back to Veridon, because I had a lovely bit of text I wanted to air out, and it fit nicely with our conversations. But let me tell you about the thing I was going to write. I think it's worth seeing, at least.

The idea started with a clocktower. Not a regular old clocktower. You know, a tower with a clock. Boring. No, I wanted a tower that *was* a clock. This gets a little odd to explain, but I imagined a world of smart material, where the earth and the sky were just lines of code that hadn't been written yet. It fits nicely with my limited sci-fi history, including several stories I've started and never finished. Probably where this one will end up. But the clocktower was the center of this world. Kind of the ethernet hub. The top and bottom of the tower were like giant (wait for it) gears that meshed with the smart material of the earth and sky, and sent little programs spinning out according to some internal escapement that no one understood. And once every thousand years it released a particularly unusual program. I never really decided what that was going to be, but the story was told by a party of coders and religious figures in a time when the clocktower was just a myth, but they're determined to find it before its millenial tock.

Anyway. I was reading an interview with Neal Stephenson last night, and came to this. Speaking on his new book, Anathem:

"In my little back-of-the-napkin sketch, I drew a picture showing a clock with concentric walls around it," he says over lunch in downtown Seattle the day after the book club meeting. "I proposed that you could have a system of gates where it was open for a while at a certain time of year, or decade, or whatever, when you could go in and out freely. But if you were inside it when the gate closed, you'd be making a commitment to stay in until it opened again. And I talked about clock monks who would tend the clock."

Clock monks. Brilliant. I look forward to reading his book. And it reminded me of my own story. At first I despaired because, at a very basic level, they're similar stories. A building that is a clock. Doors and rooms that open only on certain days, in certain years. But the more I reviewed my notes and the original text, the more I remembered how different the things are. So I may end up writing that thing someday. When time becomes available. Like maybe at work? Because that always goes so well.


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