On Drugs and Culture and Time Spent at Preston House

An Excerpt from How Not To Do Time Travel

The Isolation Centre was more commonly known as Preston House.  It had once been the manor and grounds of the noble-blooded Herald Preston, whose line had died off in 2027, leaving the property in public hands.  The demesne had served as a park and the manor as a museum, until both of those fell out of favour with the public as weekend diversions.

Because it was on prime property at the City Centre, there had been talk of tearing it down and cashing in on the property value.  Prime Minister Sedgwick had intervened.  He was one of those romantics who still saw beauty in what buildings of old remained.  He persuaded the Parliament that it was a perfect place to serve a different, more urgent, public service.  So the the nice stately home with a lovely garden became Isolation Centre; where they kept those who had misplaced their minds until the mad, or someone more qualified, could find an adequate replacement.  Or until they died an untimely death.  Whichever came first. Death often took the place of reason.

See, the challenge for the Government and for the Ministry of Public Health was that not everyone responded to their prescriptions adequately. This gave birth to a number of Congresses and Industry Conferences for those involved in Pharmaceuticals. No one complained about that aspect of things.  Everyone loves a good conference, especially the ones in fine locations which can take days to get nothing done.  (There’s not much point in doing nothing quickly.  To be done right, doing nothing takes strategy, careful planning, and savvy.  Public speaking is a must.)  The conferences continued, and so did the madness.

Having people run around displaying erratic emotions, because the medications the government mandated didn’t take, was problematic. When nothing else helped, city-dwellers were transferred to a temporary residence at Preston House, for a maximum stay of two months. When that period was up, they either got better or they had an unfortunate strong negative reaction to their prescriptions. Or they committed suicide before anyone could stop them. Or they developed strange food allergies. Or..any number of things could go wrong for people who did not sort themselves out in time.

Smart people got better faster than fools and idealists. This world had no tolerance for fools and idealists.

During the Brief Commercial Break

This is all meant to be excerpts: bits and bobs from my writing.  Things which may (or may not) appear on the pages of my published work in future.

But last weekend I had to do the accounts, and this weekend I’m outlining and plotting.  I didn’t think it was a good idea to miss another weekly post, so I thought I’d take a moment to post a share.

I write every day.  I write about something I love and I get paid for it.  That’s a wonderful thing.  I enjoy it very much.  I thrive on it.  It’s still not enough.

I long to let my creative brain flow into worlds I can’t really write about in my non-fiction career.  I’ve decided that I don’t want to compromise.  I don’t want to say that I’m satisfied as a non-fiction writer alone, and ignore my passion for alternate realities, the dark nooks of surreal landscapes, taking time and twisting it into knots, taking words and bending them into colours, sounds, smells, and images.

I get to stretch my humour a bit when I wear my other writing hat, but it’s not really getting its full daily exercise.  Not how I want it to.

That’s what the #WeekendAuthor goal is all about.  I set myself a mandate a few weeks back to write fiction on the weekends.  This is my time.  It’s a chance to be creative.  That’s also why I don’t want to do many of these “story-behind-the-story” or “get-to-know-the-writer” posts.  I don’t want it to be about me.  I want it to be about my characters and their world.  I want to just be their typist–let them be the speakers and the actors and the plotters of this field.

Because of the nature of my other hat, I can’t really say: “That’s it I don’t work on Saturday and Sunday.”  It’s a 24/7 world, and important stuff doesn’t fit a 9-5 schedule.  Add to that the requirements of just running a business as a writer: the dreaded admin stuff–like billing clients for stories published.  More time is sectioned off for things which don’t happen in 2094 or 4098.

Then there is the bane of all writers: the needs of the body, the idea of not living in a pig stye, of having to prepare food and then do the washing up.

Time used up again and lost to life, not to be recovered by fiction.

Sleep.  I try not to do it too often, but it happens to the best of us.

So this little goal of mine is more challenging than I might have thought.  I press on regardless.

The biggest challenge for me now is trying to rein-in my growing little world.  I want to understand Maybe better, and find out what Finnegan is really all about.  I want to know Jones’ dark secret.  (Can you imagine I first called him Smith and then I thought–wait Smith, like agent Smith in the Matrix?  No.  I don’t think so.  So Jones it is now.  Yes.  Smith to Jones.  Fitting.)  I want to meet the Fixer, and the Time Keeper and the Record…all the others.  I want to see their faces, hear their voices, burrow into their minds: like a tiny worm that nibbles on the synapses and gets high off the charge.

I can’t pants it.  I want to, but I can’t.  That’s the last bit of time away from the creative.  I’m stuck in outline now.  When I was just playing around with How Not To Do Time Travel, letting it all flow freely and sketching was OK.  Now that I’ve committed to it, everything has changed.  It’s time to code properly.  That leaves less time for poetry and prose.

We really ought to be able to bend time, stretch it, mould it.  It shouldn’t flow in one direction, but I can only make that happen on the page.  Here in the not-so-quiet living room of my cabin in the Danish countryside, within sight of the waters of Vejlefjord, time runs at a constant pace.  More’s the pity.

There you are.  A glimpse of my writer’s life.  How does it compare to yours?