Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Random Notes on Writing “A Secret History of The American Crash”

Here is the Facebook page for the novel I set up, with all sorts of cool doodads. Go visit it!
• Writing 2,500 words a day is easy. Writing 2,500 words a day that don’t suck? Hard.

• See, some stuff is easy to write—a breeze and a pleasure. For instance, writing about the invasion of North Korea by American Unmanned Battlefield Drones? Easy—and super fun. (I mean c’mon, writing about self-actuated battledrones fighting—and deafeating—Storm Tiger battle tanks is cool shit that practically writes itself!) But writing about how Americans everywhere rent their clothes and howled “Why!? Why!? Why!?” to God in Heaven after the Capitol Rotunda and Dome were destroyed by terrorists is actually hard. My internal schmaltz-meter constitutionally prevents me from going over the emotional top—but considering how people who had never in their lives been within 1,000 miles of the World Trade Center went emotional full-wallow, I’d think the same would happen with the destruction of the Capitol Dome, only more so. It’s the “more so” which I’m having trouble with.

• The biggest problem I’m having is writing about certain things—racism, sexism, anti-Semitism—that would happen in a post-Crash America without coming across as either racist or sexist or anti-Semitic. The whole book is a series of first-person narratives, many of whom are those aforementioned bad-ists with whom I don’t want to be associated. I have a lot of “-ists” people can rightly peg me for, principally elitist and snobist and assholist—plenty, I figure. But I don’t want them adding to the list stuff that isn’t true about me, but is true about characters I’ve written.

• Will people be bored with the book if I go into detail as to trade and finance and so forth? It’s fun for me—but will other non-econ-groupies also be interested? I mean I want to write a book that appeals to people.

• If only I had to write a book, that would be one thing: As soon as I was done, I could go off on vacation. But with books today, a writer has to be his own PR guy, his own distributor, his own editor and his own agent. It’s a nightmare. Worse, it’s a lot like work.

• God I can’t wait for people to get a load of some of the stuff I’ve written. Like sunflowers—a kind of torture device that microwaves a tiny layer of water molecules under a victim’s skin, making him feel as if he were being burned alive. Will people think that I’m off my rocker? What would they say if I told them (and showed them) that that technology exists, and will soon be deployed for crowd control and other uses?

• It’s harder to write a novel without a plot—like the Secret History—than a novel with a really tight plot. With a tight plot, you have a clear endpoint. With a plotless novel, it never ends; you just arbitrarily decide where to stop.

• Some people have mentioned World War Z, saying the Secret History sounds similar in concept—multiple narratives from different points of view, describing a catastrophe—except of course my novel has no zombies. Just finished WWZ (the movie sucks, btw): I can see why people say Max Brooks’ novel and mine are similar—because we both stole the same idea from the same guy! I read Sir John Hackett’s The Third World War: August 1985 when I was a teenager—before the year 1985, as a matter of fact. It describes a conventional war between NATO and the Warsaw Pact in vivid detail, told from multiple points of view, by historians writing about the war after the fact. Brooks read Hackett’s book too, and stole his conceit. Hey Brooks! You’re a lousy little thief for stealing Hackett’s brilliant idea—oh, uh, wait a minute . . . Hey Brooks! Nevermind, we’re good.

• No deus ex machina—the book can’t come up with some weird, left-field plot twist. It has to take what exists today and just expand, extrapolate, continue. Visually, think of the Johansson photo of the guy pulling the road.

Photo by Erik Johansson. Click to enlarge.

• I told a buddy, Rick, that this book is essentially finance-porn, or maybe more correctly financial-armageddon-porn. Porn’s always fun. (Wait, does this mean I ought to include an orgy scene? Hmm . . .)

• Will people buy this fucking thing? I mean it’s pretty good—but often today, “being good” is just not enough. People have to not only read it, they have to tell other people about it and get them to read it. And I've never been very good at marketing stuff. Great at building stuff, starting stuff—but selling? My weakness.

• What are the scary parts of this novel? Or let me rephrase: What events described in this novel would scare the crap out of a reader in 2014? Well, there’s the issue of blatant, open anti-Semitism among the characters in the year 2020, and how Jewish people are openly persecuted under the guise of “networker targetting”. There’s the issue of women in the year 2020 being practically chattel, and how “plural marriages” are used to simultaneously keep women down and maintain social control. There’s the issue of total surveillance, up to and including all citizens having their DNA, picture and fingerprints taken, and every computer and electronic device being “tethered” to an owner—so that the government can quickly find out who is not “in compliance”. Then there are the concentration camps—excuse me, the “Detention and Processing Facilities”—where Americans who are “non-compliant” and have therefore lost their “American Privileges” are held, without recourse to the law or the courts because they haven’t been properly arrested—they have received “Administrative Detention”, and thus cannot contact a lawyer or a judge.

So yeah, I’d say there are enough scary scenarios in this book to pretty much freak most everybody out.

• What cover should I use?

• Gotta make it clear how in the year 2020, there’s no revolution or protest against the injustices and outrages of the government because, a., the fight has been literally bred out of people, and b., people’s source of food depends on being “in compliance” with the government, so they are exceedingly wary of pissing off the G-Man.

• In 2020, all drugs are legal, and their use is encouraged by the government, especially weed. Parts of the classified laws of the Domestic Pacification and Normalization Program (DOPA-Norm) of 2017 explicitly state that “the Federal Government should encourage the use of cannabis as a social lubircant and soporific. Don’t forget to include that somewhere. (Should weed be encouraged in the Detainee Camps as well? Think about it.)

• How to describe people’s acquiescence? A lot of it has to do with the Capitol Bombing, and the rise of the so-called “insider threat”. The authorities are crazy about “insider threats”, gotta make that clear. But people’s acquiescence—their allowing the authorities to do bad things—has to do with having been slowly conditioned over the years. Think all those lock-down drills in schools.

• Make a contest among the people who sign up for the mailing list: They and they alone get to decide on the cover. Would be fun, and would allow me to stop obsessing about the f@%$¡¢¿! cover.

Thanks for signing up! I’ll keep you updated as the pub date draws near. Remember, Friday, February 28—be there or be square!



  1. "There is a technical term for someone who confuses the opinions of a character in a book with those of the author. That term is idiot."
    S.M Stirling, dedication page of his novel Conquistador.

    1. Good to know, DougFromOz.

      See in this book, I'm interested in applying this essay.


  2. Gonzalo,
    I'll buy that baby. I'm actually looking forward to it. Can't wait till it's available!

    1. I'll buy the book too.
      If I like it and the book has a message, like wake up you "spoiled and pathetic Americans", I'll buy several copies and send them to family and friends.
      Or I'll leave copies at random places like airports, as I did with the book "Terrestrial Energy" by William Tucker. I don't know that it made any difference but it was fun to advertise something that I believe in.


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