My debut novel, The Trouble With Being God, has been out for a few months now and, while I am spending some of my time promoting it, I’m also busy with writing my next book. The Trouble With Being God was absolutely a great learning experience. In total, it took me nearly eight years to create, from inception to final publication. During that time I learned a lot about people, life, and writing – but in the time since publishing it I’ve learned a lot more about how to write a great book. Mostly this is due to the feedback I’ve been receiving from readers and fellow authors (in particular, Monica Valentinelli), and although I feel The Trouble With Being God was by no means a bad book, I am absolutely certain I can do better.
This brings us to what I’m doing now. As you may recall, back in November I mentioned that I was working on a book called The Grabbing Hands as a project for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Well, that project has grown a lot from where it originally started, and has since morphed into something I am extremely excited about: The Unfortunate Expiration of Mr. David S. Sparks. This new book is definitely a departure from the dark gore that spattered the pages of TTWBG, but it still very much feels like a “me” kind of story – heavy with philosophical questions (in particular environmental and biological ethics, as well as my usual themes of questions of self, soul and purpose), and in its current state falls quite firmly in the realm of cyberpunk fiction.
The book itself is planned to be the first of several in a series (very likely a trilogy), and is roughly halfway-to-two-thirds complete. The last few weeks have been spent restructuring the story, and while it’s too early for me to release any details of the way it’s being told, it is absolutely unlike anything I’ve personally seen before (I won’t claim to have invented something new though, since I definitely have not seen everything under the sun).
Anyway, here’s a sample. This excerpt is specifically chosen to not give away too much of the story, as well as to more closely fit conventional story-telling. In the context of the greater work it will likely make much more sense.
Session ID: PDSSX1024_2090_B_TRANSCRIPT
DATESTAMP_TIMESTAMP: A.D. 2090 + October 24 + 9:30-15:46
David felt light-headed and disoriented, that same feeling one gets after standing on his head too long as a kid – upside down and hunched over at the same time. The feeling of wet cloth kept brushing against his face. Opening his eyes, he was greeted with a view of a man’s posterior in a wet tailored suit. Looking up, a green sky rushed by above. He attempted to straighten his body, and heard a voice.
“Finally awake, eh boy?”
Calvin dropped David’s body and he hit the ground face-first with a thud. David pushed himself upright and stood, rubbing his nose where it had banged the ground, now sun-baked and hard as rock. Yet, although the ground was dry, he felt wetness on his face. He looked down at his hands and noticed they were covered with blood.
“Looks like you broke your nose.”
“I think it’s just bleeding, it doesn’t feel broken.” Why am I even speaking to this man? Is he kidnapping me or is he saving my life? “Where are you taking me?”
“I’m not taking you anywhere. You’re on your own now. Just didn’t want to leave you at the side of that lake. You never know what’s lurking in there – almost got yourself killed last night, you know.”
In his mind David searched for an answer as to what this stranger was talking about and a memory surfaced of Calvin’s demented face lunging at him, chainsaw raised. His first thought was that Calvin had tried to kill him, but he then recalled that Calvin had aimed for the space behind him.
“You said something about an anaconda?”
“Yes, last night. Not really an anaconda though, just one of the field serpents,” Calvin answered. “They made them, you know,” he added, nodding his head toward the East.
“You know, the progressives. The ones in the plastic city.”
A look of suspicion crept over Calvin’s face when it appeared David had no idea what Calvin was talking about. Deciding it better to trust this stranger than to be left on his own, however, he feigned understanding.
“Is that where you’re headed? To the plastic city?”
“Yes sir. I have business there. I assumed that’s where you were headed as well, since God knows there’s nothing but death out here. You’re welcome to travel with me, if you’d like.”
And so they traveled onward, Calvin in his dirty suit, chainsaw in hand, and David empty-handed with no shoes. It wasn’t until several hours later, when David remembered the chainsaw’s sputtering death in the previous night’s rain, that he broke their silent amble.
“Thanks, by the way.”
“Of course,” Calvin replied. “What for?”
“For helping me out back, with, what did you call it… the field snake?”
“… field serpent. And I think you’d do well to ask yourself if you should be thanking me or fearing me.”
“Trust me, I’ve asked myself that. The trouble is, I don’t have much of a choice here. It’s either trust you or wander aimlessly. At least this way I’m wandering aimlessly with someone.”
“It’s not aimless if you’ve got somewhere to be. Do you have somewhere to be, David?”
“I… I’m not sure yet,” David couldn’t remember sharing his name with the man. Then again, there was a lot he couldn’t remember lately.
They both fell silent and kept walking. The field seemed to stretch on forever, although the air had begun to feel a bit more moist again over the last hour. The dampness brought a chill, and a steady breeze had picked up against them, coming in from the East. David started to feel hungry.
“The field serpent,” David asked, “what exactly was that thing? You called it an anaconda at first.”
Calvin stopped and stared at David with a look of surprise. “You honestly don’t know? I wonder what happened to you, what happened to get you out into the middle of the green zone in the first place. They must have done something to you. That’s what they do,” Calvin’s voice trailed off as if he was speaking to himself. “They do things...”
“So that thing was really going to kill me?”
Calvin shrugged his shoulders. “Maybe. You never can tell. They spend most of their time beneath the soil, you know. In the summer heat like this they’re lucky if they get to move at all – at least when they come up to the surface. That’s why it’s usually safe to move this time of year; no one can see you. Well, at least not that deep in the green zone at least. Their ground patrols are useless.”
“I’m afraid you’ve lost me. I thought you said it was a snake,” David hesitated, then added, “although I’m not quite sure what an anaconda would be doing this far north.”
“It wasn’t actually an anaconda,” Calvin was becoming agitated, his right index finger twitching against the trigger of the dead chainsaw. “That’s just what we call ’em. Anacondas, field serpents, whatever you call them it makes no matter. They’re all you’re going to find out here, other than travelers of course. You just hope the serpents don’t find you first.”
“Well, lucky for me you were there to help,” David replied cautiously.
“Lucky for you I suppose. You weren’t dispatched, but regardless, they still know you’re here; they’ll be ready for you. And with what I did, taking out a sentry like that, so up close, they’ll know I’m coming too. Lucky for me they still don’t know when.”
“What are you saying? These snakes are some sort of security system? Whatever you killed last night sure looked alive to me – especially from the blood that flew off the blade of your friend there.” David pointed to the dangling chainsaw. “… and it most certainly didn’t look like some sort of camera or machine.”
“Serpents are SBS,” said Calvin. When David shrugged his shoulders unknowingly he added, “Symbiotic Biological Surveillance?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Expect more updates on this as it progresses, but the plan is to complete the initial writing by late April. Publication is yet to be determined, as I am unsure if I want to self-publish this book or if it would make more sense to be released via traditional publishing channels. What do you think?