Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Flying Cars

The new story I started on my Lazy Day is tentatively called Flying Cars. It's a near-future espionage thing designed to let me serially explore some of my extrapolative science-fictional ideas. Flying cars, like personal jetpacks, will always signal the future, I think, even when we actually have them (in the same way the years 1984 and 2001 are inextricably linked to the future, even though both now belong to the past). Plus, flying cars are linked to spies and espionage, at least for me.

I built a story engine, and very quickly had ideas for three or four self-contained stories (which means the engine works, I think). I then got sidetracked by The Amelia File, but continued rolling Flying Cars around in my head during idle moments. During one such moment, something slightly disturbing occurred to me: the concepts powering the stories were big -- HUGE, in fact. Quite possibly too big, for what I had conceived of as a series of fairly intimate character-based pieces.

This concern led me to take another look at Ellis and Templesmith's Fell, which I have already analyzed (and enjoyed) to death. (Issue #7 came out the day we went to a Barenaked Ladies concert, and my girlfriend and I read it before the show started, earning many puzzled looks from passers by.)

Fell is a bit deceptive in that at first glance it seems to be about the small, almost the way modern literary fiction tends to be. I think it may actually be a limited omniscient book -- do we ever pull away from Richard Fell and his unique perspective on Snowtown? (Maybe in the beginning of the interrogation issue -- remind me to check that out later.)

Fell is small and intimate, its concerns immediate, but a lot of the ideas themselves are quite big -- in fact, this filtering down of big ideas into tiny, relevant shapes may be an integral part of what makes the book work so well.

I went right to the source and asked Warren about this directly, since he is currently running one of his Mass Interrogation Threads where he answers questions about pretty much anything. I said:


The ideas in Fell always seem to come in their smallest, most intimate forms -- larger socio-economic movements expressed through the old lady who gives guns away from her shop, for instance, or the very Snowtown-specific effects of the military drugs (as opposed to Fell, say, taking on the military or something, which would just feel wrong).

I suppose I'm juxtaposing this with Casanova, where intimate experiences (like a day trip with friends) are turned into something larger (the way, maybe, a song like Norwegian Wood takes a specific personal experience and finds a way to have it open into something more universal).
When constructing Fell, was the idea of keeping things small, intimate, and immediate a formal part of the story engine, or did it just naturally evolve?

Warren replied:

Yeah. Everything, everything has to be focused down to local effect.

Which makes good sense to me, now that I think about it. I think this is just the way in which Flying Cars wants to work itself out, too. (And yes, I'm comfortable doing something Warren Ellis has already done -- he's already done everything anyway.)


I think I need the stories in Flying Cars to open back up again in the end. The character I've come up with is trying to go the other way -- to find the mind-blowing WTF hidden at the center of the safe, bland ST: TNG future she lives in. But the stories themselves -- and her world, I suppose -- resist this. I imagine my character will fail to get the results she wants most of the time, but if there is even just a moment where she glimpses the wondrous possibilities…

Probably needs to roll around in my head a bit more.

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Blogger Mike Exner III said...

Hey, it sounds absolutely fascinating, Rob. I especially appreciate the amount of thought you've put into it. I keep picturing a small story that becomes broad and sweeping as she continues to investigate, and then when she does figure out the secret it's so mundane or plain that she's like... "Oh."

3/02/2007 4:47 PM  

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