Well, it feels like the end of an era, but I’m able finally to be able to say that I’ve completed the first draft of Unanimity. I say, “the end of an era,” because it feels as if it’s the longest I’ve ever worked on anything in my life. This is not literally true; my horror novel, Vagabond, which I wrote through college and med school, took longer, but that was because I wrote it so sporadically. I foolishly worked on it only when “inspiration” struck, whatever that even means. And the first full-length (hand-written) novel I ever wrote, Ends of the Maelstrom, probably took longer as well, for broadly similar reasons.
There’s no denying, however, that Unanimity is the biggest thing I’ve ever written. At 530,549 words, its first draft is longer than the published version of either It or The Stand. I don’t know how many days of writing it’s entailed. I took at least one fairly long hiatus during the middle of the process, to complete various other authorial tasks, but even given that…well, in length, at least, it’s definitely my magnum opus. So far.
I had no idea when I began it that it was going to be so long. I don’t often really think in such terms, which is probably good, since I tend to run off at the keyboard. I love words, I love written language, I love writing stories…and I’m self-indulgent when it comes to those loves. I hope you’ll be patient with me, but I’ll understand if you’re not.
So, Tuesday I finished the rather melancholy final scene of my novel, and then Wednesday, as you may have noticed, I published Penal Colony, my latest short story (It’s available for purchase in Kindle format, for less than a buck, American). Having both things happen more or less contemporaneously makes them feel more momentous than they probably are.
Now I must try very hard to take a break from Unanimity, and not to do any rewriting or editing on it for the month of February. Fortunately, I have two short story ideas eagerly waiting to be written, and I really should finish up In the Shade as well, so I’ll try to get most, or all, of those works done this coming month. They’re all horror stories—no big surprise—but at least one of them is a slightly jokey, cynical horror story, in which very honorable, morally upright, and laudable impulses and deeds are used against a well-meaning, if slightly self-righteous, person by dark forces.
Such—all too often, and regrettably—is life.
Hopefully, though, we won’t let that stop us. Dark things and dark people are generally a lot noisier than good things and good people, so sometimes it feels as though they dominate the universe. Yet the fact that civilization has survived at all, and continued to advance, seems to be mathematical proof that good and creativity are stronger than evil and destruction. After all, it’s simpler by far to destroy than to create, and yet creation—in the human world—vastly predominates over destruction. QED.
Sorry about that little digression into philosophy, but I thought it might be warranted. It would be all too easy, I know, based on the types of things I write, for someone to imagine that I’m a pessimist about human nature, or the universe in general. I’m not. Though the second law of thermodynamics is as inescapable as any other mathematical principle, it’s also the source of life, and of our experience of time. Life—certainly as we know it—can’t exist except where entropy is going from lower to higher. I’m very much on board with the ideas David Deutsch describes in his wonderful book The Beginning of Infinity. There is no guarantee that humanity and our descendants will go on to achieve a cosmic-level civilization, but there doesn’t appear to be any reason it’s not possible. Whether or not it happens is entirely dependent upon our actions (and a lack of local astronomical catastrophes, of course).
And that’s about enough of all that for now. I’ll leave you to the rest of your day. It’s bitterly cold up north, I know, and it’s even relatively chilly down here in south Florida, so wrap up warm, all those who are affected. Curl up by the fire in a blanket. Drink a mug of tea, or coffee, or hot chocolate, and read a good book, if you get the chance. Listen to that cold, bitter wind howling outside, with a chill that seems more than capable of freezing the very flesh from your bones. It sounds almost alive, doesn’t it?
It sounds almost…hungry.