Thursday, June 4, 2020

The "Notebook" -- From One Work of Fiction to Another

In my science-fiction novel, In a Suspect Universe, Mykol Ranglen, the protagonist, often had with him a small notebook.

He showed it to no one.

But during the story, another character named Riley snuck a peak into the book when it fell out of Ranglen’s pocket while he was sleeping. She didn’t trust him at the time, so she was looking for information about any secret plans or plots she felt he might have, or “dirt” about him. But she found in the notebook only poems. And the revelations there were either more personal or more oblique than what she wanted. Since she was in a bad mood at the time, and very suspicious about Ranglen, she was neither ready for, nor appreciative of, any poetry. So she quickly put the notebook back.

Throughout the novel, the two characters never spoke of the notebook or the incident, and Ranglen never indicated what it might contain or what it meant to him.

But Temporary Planets for Transitory Days, a work soon to be released by Dog Star Press (and available here for preorder), IS that notebook.

It’s a collection of the private poetic statements of Mykol Ranglen: comments about his world, his adventures, his past, his dreams, his regrets, his longings—the wonders he’s seen and the heartbreak he’s felt. And except for Riley’s sneak peak, only he has ever seen these personal jottings.

Until now.

In this new published collection, the poems are revealed for the first time. Ranglen apparently decided, through a sudden impulsive move that was maybe based on a further feeling of loss and longing, that it was time to discard them, to let them go, to not belabor them or hide them away—maybe in order to free himself so he could move on with his life. He stopped writing in the book and then passed it over to a publisher—like a spy bestowing secret knowledge.

How that happened is summarized in the editor’s introduction to the collection—which I wrote, speaking in the voice of an imagined editor from at least a century in the future. (And, by the way, it was great fun writing the introduction to one’s own written book, in the voice of a careful and restrained editor who doesn’t want to impose his own “interpretation” onto the work, or to lead any of his readers into how to accept it.)

The things we see then in this collection are all the topics that fascinated Ranglen. And no matter how big—or small—some of them might be, like the grand vistas and galaxy-wide subjects of science fiction, they are described here from a strictly personal viewpoint, through the eyes of a character who’s lived through two novels already (and who will appear in at least two more). These poems are links to his deep past, to old planet Earth, to the worlds of his present, to the planets he’s visited, to the stories we’ve seen, to the people he’s loved, and to the tales yet to be told. Secrets are revealed, known characters explored, settings opened, and mysteries explained—or, in some cases, made more complex.

It’s been a great thrill creating this book. I’ve been on a writer’s new kind of adventure—presenting an imagined world through equally imagined eyes, or placing a fictional science fiction into an equally science-fictional frame.

Leaping from one work of fiction to another! It’s been heady stuff. 

To summarize, and conclude, I’ll quote the last lines of my own faux editor: 

        . . . I present to you the contents of “the notebook” as it was given to me, with its assigned title, structure, and sub-headings, exactly as Mykol Ranglen wanted them. I added no footnotes, since I have no authority to write them. My own speculation is no more valid than any other reader’s.
        But be aware—or “beware”—the works are inconclusive. They tease. They absorb as much light as they shed.
        Which, given our troubled and contrary times, is maybe appropriate.
        I hope you enjoy them.

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