A “state-of-the-projects” update

It is now one year since I wrote the first draft of the first piece in what became “The Racetrack Chronicle” and the continuity in which it exists. As that project has sprawled and expanded across multiple works and time-periods, it has become difficult to explain, so this post will attempt to concisely introduce: “what the frak is up with all this?”

If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch,
you must first invent the universe
.” -Sagan

On day one, all I set out to do was to explain why Maggie Edmondson joined the mutiny. But I’m not capable of writing stories in a vacuum; hell, I can barely write stories at all. It’s black-magic to me how writers do that. As a substitute, I found myself constructing fully-formed characters and a fully-imagined universe in which they existed, hoping that with sufficient detail added, the paths down which the characters would walk through the world would appear. It worked. The Chronicle, which went to the powers-that-be in December, and whether good or bad, was the best that I could do by Maggie. She and the coterie of people around her have become real, fully-realized people over the course of the project, and hopefully the tiny subset of the whole that made it onto the page reflects that.

But with the apple-pie baked, I was left with the universe. Quite aside from everything that had landed on the pages of the main cycle, I had dozens of little vignettes written on background, and thousands of words written suggestive of the backstory, either expanding on the QMX map on this detail, or explaining why I couldn’t accept that detail. (See this post and this post, for example.) Growing out of that work, I had the beginnings of a second novel, too, and yet more background material written around that, sketching what the universe looked like. Perhaps attempting to distract myself from worry about the Chronicle or work on the second novel, I have been writing a number of short pieces, one-shots that sketch parts of the universe in which the larger pieces take place.

Some of them are, effectively, deleted-scenes from the Chronicle—either moments in Maggie’s life that I wanted to see or things in the universe that I wanted to see and was able to see by sending Maggie to see them. In this category belong Sovremennyy, Dry-Dock, Crossroads, and Chalk. There are many more of these in the pipeline, and yet more that will likely never see the light of day.

Others provide context for the universe that the Caprica-centric show(s) couldn’t. They are intended to imply a vast and fittingly-epic historical backdrop to the colonies without bogging the reader down in the details. Thus, Aftermath sketches the world and history of Aquaria and poses some obvious questions about survivors, and Carillon has a Frank Herbert feeling as it sketches an epic history of Virgon and the early development of the colonies. (The latter references the events that conclude Yeats’ “Lords of Kobol” trilogy and implicitly picks up thereafter.) These pieces are intended to be interesting milieu vignettes that also imply a context for characters elsewhere in the continuity.

The collection that’s most interesting to me today has only one published piece, Atalanta, although several more are in the pipeline. One of the characters who lurked in the background of my notes for months was Margaret Cavendish, the Churchillian first President of the Colonies, whom my notes sketched as a combination of Elena Kagan, Zephyr Teachout, and Antonin Scalia, a kind of combative but eloquent lawyer, a large, forceful personality who in some unspecified way became first the prime-mover behind the Articles of Colonization and then President of that government, for her sins. Maggie will later be named for the Pican Cavendish, as will the Colonial equivalent of the White House. Writing her was always going to be difficult because of the time period; I try very hard to avoid nailing down too many specifics about the Cylon War, because the less we know, the better. But I wanted to go back and meet her, and I suspected that her reputation was a facade. Having established the notion that Picon and Virgon have a complex history, the starting-point was a vivid image of a meeting between the Pican Cavendish and the Queen of Virgon, with very specific actors in mind, Rekha Sharma and Shohreh Aghdashloo. I don’t know why that image came to mind, but I liked it, I liked the voices—I almost always write dialogue with specific actors in mind, to keep characters distinct; as Lacey astutely noted, I am effectively shooting film in my mind’s eye—and I liked the energy each brings, so it stuck. (Sharma struck me as able to reflect both public confidence and private disarray, and Aghdashloo’s embodiment of Avasarala in the TV version of “The Expanse” was fittingly-regal.) That piece will make it to air eventually, there’s a sequencing issue, but what I should say for now is that I like the idea of a character who has become so mythologized within her own lifetime as to become unrecognizable to herself—who are our heroes behind the mask?

The Chronicle itself is novel-length before we even count the voluminous appendices; hopefully it will see the light of day in due course. The published one-shots run about 16,000 words thusfar; that’s a novelette by itself, and an eBook collection of them will appear at some point. Timing is the issue; there are many more pieces in the pipeline that should be included and I am torn between publishing now and issuing revisions or publishing the whole thing after the fact. About the second novel, I’m going to keep my peace for now beyond saying that I think that it is a piece that is in keeping with the spirit of Moore’s reimagining but which Moore and his team could not have written.

It really has become a whole universe—and all I wanted was an apple pie!