Story idea floating around here earlier, I mean.
I didn’t like the sort-of-rhyme made by “idea/here” so I deleted “here” from my opening sentence.
By “here”, I meant Falmouth. Would have meant. “Earlier” is yesterday. Was yesterday.
Perhaps I’ve had enough coffee already today.
So, yes, right. I had just come down the steps from Berkeley Hill (I was next to the Yoga Hut, you know?), and I saw a woman ahead of me, striding along Kimberley Park Road towards the park.
Thanks. Can I put it on the tab with the other three? Yes, perhaps a glass of water as well would be a good idea.
She was on the opposite pavement, and from where I was standing, she was going from left to right. From Berkeley Vale. Towards the park. Park.
No, this is not going to be the post in which I talk about writing only the essentials and trusting the reader to fill in the gaps.
So. Anyway. I saw the woman.
By “striding”, I mean: tall woman wearing a calf-length, Summer-weight white dress with flowers on it. She was walking – striding – like she was happy about where she was going and wanted to get there soonest.
She had a white-ish sunhat pushed back. Light-green cardigan, peach-coloured flat shoes that reminded me of the word “espadrilles”. Age? No idea. Could have been my age, perhaps a decade or two younger.
No dog, and she wasn’t carrying a bouquet of roses down by her side. Probably would have had both, if I’d been making her up.
What I thought was: is she real?
She was very brightly lit by the sunshine, very high-definition against the stone-coloured background. To me, she seemed entirely distinct from her surroundings.
It was as if – I remember thinking, and you’ll have to excuse the arrogance, but I had a vacancy for a daydream – she’d been put there for me to see.
And that got me going.
By the time I started up Kimberly Road, I was well into a daydream around the idea that she hadn’t been real at all. But if she hadn't been real...?
Hallucination brought on by a brain injury? No. Ghost? Yawn.
I was up towards Budock Terrace by the time I realised that we were dealing with time travel here. She was from (cue music) the future.
In the imaginary novel I wrote on that walk, dear (real) reader (and if you were walking up Kimberley Park Road yesterday, wearing a dress as described earlier, I apologise), time travel is/was/will be a thing of the past. It was invented, a dozen years from now, and it became the next big thing.
Specifically, time-travelling for the fun of it, posting selfies at historic events, interviewing historic figures, collecting artefacts from the past, watching battles, dropping litter, chugging soda out of plastic bottles (and leaving the empties behind), attempting to change history (oh, the debates about the morality of killing you-know-who before he came to power), and then inevitably, attempting to fix the past after all the tampering, arguing about our responsibility to keep the past as it was – all became the next big things.
And then it was all over. Those irresponsible visitors from the future had messed with the timeline so much that our own present – that’s our present, 2019 – had become so twisted up that the time-travellers’ present – shall we say, circa 2035? – was beginning to disintegrate. Friends turning out never to have been born, historically important events not, er, having happened, cultural milestones – Allen V Cheesman’s Phazed World series, for example – never having been launched.
So – my imaginary novel starts here – the time-travellers from the future are now trying to fix the past. For reasons that I’ll just have to invent later, they’ve decided that their biggest priority is to fix 2015-2020.
By the time I reached Western Avenue on my walk – and turned left – I had decided: the novel starts after the major work has been done.
Of course, there’s still work to be done on the US presidential election of 2016, but the accidental destabilisation of the UK political system, in the same year, is being allowed to work itself back to normal.
What’s left is tweaking. Fixing minor events in 2019 that have/had a disproportionately big effect on the future.
One of those events was my walk yesterday morning (I decided as I turned right onto Pennance Road). It was important that I saw that woman walking on that street, as I did, because I had to be inspired (sic; see above re: arrogance) to write this post.
BUT the original woman had been arrested before I’d seen her. She was … let me see … a renegade time traveller who wanted a selfie in front of the new Park Live Stage before it became famous for [REDACTED].
If you don’t read this post – and they’re still working on how to get you to read this far; every time I leave the room, a person in futuristic clothing appears in front of my laptop and tinkers with the opening paragraphs; lucky I never covered the camera – where was I?
Oh yes – if you don’t read this post, you won’t be inspired to [REDACTED] and if you don’t do that, you won’t [REDACTED; apologies from the future, but I really can’t let him warn you in advance] and if [REDACTED; and I haven’t got time to delete all this before he comes back into the room] before [REDACTED] with your [REDACTED] lemon-scented [REDACTED] flaps its wings and [REDACTED] the eruption. [Sorry. Good luck.]
So the woman I saw, in the patched-up and mended and mostly fixed 2019, was a hologram of an actress hired in 2035 for her resemblance to the original activist…
…who is now imprisoned in 2035…
…and probably needs rescuing…
…and I walked down Spernen Wyn Road, through St Mary Gardens, onto Gyllyngvase Beach, and what did I find?
In the bag with my swimming things, I found a mobile – no, it wasn’t a phone. Three buttons on it and a screen. And there was a letter too. Handwritten.
Dear William. To go to 2035 and rescue the activist, press the red button. To come back to 2019 and write the blog post, green. To delete all this rubbish and start again, blue. William.
That was some trip.
I know this because a person posted about it on Facebook, and was promptly dumped on by another person on Facebook.
That first indignant comment was followed by fifty more, and if we’re making this visual, the person who started it quickly disappeared under a collapsed scrum of brawling persons sounding off about gender. The word “patriarchy” was thrown, as was the word “sisterhood”.
I’m not (quite) stupid enough to join in. Either those six novels are the best science-fiction novels around at the moment, or there is a surprising lack of diversity, blah, blah, et cetera, blah, blah, in literary prizes focused on sci-fi.
Non-female persons were shortlisted in other categories.
The prizes were announced on 18th August, and just for the record, the winner in the novel category was Mary Robinette Kowal for her novel The Calculating Stars (Tor). I used to read a lot more sci-fi when I was young than I do now, but I’ll look it up.
There used to be a convention that the first person to mention [a certain Austrian-born dictator, whom I’ve decided never to mention here by name] in an argument on Facebook, lost the argument. These days, the convention is that all arguments turn into the same slanging match.
The comment that I turned around in my head for a while, after reading that spat on Facebook, was this. “If all your male ancestors would stop oppressing all my female ancestors, and vice-versa, we could get along.”
I didn’t post it. Obviously. But at any point before the present generation, aren’t we on both sides of that particular argument-of-first-resort? We could share it and possibly resolve it, if we weren't all so immediate in our attacks.
We can’t rewrite history. History shouldn’t write the present (discuss). But history does seem to insert passages into our working draft of the present that really should be cut out.
“Kill your darlings,” said William Faulkner. Elsewhere on the internet, we find Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch saying this (in a lecture, a hundred-plus years ago). “Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it – whole-heartedly – and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.”
Stephen King (among others) writes about the importance of leaving a manuscript alone for a while before going back and editing it. Such distance tends to reveal that the coolest bits – the passages of which you are most proud – are actually quite embarrassing. They’re your “darlings”, or they were when you wrote them. Kill them. It’s for the best.
We can’t leave the present alone for a while before going back and editing it, but if we did, I suspect that we’d be surprised at (1) the amount of time we spend arguing, and (2) the short list of arguments available for us to join.
So many of those arguments are remarkably binary, without nuance or subtlety or even much real content beneath the headlines and the soundbites. We’re not analytic or reflective creatures after all. You’re either with us or against us, left or right, good or bad. There’s no opportunity to get together and talk.
We’ve all got challenges in our lives, and if you want to argue the point, I’d accept that you’ve got more challenges than I have. Okay. How about lunch?