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fiction: serial fiction
What's the book about? In one line?
The biggest problem with building the world's smartest prison is an inmate whose life's mission has been to get inside.
Ever read that blurb text on the back of a paperback novel? Well, here ya go ...
When the terrors of the twenty-first century -- including the fall of the capital and crimes greater in severity if not in frequency -- began to get too much for the staid societal mores of the average citizen, the United States Government conceived of a new kind of penal facility, one without any delusions of rehabilitation, one created to contain the worst products of modern life. Designed by Keniston Spaulding, former globe-trotting intelligence spook and all-around national security professional, it was constructed in the vastness of the Arizona deserts as a last resort, to save many state governments the burden of caretaking the truly lost, the truly degenerate, the wholly irredeemable. It stood as a final exasperated throwing up of the hands for the few remaining state legislatures that would not take human life, as well as the worst criminals the federal government could field.
Argument (or "What I really meant was ...")
What the powers-that-be didn't know -- couldn't know -- was that their time was drawing close to an end. At every corner the malcontents they'd bred at home and abroad plotted the downfall of the land of the free, the end of the home of the brave. For the first time, they were organized. Without precedent, they were of a singular mind. In a wholly unique fashion, they had a plan.
A plan exemplified in no greater way than in the form of Inmate XV4012287, a man known simply as Ishmael Damu.
This is the second of (currently) four novels set in The Context, which is the same universe in which The Crown: Ascension takes place. The action takes place some decades after the final events of that novel, and even after the main course of events referred to in the pending sequel, tentatively titled The Crown: Rise and Fall.
I'm not really sure what I had intended when I started this. I saw the basics of the finale -- which I won't spoil here, but you'll see in May -- but hadn't dovetailed it into anything bigger. It was based in my loathing for the modern world and my (then) passion to have children so I could aim them like missiles at the future. I have no idea if I'll ever have children (it seems less likely at 32 than it did at 26, when this story began in my head), but I think I may have the basic idea of future missiles out of my system now. I think.
Some of the characters here -- in particular "Floyd," who is a central character of "The Operative," but to a lesser degree many more -- are intended to play larger parts in other tales. On the advice of counsel (my eternal thanks to Nej Jenkins, who has seen this story at every level of its development and provided invaluable guidance to me through all of that) suggested that I make it clear that this is a part of something bigger, a series of works, because the ending is ... well, you'll see. What's funny to me is how little of myself is in most of these characters -- most of the prisoners are made whole cloth from people I actually know and have repurposed for this work, and the arguable "protagonist" is kind of my vision of a born-and-bred evolutionary in the modern day, complete with doubt and failings and passion. I got lots of people trying to find parallels to me in James Edwards (which is so far from the truth that it's funny), but I'm sure when the character that really does represent my own vanity and perspective steps on page, I wonder if he'll be recognized?
In my mind, I keep thinking of Faraway as my equivalent to Clay's Ark (with the exception that, unlike Octavia Butler, I like this story). If you read other works in The Context after this, much more nuance and flavor from them. If not, they are good sci-fi yarns on their own. In the words of sai King, The Context is my attempt at grandeur and scale, my Lord of the Rings or Dark Tower or what have you.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves. At its core, Faraway is a power struggle between two men -- one who actually has all the power, and one who merely thinks he does, for stakes no greater than their own right to choose. Ascribe those roles as you wish, based on where you are in your life. It has betrayals, revenge, filthy sex, murder, terror ... and that's just the prison staff, not even getting to the inmates themselves. Looking down from the cliffsides destined for the fall of the Second Roman Empire, this postulates a mean future (not so far away) that most of us will not survive.
I like to think that there are no "good guys" or "bad guys" in this story, only characters who I have labored to make as real and whole as I could. This is likely the meanest and grittiest installment of The Context (from where I stand in 2005, with The Crown: Rise and Fall unwritten and the as-yet-untitled fourth book still nascent in my neurons ... which doesn't even mention The Operative, which looks like it could end up as an illustrated novella that would bring the count to five books).
I've got a lot of story in my brain, banging on the inside of my headbones, trying to get out and find a way to you. I hope you enjoy it ... because I'm having a blast telling it. Here we go ...