Wednesday, June 01, 2005



Barring a few minor revisions and tweaks that I'll be doing in the coming week, the monster that is Paragaea: A Planetary Romance is finally complete. Clocking in at just around 107K words, it is the longest single piece I've yet written.

It's had a strange genesis. It started as a much simpler, perhaps even simplistic story in the fall of 2001. The basic story structure was the same, the same skeleton upon which the meat of the story hung, but that nascent version lacked all definition and muscle tone. It was more or less a straight pastiche of Edgar Rice Burrough's science fantasies, on which I was weaned. Then, after I'd written just the first few thousand words, Lou Anders came along and screwed everything up by introducing me to M. John Harrison's Viriconium novels. Once I'd read The Pastel City, I looked with distaste at what there was of Paragaea, put it away, and started making notes about what the story really should be.

I ended up filling an oversized, 300 page hardcover journal with tightly-spaced, handwritten notes, fleshing out the story I'd lay onto the existing skeleton of adventure, mapping out the terrain and then filling in all the corners. Because I have an uncontrollable mania for research, I read piles of reference materials, and watched endless hours of documentaries. From time to time I'd write an isolated chapter from the novel, structured as a stand-alone short story, to submit to various markets, but after I'd done two or three of these and all remained homeless, I moved onto other projects, returning to Paragaea only to add to my growing sheaf of notes.

By the end of 2004, Paragaea existed as a few scattered chapters, a cumulative 24K words, all from the first quarter of the story; a hardcover journal, filled to capacity; and a handdrawn map covered with place names, rivers, mountains, and oceans. The novel was one of several projects that floated around my hard drive in various stages of completion, waiting for me to return to them.

Since he was the one who'd derailed the earlier, more immature version of the novel, it seems somehow fitting that Lou Anders would be the one to rescue it from the oblivion of my C: drive. He'd read a synopsis of the novel in the fall of 2004, and seen one or two of the stand-alone chapters in the months previous. When he was in the process of queuing up the line up for Pyr's third season, Spring 2006, he contacted me to see if the book was available. He didn't have to ask twice. By the beginning of 2005, the book was under contract, and due to be handed in by the first of June.

That, of course, is where the problem came in. With the naïveté that really only descends on us in the first weeks after a New Year's Day, I felt sure that I'd have loads of time in the spring to devote to writing the remaining 80 or 90K words needed to finish Paragaea. Sure, I'd have it done by March, the beginning of April at the latest. No problem.

Then the projects which I should have been able to complete by December managed to linger, through no fault of my own, until the end of February, and within a week of finishing those off I found myself embroiled in a long-running legal dispute, that wasn't finally settled until the last days of May, and which completely ruined my concentration (and my health) for the better part of two months. So it was that I wasn't able to sit down and start writing Paragaea in earnest until the last week of May, and even then for only a few hours a day.

I'm deeply fortunate that, through misadventure, I long ago adopted the adage, "Measure Twice, Cut Once." In the case of Paragaea, having spent three and a half years outlining the plot in great detail, fleshing out details about characters' backstories, and mapping out the locales through which they moved, I'd really measured four or five times before all was said and done, so that when it came time for cutting--erm, writing--it was really all over but the shouting. I'd already done all the above-the-neck work, and all that remained was the grunt work of sitting at the keyboard, all day, every day, and hammering away at the keyboard until the was through.

And now, I'm done. I'm off tomorrow morning for BEA, and next week I'll be back home, hopefully starting work on the next project. I'm looking forward to getting started. Hopefully this one won't take four years to finish!

Finally! Last I remember the guy had gone into some weird house and fallen through a portal to another world where he nearly drowned and met up with some cat people... if I recall correctly.

I have actually been wondering whatever happened for about 4 years now. I am eager to see where you ended up taking it. ;)
I think you're actually mixing it up a bit with a story of Bill's from around the same time, Grayson. Paragaea opens with a female Soviet cosmonaut hitting some kind of wormhole while orbitting the Earth in a Vostok module, and ending up transported to another dimension, where she nearly drowns and meets up with some cat people. So you're mostly right.
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