Sunday, December 11, 2011

Through The Past, Darkly

When it grows dark, as it does early in the afternoon, now, the details of the slice of London visible through the window of my office diminish to the spur of a cul-de-sac and a shadowy rise of land flecked with lights, and I'm reminded of looking out of the window of the attic bedroom I once shared with my brother. When I was a teenager and it became too noisy, downstairs, I would retreat to the attic and work on some piece of tyro fiction (all long lost, like the cottage), pecking at a typewriter perched on a scrap of wood laid across my knees, my shins burning in front of the one-bar electric fire, my fingers freezing.

There wasn't a house directly opposite, as there is now, but there was a warehouse looming at the far left-hand edge of the gardens shared by the four cottages of which ours was the third, and there was a railway beyond, as there is here, although the railway of the lost past was not in a cutting but was somewhat elevated, a branch-line station closed just a few years before. And then the breast of the steep slope up towards Selsley village, whose lights twinkled in the night just as the lights of Highgate twinkle now, just a handful, mostly hidden by winter-bare trees.

I finished a draft of the next novel a couple of weeks ago and will return to it at the beginning of the New Year, knowing at last the shape its narrative makes from beginning to end. I was thinking about a couple of short stories - the one I should write, the one that wants to be written right away - when the past ambushed me. I've been living here ten years, and it has only just occurred to me how familiar the view is, on a winter's night.

Like In the Mouth of the Whale, the new novel shares the same future history of The Quiet War and Gardens of the Sun, and is set some 1500 years after the events in those two novels. But while In the Mouth of the Whale is set in the atmosphere of a gas giant and in an archipelago of worldlets orbiting Fomalhaut, the new novel starts some fifty years later, in the asteroid belt of the Solar System. And although its story riffs off an event foreshadowed at the end of In the Mouth of the Whale, you don't need to have read one to enjoy the other, much as you don't need to have read the first two novels to enjoy In the Mouth of the Whale. It's called Evening's Empires, by the way. Among other things, it's about the persistence of the past.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

New book!
Can't wait!

December 12, 2011 6:10 pm  

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