I spent most of the summer trying out possibilities before settling on Dreamsinger as my next novel. One thing I considered was a sequel to A Fond Farewell to Dying. FFTD was set in a post nuclear war/post rising of the waters world. I wrote it before global warming became obvious, and my main character thought the flooding was due to the nukes that opened up the San Andreas fault. I don’t feel obligated to agree with him if I write another novel.
There would be several advantages in this sequel. I wasn’t done with my characters, even though FFTD had a proper closure. I had several bits and pieces of story that needed telling, but not enough to make a novel. I had a dandy idea for a third novel, if I could find a good second one to sew everything together.
In FFTD, the protagonist starts out in Ozarka, the island chain that lives in the middle of a much expanded Gulf of Mexico, but this is told as a flashback. The shattered, inundated remains of NorAm are not explored, and I felt there was a lot to see there. I wanted my old characters to fade into the background, letting me tell the next story through new eyes.
On a practical note, I’ve lived fifty years in California but only two of my novels are set there, and neither is science fiction. I know a lot of stuff that is going to waste.
So I decided to bring in a new character. He (I don’t know his name yet) is not so driven as David Singer was, but he is still a backwoods kid who has a lot to learn. That’s always useful; it lets us learn along with our character. I decided to let him grow up on an island off the coast of what is left of California, make his way across the now flooded Central Valley, spend some times in the former gold rush towns which will become seaports by his time, then head north walking along the crest of the Sierra/Cascade ranges. Up north he will come in contact with the characters from FFTD and his story will meld with theirs, but I don’t have that completely figured out yet.
I could tell you more, but at this point everything is still malleable. In fact, it is probably too soon to write this story; it needs to ferment a few more years.
Just to get a feel for this new novel, I wrote a few hundred opening words. You can have a peek at what may be coming, if you want.
The town I reached was a haphazard scattering of buildings up the dense green slopes of what was once the Coast Range, mostly built from sawn driftwood. At sea level were shacks and several small piers for fishermen, as well as a longer one for oceangoing vessels.
As for me, I was an invading army of one. Maybe I should say navy, since I was coming in from downcoast in the middle of a sealskin and driftwood kayak of my own making. I had left my birthtown two weeks ago, heading north to find a bigger life. Here and there I slept on islets, and cooked fish over driftwood fires, but mostly I just paddled all day with the sunrise on my right and the sunset on my left, and slept on the waters each night.
This place was not going to give me the life I wanted, but that long pier meant ships would come eventually. I beached the kayak on the open shore and dragged it into the brush, out of sight.
First things first. There were hundreds of streamlets coming down the steep, west facing slope. I picked one, walked up until I reached a waterfall, and let it sluice two weeks of grime and stench off my body. I swilled my fill of fresh water that had not spent days in a stoppered gourd. Then I walked on up the beach.
The first man I saw was a fisherman. So were the next dozen.
You could read the history and the future of the town in its architecture. There were a dozen huts on stilts paralleling the beach. The first actual houses were three hundred yards up a steep zigzag, and a hundred feet above the water.
Conclusion: from time to time a storm would wipe out everything below those houses. Prediction: someday, tomorrow maybe, or maybe ten years from now, a larger storm would wash the headland clean and this town would become a memory — if anyone survived to remember.
The first man I met looked me over and snarled, “Where did you come from?”
“Pirling. Two weeks south, out on one of the islands.”
“How’d you get here?”
His eyes ran down the beach behind me, looking, but he didn’t ask where I had hidden it. He said, “We all work here. No handouts. What can you do?”
“Anything you can do.”
# # #
For two weeks I worked, harder than anyone in the town. I wasn’t trying to impress anybody. It’s just that I had no friends or family, and nothing to keep me occupied but work. I slept on the beach. The sand was comfortable enough, and my boudoir was swept clean twice a day by the tide.
My body was comfortable, my belly was full, and the surly bastards I worked with never asked any questions. But my mind was trying to crawl out my ears to find something interesting to think about. Fat chance in that town.
Then a ship came. She was called Mariposa, Spanish for butterfly, a twenty-five meter schooner with a ferrocrete hull. I went aboard and looked for the skipper.
His next stop will be the shattered remains of nuked San Francisco, with only Nob Hill still above the water. Maybe. Someday. If I get that far down the list of books-to-write.