Too Many Answers to Stop

I’ve long held that a story I’ve started writing must reach a certain “critical mass” in order for me to carry it through to completion. This critical mass might be defined as the written length — the word/page count — beyond which I will not, can not stop writing. A story which might become a novella (or longer), for instance, seems to hit critical mass at about 10,000 words. At this point, the narrative has so much momentum in my head that it’s a force in its own right: I know enough about the characters and the story to know how little I really know about them, and how much I want to find out.

(I’m pretty sure many/most other writers feel the same way, incidentally, although we’ve probably all got different critical masses.)

Mostly, this is just a descriptive figure, not a prescriptive one. It’s an observation which seems to have held true in the past and (as I expect) will likely hold true in the future, not a make-or-break target.

For the piece I’m working on now, though, I seem to be approaching — perhaps have already crossed — a different and perhaps unquantifiable threshold: a critical mass of research.
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Always Surprised

The Missus has told me on numerous occasions that my astrological character — Gemini, born in the Year of the Rabbit — has doomed me to an intense, lifelong hatred of being bored… and a desperation to be otherwise, even unwisely so.*

Assuming that she’s right (generally a safe assumption), then a corollary to that proposition, of course, must be that I like nothing more than not being bored. Indeed, that’s one of my favorite things — maybe my single most-favorite thing — about writing fiction: how reliably the result catches me by surprise. (I’m no longer surprised to be surprised, which isn’t quite the same thing as saying the surprise has become boring.) It almost never ends up quite as I’d imagined when I first set out on the project, and the surprising element(s) almost always seem improvements.

(To qualify: I don’t make everything up as I go along. I do plan, some. I just try to… how you say…? to stay alert to the possibility of sudden changes in direction.)

When I started working on The Propagational Library, here’s what I had in mind:

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The Propagational Library (12): Beyond

The final installment in the weekly serial story called The Propagational Library appears here:

…in which The Librarian (with some help) punches through
the curtain rippling at the borders of the universe.

Haven’t read any of the series? Please consider visiting the Overview/Table of Contents page before barging into this chapter — or, for that matter, into any of the preceding ones. :)

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Looking Forward to Shelving the Library

I’ve been tickled by the way the storyline in The Propagational Library series has developed; it’s caught me by surprise several times, and I like how it’s grown in scope (as I see the whole thing, even what’s not actually written) beyond my original intentions. But if all goes well, the upcoming installment of the series — that is, the one I post this Saturday — will be the last. (Because each installment/chapter is a first draft, my progress in a given writing session can affect how well my predictions for it bear out, hence the uncertainty.)

And then, eventually, I shall have some decisions to make about the story.

As posted at RAMH, the whole tale will consist of thirteen chapters, comprising no more — probably — than 30,000 words. (This doesn’t count related material outside the story itself, primarily blog posts about it.) I can just leave it as it stands, of course, just as if it were any other series of blog posts. (At that length, it’s too short for publication in most media, and in any case I’d never submit it in its present rough form.) I can bundle up Part 2 for offline reading, just as I did Part 1, two months ago. I see no reason to remove any of the series for good.

But I can think of several reasons to put at least some of it behind a password-protected “wall,” after a decent interval of open availability. That’s probably what I’ll end up doing, in the hope that some day I’ll revisit The Librarian’s adventures, and fashion them into something longer, better written, altogether more complete.

I’ve started a couple other stories in the meantime, and I’d like to get on with them (and/or something else), but I need my Saturdays back for that to happen. So after this week, I’ll just let The Propagational Library sit for a little while. And let my subconscious stew about the story’s future…

…whatever that turns out to be.

 

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The Propagational Library (11): The Sponge

The latest installment in the weekly serial story called The Propagational Library appears here:

…in which The Librarian remembers the other thing he was supposed to do,
and hears voices — a voice, anyhow.

If you’ve never read any of the series, please consider visiting the Overview/Table of Contents page before barging into this chapter. It may — will probably — help if you read the preceding installments, too. :)

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You Are (Barely) Here

Sometimes when working on the Saturday Propagational Library serial I get a little overwhelmed thinking about the distances and time scales involved. While I try to keep things roughly “factual” — or factual-ish, anyhow — by referring as needed to one online source or another, it can really help to have a graphical tool available to bring it into perspective.

The Number Sleuth site has conveniently provided one such tool, with its “Magnifying the Universe” feature:

(For a more static but a little more easily digestible view, they also offer a plain old enormously long poster-style image.)

This perspective of relative sizes can change your perspective of everything: what’s important, what’s fair, what “change” means, what’s “old” and “young,” what’s worth remembering (and worth forgetting), what it means to age, what’s funny vs. deadly serious…

And I like the implied interrelationship between space and time, especially at the most gigantic scales. Let’s say you’ve got a way to measure the distances from yourself to greatly distant objects — some way which does not (obviously) require you yourself to travel that distance (using an odometer which clicks over every giga-parsec or so). Let’s say you take as a given the (still conventional) notion that nothing can move faster than light. One implication of this is that the universe is not just at least as far across (in radius) as the most distant object you can see; it’s that the universe is also at least that old. So if the most distant visible object in the heavens is a light-year away, the light from that object has taken a whole year to reach your eyes… and the universe is at least that old.

Therefore, if (as seems to be the case) the most distant visible object is around fourteen billion light-years away, then…

We can also infer the presence of objects even farther than we can actually see, from the effects of those yet-farther objects on what we can see. Imagine Aeolus, the God of Intergalactic Breezes, sitting on his throne way the hell out there beyond observable limits. We can’t see him but can guess he’s there, because of the way the most-distant-visible objects dance around every time Aeolus sighs (probably out of loneliness) in this direction.

If your head can stand even more interestingness, consider the theory that the universe is expanding, and indeed accelerating in its rate of expansion. According to this theory, although the speed of light still marks an upper limit, it does so locally, on a more or less “small” scale — implying that the space between objects may expand more rapidly than light speed. Thus, at that fourteen-billion-light-years horizon, things are constantly crossing over the line into invisibility and, ultimately, unknowability.

Consider the similarities between all this and (say) the way in which things, people, and experiences pass from our individual (or collective) memory.

Consider the grand themes of art, literature, and music, from the small and personal to the most sweepingly “universal.”

Consider sharing those themes with Aeolus and, if Aeolus creates art of his own, his sharing his themes with us

 

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The Propagational Library (10): Striking a Match

The latest installment in the weekly serial story called The Propagational Library appears here:

…in which The Librarian, and a certain author, have their minds turned inside-out.

If you’ve never read any of the series, please consider visiting the Overview/Table of Contents page before diving headlong into this chapter.

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The Propagational Library (9): “But What About Me?”

The latest installment in the weekly serial story called The Propagational Library appears here:

…in which The Librarian asks the most important question we ever ask —
and puts a pretty big dent in the answer (or it puts a big dent in him).

If you’ve never read any of the series, I encourage you to head over to the Overview/Table of Contents page before diving in.

 

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The Propagational Library (8): Dreamtime

See the latest installment in the ongoing Propagational Library series, here:

…in which The Librarian (having discovered four additional dimensions of time)
drifts off to sleep, and more than one light winks on as he encounters someone very familiar.

As always, if you’re unfamiliar with the series, I encourage you to begin instead with the Table of Contents/Overview page.

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The Propagational Library (7): Thenward

See the latest installment in the ongoing Propagational Library series, here:

…in which The Librarian learns what it means to lunge, just so
and discovers a previously unknown sense.

If you’re unfamiliar with the series, you almost certainly will prefer to begin instead with the Table of Contents/Overview page.

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