Monday, January 28, 2019

War of the Maps

I started work on the new novel on January 1st 2018, and a year and a week later turned in the final draft to my agent. Although, of course, there will be changes yet to come in the process of turning it into a book, it has reached its proper shape and feel. Here's a short extract from somewhere near the beginning.

By the time the lucidor had reached the beginnings of the forest the cloud had burned away and mirrorsunlight was warm on his back and his coiled hair. This was the edge of the high plain, frayed by steep valleys that wound between knife-edged ridges. He followed the course of a dry stream down one such valley, tall conifers he couldn’t name rising on either side. Ribbons of sand and gravel. Boulders thatched with glass moss that spun tiny rainbows from mirrorsunlight. A grassy clearing thick with saplings where one of the giants had fallen. The windless air heavy with heat and the buzzing song of some kind of insect, flavoured with the clean medicinal scent of the trees. Now and then he halted the warhorse and turned in the creaking saddle to look behind him. A law keeper fleeing retribution. A trespasser in this strange land, this strange forest, far from his desert homeland.

 Once, he rode past a roofless circle of pillars rising out of scrub trees on a bluff above the dry stream, the remains of a temple a hundred or a thousand years old. Once, he stopped to study with his spyglass a tall column that stood at the end of a ridge high above, decorated with carvings of scenes from some forgotten skirmish of the Heroic Age, when godlings had walked the new-made maps clad in the bodies of men and women, autonomous shards of the minds that had spun the eggshell of the world around the Heartsun and raised up the maps from the great flood of its ocean and carved their forests and plains and mountains and quickened every living thing from the lowliest pinworm to the men and women they’d briefly ridden and then abandoned. They’d left behind miracles and wonders, from monuments like that column to entire cities, and rumours of places where time stretched from seconds to centuries between one footfall and the next, or spots where the unwary could be thrown into the sky or transported instantly to a map halfway around the world or to the bottom of the world ocean. Places where rocks floated in the air. Places where the sick were healed. Places where the words of godlings still echoed and could drive the unwary mad or grant those adepts disciplined by years of meditation a pure and everlasting instant of ultimate enlightenment. How to measure the significance of this last assignment against any of that? The lucidor thought of an ant crawling over a child’s balloon. Not even close. It doesn’t matter what we do, Remfrey He had once told him, because our ancestors were created for no other reason than to serve the momentary whim of gods who moved on long ago, without a moment’s thought for what they left behind. We are discarded toys in an abandoned house, and busy ourselves with habit and ritual to distract ourselves from the awful truth of our irrelevance. The only way to free yourself from the legacy is to accept that truth and laugh at it and find new games to play.

Remfrey He didn’t believe any of that of course. He didn’t really believe in anything, except the singularity of his genius. No, he’d been having fun, the only kind of fun he could have after his arrest, by challenging the lucidor’s beliefs. Trying to undermine them even after he’d been sentenced and exiled. Smuggling out notes commenting on disasters and crimes. Asking disingenuously, after the death of the lucidor’s wife, if the lucidor still believed that his little life had any kind of meaning or structure.

Well, he still believed in the principles that had shaped his life. He still held that to be true. That was why he was here. Remfrey He would be amused by his persistence, no doubt, but it was all he had, now. All he knew.

4 Comments:

Blogger Mark Pontin said...

'I started work on the new novel on January 1st 2018, and a year and a week later turned in the final draft to my agent.'

Is that a type there and do you mean 'a week ago' rather than 'a week later'?

Anyway, congratulations.

January 28, 2019 10:51 pm  
Blogger Mark Pontin said...

Agh! 'Typo.'

January 28, 2019 10:51 pm  
Blogger Paul McAuley said...

53 weeks, in other words.

January 29, 2019 10:00 am  
Blogger Mark Pontin said...

Sorry. Speed-reading like an idiot. Anyway, congratulations & I look forward to reading it.

February 01, 2019 7:52 am  

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