Tuesday, December 21, 2004

My Own Congeries Under a Tarp

It will shock no one to hear that I have been working on a congeries novel for many years. “Neptune’s Reach,” a humble novelette, appeared in Asimov’s in 1986, and three years later (after writing _The Oxygen Barons_ and a few other things) I sat down and began constructing a novel from that initial seed.

Twelve parts of the large and ambitious _Neptune’s Reach_ were planned: five in Part I, four in II, three in III. (One must have a design, although tidily symmetrical ones are dull.) Over the next few years I wrote all of Part I, a piece of Part II, and took extensive notes for the rest. (The original story, thoroughly reworked, will make a modest appearance in the longest section of the book, “Six Records of a Floating Life.” That will constitute a mini-congeries of its own, six dense stories, like a whorl within a whorl.)

Two days before my daughter was born in November 1993 I did what would be my last day’s work on the novel for quite a while, coming within a few hundred words of the end of “On the Ice Islands.” I think it was three years later that I took it up again. It, and one final short section (“Ladies in their Letters”), appeared in Asimov’s around the end of the decade.

Since then I have written novellas -- a great way to condense a lot of time and effort into relatively few pages -- a short novel (“Arabian Wine,” coming out this winter), and commenced work on a very long fantasy novel. But I do want to return to _Neptune’s Reach_. On my hard drive sit about eight pages of “Cloud-Born,” which I like more than almost anything else in the series. With about 75,000 words already in print, I should certainly finish it someday.

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