This morning I was listening to a compilation I’d made back in January of 1994 called Nocturne. At that time I’d originally planned on completely rewriting the Infamous War Novel, re-envisioning it as a far-future SF novel, less as a Cold War-inspired story and more as a Future War one. For inspiration I latched onto a lot of familiar genre tropes at that time –revisiting Blade Runner, reading space operas, picking up a lot of interesting anime, and so on — while at the same time briefly returning to my music collection as well, just as I had with the original. This little gem from Sigue Sigue Sputnik, found on the back end of their sophomore album Dress for Excess, seemed to fit the post-apocalyptic mood of my story perfectly.
Granted, this too was an unfinished draft, for various reasons. One was that I’d had trouble fleshing out the idea. I knew I could do something with it, but I couldn’t quite figure out what. [The other was that I was not in the best of places emotionally at the time. Being broke and alone just out of college and working at jobs that had nothing to do with my college studies was probably a worse time for me than high school was, come to think of it. Writing came to me, but in frustrating fits and starts. There are a lot of trunked ideas from that era.] Nonetheless, it sowed the seeds of another story, True Faith, which I started later that summer, and a much more successful writing career was finally born.
The compilation is just shy of 45 minutes long, taking up one side of a cassette — the other side was my 1989 compilation for Belief in Fate, another writing project dating back to high school. I’m fascinated by the mix, as it’s definitely heavy on the atmospherics. Starting off with Curve (“Faît Accompli”) and Inspiral Carpets (“Two Worlds Collide”) and ending with the above track, it’s a dark and somber affair. I think what I was aiming for was a feeling of frustration and uselessness within a larger, less tolerating society, which my characters would fight to transcend through the course of the story. That theme continued into True Faith to a degree. In retrospect, it’s probably for the best that I trunked that story as well, because I was emotionally and mentally too close to it at the time. I would start fresh in 1997 with The Phoenix Effect, and the rest is history.
It’s kind of interesting, comparing the original ideas of the early 90s with the present version of the Mendaihu Universe. There are a few bits and pieces that have survived throughout the entire process — the Vigil group, for one — but the pessimism of the original is nowhere to be seen. I see now (and I knew even then) that I was not only teaching myself how to write a novel correctly, but I was also using it as a cathartic release. I’ve given myself a bunch of different avenues for those sorts of things, leaving the personal out of it for the most part.
Did I know that twenty years later I’d be happily married and living in a much larger city on the opposite coast, self-releasing the first of three novels that came out of all that? Hell, back in 1994 I had no idea if I was going to make next month’s rent, let alone what my future would be. Sure, I had dreams and ideas and a hazy optimism that I’d get there one day. I knew it would be tough, but I was willing to work for it, however long it took. That was where I first fostered that stubborn commitment to keep going, despite it all.
And that’s why I’m content with this future me, why my reaction to seeing my book listed on e-book shopping sites has been one of a deep relief and happiness. That stubborn will took me to this point, and that made all the difference.