Sunday, March 12, 2006

Cat Darensbourg, or, Why I Hate (Love) Boskone

I think I mentioned, back when I was obsessing about the Knitting Olympics (and no, the sweater isn’t finished yet, thanks for asking...), that I’d had a rather good thing happen at the autographing at this year’s Boskone. (OK, two good things, because Ken MacLeod knew who I was. But I digress.)

The Big Good Thing came about in a totally unexpected way. As many of you may know, I wrote a trilogy back in the late ‘80s about a starship pilot named Silence Leigh, her two husbands, and their quest to find the lost planet, Earth. It was set in a universe where neoplatonic magic had turned out to be an accurate understanding of physical laws, and in which a profoundly patriarchal society controlled human space, the latter being a logical consequence of the assumptions behind traditional alchemy. (The books are Five-Twelfths of Heaven, Silence in Solitude, and The Empress of Earth, also collected by the Science Fiction Book Club as The Roads of Heaven; they are, however, out of print.) I’ve been asked many times if I was ever going to do anything more with Silence, and have had to say no. Understand, I’ve tried. I’d come up with an idea that looked promising, start sketching, and feel it fizzle out. Although I’m reluctant to grant too much autonomy to my characters, it really felt as though Silence, Denis, and Julie were living happily ever after and declined to be disturbed. (Or, alternatively, the most important problems in their lives had been met and resolved, and anything else would be an anticlimax.) However you defined it, though, I couldn’t seem to write about them.

So when Cat Darensbourg came up to me at the autograph table, and asked if there would be any more Silence books, I pretty much had the answer down pat. But then she said it.

“Have you considered doing any more books in that universe? Maybe about how the systems were developed, how the first keels were tuned, and the people who explored the new science?”

I’m still not quite sure what it was that clicked. I think it was mentioning the people who make the ships, and who developed the systems, and that somehow clicked into a very different idea that I’ve been mulling over for a while. (I wrote a short story called “The Sweet Not-Yet,” which you can find in Imagination Fully Dilated: Science Fiction, which is about a man who lost his memory in the adjacent possible, the sweet not-yet, and it’s been trying to become a novel....)

“Oh,” I said, with great intelligence. “Oh, wow. Please don’t take this wrong, but I think I hate you....”

Because I knew that I was condemned to spending several hours in the cold, dusty attic, digging my old box of Silence notes out from behind not one but two dead air conditioners (don’t ask), and I had another idea I’d been working on, and a short story I needed to finish, and the last thing I needed was a new story that was going to obsess me completely....

You get the idea.

But I got the notes (the air conditioners were exactly as heavy and unwieldy as I remembered), re-read them and some other material, and started sketching. I have a working title - The Queens of Glasstown - protagonists, several secondary characters, and the beginnings of a plot. I know what the world feels like, and where I want the story to end.

So, however belatedly, thank you, Cat - I think!w


At 3:47 PM, Blogger Dharma said...

Melissa, that is SO cool. It's great to hear the inner workings of an artist. I wish I could say I am going right out to find the Silence Leigh series, but I have mental block when it comes to SF and I haven't had a reason to overcome it. Well, maybe now I do, but school work first, then knitting, then, um, well actually right up there in first place is also my partner, my animals. Oh dear, It has suddenly become quite clear why nothing ever gets done.


Post a Comment

<< Home