In Search of a Sequel

by wjw on July 22, 2019

So there was this science fiction convention being held at a spa hotel, which meant that in addition to seeing your favorite SF writers on panels, you could go to a sauna or a hot tub or a massage, or you could have your chakras aligned or your colon cleansed or whatever.  Instead of being confined to a dealers’ room, the dealers set out their tables in pleasant green courtyards, under the shade of trees.  It made for an agreeable, low-key convention experience.

I was wandering through one of the white, hygienic, eucalyptus-scented spa areas of the hotel when I ran into Norman Spinrad, who was sitting on a bench.  I joined him.

“I’ve been thinking about your early work, Williams,” he said in his distinctive way.  (I can do a fairly good Norman Spinrad impersonation, but you’re going to have to imagine it here.)

“Yes?” I said politely.

Norman shrugged.  “It’s okay,” he said.

He then launched into an analysis of some of my earlier books and stories. He was hard to follow because he was mumbling, but eventually I realized he was planning to write a sequel to Hardwired, my most popular novel.  He wasn’t asking my permission or anything, and though I was sensible of the honor, I wasn’t sure whether or not I liked the idea.  I rather thought that if there were to be a sequel to Hardwired, I should be connected to it in some way.

So Norman was using me as a sounding board as he worked out how the world of Hardwired would evolve, and this conversation went on for some time before I developed a plan to gain a measure of control over the process.

“The thing we have to work out,” I said, “is how we’re going to get Jerry Cornelius into the story.”

Norman’s blue eyes went wide, and he said, “Wao wao wao.”  I held out a hand for a high-five, and though it took a moment or two, eventually he slapped it.

So the way to gain a degree of agency over the project was to introduce a character created by a third party.  Score!

So Norman and I spent a long, exhausting hour working out a sequel to Hardwired featuring Jerry Cornelius as a protagonist, and I developed more and more enthusiasm for the project.

At which point my alarm went off, and I woke up.  I recalled that there were already a couple sequels to Hardwired, depending on how you count them, and that I had three novels to deliver before I could consider another project, with or without Norman or Jerry Cornelius.

I was several days into this year’s Taos Toolbox, and apparently the workshop’s relentless concentration on matters literary had inspired the whole dream.

Even though I’d got an adequate amount of sleep, I woke exhausted.  Apparently creating a Hardwired metanovel was so draining that I had no energy left.

I staggered in the direction of the coffee pot, but the coffee didn’t help.

Clyde July 24, 2019 at 9:01 am

Heh. Cool dream actually. Sounds like you might be onto something. I reckon I would read it.
My own dreams tend to the unusual/weird when I am stressed or sometimes after a bit too much libation.
But, perhaps this is normal story creation in the WJW world?

John Appel July 24, 2019 at 2:24 pm

Am I recalling correctly that the basic plot of Hardwired dropped into your head during a dream? So this is, perhaps, your unconscious going back to that well?

Etaoin Shrdlu July 25, 2019 at 8:05 pm

I’ve just spent the last twenty minutes trying to think of the perfect coauthor for you, and I think I’ve got a candidate: Paolo Bacigalupi. He can do the weird, you can do the intricate, and you can both do the characters.

Shash July 27, 2019 at 9:39 pm

Etaoin, great idea.

WJW, glad to know you have dreams like that. A writer friend and I regularly compare. I stage plays in my sleep, she dreams characters.

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