Friday, December 30, 2011

New year, new novel idea

For the past year or so I have been working on a schema for a novel which has as its central conceit the notion that in the 'not-too-distant-future' Chinese scientists have developed a gene therapy which allows them to selectively offer a significant lifespan extension to individuals deemed valuable to the state.

Now whenever one starts with a high metaphyical concept and then attempts to graft on some sort of story, one finds oneself in a bind. This year, a not-disimilar concept came to my attention in the form of a movie called In Time, and from the critical response, I have gathered that Andrew Niccol has failed to disguise the fact that the underlying idea disappointingly denies any precedence to either plot or character. (Anyway, I hope to be catching that flick early in 2012.)

I was planning to locate my own narrative in Guatemala, a choice which would permit me some geographical and cultural distance from the hard technological core of my MacGuffin, and encourage me, the author, to focus on the familiar and the intimate.

A Chapin location would have also allowed me to explore another key theme: what would happen if the Chinese 'solution' would have negligible (or at least unforseen) consequences for individuals of WASPish ethnicity but, owing to the known affinities between the Mayan and Chinese chromosomes, gave a sudden advantage to one of the western hemisphere's ethnic have-not groups?

I still think this is a story worth writing, but I have struggled to find a way to set it in a fictional universe that is essentially more interesting than expressing it as a mere thought experiment.

Yet, almost inevitably when one considers how human beings would respond to extraordinary longevity, one starts to ponder what will happen once they realise that it wasn't really what they were after in the first place. And so, a parallel narrative idea has sprung to mind: how might we behave if given the chance to live out all of the possibilities that our individual lives offer us? The attraction of this premise (which, you guessed it, would also be tied down to Guatemala via an as yet undisclosable tie-in to Antigua's parque central) is that it would permit me to gratuitously meditate on my own philosophical notions relating to the nature of quantum phenomena and free will, as well as verbalising my gathering apprehensions about ageing and the gradual withering of personal possibility.

I would also be allowed the chance to signal my intellectual debt to the likes of Asturias, Rulfo and Borges and, something I have always wanted to do, couch an otherwise explicitly science fiction tale within the idiom and mood of magical (or to butcher Arthur C. Clarke's famous observation) suficiently technological-realism. It's also a much harder story to write. But then that is what New Year's resolutions are for, isn't it?


elgordo said...

Happy New Year. It's nice to hear from you again. Good luck with your novel, I look forward to reading it.

scott said...

Tsk. Giving away book ideas! You'll see this in print in several years, coming out of some small press in Tennessee.

GC said...

haha, there are several reasons why 'me pela'.

-- I am arrogant enough to think I can develop this premise better than anyone else, but if I end up as the Wallace to somebody else's Darwin, it's no biggie
--I am not sure I intend to formally publish anything in my lifetime. The lifestyle of 'published author' is not one I crave and I don't need the dosh
--Given the very nature of the plot, there's a pleasing irony about the notion that several distinct variants might emerge from the same initial concept!