Wednesday, August 04, 2010


Pandora's Bluff & The Irresponsibiliad

I have finally decided on a title for the 1000 story cycle I have been working on for the past twenty years. PANDORA'S BLUFF. I like the allusion to Classical mythology, to the box full of troubles and the tiny but indomitable figure of 'Hope' at the very bottom. But in my scheme it is reversed -- lots of little 'hopes' and one Big Trouble. It's a pleasing title, cynical without being bitter, and it should help me feel that all the stories I have ever written really are part of just one work, however bloated or asymmetric it might eventually turn out to be. So then: I'm now confidently able to declare that I am 54.1% of the way through Pandora's Bluff...

I have also decided on an overarching title for the series of historical novels I plan to begin writing when I turn 50 -- if I live that long, of course! That title is THE IRRESPONSIBILIAD. I say a 'series of historical novels' but in fact the idea is to write just one vast novel -- the longest novel ever written. I first conceived the notion of doing this when I was 16. I envisaged a family saga starting in the year 5000 BC and following a single line of descent through 270 generations to the present day. Really it's just a grandiose excuse to explore every ancient civilisation that has ever fascinated me: the representative of each generation will travel geographically as well as through time, just like our real ancestors did, taking part in some of the key moments of history. Naturally, without having the grounding of the same characters throughout the work there needs to be something else to act as a structural glue, to ensure that The Irresponsibiliad truly can be defined as a proper novel rather than a sequence of separate incidents. I believe I have found the perfect backbone for the immense arc of this project: genetic workshyness. Each new descendant will attempt to live a life of minimal toil within their particular milieu, with varying degrees of success from none at all to plenty. This single chronic quirk should lead the cast of the book into conflict with society and authority: into revolution, evolution and maybe even transcendence.

That all remains to be seen... The project is almost certainly beyond my abilities anyway. The amount of research necessary even for its commencement is prodigious. So far I know only that the first volume will be called The Sky Saw and will be set in Ancient Sumer. I have long been intrigued by the Sumerians, the inventors of writing, the wheel, beer and boardgames; and the benefactors to mankind of the oldest book of fiction, The Epic of Gilgamesh. It was The Hamlyn Children's History of the World, one of the favourite volumes of my boyhood, that first revealed the existence of the Sumerians to me. Recently I spotted a copy in a charity shop and bought it for reasons of nostalgia...

I don't know if The Irresponsibiliad will be contained within Pandora's Bluff or not; I always assumed it would, but now I'm not so sure. I can imagine writing 1000 linked stories but I can't imagine finishing the longest novel ever written. No matter: it is always better to be magniloquent than modest in one's schemes! And yet I tend to keep my biggest projects locked inside my head. This one has been mostly locked up for 27 years and it feels good to set it free at last!

Off the topic of this post but I'm working my way through The PostModern Mariner, bought via the link from a previous post. You are one weird dude. Luckily the stories are excellent - I also enjoyed The Pollinators. I'll definitely be looking out for more of your work.
Hey, thanks for that comment! I'm glad you are enjoying The Postmodern Mariner... probably one of my own favourites of all my books, but not a book that has been a good seller, unfortunately!
Not to make your head any bigger but I found the writing refreshing, vibrant and witty and it's been a long time since I enjoyed a collection of short stories as much - and recently I've went through a fair amount of short story collections.
Thanks again! I agree there's a real hazard involved in making my head any bigger. I therefore intend to construct a special helmet that will contain the pressure and prevent it from reaching a critical point. I may post photos of myself wearing this helmet when it's ready for use! Regards to you!
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